26 Jul 2010

Tasty Like Butter – Equipment Review

Posted by mercieb

I had no plans this last weekend but Friday night I got a call to go for a MTB ride. Little did I know there were not-yet-released 2011 XTR wheels in my future and I sure do like me a good set of wheels. I think if there is one single thing you can do to your bike that truly effects the ride, it’s upgrade the wheels. Do it. Do it now. Do not wait. Whatever money you have, spend it all on a great set of wheels.

Whew! Ok, I’ll get off my soap box. So…

We headed out to Tokul East early on a beautifully clear, warm and glorious Saturday morning, got kitted up, swapped wheels and away we went. It’s been a while since I’ve been out to Tokul. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve done any riding in Washington at all. Gear aside, what sheer pleasure it was to be back on familiar ground.

Except for Flowtron, I don’t know Tokul well enough to know all the trail names, (they change a lot anyway), and I usually feel pretty lost at some point in this ride but when you’re just following the wheel in front of you, knowing where you are is not important. Being on home turf is relaxing. You know what to expect from the roots, rocks, divots, trees, etc. Even the trail as a whole is familiar. No matter where you ride in our area, chances are pretty good it was a core group of trail builders that did the building. Our trails have a particular flavor you don’t find everywhere else – or maybe anywhere else. Since you don’t have to use your spidey-senses on a trail you have no history with, riding at home gives you the opportunity to get a good feel for anything new happening with your bike.

Right out of the gate the new M988 XTR wheels rode light. The supple, super compliant ride quality is an improvement over the current M975 model, which is something because those M975 wheels kick ass. Climbing seemed easier and smoother and the technical climbing was amazing. The best way to describe it is like the difference between tubular and clincher tires. Like good butter, there’s a finesse and richness to these new wheels that just isn’t there in the old ones. Being 70g lighter, the weight difference shouldn’t make that big of a difference, but it does.

And, they are stiff… ok, boys love, love, love to use the word, “stiff,” in any way they can and it comes up a lot in describing bikes, usually followed by fits of girlish laughter. Torsional rigidity, stiff rear triangles, stiff frames, stiff wheels… “Is it stiff? How stiff is it?” … and it goes on and on. I diverge. These wheels are stiff. Not that I ride hard enough or heavy enough to have been flexing the old model, but it definitely adds to the overall feel of the ride. Did I mention butter yet?

After about 4 or 5 laps, I was desperate for a different set tires so we headed back to base camp and swapped wheels again. Now I was on the all-mountain XT wheels with Schwalbe Rocket Ron’s which is a great tire for our terrain. Being a light rider, I like a grippy tire that hooks up. Sliding around every turn is rough unless it’s on purpose. Call me crazy but I like to be the one riding the bike instead of the bike taking me for a ride and I just wasn’t feeling it with the Schwable Racing Ralphs’s. They kept getting away from me.

We went back out and did a bunch more laps. I think we did one section of trail like 6 times. Pretty neat to try the same section over and over with different equipment. 4 hours later it was beer drinking time and we did that.

I took the new XTR wheels home with me and put the Rocket Ron’s on and then went back out to Tokul the next day. After another dizzying 4 hours of riding around in circles, (this time we also added in Tokul West), I was toast. But the new wheels with the right tire were great. People are going to love this wheelset. It comes with the 15mm or standard QR and in 2 widths.

Now, if I could have just grown another 6 inches over night so I could fit onto the fully equipped 10 spd XTR bike that we have on loan… Oh well, guess I’ll just have to wait for it. I bet it’s good like butter too.

Intense Tracer, new M988 XTR Wheels with the white Schwalbe Rocket Ron and HEY! you can click on the picture to get a close-up view

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3 Responses to “Tasty Like Butter – Equipment Review”

  1. Those XTR wheels sound sweet. If Santa drops off a big check one day, or if I’m actually still capable of riding when the kids move out (I’ll be about 89 years old by then) – a full XTR bike it will be – once again.

    Back in ’99 I set up a Ellsworth Truth with full XTR (V-Brake era) and rode that bike for 7 years or so. I then transferred everything over to a Cannondale hardtail for another 2 years of use.

    A few months ago, I moved it all over to a bike I built up for my son – minus the crankset, BB, chain and cassette – those were beyond toast. Beyond toast? Yeah, like the burnt up crumbs you dump outta the toaster.

    Even with all that use, everything still shifts great and hubs are still smooth – amazing. I also have some ’99 era XTR hubs and rear derailluer on my trusty Ibis ‘cross/commuter bike. The hubs have about 20,000 miles on ‘em and have never been apart. Shimano makes some quality stuff – nice job.


    Dan O

  2. Yeah, I know just what you mean about XTR. I’ve “recycled” my fair share of old XTR parts too. Some of them are still being ridden. Although, I have to say your numbers are mighty impressive. Do you feel like you got your moneys worth?



  3. Did I get my moneys worth? For sure – without a doubt.

    Seeing the now 11 year old XTR group performing perfectly on my son’s rig – how could I say no? Super quality and trick stuff for sure. The XTR durability and long life allowed me to build a up a killer bike (using a bargain frame) for my son, who incidentally was born the same month I originally scored the full XTR group back in ’99. Now he’s riding it – how cool is that?

    If interested, some pics of his bike here: http://yoeddy.blogspot.com/2010/04/project-access-ready-to-roll.html

    If I was building up the new dream mountain bike, I’d go full XTR, no doubt.


    Dan O

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