26er, you remember to what it corresponds ?No it is not the width of your handlebar… Neither a new MTB axle standard… If you don’t remember what a 26er is, then this article is for you !

Between life and death

The story of this bike begins the last summer when I receive a message from a friend that is used to retrieve thown bikes.

I left three bikes in your garage. With them you can do two bikes : one for you, one for me. You’ll see, one just got a broken rear derailleur.

I end up with two Decathlon Vitamin’R, and one unidentified MTB with “just a rear derailleur to change”. Clearly I wasn’t interested by the Vitamin’R’s at all. On the other end, the third bike wasn’t badly equipped : full deore, blue fork (Rockshox ?) that didn’t work that bad, well made tubes and Marin logos thoughout the bike, brand that I already saw at the Eurobike, where old models were proudly exposed.

However, initial diagnosis was higly erroneous. Indeed the bike needed a new rear derailleur…But not only… Most of the parts were already worn out, as revealed the plate’s teeth, able to shred your leg. The rear derailleur didn’t break by itself. Apparently it was broken during a heavy fall that broke the shifter too, and made scratches everywhere. I guess it convinced the owner to thow the bike.

A couple of hours of work later, the bike is working again. The crankset has been changed by an other that didn’t merit to own a name. Rear derailleur has been changed with a golded one (yes, this is just rust). Now the bike is ready to gather dust in the garage.

The story could have ended there if my companion didn’t found my carbon mtb very well suited for her use. She now uses it each time we ride together, leaving me with no other option that riding the Marin to follow her. At that moment I realized that this bike has a great potentiel : the fork is working well (that is miraculous considering the age of the bike), the frame is quite stiff and confortable, altough it’s a little big for me, and above all : this tiny 26er wheel reminds me a 26er Modest SL carbon bike that was extremely playful with which I had a great pleasure to ride in the trails years ago. So that’s decided : this Marin will have a second youth.

THE projet

At the beginning, I was thinking about doing with the means at my disposal, with what I got in my drawers, adjust everything finely and that’s it. Then I understood that the good point with working with a out-of-date 26er standard is that everyone tries to get rid of a 26er part that is taking dust at the back of the workshop. So it’s quite easy to gather quality parts for a small pittance. The place that would really need work is the paint. The frame is raw, so no need to sand it. And I still have this all blue paint pot… One clear coat over it, some stickers, and we don’t talk about it anymore.

As the frame doesn’t worth a scrap, this is also the opportunity to try some experiments. So I decided that I wanted all the housings internal. Go for drill and dremel work.

For the wheelset, I want tubeless. This is far more efficient, and goodbye flats. Otherwise, it’s quite hard to find 26er tubeless v-brake rims…

For the fork, we will see later, the original one works well and will do the job. Meanwhile, and friend gave me a Sid 1998 that leaks everywhere, and finally a disc Reba SL that work like a charm !

Paint job

The problem with the clear coat spray can is that I already bought a bunch of them : it is expensive, it clogs up quickly, and it does a messy job. So why not move up a gear ?Go for it ! So I bought a compressor, a paint gun and everything necessary. I will do a primer with a can, the color with a brush, and the clear coat with the spray gun. That was the plan…. But every step has been a carnage. The primer didn’t seem to stick well, the color wasn’t constant because I used a cheap brush. Regarding the clear coat…well…this is a trade, and with such a bad prep it was impossible to do a clean jon. So unconstant clear coat and multiple run-out. However the result on other test parts was satisfying for the clear coat, so I remain hopefull.

So back to the sanding stage. Hopefully the color goes off easily where the cutter goes. To remove the paint left around welds and inaccessible places are harder to remove, so I bought sandblasting gun. 3 weeks later, the frame is ready yet again. I also acquired a primer paint gun. I ordered the paint products peinturevoiture, that provides products for professionals, including bicycle painters. They gave me good advices.

Primer : ok. Color : ok, clear coat : almost fine. I try to remove a run-out : success ! The next day I try to apply a second layer of clear coat, but I made a mistake in the paint preparation, and messed up all the frame… So back to the beginning for the second time. I sand the frame down to the primer in the day. The next one, color plus clear coat, decals will be laid down on top. Color ok and satisfying clear coat. There is some orange peel in a few areas but that’s not shocking, I leave it at that for the moment. Finally I laid down the stickers made by Obostickers, and the frame is ready !

 

Is 2x chainrings really dead ?

