Monday, September 22, 2008

Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap...

Saturday morning dawned lovely and my brand spanking new 2008 Commençal Meta 5.5 frame was sitting there glistening in the spring sunshine, but I had other things to do before I could get to grips with building it up.

First, I had to help Jacq take some of her beautiful hand-crafted books and baby clothes up to Berhampore School, where she was taking part in her first proper craft show, The Knack. Bodhi and I left her there to sell her wares then went and did some shopping and had some lunch in a cheap cafe before driving out to Eastbourne to watch the start of the first ever Eastbourne-Wainuiomata PNP race. My man John Randal was starting in B Grade, and I had many other friends racing in the various grades. Lovely to catch up with so many keen roadies!

After watching them roll out (and having a big job wrangling Bo!) we drove behind C Grade around the Eastern Bays before overtaking them and B Grade as we drove to the top of the Wainui Hill. I once won a hill prime up this hill in the old Healing Mini-Tour, but the hill looked almost more than I could even ride over now!

We got to the summit in time to meet up with John's lovely parents and watch him comfortably roll over keeping the front of his bunch in sight without wasting valuable energy.

Believe it or not, this is John. I have to bring my proper camera next time...

Also racing was Delmaine manager Mike Sim

John went on to finish a fine second after riding probably his finest tactical race yet. He is immensely powerful but after a disastrous (by his high standards) previous race he has quickly learned that the tactics and energy demands of scratch road racing demand a different mindset than handicap racing. As always I'm very proud to have John represent Roadworks so very well.

Here is a link to a cool wee video John's dad took of the sprint.

After all the excitement of the racing, Bo and I drove back to town where I dropped him back at home and finally got to get to my Commençal build!

First, I had to drag my venerable GT out and strip it down. This bike has served me well and hopefully Kester will fit the frame to replace his too small hardtail.

Seven minutes later

Now I had to spend 30 minutes or so cleaning up my parts, as I can't stand assembling dirty, shitty parts into nice clean threads. The extra time spent is well worth it though for a durable and pro build.

Weighing the frame is a vital first step

Next I fitted a seat clamp and my Thomson seat post and Fizik saddle from the GT

If you've read my build logs before you'll know that I believe frame prep is everything...

Facing the bottom bracket

Tapping the bottle cage mounting holes

After carefully facing the head tube I drive in the Chris King headset cups

Install the forks

B/B cups installed to torque and rear wheel fitted

Front wheel fitted, stem tightened and aligned, and saddle height set

Install my 07 XT chainset...

...and old but lovely XTR rear dérailleur

Front XT mech and chain fitted and dérailleurs roughly adjusted and brakes also fitted and adjusted (super tidy cable runs!)

After connecting up the gear cables and running through the gears she's all done!

Unfortunately, I finished it just as it was time for me to get dinner for the family so my first proper ride would have to wait until Sunday...I considered a night ride but slight concern over the lingering effects of my head knock made me think it was wiser to wait until daylight. However, the bouncing up and down the road test proved that already I was dealing with an entirely different beast to the GT - I was excited about the prospect of giving her a real blast!

I woke on Sunday to the first real spring nor-wester of the season - the wind was howling, putting paid to my initial plan of just riding out the door and heading up Mt Albert and Mt Vic. I decided that Koru and Lazy Fern would be the gig, as the trees keep you totally out of the wind, so I put the bike on the back of the wagon and set off for Makara Peak.

As I was heading out of my street I got a call from my good buddy Alex who was keen to hook up so I diverted to his place and chucked his Enduro on the rack too. We parked in Hazlewood Ave and unpacked the bikes, then set off up Koru.

The first thing I noticed was the lateral stiffness of the Meta 5 - energy expended all seemed to be invested in forward motion rather than flex and bobbing, thanks to great suspension design, and helped no doubt by the Fox RP23's ProPedal feature. Despite weighing only a hair less than the GT (13.76kg/30.33lb) it felt so much lighter - it felt like I was riding my road bike in comparison. I found that I was riding what was for me a scorching pace up the trail, and in a cog or two higher than usual. My initial burst of enthusiasm even left Al behind briefly, although that would soon change...

As Al slowly pulled away from me I decided to use the time-tested tactic of pretending I was all about the photo ops - anything to take another pic of my beautiful new machine!

I found the combination of different coloured ano strangely alluring...

