I took a first ride on the Nicolai Mojo GeoMetron earlier this year. Since then I borrowed another similar version from one of the Nicolai engineers, which I put through it paces over a couple of weeks on the Italian Riviera. Passing through Risca recently, I dropped into the Mojo unit for a chat (coincidentally my forks were due a service, and I needed a coffee) and there she was: Hanging majestically from the work stand, I lay my eyes upon her, having no idea of her credentials. Hang on a minute, are those 29" wheels? Chris replied "Yes, it has just come in, I still hate them, but I wanted to build one to shut you, Steve Jones (from Dirt Magazine) and Alan Muldoon (MBR) up, as you guys never stop going on about how much you love 29ers. I'm going to prove they're not better." Over the course of drinking my americano, I persuaded Chris to let me take it on my onward journey to Madeira for a couple of days. It took a while to fit it into the bike bag, and further issues came when trying to get it out of the bag, getting it to fit on the bike shuttle, in the public bus and into the hotel room – even some of the streets struggled with its size. I had a great time on it, and would love to do some back to back runs with both sizes in the future. For now, here's the caffeine-fuelled chat as we watched Paul the technician gently ramming the monster into the bag.
|Yes, it has just come in, I still hate them, but I wanted to build one to shut you, Steve Jones (from Dirt Magazine) and Alan Muldoon (MBR) up, as you guys never stop going on about how much you love 29ers. I'm going to prove they're not better.|
How have sales and feedback been from the 27.5" bike?
Sales of the 27.5" version have exceeded all expectations. We’ve sold more in six months than we planned for the first year. The general acceptance has been amazing! No-one has ridden it and not liked it (Alan Muldoon from MBR had some criticisms, but he was riding the wrong size and using his ‘test ride’ as a geometry experiment – we weren’t in control of what changes we made, he was asking for them
). In fact, the number of people who have bought bikes following test rides is amazing. Quite a hit rate! Do you think people have gotten over the initial shock of the 'crazy' angles, and now accept this as a viable option?
I reckon the fact that all
of the Nicolai staff have been using versions of our GeoMetron and they have released the Pinion gearbox equipped bike with our ‘crazy angles
’ shows a level of acceptance. A real
production bike with our angles. Everyone that rides it accepts the geometry without question. After an initial “it climbs OK, turns well, seems pretty good in tight corners”
period, they all just shut up and ride! The major feedback I get is when people go back to their normal bikes and email me afterwards to say how awkward, small and twitchy they feel. We talked a lot about wheel sizes when I came to test the GeoMetron. You seemed very anti-29" at the time. What has changed, why have you built this?
I’m still not a fan of 29-inch wheels. There’s too much gyroscopic effect at speed. They feel OK in certain circumstances but when it gets fast and direction changes are at speed they feel very limited. The reason I built it was literally to show that the 27.5 version is better! There was quite a bit of talk amongst 29er fans of how much better this bike could get if it had 29-inch wheels. That’s why I built it.... The 27.5 GeoMetron has a lot of the good traits of 29er's (speed over rough ground, speed through turns, calmness of steering, etc...), but also steers well at speed and is very much more dynamic than the 29ers. Can you explain why you think that the 29" bike won't be as good as the 27.5?
The 29" version has a much lower bottom bracket in relation to the front axle, so front wheel braking traction and turning traction (at the corner entry point
) will be compromised as the weight transferred to the bike from the feet is pushing under the axle and pushing the bike forwards. The lower BB height also means you can’t manual and hop properly. Basically, anything other than an SPD pull-up to lift the bike takes more effort and more time to achieve and time doesn't always allow for this on the trail. It encourages a wheels on the ground
riding style. I feel that you have to lift
the body to change direction... It’s just a feeling but it is definitely harder to change direction from one side to the other and it feels like it’s a fight. I think that’s precession (gyroscopic effect
). I find it nervous in a straight line until it's up speed then it's great. But then at speed, it won’t turn. Will you be putting these into production?
We’ll build them! I’ve sold 3 of them already, if people want to buy them they are still an interesting bike, they share pretty much all of the geometry numbers of the original, just adjusted for the wheel size. It’s not like we just built a Tall Boy copy!
Somebody builds a one-off bike to 'prove' it's not as good as another, but then sells three of them with zero advertising or promotion – what does that tell you? Specialized had a good stab at long legged big wheelers with the Enduro 29, then seemed to back off the offence as they put more effort into 650b and plus sized tires. A few other brands have had a pop like Banshee, Evil and On-One for example. But nobody has really gone all in, yet, with designers seeming to make things shorter and steeper compared to their little brothers to offset the supposed negatives of big wheels, or maybe just to make numbers look more controllable on paper. Time will tell, but interesting times are here. - Paul Aston