Considering that I have already spent a lot of money for the paint (around 1500€ of tools), there is no reason to keep a groupset from past ages. Otherwise, I still want to limit the budget, and I remember at that point that I still have a Side-Wing XT front derailleur (ordering error…) that I am not able to sell. So go for Shimano 2×11 ! Anyway, with a 2kg frame, 100g more or less won’t do any difference. Buy new seems impossible. I choose used or almost new. This days, everyone wants single chainring, so they sell their double chainrings, left shifters, cassette, often unmounted from a new bike to build a 1X. I profit from this trend to buy all the components. I am aiming SLX tier, in accordance with my observations of Shimano ranges, espacially for the casette that carries a 40 tooth steel cog, more durable than the alloy one from the XT cassette. Finally, for 200€, I got a XT crankset, chain, and cassette almost new, and shifters and derailleurs new.

I already had the opportunity at the Eurobike to test XT 8000 and SLX 7000 on an home trainer, and I wasn’t very convinced that it brings an evolution compared to the previous generation. Today my opinion is different.

First, some improvements are only noticeable if you build the bike. For exemple cable clamps are better achieved and more efficient.

Then, considering the new Side-Swing, I thought that it was just a new standard here to bring novelty and help to sell, but this system is in reality very efficient. Working with the new XT crankest (and new thicker chainrings), chaning from plate to plate has never be so easy and effortless (it’s also due to a relatively important lever travel).

I am fan of the 1X since the first XX1 released, and happy owner of GX. So I was afraid to go back to a double chainrings crankset. It’s true that when I went to 1X, I appreciated that my brain didn’t have to manage the heavy task to choose the good plate anymore. Furthermore, regarding tuning and fiability, the 1X brings an extra. So when Sram claimed “RIP front derailleur”, I answered “Amen”, but I realize today that I probably spoke too quickly. The problem with 1X is that everytime there is an important incline change, we are forced to shift a lot of speeds. Furthermore to obtain a suffisant gearing range required a lot of step between each cogs. Finally I am still worrying a bit with my 10-42 GX cassette when I am in front of a wall and I am out of shape. Therefore, on a straight descent, I wouldn’t say no to a even smaller cog… With my double 26-38 chainring with 11-40 cassette I am much more confortable. The incline changes ? I just easily change plate. Then I adjust the ratio with the cassette. Front shifting is fast, easy and reliable, and this is a game changer…

Consequently, I weight the pros and the cons, my heart inclines to both. The new 12 speed Sram Eagle, with 10-50 cassette, brings a new answer to the problem raised above without solving them. Anyway, I won’t build a new MTB before a long time, so I got plenty of time to think about it, but one thing is sure : don’t throw out your 2X !

 

The wheelset

For the wheels, a friend of mine gave me a AlexRims rim that I converted to tubeless. I bought a Hope Tech XC rim with an incredible finish : at the junction at the opposite of the valve hole, we don’t see any weld.. The more the time passes, the more I like their products (but I still don’t like their prices…).

I spent a lot of time looking for hubs. Once again, I didn’t want to spend too much money, even more for hubs with out-dated axle standards, and v-brake rear brake. Otherwise, it’s quite difficult to find an interesting hubset under 100€. So I found this pair of Koozer XM490 on Aliexpress. This brand doesn’t tell you anything ? It’s normal. The manufacturer website is hard to find, and once you find it, you get the feeling they aren’t active. But the 72 engagment points promise and the review from an internant which destroyed those hubs in DH use took me. I will write an article on this hubs later.

All this components are built around silver Sapim race spokes with antracite nipples. It means that it will require frequent cleaning but…it shines ! I choosed Michelin Wild Grip’R that I didn’t know, but that are an excellent surprise. I had trouble to mount them (at front and at rear), but the grip and cornering control is really excellent. I will probably use them on my 29er too.

 

Conclusion

I will give you the details on the history of different components to go to the final result : The bike weights 10,9kg without pedals, that is quite light. The position needs to be refined : the handlebar seems a bit too far (this is a L size). Otherwise I regain the lost sensations of a 26er, and that lack on the 29ers : the bike is easy to place, to handle. It shakes a lot, we feel the irregularities of the ground and we get the feeling that everything moves faster. Maybe that shows that 27,5er is the right compromise. This bike completes well the collection as the “fun” bike. This project was the opportunity to develop many skills that will be used for the next projects. I also changed my mind on numerous points. To conclude, I would like to thank obostickers et peinturevoiture.com for the quality products they supply, and the give good advices without whom this bike would never have been what it is today. Now, it’s time for me to go back and the bike and have fun !