In 2012, the major bike manufactures stop producing high-end 26" wheeled mountain bikes. Currently, 99% of mountain bikes for sale in 2014 come with 29" or 27.5" wheels.
Bike industry experts predict that even tires for 26" mountain bikes will go out of production in the next decade.
In 2009, I bought a 2007Specialized 26" Stumpjumper Pro Disc as a leftover. In 2013, I bought a 2012 Specialized 26" Camber as a leftover. Both these bikes are really superb machines. I call these bikes "Little Stumpy" and "Little Cam" because both have "little" 26-inch wheels.
Part 1: Little Stumpy - Long in Tooth
After a bazillion hard miles, Little Stumpy was wearing out. A few years back, I could have found a great replacement for ailing Little Stumpy. But the days of good 26" mountain bikes are gone. I had no choice but to rebuild Little Stumpy.
I just didn't rebuild Little Stumpy. I made Little Stumpy new again. Here are the results.
Photos do not do the bike justice. Little Stumpy has a mirror-like finish. I replaced every moving part except the wheels. The front wheel was pretty new. I had to rebuild the rear wheel because the free hub and the bearings were shot.
This is Little Stumpy's new crank and pedals. Little Stumpy tips the scale at a shade over 26 pounds.
I put a larger front brake on Little Stumpy. Originally the bike cam with 160mm front and back. I kept the 160mm on the rear and installed a 180mm on the front. I also replaced the old 2012 Avid Juicy brakes with new 2014 Shimano Deore brakes. Little Stumpy's braking performance is greatly improved.
This is a side shot of Little Stumpy. The sun is reflecting off the top tube. This bike looks new again.
I decided to keep the original Specialized "Flame" handlebar. This handlebar with flames on either side of the stem is super rare and fetches a high price on eBay! Little Stumpy would not be Little Stumpy without flames!
Here is the new Shimano XT derailleur that I installed. I replaced the shifters, cables, cable housings, chain, crank and all derailleurs. Little Stumpy has a completely new drivetrain.
I also put a Specialized S-Works Purgatory tire on the front wheel and a Specialized Ground Control tire on the rear wheel.
After my first ride on the New Little Stumpy, I knew I had nailed the tires! Little Stumpy whipped around tight curves, on loose decomposed granite like he was glued to the ground! Bliss!
Part 2: Memorial Day Inaugural Ride at Elk Meadows in Evergreen, Colorado
The weather finally broke and the sun peeked through. I loaded Little Stumpy and Little Cam on the bike rack and headed for Elk Meadow in Evergreen, CO. This was not a great idea to try to ride the very popular Elk Meadows trail system on Memorial Day.
There were enough people there to eat the place! The parking lot had overflowed and cars were parked all along the access road. I managed to get a spot near the trail head. I should have turned around and gone to Beaver Ranch or Flying J.
Elk Meadows is not too far off I-70 and is easy to get to from Denver. Denver is a pretty healthy city and a trip to Evergreen is a good way to enjoy the great outdoors. Elk Meadows has a great combination of easy novice-friendly trails, up to expert-only rocky nightmares with steep switchbacks and nasty drop-offs.
In other words, perfect terrain to really give Little Stumpy a baptism. Here is a GPS map of Elk Meadows.
I am happy to report that Little Stumpy clobbered everything Elk Meadows had to offer! The bike shot up Bergen Peak and flew along winding single-track. There were a lot of hikers and, being a courteous bike, Little Stumpy was polite and asked permission to pass.
He even got a compliment. He overheard a hiker say to his companion, "Wow - That is a nice bike!"
Part 3: Do You Eat with that Mouth?
Little Stumpy and I climbed Bergen Peak. My ankle held up, but I am woefully out of shape. I had to rest a few times. Bergen Peak climbs 2,000 feet in three miles. If I keep riding and running, I will get in better shape.
While I was descending, I saw a young woman coming up the trail. She was on a 29er that looked a bit too big for her. She was dressed in a very fancy kit. She was approaching a steep, but very short rock garden. Her eyes were fixed directly on her front wheel.
This is bad little chunk of real estate. The rocks are rough, sharp, big and close together. I stopped right above the rock garden and tried to move aside. But the trail is narrow and there is not a lot of extra room.
She did not see me. She struggled up the rock garden and grazed my shoulder. She then screamed, "Jesu* Fuc**ng Chr**t slow down"! But I wasn't moving. I calmly replied, "You need to look where you are going... I really tried to say "ma'am"... but it came out "Honey".
I think she flipped me off. I just shook my head but Little Stumpy was upset!
Unfortunately, the foul-mouthed woman was not the only rude mountain biker I encountered. When I come up to hikers, I slow way down and say, "Please, excuse me" or "May I pass?" I then give them as much room as possible and thank them.
I saw one mountain biker yell, "BIKER COMING" and zoom past a group of hikers at warp speed! The problem is that every mountain biker gets tarred with the same brush. I can fly down a trail with the best of them. Little Stumps and I hit 24 mph on one treacherous stretch that was a series of two foot drop-offs. We were literally flying! However, we had a clear trail ahead.
Part 4: Good Bikes
After riding Little Stumpy at Elk Meadows, I drove over to “my” side of the mountain. I decided to ride Little Cam at Beaver Ranch. I have completely rebuilt Little Cam with high-end Shimano XT components and Fox Racing suspension. Here is a shot of Little Cam in his element:
I have to admit there is a noticeable difference between the smoothness and quickness of the more expensive Shimano XT components on Little Cam and the “budget” Shimano Deore components on Little Stumpy. Little Cam’s XT upgrade cost $1,032. Little Stumpy’s Deore upgrade cost $558. I know that seems like a lot but both bikes are bargains! A full-suspension bike equipped with Shimano XT components like Little Cam is about $5,000. A hardtail equipped with Shimano Deore components like Little Stumpy costs $1,800.
Brand new bikes have either 29” or 27.5” wheels. Little Cam and Little Stumpy have 26” wheels. Besides being a bargain, these 26” bikes really rip!
Part 5: I Have Tools
One of the reasons I can build bikes is that I have some great specialty tools.
I have a set of Spin Doctor bike tools. I got these tools for nearly half price on sale. I have a Nashbar headset tool.
Here is a shot of Little Stumpy getting a new Cane Creek headset. The Cane Creek Headset has sealed bearings and rotates very smoothly. Little Stumpy uses a 1 1/8" external cup headset, which is a little dated. However, the headset took the play out of the front fork.
The best investment was a bike work stand.
There is no way to do complex bike repairs without a stand. I have built three bikes and have developed some good skills. I worked as an auto mechanic before I decided to go to college so working with my hands feels normal.
Part 6: A Whole Lot of Speed
Neither Little Cam or Little Stumpy are fast bikes. According to my Garmin, Little Stumpy hit 27 mph at Elk Meadows; Little Cam topped 35 mph on the easier terrain at Beaver Ranch. I hit these speeds for only short intervals. Mostly, I traveled at 7 to 10 mph, which are more typical speeds when riding on dirt.
I am very happy. Both "Little" bikes are a tremendous amount of fun.
Here are the bikes loaded and ready to go home after a long hard day of fun.
Thanks for reading my blog.