Tuesday, August 12

Droop, There It Is

I don't see anybody talking about it.  I don't know why not.

Over the weekend, I watched the Windham Round of World Cup racing... my second rainy day weekend in a row, sitting 'round the house with not much to do, watching other people ride mountain bikes while I daydream. Something (in my world) significant took place in the women's race.

2013 World Cup ChampTanja Zakelj (Unior Tools) took second place...

and she was running a drooper post.

Also seen here rocking in full-drooper mode...

I probably woulda never noticed, but common taters Bart Brentjens and Rob Warner mentioned it from time to time... less outta "How fucking cool is this?" and more "We have to say something about stuff."   My inside parts were set all a tingle.   I felt the need to know more.

After just a bit of sleuthing, I see that she was rocking the ever-loving hell out of it the week before on La Beatrice rock section at Mont Sainte-Anne.

She came in a respectable 6th place on the day.  I was busy riding at Wilson's Creek, so I missed the live coverage of the women's XC race and any yammering that might have went on during the race.

I wondered if anybody else had ever used a drooper in a World Cup XC race.  I looked into it (briefly).

I saw that Brian Lopes won the inaugural 2013 XC Eliminator with a drooper before they decided to neuter the courses entirely and put more XC into them and less eliminator.

Brian gave up chasing down Eliminator glory, and droopers went away with him.

A little more digging... apparently Georgia Gould used one back in April at the Cairns XC race, but ended up in 19th place at the end of the day.

I'm not saying that's not respectable, just that she didn't take one to the podium.  There was plenty of slippery gnar in Cairns, and I could see where one might come in handy.

Assuming you don't like having a saddle lodged under your sternum.

Is this a sign of things to come in 2015?   Well, when the 2015 UCI MTB calendar was announced, posted the schedule and interestingly enough added this quip:

"With Pietermaritzburg and Cairns off the schedule, we may not see a dropper post in 2015…"

More and more courses are upping the gnar content.  I don't know why.  I like it.  It's a better reflection of what most of the people I know call "mountain biking."  Cool.  A reflection of improved technology, the demands of the fans, the cries of the racers?  Doesn't matter.  Up your game or get dropped.

So why aren't more XC riders using droopers?

They are heavier than a regular post, natch.  When riders are sweating grams, a .86 lbs increase (comparing a Thomson drooper to a Niner RDO crabon post) is a painful thing to add to the bike.  Weight hurts most when climbing and re-accelerating the bike...that's a big part of off-road bike cycle racing.

But say you are a rider who is a strong climber but lacks the ability to really rail descents and tackle the gnar at speed.  Drop the post, and now you're changing your approach on turns and getting your weight back in the nasty stuff.  IMHO it's much easier to ride a hardtail through choppy rocks and steep/fast technical sections when you can keep your center of gravity low but still let the bike move up and down under you.  Enough so that a hardtail with a drooper feels way more handy than a short travel full suspension bike with the seat all jacked up.  How much do those squishy bikes weigh again?

And that extra weight of a drooper?  How many things have already been deemed "too heavy" and "stupid" for XC use in the past?

Front suspension
Tubeless tires
Disc brakes
Full suspension

All common place now.

Emily Batty's sick what bolt-on thru axles.

I've had my misgivings about droopers.  The first one of mine own was on the Stumpjumper Multi-Acronym machine.

As we all know, I hated that bike for many reasons and sold it 47 days after I got it.   The only thing I got outta the whole experience (other than a sense of closure regarding my hatred for gears) was a new found love for droopers.  Then there was the Meatcarver... boring but relevant history.
Flash forward to the Breck Epic last year.  I found it interesting that Kenny Jones was running a drooper in the single speed class.

Picture not actually from the Breck Epic
Blasphemy.  I was still an idealistic fool when it came to stage racing.  Single speed meant rigid and stupid to me.  Kenny was cheating... but actually brilliant.  I was jealous... forgive me.

