No doubt about it, in rough, slippery conditions, a wider footprint rules, Period. Plus, Midfat or Plump bikes are becoming more and more common and with good reason. I had a chance to put one through its paces in Whistler during Outerbike and here are my initial thoughts after a few hours of riding.
The Pipeline is based of the Instinct, which is reviewed below, and is in my opinion, the most versatile trail bike on the market (Specifically when supplied in the “BC Edition” with wider wheels, bars and a Pike with 140 mm of stroke). The Pipeline uses only the front triangle and the design team at Rocky came up with a redesigned rear triangle to house the larger 2.8″ Wide Maxis Rekon+ tires.
As can be found on the bikes.com website, I won’t rehash here, but the highlights are a 150 mm stroke Fox F34 Fork and DPS shock controlling 130 mm travel (same as the Instinct). Shimano M8000 XT Brakes and Drivetrain mated to a Race Face Turbine Cinch Crank are solid parts. The Pipeline shipped with ALEx 35 mm wide rims, many other plus sized bikes are defaulting to 40 mm wide for a bit more footprint. Since this is the only plus sized bike I have tried so far, I’ll call it good for now. Wider rims, to a point, provide a more stable, wider footprint but if its too extreme, the tread tends to square off and cornering becomes unpredictable. With the massive 3/4″ of clearance given around the swingarm for the tire, I bet that a slightly wider tire or even rim would still work well on this machine. There are currently only two models on the early release, the 770 and 750 series’. My suspicion is that perhaps a higher end spec will be released for next year with the rest of the line, and maybe with a full carbon layup—The two Pipelines that are currently available use an aluminum swingarm. My one real concern with the setup is the janky Sun-Ringle freehub, twanging and crackling under high torque, It never gave me a sense of confidence that I would not have to carry this bike home at some point with a handful of freehub pawls…
The frame uses the Rocky BC2 Greasable links, but had a conventional ball bearing main pivot since it re-uses the older frame style.
Initial riding thoughts:
There is no perfect bike for all conditions, just like there is no “One” tire. Make a bike descend better and the climbing prowess tends to suffer, there is a fine balance continuum of climbing efficiency and downhill fun factor. Right off the bat, I felt at home on the Pipeline, mostly due to the fact that the cockpit fit exactly like the Instinct I have been riding for the past while, same grips, bar width, saddle, stem length and reach. The big difference felt right away was the shorter chain stays, 443 mm vs a longer 452 mm, that 9mm shorter can be felt in an easier manual, and a lighter front end when climbing. My Instinct has a slightly slacker headtube angle, despite shorter travel. I put the ride 9 setting right in the neutral position, same as my current set-up. The Pipeline is an overall shorter bike and perhaps easier turning, but the plus tires still fall short of the 29ers reliability over rooty and rocky climbs. Air pressure was set at 18 psi rear and 17 psi front, I had no problems with low pressure rim hits at all on aggressive lines on whistler’s rocky all mountain descents outside of the bike park. I did not have a chance for a weigh-in but the bike felt around 30+/- lbs, a decent weight given the mid weight wheels and large rubber. This thing all out rips the descent, it makes one very predictable downhill ride. The tires and chassis simply absorb all of the small trail features and high speed frequencies, small off camber routes can be all but ignored and you just point and shoot. A decent amount of front end travel helps smooth out the bigger hits. I never felt that the bike was under damped with “Bouncy” tires or anything like that, I think that once you have the air pressures dialled front and rear, it feels like a regular bike just—-easier, better? Well that is for you to decide, but I definitely have one on my list for next year, but I am not letting go of that Instinct…