I have finally ridden this bike on some substantial rides both mixed terrain and singletrack and I have found the transition back to 26in wheels a bit harsh, especially with a rigid fork thrown into the mix as well. I figured I would buy some new rubber for this bike before the NH100 in a few weeks seeing as I am currently running my old semi-slick commuter tires and I would go with something a bit more high volume to soften things out a bit.
I found a deal recently on chainlove.com on some WTB Prowler XT 2.3's that fit the bill and tonight I was in the process of mounting them up when something slowly dawned on me. The cheapo chromoly fork I have had on this build has always had quite a bit of extra room available.
And now conveniently I have a spare 29er front wheel sitting around from my Kona that is sitting in pieces waiting to be sold. So why not see if that bad boy will fit before I mount up the new tire on the 26in wheel? Ok it fits with plenty of clearance but it must really mess up the geometry and create all kinds of toe overlap and other weirdness right? Not quite. No toe overlap at all, bike still feels pretty normal short of the front end feeling a tad high everything else feels pretty ok. Riding it around the yard at least. I'll know for sure this Thursday when I take this out on our NEMBA ride and ride it AS A 96ER.
Almost looks normal
Kinda strange how ok it felt really. This pic makes it look almost unnoticeable mostly because there was so much extra room in that fork that now it just looks like you would think it should. I am very interested to see how this rides on singletrack Thurs. The 29er up front could help quite a bit with softening out some chatter, which would be much appreciated at the 100.
And yes I did try to jam a 29er into the rear triangle as well and the clearance just wasn't there. Would have been funny to have converted this to a full 29er on a whim. But riding a 96er for the first time is intriguing, I'll update here after the first ride with a report...
Rode this last night in the new config and I continue to be dumbfounded with how well this worked out. It rode just fine, better than fine in fact. The bigger hoop up front definitely softens out the ride quite a bit. And there really is basically no 'weirdness' to the feel of the bike. The only thing I really noticed is that on steeper technical climbs I need to make a conscious effort to stay low over the front of the bike because the larger wheel does bring the front end up a bit and if I'm not paying attention and it hits a bump or rock or root the front end will very easily pop off the ground.
I still need to get acquainted a bit more with this ride to really be at home on it but this 96er set up is def fun to ride and can literally do anything and go anywhere, any distance. Singletrack, Fireroads, throw some racks on it and get lost for a few days...whatevah. My lower back was a bit angry with me and this bike last night but I guess I can't blame it. This is probably the 4th different riding position I have asked it to deal with this season. I am hoping I can work that out in the coming week or so before the 100.
I haven't fully scoured the interwebs yet but it occurred to me I don't believe I have ever stumbled on another "monster cross" 96er. I'm sure I'm not the first but just in case I am coining this build the Franken Mullet. Franken as a nod to the fact I built it in my evil lab and brought it to life with lightning and Mullet due to the whole business in the front party in the rear aspect.