Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dos Niner review

Oh, Dos Niner, where have you been my whole life?

This past winter as I was trolling the Mountain Bike Review ( forums, I became infatuated with the whole 29’er movement.  Being a somewhat tall guy I thought this new format might suit me perfectly.  Conveniently, one of our team sponsors, Salsa, had one of the hottest 29’ers on the boards, the Dos Niner.  My curiosity was piqued and I started lusting for one myself.  I was sort of in the market for a new mountain bike anyway (I say “sort of” because my Trek Fuel was still in perfect working order and was serving me well but hey, it was time for something new) so the Dos became my new obsession.  

During my research, the main thing that concerned me was the relative lack of parts selection in a few key areas.  Most parts swap easily between a 26’er and a 29’er but rims, tires and forks are size specific and these three areas have a serious lack of selection available.  Fork choice was fairly easy for me.  Since SRAM is also a sponsor I went with the Reba Race.  Its heavier than the SID’s I’ve owned but oh so buttery smooth.  Rims and tires were another story though.  Thankfully, while I hemmed and hawed through the winter about the lack of selection, Salsa stepped up and started offering a new 29’er specific disc rim at a very nice weight and I decided to mate it with the Maxxis Ignitor tires which from what I had read were a very good all round tire.  They’re heavier than the Hutchinson Pythons I had previously been using but they’re one of the lighter 29’er tires available right now so my nod went to them.  Hopefully in the next year or two, as the 29’er movement gains some momentum, more manufacturers will step up with products but for now these are great choices.  With fork, rim and tire selection complete, the rest of the build was pretty easy using various SRAM, Truvativ and Avid products to round out the build.

After ordering the Dos frame I immediately began to wonder if I had made the right decision.  I know for a fact that I had gotten faster the moment I swung a leg over the Fuel so would I be taking a step back by losing the true full suspension?  Thankfully, my fears have been dispelled and I am in love with the Dos.  I had a bit of trouble during the initial set-up since I couldn’t simply transfer my tried and true measurements from my 26’ers to the Dos but after some initial blunders I now have it dialed in perfectly.

OK, enough background, on to the review of the Dos Niner itself.

When I picked up the box that the frame was packed in, I couldn’t help but think that I had been given an empty box because it was soooooo light.  When I checked inside, sure enough, there was a beautiful dark green scandium frame with some schnazzy pinstripping  (some people don’t like the pinstripping but I love it).  The cardboard box that the frame comes in is definitely heavier than the frame it contains.  That’s a good sign.

The paint is gorgeous and worth protecting so in the most scratch prone areas I installed Bonk! frame protector .  Unfortunately, before the new drivetrain went on, I got massive chainsuck a couple of time and munged up the chainstay a bit.  Damn-it all to hell!

The only two complaints that I heard about the ’05 Dos on MTBR were that there was minimal rear tire clearance and the standover clearance was a bit tight.  For ’06 Salsa fixed both of these issues but upping the tire clearance to allow for a 2.4” tire (which as far as I know doesn’t even exist yet for a 29’er) and by sloping the top tube and adding a diagonal brace to increase standover clearance.  In the 3-4 months that I’ve been riding the Dos, I haven’t had a problem with either.  In fact, the first race of the year was a major mud fest but the Ignitors were able to roll free the whole race.  

The ride of the Dos is something you really need to experience.  With only 1” of rear travel, you wouldn’t expect it to roll so smoothly or be so comfortable.  The Fuel has what I would consider a fairly plush ride (I’m sure most longer travel bike riders would argue this statement) and while I wouldn’t consider the Dos plush it is nearly as comfortable when rolling over the rough stuff.  In fact, the rougher the terrain, the happier the Dos is.  Roots and baby head rocks?  Bring ‘em on.  Ledgy shale?  Not a problem.  Because of a 29’ers angle of attack, they simply roll over this type of obstacle better.

This benefit does come with a slight price though.  Because of the wheel’s larger size, you end up with a heavier wheel package which slows acceleration.  The good news is that once up to speed, the wheels hold the speed well and tend to lose less momentum in the rough and in turns so you don’t end up needing to accelerate as often so the downfall is somewhat alleviated.

The only other downside for the bike is that the paint chips VERY easily when hit by small rocks.  This is actually an issue with most if not all Scandium frames though and has something to do with the metal’s ability to hold the paint.  By using the Bonk! frame protector though I shouldn’t have much to worry about though.

In the end, I feel that I’m faster on the Dos than I ever was on the Fuel.  The frame fits me better and because of its lack of pivots, is super easy to maintain which is a huge deal for a super busy and important person such as myself.

I give the Dos Niner 5 flaming noggins because if you’re cool, you have one, and if you’re not, you should.


Matt DeMeis said...

I think it's perfect for you Jim Beanpole tall guys (LT included). But for us Midgets, I'm still not convinced. That's a good amount of extra weight to carry up the hills. I have seen LT roll right through some gnarly stuff with ease that no first year MTB rider should be able to clean so there must be quantifiable benifit to the larger diameter. I think it's a tradeoff. Like anything in equipment choice. Never going to be one "do it all perfectly" choice. That's why we can always find an excuse for a new toy! When you're above 6' and can put out the watts, the 29er seems the way to go. Werd.

Jason said...

Great review Rick!. Couldn't agree more. Spot on on the points. I only wish I had coughed up more jing for a lighter wheel set. XT hubs are durable but not that light, The Salsa rims rock though! Granted I've always had bikes with more durable than light weight parts given the racing I do, but my Dos is only ONE POUND heavier than my old Titus HCR 26er. Lighter wheels set and a couple parts and BAM! Lighter.

rick said...

yeah, I've thought about getting a set of even lighter race only wheels. It won't happen this year since I've already blown through my budget but maybe next year when I won't be buying any new bikes (probably :) )