|We have similar conditions to yours in Prescott, near San Diego, California, and I have ridden extensively in Arizona. There are a number of tires that claim to be hardpack and dry-condition specialists, but there is only one that has proven itself to be capable in all forms of arid trail conditions - sand, slick-rock, marbles-over-hardpack, gravel, and loose shale. I also assume, by your pressures and pinch flat problems, that you are not riding tubeless - which is an absolute necessity in the Southwest. Buy some 2.3-inch Maxxis High Roller II tires and install them tubeless with a Stan's kit on both ends of the bike. Start at 30psi up front and 32 psi in the rear and I think you will recover your mojo and start enjoying one of the best states in the US to ride a mountain bike. - RC|
How the West was won: many tire makers claim to have the magic tread pattern that can find grip on loose, rocky and hard-packed soil, but none can compare to the Maxxis High Roller II. They aren't the fastest, nor the smoothest tire, but in dry conditions, High Roller II's rule. A great many riders in the arid Southwestern US run them front and rear.
|I'd recommend going with the 12-36 tooth cassette to start, since it sounds like you're due for a new one anyway. That way, if you are looking for even easier gearing in the future you'll still be able to drop down to a 30 tooth ring. I will warn you that even with a narrow wide ring you might still end up needing to run a chain retention device of some kind since you don't have a clutch type rear derailleur. The clutch mechanism helps prevent the chain from getting bounced around enough to pop off of the front, which can happen even with a narrow-wide ring.|
You might also want to consider what it would cost to upgrade to a 10 speed set up. It will probably add another $100 or so on top of what you were already planning on spending, but that will give you a clutch rear derailleur and one more gear. Plus, once you move up to the 10 speed world you'll have the option of purchasing a conversion kit that will allow you to create an 11-42 tooth cassette, just in case the 32 x 36 ends up not being easy enough. - Mike Kazimer
|The good news is that your fork is not broken, but the bad news is that the bottom-out dial atop your BoXXer's left leg is always going to be a bitch to turn when the fork is pressurized. The trick to getting the dial to turn easier is to let the air out of the fork, but be sure to use a shock pump to note exactly how much pressure you had it at before doing so in order to keep from having to start setup from scratch. It's a pain in the ass, no doubt about it, and RockShox knew that as well because it has been replaced with a much simpler and lighter system for 2015 in the shape of the Bottomless Tokens first employed in the Pike - simply add or subtract the volume-reducing spacers to tune the ramp-up that you're looking for. Yes, you still have to de-pressurize the fork, but at least it shaves both weight and complication. Your 2014 fork is already running the new Charger damper, and you can upgrade it to 2015-spec (minus the new fork lowers) by installing the new Solo Air Spring system that features a revised spring curve and the aforementioned Bottomless Tokens. The new Solo Air Spring assembly retails for $188 USD, and it looks simple enough to install that you might not even have to pay anyone to do it for you. - Mike Levy|
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