Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Welcoming the Norco Shinobi

Got in my first extended ride on the new Norco Shinobi in Nisene Marks State Park. 

Overall I had a fantastic ride and was both faster and more comfortable across the entire ride. Whatever speed I lost on the climbs (not as much as I thought) was more than made up for on the descents. 

I have no major complaints about the bike. It climbs well, really well considering the big wheels and active rear suspension. It does take a bit more muscle to power up and over obstacles at slower speeds. But things that would stop me on 26 inch wheels were no longer stopping me. And that's both better for flow and just plain more fun.

The slight loss of low speed maneuverability was also more than overcome by the increased traction and rollability of the big wheels. And the suspension made bombing down from my top out (about a half mile from the '89 Loma Prieta earthquake epicenter) fun and fast.

It isn't perfect, obviously. It is a bit hefty but not badly so at all. And it'll be fairly easy to shed some of the most egregious of that extra bulk in going tubeless. Rotational mass is like some freaky extra dimensional thing, losing it returns more gains than the simple grams lost. And the brakes, while not as craptastic as the Avid Elixir 1's aren't a whole ton better. Upgrading them will be nice!

Also, the Conti X-Kings aren't really up to the kind of riding I generally do. I spun them out several times climbing roots, once while still seated. Looking at replacement treads now, Hans Dampfs, Ardents, and open to other options (going to be hard dropping $90 on some Hans Dampfs). Update: Looks like On One's Smorgasbord and Chunky Monkey have won out, excellent price and great reviews equal buy!

Bars, damn these big bikes like their wide bars! Not used to it, don't think I'm going to get used to them. Yes, they're fairly nice on long, high speed descents but they kind of suck for tight, through the trees singletrack and I'd much prefer to NOT hook a bar through trees. I believe I'll be taking an inch off each side before too long and seeing how that feels. Might end up taking two full inches off each side. And yes, I will be putting on stubby climbing horns. I need more than one position to put my hands. And I like being able to grab on and launch up hills. I've run Nashbar shorties for years and have little complaint about them but I'm going to go with the newer ergo ends that extend below the bar as well as forward (I think Cane Creek makes the most well known version of these).

Shifters: I still shift the wrong way as often as not. Trigger shifters are just so damned unintuitive to me. I don't like them very much and will look to replace them but they aren't the tops on my list of stuff to add/replace.

I think part of my issue comes from the 2x10 drivetrain. It lacks a true granny and I find myself hunting for the proper gear quite a bit more than I'm used to. I'm sure that'll improve as I get more time on it but, for now, shifting isn't as smooth as I'd like it and I have to switch front rings often to compensate for the cassette's lack of applicable range.

Some concerns to note: Moderate chain slap during root-y descents, brakes go south after a few miles of hard(ish) use, front brake chatter makes the front end feel a bit skittish when combined with the X-King treads, sometimes still feel a little cramped in the cockpit and I have no more leeway to slide my saddle back, might consider a slightly longer stem.

The upgrade list looks something like this:
Tires - new tires on order, went with On One's Smorgasbord and Chunky Monkey.
Dropper post 
Stan's Tubeless conversion
Saddle - need input here
Pedals with straps - mock all you want, I'm still gonna ride with them.
Bar ends
Brakes - XTs 

Overall, I have to say that I love my new bike. It is responsive, fast, a tractor when I need it and comfortable as all get out. I'm still tweaking the fit for maximum comfort at maximum pedaling efficiency but we're getting close. My and my Shinobi are going to enjoy many fun miles together!

Grade: A- (B if none of the aforementioned upgrades come to pass)
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