Just Not Liking that Vassago Jabberwocky…
Diligently rode that damn jabberwocky all September. The Strava September climbing challenge where I rode up and down a paved road near work to rack up the vert.
And. And Then it Failed the Tiger Mountain Test.
Straw that broke the back was going to Tiger mountain, riding up the lovely masterlink/quicklink to the summit and then finding myself scared and frustrated when trying to ride down the expected wet ‘n greasy OTG.
Basic problem is that I can’t reliably hoist the bike’s front wheel, end up crashing into everything and with only 100mm fork it was a frightening experience. If you’re going over a 9 inch tall rounded muddy river rock, you need to hop the front wheel over, the rear wheel can just slide where-ever, but the front will crash sideways if you don’t pop it over. Well I keep crashing it and bouncing all over. I’m out of my element, scared, can’t seem to hoist that damn wheel! So here I am not wanting to descend my favorite trail! It is so miserable that I did the almost unthinkable: I took the bailout from upper OTG, rode back down the road, then back down masterlink (which is a one way climbing trail for bikes.) To be fair it was getting dark, it was raining, and I did redirect some very tired, wet, lost and inadequately equipped riders to do the same thing as me, they were wandering the upper roads of tiger without a clear idea how to get back down. Also my wife was hiking on masterlink so heading back down I could hang with her. Its not like I was trying to break descending records on masterlink, or even skidding.
When the going gets tough, the tough…
So… what to do. I have a bike that I’m afraid to ride on the trails I love most. Yeah, my intent was to get something that would be painful to ride during the winter, I guess I got what I expected, but now that I know what I know I want a different bike. Yeah, the tough pee themselves and buy…
A Different Bike
What to do? Short chainstay 29er… Canfield Nimble 9? Honzo? And I search pinkbike for… a bike that has been haunting my dreams for the past few years… a bike that I have a semi-historical connection to… a bike that I’ve enviously watched being ridden in my nwepic races… A Kona Raijin!
New sort of barrel of fun
The raijin is a ti framed 29er with singlespeed sliders. When it came out in 2013 it was supposed to be a new sort of barrel of fun. The historic connection? Well, I did invest in a new 94 hei hei back in the dreamtime, a different ti kona that I still have (doing a great job on my trainer ignoring the rain of sweat.)
I’ve not ridden one but I recall the reviews as being positive. I’ve seen quite a few for sale, searched for them on occation. They’re usually for sale in distant places for ~$3k. Big buxxx.
Well, now I’m pretty sure I’m in the market for a different bike I search pinkbike and find a raijin for sale an hour north for $1700. Woo. Its parts are reasonable, allegely in ridable shape, I figure I can swap parts to the jabberwocky, sell the jabberwocky and be in a sweet bike for not that much more than I’ve already spent?
I email the guy – who is terrific – and he gives me a great essay of how much he loves the bike, how he’s going to regret selling it, etc, etc. Actually quite a bit more detailed and enthusiastic than the typical seller.
And then I wake up – such a beautiful dream!
And then I regain my sanity, get yelled at by wife for having too much junk, and email to say I can’t do it until I sell other junk. Bummer. At this point I’m 60% certain that I need a bike with more travel in front fork and shorter chainstays. Ideally a bike with a fox fork instead of this impossible to rebuild marzocchi 320LR.
A few days later he emails me: “I’ve lowered the price…”
Just twitching that hook in front of my nose, the fly lands so gently right above me… and I can’t resist and email back to arrange to meet him that Saturday. I take the Jabberwocky up to bellingham so I can see the two bikes side by side. And I’ll have a bike to ride at Galbraith in case I don’t buy the raijin…
A Visit to the Kona Store:
On the way to seller I visit the kona store. Kona store is hopping on a saturday morning. I browse around looking at bikes and price tags. Weird, after a few minutes I’m thinking that $5500 looks pretty reasonable for a bike. The happy clerk lets me take out a Honzo CR (a carbon honzo!) but I only have time to loop the parking lot. Its a large, long and low, but also surprisingly heavy. Big big tires, big thick fork, lev dropper post, my main impression is one of weight. Frame is solid but doesn’t feel light. Feels quite dampened. Not a bike that I really like much riding in the parking lot. I do find it really easy to manual and wheelie though. Honzo has really short chainstays: 16.3″, which is almost 1/2″ shorter than the raijin.
Then my phone rings, a call from seller, I’m late, am I still coming?
Yes, I’m a bum. I was too busy shooting the shit at the kona store and arrived at seller’s place 25 minutes late. A nice guy, skinny and fit and a total bottom feeder like myself. I’m surprised, doesn’t look like a fat middle aged dad with a bad back that can’t handle a singlespeed (I could recognized one because I can just look in the mirror.)
