Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: Lynskey MT650 Hardtail


A couple months I was doing some investigation into Ti hardtails, and came across a lightly used 2014 Lynskey 650 hardtail for about $2400. I was tempted by it, but kept on looking.

Well wouldn't you know it, the next day the price was dropped by a couple hundred bucks. Suddenly it became much harder to resist.

Lynskey claims the MT 650 has the oddly specific retail price of $4,273, but that's clearly optimistic as they're offering a 30% discount on all their bikes, bringing the real retail price down closer to $3000. Regardless, ~$2000 for a name-brand well-equipped Ti hardtail is a pretty great deal, in my opinion. It's used, but they're offering a full warranty.

I've had plenty of 26" mountain bikes, and I had a single-speed 29er Bianchi Sok, but I've never had a 650b. The marketing claims that it "handles like a 26-inch, but rolls like a 29-inch". Give me a break. My hope is merely that it looks less goofy than a 26-inch (which looks comically small on an XL frame) and less goofy than a 29-inch (which looks comically large on any mountain bike). I strongly suspect that within the skill-level of 98% of the mountain biking population a 29er handles just like a 26er and a 26er rolls just like a 29er. And a 650B splits the difference between the two.


The MT650 arrived mostly assembled in a bike box. Picking up a bike box is always a bit of a surprise, as they feel surprisingly light.

Minor assembly required
The bike was nicely padded, and arrived unscathed. Perhaps 10 minutes later I had a ridable bike.
Ready To Ride

Of course once assembled, the most important thing is to weigh it. 25 pounds, 13 oz.
Who says Titanium is lightweight?
As luck would have it, this all happened right in time for snow to hit Oregon, and Max and me to hit Utah, and then me to hit BC.
Max, not riding a bicycle
So needless to say, the test ride would have to wait a bit.

First Thoughts
First, the size. I'm no giant; probably in the upper 5% of the size range, but definitely not a 1%-er. I'm squarely in the range that an XL anything, whether bike or shirt or pogo stick should fit me comfortably. Now, in Lynskey's defense, they do claim that the XL is sized for "5'11 - 6'2", but I'm just a wee bit taller than that, and the cockpit is definitely cramped. Look at the difference between my Trek Fuel and the Lynskey:
XL Trek Fuel vs XL Lynskey MT650
With the seat back and the bars forward, it works. But it's not as spacious as it should be. I'll probably end up swapping out a few items and maybe using a setback seatpost to solve the problem.

Second, and I'll admit that this is remarkably nit-picky, there a couple very minor build things that bug me. Sheldon Brown once commented that lining up the tube valve and tire label shows pride of workmanship. Much like Steve Jobs infamously cared about how the inside of the Macintosh looked. Lynskey got some things right here..
Labels on stem spacers lined up... Check!
But also had a couple misses...
Labels on grips are not lined up
Left the bar-code sticker on the seatpost
OK, like I said.. minor. The things that mattered work great. The gears shift smoothly. The brakes modulate perfectly. Unlike the usual "Shimano XT build" that consists of an XT rear derailleur and Truvativ crap everywhere else, this is a genuine 100% XT build.
Shimano XT everywhere!
Riding Impressions
With the caveat that I haven't yet had a long ride on this bike, my short ride was a blast. It's been a long time since I've ridden a hardtail, so I'd forgotten why everyone names their full suspension bikes "Bob". The X-Fusion Velvet RL2 has a lockout (pretty much everything does these days, after all). I didn't come close to bottoming it out on the dirt road leading to my house, but the action was smooth as, well. velvet.

I tried hard to discern a difference from the 650B wheels. But I couldn't. The bike is obviously very different than my Trek Fuel with 26" wheels, but I have had a hardtail 29er, and this rides much like that did.

The road near my house varies from nice dirt road to nice forest-service quality with pot-holes. Even a road-bike on 700x25s can handle the former fine, but the MT650 was comfortable and confidence-inspiring on the latter as well.

Not a surprise. I mean, that has a lot more to do with the tires and such than anything else. Once we get a dry day I'll take it out to the nearby single-track area for some more "testing".

There are a couple minor things I'll change. I've ordered a one-up 42T cog to get a true granny gear. I'm currently planning to put that on the Lynskey, but I may change my mind and put it on my Trek instead. I'll also likely throw on a set-back seatpost (or maybe even a dropper!) and a longer stem to make it fit a little better.

Overall I'm pleased. The bike feels like a well-balanced, quality build that will last a long time.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

New Tires From Compass

Mr. Heine's blog announced today a few new tires, seemingly based on the Grand Bois series.

I've been a fan of the GB since I first used them perhaps 5 years ago. It could be coincidence (in fact, it probably is), but my fastest brevet times for all distances from 200K - 1200K have been on GB 700x26 or 700x28. It's hard to say, but I think that I get fewer flats with these tires as well. I don't track such things, but tire life has certainly not been noticeably short.

Most of my bikes handle at best a 700x28, but the cross-checks have clearance for up to 700x42. Unfortunately, Compass has previously only sold GB in sizes up to 700x32. But the new series includes a 700x38 option, the Barlow Pass. I'm tempted to pick up a couple sets...