Mid Term: Spot Rocker SS Ti-by Grannygear

The Spot Rocker SS Ti sits in the garage with a fine coating of dust on it from the last few hours of trail time.  I have been on it now for many miles, climbed some mountains, threaded my way through twisting singletrack, and plunged down fast and rutted fire roads.  Usually, by now, often within the first few rides, I have a bike pretty figured out.  But the Rocker SS Ti is one I am still trying to come to terms with.  There are some things I really like about it and some things I am not so convinced about…at least until the next ride, then I question my thinking and need to back off and collect my thoughts, then ride it again.

The first ride was a 12 mile in and out that began with an hour long climb up the typical So Cal hard baked fire road with sandy patches, small rain ruts, and washboard from vehicle traffic.  On the dirt and pedaling in the saddle, the SS Ti is a comfy beast, even with the less than awesome compliance of the 27.2 Thomson lay back post.  It rolls out smoothly and the Mavic Cross Max SLRs feel great with the light Rocket Rons on there.  The belt is dead silent and smooth (at least for now…time will tell if the dust mice return).  I set the CTD Fox fork on the Trail setting and find that it has a decent amount of resistance to bobbing and even out of the saddle it remains pretty composed.  In the Climb mode it is completely steady with only a slight give in movement.

Standing climbing is what single speeds are all about around here.  And in that mode I am getting a lot of twist at the handlebar end as I pull hard.  I cannot imagine that it is the Enve carbon bar, so it is either the frame or the stem or both.  Hmmm….  Besides that, I can feel the slightly taller gearing compared to what I ride but the light overall bike and light wheels help make the difference.  Despite that lack of grams though, the SS Ti feels just a bit lazy when I get really close to zero RPM in steep sections.  Keep some momentum and it flies along.  Is this a Ti thing or?

Backing up a bit, I actually noticed one thing right away the first time I stood and pedaled…that slack head tube angle.  It is very different feeling compared to the more typical 71-ish degree setting of my other single speed bikes.  It seems to want to flop over a bit as I rock the bike side to side.  Still, as the miles go by, I get used to it.  However, on the single track, tight, sandy, rutted…the head tube angle seems to make me notice it again and not in a good way.  It actually turns really well.  Very agile.  But at sub walking speed as I would crest a rise in the trail and turn, the front wheel would want to flop again.  Also, it seemed to want to skip over the top of sand in the turns.

So far I am not so impressed with the slack angle and the bike as a whole.

Then, I flip the ride around and head back down the fast and choppy fire road.  Oh, well now this is crazy better!  Here is where that slacker head tube angle wakes up and smells the roses.  Fun, fun fun.  Adding to that, the SS Ti is smuuuuuve with a capital Smu.  Yeah, really smooth riding bike.  I swear I have a low rear tire and actually stop to check.  Nope.  The Fox CTD fork in open mode feels better than any Fox fork I have been on, the frame is sucking up a ton of chatter, and the steering is so confidence inspiring that it is kinda weird to feel that kind of speed on a hard tail, at least until I hit a cross angled rut, then the front end was twisting again.  Still, it was a hoot.

In the end it was a wash.  Not so great on half the ride, nearly great on the second half.  But back home I was curious about the flex in the front end.  I had some suspicions about the Thomson Elite stem and I wanted to get a bit more length than the 90mm stocker offered.  On went a Syncros 100mm stem in its place and voila…much, much more solid response to tugging on the bar.  The next ride was a 3.5 mile steep fire road climb and descent and the difference was evident.  It was not the frame, well not much anyway…some I suppose…but for my size and weight the Thomson stem was not single speed rated.

And so this has been the way it has been throughout the entire test process.  I will love parts of the performance of the bike then another attribute not so much, but then, within the same ride, I will change my mind.  Nuts!  So I am going to keep riding and try to come to some conclusions:

  • What is that 69.25 degree head tube angle doing to me?  Is it a plus or minus overall?
  • Is titanium really all that special?  Sure it is smooth…crazy smooth, but am I getting what I need out of it for an single speed app?
  • I think I will let someone else ride it with no per-conceived notions and see what they say.  Could be that I am getting in my own way here.
Other than that, the XT brakes are very good but they do come on fast.  All the new Shimanos have been that way, but you get used to them and there is plenty of power and feel to the brake.  The new Mavic wheels are real lookers.  They are about the same weight (1620g claimed) as the American Classic single speed wheels on my Carve single speed test bike and they seem to be decently stiff, something the older Cross Max 29″er wheels were not so good at.  I have had the free hub pawls (I assume this is a pawl and spring system) make some gnarly *PING* noises when going from coast to drive.  It has not seemed to cause any issues, but it is kinda disconcerting.  However, there have been hardly any hubs I have ridden that have not done that at least once.  For instance, the DT Swiss stuff never has.
Well, I need to stop writing and get back on that monkey puzzle of a bike to see if I can figure it out.  Be back soon.  Leave the light on for me.
Note: Spot bikes sent the Rocker SS Ti for test/review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being bribed nor paid for these reviews and we will strive to give you our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.