After trundling up Koru we rode Sally Alley to test out the work the Makara Peak Supporters had put into it last weekend - awesome! After waiting for me at the Snakecharmer drop-in, Al kindly let me take point for the last section of SA...

Al emerges safely from Sally Alley

I was enjoying the bike so much our original plan of just doing Ridgeline Extension was bypassed by the desire to just keep on riding, so we decided to head down Missing Link and up Aratihi to the summit - so much for keeping out of the wind!

Al led the way down ML as I tried to feel out the different ride of the Commençal on a downhill stretch. Amazingly, I had set her up perfectly - both in terms of seat and handlebar height, but also shock pressure. I just had to speed up the rebound a tad and it was unbelievable how well it rode and how at home I already felt.

A brief stop at the pylon to drop my forks travel using the TALAS and flicking the ProPedal lever, then we hit Aratihi into the teeth of an impressive gale. Several hairpins later I was just loving the nimble handling of this rig. Corners that have monged me out for years were traversed (relatively) elegantly as I realised that I was feeling no effects of my concussion for the first time in weeks.

Aratihi Al in his customary position way ahead on the ups

After being nearly blown off the track once, I actually did get blown off on one of the last corners before the top. Luckily my front wheel dropped over the side of the trail but I was able to fling out an outrigger and save my bike - oh, and myself. I got to the top where Al was rummaging around in his Camelbak looking for his sunglasses. I found it almost impossible to stand, which is freaky - at over 100kg I'm not used to being pushed around!

This in no way conveys the power of the Gutherly Buster!

After determining that Al's glasses were in fact missing we decided that we'd roll down the Snakecharmer to Missing Link, where we'd ride back the way we came to look for them. I was glad to be going nowhere near Ridgeline - the wind would have made it even more difficult for me than usual!

We had a good fang down the road, especially as the wind abated the lower we got. There's still something about a good old school dirt road descent, I reckon. We hit the junction of ML and SA and slowly rode the wrong way down the trail scanning furiously for the errant shades. After meeting a few slightly startled people riding up the right way I parted ways with Alex as SA turned into Koru, deciding that it was better if there was only one of us going the wrong way on uphill designated tracks. Plus Al knew I was itching to shake the Meta down on a trail I know well and can ride fast.

I hit Lazy Fern feeling totally at one with my bike, relieved that I felt great on the bike for the first time in weeks, and fizzing to open up the throttle a bit. I zoomed down this stunning trail through native bush and ponga fronds feeling the elation that only a true endorphin rush can provide. I was able to tap it fully out except when I passed a father/son team riding shiny new mtbs. Lovely to see how mountainbiking is growing in popularity as a family activity.

A Lazy Fern corner I helped work on

I rolled down to the carpark to settle in and wait for Alex to complete his search, where I chatted to some friends heading out for their own ride - wisely avoiding the summit though!

Alex didn't find his sunnies, so was understandably a bit bummed out, but I had had such a fantastic ride I was simply elated. The ride of my new bike was an absolute revelation to me. It's not the the GT was a bad bike - far from it - but the modern design and superbly thought out crafting of the Commençal is so much better. I liked everything about this bike - the weight, the lateral stiffness, the shock platform, the geometry and handling, and especially the pimped out Cedric Gracia looks of it. I'm looking forward to many many rides on this stunning machine, and hopefully even growing my skill-set because of owning it.

Thanks again to Al at Blue Shark for the mad hook-ups, and thanks to Jacq for letting me deprive the family of some meals to pay for it.

Thanks for reading, Oli


Anonymous said...

dude that new frame is pimping

Paul Petch said...

Nice looking frame. Looks like you need some more air in the rear though mate- its squatting really low eh.

I'm looking at a dually frame for this season too. Too many choices!!!

Oli said...

Er, It's not "squatting" low at all - it has 200psi in it and is unweighted, so that's how it's supposed to a couple of the shots my TALAS is adjusted down, so maybe the lower front is fooling you.

Paul Petch said...

Fair enough :) Just looks like the front fork in the shot where you are coming out of the switchback is a DH fork its offset that much!

Nice frame. Happy trails.

Oli said...

Haha! I see the confusion - that's actually my friend Al on his Specialized Enduro with 160mm Marzo 55ATAs! :D

Cheers for the comments, Oli