Grindhouse: Double Feature

April 14th, 2007 - Comments Off

Blinged-out Trail King and Monster X Touring Ride Reports:
Trail King:
James's Trail KingIf you haven’t already seen this on the Willits site, this is my brother James’s new Trail King. I must say that it’s cool to see James on this bike as he was one the first people talking in most of the Austin ears about 29ers years ago and isn’t one to mince words when he feels strongly about something. That being said, we swapped bikes for a week: he took my Monster X out touring (we’ll get to that) and I got to put his Trail King head-to-head with my own.
First and foremost, my brother and I are both about 5′9″, have proportionally very short legs, heavy build (we could be anywhere between 175 and 215 at any given time), and a grinding, technical riding style that lends itself to Texas endurance racing better than short XC races. That being said, a custom 29″ bike is our best option to get something that will be a dead-on fit.
James TK drivetrain detail
James went for the full-meal-deal on his in terms of build and parts. The frame is a titanium Trail King with a 23.5″ shaped toptube and B2 seatstays. His parts build is a 970 XTR kit with some Easton EC90 carbon, DT hubs laced to Bontrager Race X Lite tubeless ready rims, Ritchey WCS stem, Chris King Ti NoThreadset, FSA 36t middle ring and bashring, Reba Race, and Maxxis Ignitors. The bike is built for abuse and weighs in just above 23.5 lbs.
My Trail King, while a year older, is no slouch. It’s the prototype for the modern Trail King with the bent downtube and standard toptube and seatstays. Identical build kit to the one listed above but with a Willits prototype ti seatpost and carbon Pace 80mm fork. It also weighs 23.5. Alright, enough of the tech stuff. Jeez.
The experiments done on Jared’s wife’s (we’ll call her “Peg”) bike that we took to NAHBS, like the B2 at Interbike were priceless and immediately became production-standard. While Peg’s bike was the “myth-buster” 11″ seat-tube extreme, the toptube manipulation brought with it some other benefits. Similar to a Mountie, Peg and James’s bikes are incredibly stiff, torsionally. Still somewhat compliant, they seem to react more quickly in a standing sprint. Really cool feeling. Aesthetically, the bend looks really cool in how it mimics the B2 stays and creates sort of a vintage gas-tank look. I really really like that, and it doesn’t hurt that I can standover this bike with some room to spare, more-so than my own.
This was also the first bike that I’ve gotten to ride extensively with a B2 rearend. One of the rides I took this bike on was a 3.5 hour loop around West Austin including bombing down the Balcones Escarpment, a 1000″ grind up the road, an hour of limestone-laden singletrack, and another very hilly hour on the road back home. The B2 rearend left my back feeling fresh and never felt like it was absorbing any pedal-power. That, paired with our ti post, will be the ultimate endurance setup. All the benefits of a hardtail with less chatter.
Wes and Jared also busted out a very short headtube on this bike at 85mm. That’s a good 15 to 25mm shorter than most other 29rs out there. What this translates to is a potentially lower front end. Run with no spacers and a standard stem, the bars can easily be level with or lower than the seat height, allowing you to run the racer position or bomber freeride setup. I personally prefer something inbetween, and this bike can nail it without any oddball parts.
The other really major ride I did was on my favorite technical system where yo basically can ride for a couple hours either straight up, straight down or traversing a cliff with a huge drop-off always at your side. For a bike I had never ridden, the lower cockpit and steering angles gave me all the confidence to ride this stuff without blinking, as if it were my own steed. It’s as nimble a climber as my own Trail King, but the descending was just another couple clicks beyond my own. I can’t say enough about confidence on this thing.
So yeah, James’s Trail King is the next generation of fit, performance and aesthetics for Willits. I may or may not give it back.
Monster X:
MX Tourer Profile
This is less of a ride report than just a commentary on the versatility of the Monster X. One of our old riding buddies was in town from Colorado, so he and James and crazy-Sam decided to a 5 day tour of the Texas Hill Country that consists of lots of rolling road riding, dirt roads, packed paths and all the things that go with that terrain. Little did they know we would have a freak spring freeze, but that’s a different story.
James transformed the Monster X from my singletrack climber to a full-on tourer by simply adding a rear rack, front shifting setup (I run 1×9) and some hybrid touring tires. I think the beauty of the 29r format (especially versus the 69er or 32″er) is the ability to throw on any road tire, cross tire or hybrid tire. It’s a standard size with endless possibilities. Anyway, the light weight, disk brakes and plush ride made the MX perfect for this task. Sam was on a rigid Karate Monkey and Jason on a Kelly cyclocross bike, so the Monster X Really fit in as a mutant of both.
I won’t jibber jabber too much (as I wasn’t there) so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Heading West

Heading West

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Hill Country View

Hill Country Scenery

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On The Road

On The Road

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Big Climb

Huge Climb

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Granite

Granite!

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Low Water CX

Low Water Monster Crossing

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