He’s been enjoying a string of used bikes. His old carbon fs bike had broken (delaminated bottom bracket) and he’d sold it, said his back couldn’t hack the singlespeed hardtail for the sorts of rides he likes to do. He had just taken the plunge on a Kona Process 111 so he could enjoy some full suspension goodness, is really happy with it, and then came a deal he couldn’t refuse, a Cielo disk braked cyclocross bike… You know, the frames made by hipsters at chris king in portland? Pretty much the most hipsterish bike there is, while also apparently being a fully CK bedazzled and bejeweled cyclocross race bike. He had to have it, he bought it, and now needs to sell his singlespeed to help make up the cash delta.
I bring a tape measure, verify the bike’s dimensions. 24.5″ horizontal top tube, 16.7~ chainstay, etc, all as expected. One thing is that bike has 34×22 gearing, steeper than my meek 32×22, something I’m pretty sure I will need to remedy. The other odd thing, for a 2012.5 raijin, is that it is a factory prototype. It has a 31.6mm seatpost, instead of the 27.2 that the first bikes had. The first bikes achieved this with an aluminum shim. In 2015 kona did away with the shim so owners could more easily fit dropper posts.
I look over the parts but don’t stress about them. I fully intend to move the nice parts from the jabberwocky, sell the jabber with the stuff from this bike. I do make certain the fork is in good shape (and it is.)
Seller takes me out for a quick cruise through some local parks, he’s riding that lovely Cielo. I’m pretty much immediatelly in love with the raijin, rides exactly like a proper bike should, nothing at all surprising about it.
I am always surprised to test ride modern bikes that are $4-6 thousand dollars and find they ride like pieces of shit. Well the Raijin rides exactly how good bikes rode in the mid/late 90s. The bike becomes part of you, complements you.
We ride across a grass field and at the first steep grass bank I’m out of the saddle and sure enough the thing climbs like a bike should, the front wheel is easy to wheelie, the rear tire grips like it should. Bike has a 120mm fork, instead of the 100mm it is supposed to have, but steering is still quite quick and ‘telepathic’. There’s absolutely no issue with the longer fork. Bike is stiff and ride is quite hard.
Seller and Bike Say Goodbye
We head back to house, I drive to get cash at the bank, return and pay the man. While I’m leaving he’s telling me the history of the bike. A pre-production prototype originally owned by Scott Odell, a kona sales person, who left kona after some sort of fight with the owners. Seller bought the bike from Scott a few years ago. Seller upgraded the fork from 100 to 120mm and says it was a big improvement. Seller also tells me how much he’s enjoyed this bike, that it really is his favorite bike ever. That when he got it he was so excited that he couldn’t sleep. He then says I should call him if I ever want to sell it, then says not only that, but that if I don’t like it he’ll buy it back. A “buyback guarantee”! Jeese!! Makes me feel a bit bad. Right at the end he asks if I want some cogs, gives me a bag of cogs. Nice! a 20 and a 23. (Bike comes with a worn 22.)
Galbraith Test Ride
Seller very kindly gave me directions on where to park at Galbraith and a list of trails that make up his most favorite loop. He can’t go with me because he has baby duty.
Take bike to Galbraith, follow his instructions and have a really damn good time. Bike shows itself to be a crazy insane monster, I’m riding down all sorts of steps, bunny hopping, all while AC/DC blasts through the trees. Even without a dropper I’m riding all sorts of crazy stuff, steps, etc with no problem at all. Bike is yelling to go faster. Really pretty amazing though I notice the higher ratio when on the hills. Fortunately the hills I ride at galbraith are all either gradual or short.
Nice scene at Galbraith, cool parents with little kids, older guys riding together, everyone friendly and happy to offer directions. Definitely want to come back.
Pretty much verified that this is a bike I love love love.
The business of parts swapping
I intend to swap all the sweet parts from the Jabberwocky to the Raijin. Love the Hope 2Pro wheels and crest hubs, the mounted nobby nic 2.25 tires, the X0 carbon crank with North Shore direct mount chainring, the minty endless biking 22t cog, the cool Chromag stem and bars, the Chromag seatpost and its really comfy trailmaster seat… Pretty much I love everything about it except for the Frame and Fork…
And then I run into some hickups that make swapping difficult.
Raijin Has PF30 Bottom bracket, Jabberwocky has BSA bottom bracket:
PF30 bottom bracket has a larger diameter than the old standard shell. This allows the use of larger diameter bottom bracket spindle, which means that spindles can be stiffer and lighter. The Raijin has an FSA K-Light Carbon Triple Crank, in BB30. That crank can’t fit on the Jabberwocky. Bummer! So Jabberwocky needs to Keep the Crank, so Needs to Keep the nice 32T direct mount front ring. I’m stuck with this FSA thing.
