Sunday, July 15, 2012

DMR STS Tension Seeker - REVIEW

DMR STS Tension Seeker

I've done quite a few single speed conversions in the last few years, and I've tried a handful of tensioners for vertical dropout bikes: The On-One Doofer, The On-One Other-Doofer and a Surly Singulator. All did the job, but none really did it well.

The On-One Doofer is essentially a stripped down rear derailleur. It tensions the chain by pushing down on the chain and has a spring to allow for some play. The design makes for the set up to have "chain wrap", or more pulleys the chain has to go through. For singlespeed, the most ideal situation is to have the chain line be direct, without much wrap. The On-One Doofer is basic and it works. But, due to the wrap, it isn't the most ideal set-up if you have other options to choose from.

The On-One Other Doofer and the Surly Singulator can be set up in "push up" or "push down" mode (as the On-One Doofer works) to tension the chain. The Other-Doofer works okay, but due to the design, in the more desired mode of "push up", you may have an issue with the guide wheel coming in contact with the chain stay. Some correct this with a half-link (which you can purchase for this reason), or some may just choose to set it up in the push down mode. Also, the wheel guide was not very precise, which also made for a noisy, gritty set-up.

The Surly Singulator was also noisy and gritty in both "push down" and in "push up" mode. The Singulator was tensioned with a spring, so chain slap over very rough areas did occur. Until I purchased the DMR STS  Tension Seeker, I truly believed this was how they all felt... LAME.

Tensioner in "push down" mode
Tensioner in "push up" mode

Ideally, one would want a frame with horizontal (or "track") dropouts for a single speed set-up. Sliding dropout frames work very well, too. But when you're converting a vertical dropout frame, you must tension the chain one way or another*. And, for efficiency, the less chain wrap, the better.

After searching the internet for wisdom, I came across great reviews about the DMR STS Tension Seeker. What really interested me was seeing how many were able to get it to "push up" successfully. Sometimes, with certain gearing combos, the push-up will not work and the wheel guide will hit the chain stay (as mentioned before). But, I decided to order one and give it a try anyway. It couldn't be any worse than what I used before, right? And ultimately, I could always resort to "push-down" mode, if necessary.

Installation was very easy, and with my 34X20 gearing, it works in "push-up" mode perfectly. During my ride, I didn't feel like there was a tensioner there at all; it was so smooth, it felt as if I had horizontal dropouts with a direct chain - no wrap. No noise, buttery smooth, and no dropped chain. The guide wheel has free lateral movement, so how ever your chain line sits on your frame, the guide wheel will adapt.

After being a little frustrated with other tensioners and feeling like mediocre was the best I was going to do, I am glad so many have posted positive reviews about the DMR. It is a tensioner that proves to be solid, works well, and makes you forget you are riding a conversion.

I highly recommend not messing with other tensioners - do it right the first time with a DMR.

*Sheldon Brown has a massive article about single speeds which is pretty extensive and I'd be foolish to try to re-create it myself. If you haven't read from the master, you may click HERE for more information.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

...Aaaannnnnd, WE'RE BACK.


So it's been over a month since I posted in here - sorry to all you fine folks who are following me... life got super busy. Today, I'm taking a day (or two) off from riding, so I decided to post up in here more of my misadventures.

TSP (Team Social Pace) from MTBR has been hitting it pretty well this past month. A few weeks ago, my brother guided us on a pretty damn-epic ride through Wilder ranch and other not-to-be-disclosed trails in the upper region of the UC Santa Cruz area. It was a large ride of about 15 souls and everybody had a great time. My bro really pushed the pace on his 'cross bike, baffling others how/why they were hammering on a TSP ride, so it actually turned out to be a pretty decent calorie burner.

If you follow my blog posts, you now know I'm always messing with my bikes and switching things around. My Leader 510H has been re-appropriated into a Bike Party bike, the On-One Inbred 29'er has gears and a suspension fork, and the On-One 456 has remained the same.

I decided to turn my On-One Inbred 29'er into a true, geared mountain bike again because I'm enjoying the technical stuff. The latest feat, the 1st annual 2012 Rocky Ridge No-Dab Challenge, has put me into a new frame of mind, and gears and suspension ain't the work of the devil as I felt before. In fact, my new XC32TK 29'er fork really has saved me from rattling my teeth fillings loose. Please read my review of this fork below.

Bogden created this nice video of a few of the Bay Area MTBR guys going for RR No-Dabs. So far we only have 7 guys make this climb without putting a foot down; I hope to get it done soon.

If you live in the Bay Area, take a trip to San Jose and try this out! Get your name on the plaque!

My First Impressions of the RockShox XC32TK 29'er fork

First off, the On-One Inbred 29'er isn't the lightest of bikes - in fact... it's a tank. I have mine outfitted with SLX and XT components, Kenda Ingnitor tires (tubeless) and some heavy'ish Velocity Blunt/Shimano Wheels, and it comes in at 30.94lbs. - but let's just call it 31lbs. The 100mm travel fork (as opposed to the Kona P2 rigid fork I had) change the geometry a bit, and I'm going to have to get used to it. I've been riding hard, so I really can't give a true, rested-body test of the fork until my legs heal up a bit, but so far, it feels like it's slowed my riding down a little. But again, I'll have to see after some days of rest. FWIW, I'm considering some new wheels to "liven" my Inbred up a bit - right now it feels like a steamroller.

Money-wise, things are a little tight right now, so I had to go with a budget fork. The XC32TK 29'er is heavy, has limited adjustments (preload, rebound, lock-out), but is plush and soaks up bumps pretty well. The "32" in the name stands for "32mm stanchions", and the other options come in 28mm and 30mm, respectively. Small, washboard chatter isn't pleasant, but much better than the rigid fork I had before. Bigger hitting rocks on XC applications feel great.

I called Trailhead Cyclery to see if they could order an extra-firm spring, but they couldn't due to unavailability. So, I will have to keep playing with the pre-load adjustment to stiffen things up a bit - and I may even put heavier oil in there which helped the 26" Tora immensely. I guess this all should be expected when going with a budget fork. From what I read, this fork is the new version of the RockShox Tora fork, which is on my 456 in the 26", 120mm version.

For my weight, the XC32TK dives pretty bad, which is why I think heavy oil is the way to go since I can't swap out springs. The oil should help a little with compression damping. It also feels a bit noodle'y, so I'm hoping a slight damper in the compression solves that.

My initial thoughts on the XC32TK 29'er fork are: cheap, sturdy, easy, heavy, needs work for my weight. For under $200, I don't see any problem purchasing one, as long as you're not expecting $700 performance out of it. After the oil change, I will revisit my review and update accordingly. This fork comes stock on a lot of bikes, but don't go rushing out to replace it if you fall within the stock spring body weight recommendation of 160-170lbs. For a heavier rider (like myself at 225), you will have to reconsider adjusting it to suit your needs. 

This is an XC fork, and not really intended for drops and big hits.

More to come later on this fork.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. If any of this info helps, please let me know - it keeps me coming back and typing away. I'll try to stay more on top of the updates, but especially with some of the products I'm riding right now. My next review will be on the Maxxis Ardent 29'er tires.