Gearing Up for 29 Trails in 29 Days

At this point I’ve ridden 240 miles in just under four weeks and the vast majority of those miles have been on singletrack. The conditions I’ve encountered along the way – ice, snow, mud, rocks, and rain – have been great for putting my gear to the test. Although I’m not ready to share full reviews of these components yet, I thought I’d give an update on how everything is holding up so far.

SRAM X0 2×10 Drivetrain

I debated about switching over to the SRAM X0 2×10 drivetrain before my Durango to Moab ride over the summer but I just didn’t have enough time to get everything installed. I really wish I had done it sooner because I could have used a few more gears on some of those steeper high altitude climbs.

Over the past 26 days of my 29 Trail quest I’ve ridden all kinds of trails – from fast, flowy big ring stuff to steep, slippery granny gear climbs – and I’ve found that somehow I always have the gears I need to keep moving. In fact, on many trails I’ve been forcing myself to stay out of the smaller ring for as long as possible because I know it will make me a stronger rider (plus once I go small on a ride, I typically stay there far too long).

Georgia horse trails can be muddy in winter.

The challenge has been pretty rough on my drivetrain as you can see from the photo above (there’s a front derailleur somewhere under all that mud). The rear derailleur has frozen solid twice with a thick coating of ice that restricted the overall movement to just a few gears. But thawed out, everything was back to normal. I’ve also managed to pick up a number of sticks in the rear derailleur on seasonally neglected trails and every time the X0 has snapped back to normal (despite giving me a scare or two).

I’ve already de-greased my cassette twice during the 29 Trail challenge (something I typically do just a few times a year) and I can’t count the number of times I’ve cleaned and lubed my chain, partly due to conditions but also due to the mileage I’m putting in. All the SRAM stuff goes on and off smoothly so it’s easy to maintain and looks brand new and shiny after it’s all cleaned up.

SRAM X0 Hydraulic Brakes

These are the best hydraulic disc brakes I’ve ever used on a mountain bike. The X0 brakes were super easy to install and I haven’t had a single issue with them over hundreds of miles of riding (even before the challenge started). I love the lever “snap” I get when I release the brakes and the quiet operation on the trail. I did manage to freeze the brakes during my ride at Dawson Forest after running the calipers through deep water but that’s what happens when you play with water in freezing temps…

Easton Haven 29er Wheels

I just managed to get these wheels installed for trail #11 of the 29 Day challenge but man, I wish I had done it sooner. The Haven 29ers are well constructed and mega strong yet they’re still lightweight enough for a mainly-XC guy like myself. Pinging off rocks at Cheaha State Park and bouncing over the granite at the 1996 Olympic course, these wheels performed like seasoned pros.

Beyond the blingy good looks and solid construction, the Haven 29er wheels are UST compatible which is a big plus for a lot of riders. Until this point I hadn’t gone all in with tubeless mountain bike tires but the owner’s manual convinced me to go for it (Easton recommends tubeless ready or UST tires only). What a difference! On a hardtail the ability to run lower pressures without fear of pinch flatting is reason enough but there’s also the simplicity of the whole thing that appeals to me. I love these wheels so far!

Other Stuff

A set of UST wheels is pretty much a waste without compatible tires so I’ve been experimenting with the Maxxis Ardent LUST 2.3 29er tires and the Hutchinson Pythons. I also have a Specialized “The Captain” 2Bliss tire waiting in the wings that I can’t wait to test.

Before the start of the challenge I also lopped a few centimeters off my Answer Pro Taper Carbon bars and added ODI Ruffian lock-on grips (my first set of lock-ons). The grips are working really well – no slippage in wet conditions – though I do wish they had a little more padding. Hey, at least they’re lightweight!

My GPS, however, hasn’t fared quite as well. To be fair, this unit is 3 or 4 years old now and has been smashed in the car door a time or two, but it still works great (except for the fact that I need to use my smallest allen wrench to access the stop and lap buttons). The rubber band is there because the handlebar clip broke long ago.

Pulling off 29 Trails in 29 Days is a physical and mental struggle but without reliable gear it would be nearly impossible. Case in point: I nearly freaked out after stripping my crank threads on trail #7, worrying about how I would get to 29 with my bike stuck in the shop. Thanks to the guys at Andy Jordan’s it was a quick fix but that’s not always the case with repairs. Being able to jump on the bike whenever there’s a clear day is crucial so I’m thankful all my gear is holding up so well!

Thanks to the folks at SRAM and Easton for providing components for review.