Fast forward to the Trans-Sylvania Epic nine months later.  Weeks before the race, The Angry had asked me about bike set-up.  Beefy tires? Yes.  Convert his Ripley into a single speed?  No.  Run a drooper on his Tranny?  Yes.

Did I think it was the right decision?  Of course.  Was I going to use one?  No...

That is until I went the first two days with a regular post, the first few drooper-free days I'd experienced in over a month and a half.  Wicked strange to lose that extra control I'd gotten used to in less than 45 days time.  Then there was that weak moment when I put on a suspension fork and drooper before the third day, the Enduro™ stage.

And by the end of the next day, I was back to rigid... but still drooped.

It changes.  Everything.  The way that tubeless tires did.  The way that disc brakes did.  Improved handling, greater speed, more control.  Who doesn't want that?

"But what about Nino?" they ask.

"He's got mad skills and destroys the descents and the gnar and the everything, brah.  Seat up FTW!"

He does, but you're not Nino and neither is anyone else.  If I was chasing him around the World Cup circuit watching him drop me on the descents, don't think for a skinny minute I wouldn't be looking for some technological edge to catch up to him.  I can't ride like him and most of the guys on the XCO circuit can't either.  Someone's gotta consider it.  Some day soon.

"Well if someone does, it's because of pressure from sponsors..."

Just like the first 29'er ever raced, the first full suspension, the first 650b...

Shut up.

Droopers rock and I'm tickled when I see them on hardtails being used in races.

Here's "pro single speeder," Yuri Hauswald's drooper equipped Marin single speed ready to tackle a day of the Breck Epic... brought a tear to my eye.  Pro single speed is the gateway to pro-pros.

Just wait.  The revolution.  It's coming.*

*As an aside, I should mention that after the Pisgah Monstercross race, the drooper will come off my Vertigus for awhile (yes, I'm using it for a climbing intense gravel road race).  It has moving parts and I'm sure a service interval of some sort, so I'll have one long travel droopy bike and one rigid and stupid bike to go back and forth between through the off-"season."  That's how I'll roll.  Whatever.  Don't judge me.


Anonymous said...

No photos of drooped fatbikes. #disappoint

Knuckler said...

Droppers make the most sense on hardtails. You don't have the advantage of the suspension so being able to move your body to wherever it needs to be is huge.

Anonymous said...

Rich- a question/point I know you can understand; a lot of people I know don't make the switch because they don't want one more thing to mess around with/ think about/ break. You know, kind of like gears or suspension...what do you think of that?

Mike B.

dicky said...

Exactly... it's just one more thing... in a world with so many things. How many moving parts are you adding to the bike for real?

I bet their chains have more moving parts. Tell them to give that up.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest drooper post.

BTW: I used to think the same thing.

Anonymous said...

If god is everywhere, is he/she in the toilet as well?

dicky said...

It's safe to assume so.

Anonymous said...

Can a dropper be helpful on a full suspension, or just hard tails?
Can it help in races around Charlotte, or just in the Mtns?

dicky said...

I would use it on any bike, ht or fs. Would it help at most Charlotte races? Not so much... mebbe at the WWC, but everything else is so twisty turny and flat. Nope.

zigak said...

Could you elaborate on the pros and cons of thru axles.
In case of flat tire, the change takes 10-20 s more than with QR.

Gordon said...

I ran a Thompson for the first time at this year's ORAMM on my Moots hard tail and all I could think of during the descents was what took me so long? Any weight disadvantage from climbing (none) would have easily been made up by my increased control, and thus speed and time, on the downhill. Best damn investment I've ever made!

Anonymous said...

One of the first is also Miha Halzer....2012 silver medal in elimimator World Champs in Saalfelden

dicky said...

Pros and cons of thru-axles. With tubeless being the norm, flats are much more infrequent in XC racing. The pros are lighter frames and forks that are still stiff. Also, brake alignment when replacing the wheel is a no-brainer.

Cons... yes, slightly more time involved in removal/install.