Monday, November 10, 2014

1990 Klein Attitude ride report

It dawned on me a couple weeks ago that I've had about eight 1990 Attitudes come through my garage, and yet I have never actually ridden one.  Luckily I was just about to put the finishing touches on a wonderful example for my brother and so I decided to give it a spin, and then another... I really miss having a Klein in my lineup.

Before I get into this I feel like this review should be limited to just the following phrase : "This is a race bike." Everyone should just get it and not ask any questions and definitely not complain about the harsh ride. Also, this bike does't photograph well. Anyways, onto the review.

First impressions / Why do most Kleins have slicks?

The early fuselage concept Kleins (Attitude / Adroit) are pure and unadulterated race bikes. For any of you that have spent any time on a race track in an open wheel formula car or even a basic purpose built race car know what it's like to be pushing a machine to the limits of its performance. You can feel the car braking traction during cornering and yet it's predictable and controllable. It's a fine balance between going slow and being in control and going fast on the edge of control. Well, that sort of sums up this bike when you push it hard. Now, I'm not a pro driver or mountain biker by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel I can push the bike on a few sections of my local trails and get a brief glimpse of its true potential. It dances underneath you when you stand on it and if you lose focus for a moment it will kill you.

It's a long running joke that all Kleins end up with slicks or hanging up in garages never seeing any dirt. Much like driving we all want to believe we're all like Ayrton Senna and that we can drive a race cars to work, but then we realize that driving a race car with 900 lbs springs, a roll cage, 6 point safety harness and no air conditioning in daily traffic is really no fun. Same thing here, unless you push this bike to edge of its and your capabilities you're just going to think it's stiff, unforgiving and in the end you'll have no fun.

Take away - If you're gonna ride it, be prepared to work for it. Otherwise, hang it up like the rest of them.

Ride characteristics / how to make it work

Some of my favorite characteristics of this Attitude or any other MC1/MC2 fusealge Klein is the way it seems to make everything work better. The brakes are crispier, the drivetrain seems to shift better and each peal stroke takes all your energy and uses it break traction on the rear wheel. This bike just wants to move and every design element is there to help you achieve that goal. The steering is very sharp, it's very easy to get the bike to change direction, especially at speed. Traction out of the seat is fantastic, a testament to how you're expected to ride.

About the only bit of advice I can offer on making the most out of this bike is to use compliant grips and do your best to run 2.35 tires. I managed to shoehorn a pair of Ritchey Megabite WCS 2.35s into the relatively tight spacing in the rear, the front has plenty of clearance. The extra damping afforded by large volume tires is very much appreciated here.

I do believe that the box crown fork makes for a stiffer ride than a uniklein or Adroit/Strata fork. It's not much worse, but you notice the harshness a little more.

The fusealge concept coupled with a large diameter aluminum fork was a revolutionary step back in 1990. Stiffness was key and this design had it in spades!

In so many ways this design and paint scheme are the most iconic Klein and in that vein one of the most classic designs of the early 90s.

My verdict : I wish it came in large... I want one. It's just so bone crushingly awesome and it makes you want to be a stronger rider so that you can ride it like it was meant to be ridden and get those rare glimpses of how it must have felt to be Tinker Juarez back in the early 90s.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Grove Innovations Hard Core ride report

As I mentioned in the last post I've owned this bike for a while not, and yet never gave it the proper writeup, which I feel bad about. I spent the last two weekends and a couple rides this past week on it and wanted to take the opportunity to right that wrong. So here goes...

First impressions / proper fit 

On of the first things you have to get over when you throw a leg over this bike is how much higher you feel than on a normal bike. I have always been fanatical about ensuring I have proper leg extension and probably overdo it. When I first started riding this bike I had the seat jacked up and felt like I was on a big wheel. This made me feel very uneasy and consequently I couldn't really get comfortable with the bike. Lowering the seat a little bit made a huge difference. Now, you're still up there, but after two to three hours you forget about it and it starts feeling normal. I do think that having the ultra high rise Hothead bars is really the key here. Anything other than a high rise stem would not work. I can't really think of any advantage in this high ride posture, at least not from an analytical perspective. However, it doesn't seem to have any immediately obvious drawbacks either. 

My main point here is : if you're gonna ride an HC, make sure that the frame a good size for you and don't go for the racy, zero degree bar/stem, drop the seat a bit lower than you'd normally do and then try it out.

Ride characteristics / handling

I've said it before, others have said it, everyone knows it... this bike is really damn stiff. In some ways it's stiffer and less compliant than a Klein. The only difference is that while a Klein gets tossed around going over rocks and obstacles, the Grove makes them its bitch. Here is how I see it; a Klein is high end needle on a turntable and the trail is Beethoven's 5th. On the other hand, Grove is a pair of brass knuckles and the trail is the chin of the guy who insulted your girlfriend at the bar. Both have their merits.

One other thing that everyone says is that this bike is meant to go slow and only over highly technical terrain. Well, yeah ok... the high ground clearance means it's easy to clear logs, boulders, etc... but this not a one trick pony. Open up the taps and you'll find this bike has a lot of stability and imbues you with  sense of confidence, especially if the surface is harsher than a fire road. While on the subject of speed, the higher ride position and high-rise bars means you can really lean on the front end, and moving your weight around has more leverage. This means you can press the front wheel and lean and you'll hold a much sharper line, and get much better turn-in than on many other bikes. I find that I can attack much harder on twisty and narrow serpentine sections and keep my hands out of the brakes much more so than on my ARC, Adroit or Merlin. This could also be partly due to the aggressive 72.5 degree head tube angle.

Out of saddle sprints on smoother terrain are fine, but when you get back into the gnarly stuff sitting is nearly always the right call. Perhaps its the 20+ Fattrax giving up the ghost, but I felt an immediate, and more pronounced loss of traction whenever I stood to climb out of a creek bed or to get a little extra oomph up a slightly technical section. Time to bulk up those quads, this bike wants you to remain seated at all times and and obey all caution signs.

Last but definitely not least is the weight. This is one heavy beast, and you will feel it. This bike as built here tips the scales at 27.6 lbs. That's with Kevlar bead tires and fairly light weight wheels. You tend to notice that a bit. Moving the bike around is a bit more difficult, you have to work it to induce sudden change of direction or lean to keep a line through some tight sections. It could be worse, but it's not great.

Overall : This is in many ways a large trials bike with an extra gear. You can throw it at the harshest terrain and if you've got the cojones to hang on, it'll get you through with most of your cartilage still in tact.

Any bike that has a paint swath as a head badge better have good paint, good things Groves didn't disappoint

The one thing for me that sticks out like a sore thumb is the delicate nature of these dropouts. I swear that if it could the front triangle would break them off and replace them with something made of rocks and sticks and be happier. They are just too dainty... somehow it works.

Verdict - Keeper!

Even if I didn't grow up in PA, even if I didn't spend my after school hours with my palms and face glued to the window of the Bicycle Shop ogling the latest, brightest Grove in the window I'd own and ride this bike. Will it be my main go-to rider? Probably not. Will it get more use than 50% of my bikes? Definitely!