Having just heard that the first batch of production Toa’s are available, I figured it was time to give a personal assessment of the the carbon Toa I have been riding for the past couple months. After the first initial couple of races where the bike was great and the rider not so much, I decided to take a few weeks and really put in some time to get a good base block in and try to lose the giant cookie around my abdomen.
The Siskiyou Mountains south of Jacksonville has hundreds of miles of paved and dirt roads intermingled with single and double track that is a base blocks dream. Over the past eight weeks I rode at minimum 14 hours a week and collected about 12-15k in elevation gain per week. All of this was done on the Toa and I have come to feel a oneness with that bike. Here is a sample ride.
Switching to the the carbon 29er scared my in a couple of ways. My first fear was riding a carbon hard tail and that it would be too rigid. Those fears were flush away pretty quick. The ride is supple and with the bigger wheels that roll over instead of into obstacles, I never said “wow this is rigid”. In fact I looked for it and couldn’t find it. The downhill stability, due to bigger wheels and wider wheelbase, has really stood out as well. It has allowed for faster speeds on descents, a skill I have been traditionally weak at. My body never felt beat up, just my legs.
The frame itself has handled itself really well. The tapered head tube provides superior steering precision, where the handling of the bike begins. The big down tube into BB30 junction gives plenty of pedal resistance to make every pedal stroke worth it. Another notable feature that I love is the internal cable routing. It adds a clean look to the frame and highlights the great lines like the smooth transition from the top tube into the seat tube of the carbon frame. Just one crash so far, a descent on a dirt road where my front tire washed out on a switchback turn. It was my fault for not having scrubbed enough speed and is no reflection on the bike.
The second fear was switching to a 29er with its sizing and ride position changes. I knew it wasn’t going to be a match to my 26 inch bike that I really had a nice fit on and loved to ride. Going 29er means finding a whole new groove. Buying a frame and saying “to save money I will switch over the cockpit from my 26 inch bike” doesn’t necessarily work. In some cases it may but accommodating a higher front end means that getting a similar position requires angled stems and flat bars. Just as the last shovel full of dirt on the grave of flat bars were being thrown, 29ers have come in like the Medici family, to rescue them and has fostered a renaissance of the old skool.
I am right back to where I was in 1997 when I started riding mountain bikes. Except my Yo Eddy Fat Chance had a 10 degree stem flipped upside down with a 19 inch wide flat bar. No wonder I crashed all the time and was scabbed head to toe. I always told myself if wasn’t crashing I wasn’t riding hard enough. That was stupid thinking. I spent half my rides flying over the handlebars as my 70mm Judy fork acted more like a rigid setup and finished the job of an insane cockpit setup to launch me to the ground. Now in 2011 it is back to raked out stems (17 degree Thomson flipped) and flat bars, except now 26 inches wide with better sweep.
|Happy customer with a 18lb Toa 1X1|
When considering sizing a rider can’t say I ride a medium so I have to have a medium. An analysis of the geometry recommended and most important is the top tube and head tube length. One of the design characteristics of the 29er frame is the steeper sloping angle the top tube has to take from the head tube to the seat tube to accommodate the higher front end. This usually comes out to mean a shorter seat tube for an appropriate top tube length. But once you can find your groove the benefits of the 29er are pretty amazing.
There really is not many arguments left against 29ers, besides sizing for shorter people. But I know a girl that is under 5 foot and loving her custom 12 inch seat tube hardtail 29er, so that dispute may be a non issue in the end.
|My traveling partner|
Weight is another issue for riders and racers alike. I just weighed a small frame and it came in at 1170 grams. Notubes wheels and lighter suspension forks and tires have done amazing things to further the 29er cause. The white Toa I have been riding weighs less (21lbs) than my lightest 26 inch hard tail ever did, making the 29er a legitimate world cup racing machine as well as a great option for the weekend warrior.
So if you are pondering a wheel size switch or looking to upgrade your current big wheeled machine, the Grammo Toa is a well dressed bike at at brilliant price.