Look up the FSA thing and it is supposedly silly light, hollow carbon arms, 530grams with rings? Is that even possible? I will measure if I ever need to remove it, but will remain a mystery for now.
Raijin has 31.6 seatpost, Jabberwocky has 27.2.
Ok, no huge harm I guess, the Raijin came with a truvativ noir world cup carbon post that weighs 210 grams, versus the chromag is 270 grams.
Raijin needs 35mm external seatpost collar, Jabberwocky is 30mm.
Sort of sad about this, the chromag collar is really nice. Oh well. I’ll need to get a collar, I want to be able to lower the seat. Oh well for now…
And the Wheels…
I like the old wheels, Hope Pro 2 Bolt On Trials hubs, they work so well with the horizontal slider dropouts on the Jabberwocky. But I want them, I don’t want to switch tires. I’ll put the new wheels on the old bike, sell it with the sketchy tires it has. And then I look at the new wheels, they’re these weird freaky things called “Industry 9”. The rear wheel is made with machined aluminum hubs. The rim is a stan’s arch which is supposed to be stronger but only slightly heavier than the crest rims… and… that Industry 9 hub has terrific engagement… the hub responds instantly to pedal strokes. Pretty hard to imagine it would matter but…
I switch the brakes, put the shimano xt on the raijin, the elixir cr onto the jabberwocky. No problem. I put the old wheels on the new bike and… gee… I kinda think the old wheels were stiffer, and had that instant engagement… is it POSSIBLE that a wheel could matter to a bike, other than being reliable and not breaking? Could a wheel improve a bike? I dunno… sounds like a gimmick to me.
I have pretty strong and conservative feelings about wheels, having been burned often with proprietary setups, custom parts that are no longer available, etc, etc. And the rear wheel’s spokes are made from aluminum… what sort of idiot would do that? Obviously they’ll fatigue and snap. What a gimmicky piece of junk that wheel is, obviously I’ll put it on the old bike, sell it off to someone that likes gimmicks.
Those aluminum spokes are $7 each! I’m no fool.
And then… I ask my fast friends if they’ve ever heard of Industry 9, and how the wheels might hold up for them? Response is pretty spectacular: they’re bombproof, hold up to the rough stuff, and I’ve been riding the old version for 7 years with only one broken spoke from a huge stick, etc, etc. So ho! Maybe they don’t suck. Maybe I’ll keep them and their stiffness and tight engagement…
I swap the shimano icetech rotors to the I9 wheels, the avid rotors onto the crests, seat the crests back onto the Jabberwocky. All is well, both bikes seem to have great braking.
Handlebar and Stem:
Well I do like the old chromag stem, its cool. The new stem is ugly and 100mm, a bit long. I switch the bar and stem, then ride the Raijin and it feels… heavy? Not as good? What the heck, are the old Easton carbon bars better in some way?
The Easton bars are about 1/2″ narrower, just barely noticeable. Could it be the weight? I take everything apart and weigh it and Whoa!
Chromag Stem is 210grams, the new stem (Truvativ AKA) is 200grams. Small potatoes. Is it the extra 10mm that I like? Could be? The Easton bar is 176 grams. The chromag acute bars are… 289 grams! Jeese, that’s a 1/4# right there. No wonder the bike felt worse. What a funny thing that an extra 1/4# on the handlebars makes a difference. Seems like a good argument for light grips…
The grips on the new bike are hosed, need new ones. I take the nice chromag grips from the old bike, put ESI Racer’s Edge grips on the Jabberwocky. They’re actually pretty nice. Good damping. Figure the Jabberwocky needs it more than the new one. Sort of thinking to get some though, they feel hefty, great damping, and only 45 grams. The chromag grips are just over 100grams…
Jabberwocky for Sale!
Finally the jabberwocky is ready for sale. I clean it well, take more pictures, put up an ad on friday. On Saturday I meet a buyer, on sunday the Jabberwocky is sold for $800, $100 less than I paid for it almost exactly a month ago. $100 is not bad for a 1 month rental, and being able to switch good parts onto the new bike, get into some XT brakes, that good seat, the stem, the icetech rotors. So now I’m into that Raijin for a total of $1600. Pretty damn good deal if you ask me.
Man that Jabberwocky had a sweet ride. Good feel of steel. I didn’t mind the weight and I would have kept it if it had shorter chainstays and a longer travel fork. Really just not suitable for the trails I like to ride, especially because the singlespeed experiment looks like a success, I like it more than I thought I would.
And More Lovely Shots of the Raijin:
Love the look of the big Titanium tubes.