One of my favourite bike websites is www.63xc.com. It’s all about fixed offroad - great site - check it out. Anyway, after digging through the old articles one day my thoughts started turning to the old Steamroller collecting dust in my garage. Hm, potential radness was going to waste so I figured I’d better do something about it. The result :
First ride today, I took it out on the Yarra Trails from Heidelberg up to the old Hill Climb Circuit in Templestowe. Faaaark! It was ridiculous fun! I just wanted to keep going and going. So much fun.
The bike is basically a stock Steamroller with Soma mustache bars jacked up high for an upright position. They’re nice and wide which means great leverage when you need it and there’s plenty of bar to hang onto through the rough, bouncy stuff.
It’s got 28mm Schwalbe Marathons - I usually run these at about 90psi - onroad and offroad - but I decided to kick it down a notch to 70psi - gotta say it felt noticably smoother over the rooty, rutty parts. Could probably go way lower than that before pinch flats become an issue - I only weigh 63kg or something last time I checked.
I slapped a 20t Surly cog on it to give me about 64 inches. This is nice and low for spinning through singletrack and torquing up short steep inclines. It’s a little lower than I usually run so it felt nice and speedy with plenty of kick to get over and out of holes and whatnot. Not low enough to make it far up the Hill Climb Circuit though.
The last piece of the puzzle was the terrain itself - all those little singletrack bits that run alongside the Main Yarra Trail. Pretty flat and un-technical. Which means it’s not real MTB territory where you’re bombing down rocky hills into huge ravines and whatnot. It’s all easily do-able with no suspension, it was bone dry so 28mm tires gave more than enough grip. Ok, I did unclip and footplant over a few logs but it’s pretty tame and fast for the most part.
The best part though, the lack of brakes forces you to commit to a line and keep moving. Sure you can brake with your legs and lock up the rear but if the surface is loose it may not slow you down much anyway. I started the ride consciously thinking I’d focus on flow, not braking, not losing momentum, not slowing down to over-analyse the terrain and pick my way through slowly. I’ve ridden those trails heaps of times so I know them pretty well and I know that there are no hidden surprises. It’s all pretty safe really, even if you don’t have a MTB with suspension and fat tires etc. So it became all about how smoothly I could get through it. How little I could brake and how light I could roll.
Fark, and therein lies the fun.
Total concentration, going as fast as you dare, reacting in an instant, so many calculations and feedback loops happening between you , the bike, the terrain, but it’s all automatic, it’s all so fast, the thoughts fly by and are gone like the roots, rocks and dirt under your wheels. And when you pop out onto the main trail and slow down for an old man and his wife and dog you realise… you were in a state of flow.
I’ve never ridden a proper mountain bike before and this was the first time I’ve ridden brakeless so I’m probably just coming across like a gibbering idiot noob and you’re all thinking “Yeah, of course it’s that cool, I thought you knew that already?!” but, meh, I don’t care - it’s so much fun I can’t help but write about it and I want to be a noob forever because I can’t wait to see what’s next!