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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, long time lurker first time poster.

I got my hardrock 29er last october when my 26" rockhopper was stolen. I wish I could have gotten something with better components but the hardrock was about all I could swing at the time and needed something quick after the rockhopper was stolen. I ride a local 6.5 mile singletrack almost exclusively. It is very rooty with lots of fun technical features and some short climbs. In my opinion its the best singletrack in the greater Houston area. I know that Houston isn't what comes to mind when you think mountain biking, but I feel truly blessed to have such a great local trail to ride.

My drive train has been the main modification so far. I dropped the front mech to make it a 1x7 (2011 rockhopper comes with a 7 speed cassette). As I mentioned, I pretty much ride only one trail and I have gotten to know what gearing I need. I never leave my 32t chainring so it was an easy decision to drop the front mech. I added the popular blackspire single speed chainring, bashguard, and jump stop combo. I also swapped out the rear cassette for one with a better combination of cogs that I can get more use out of. 7 speeds is still more than I use on my trail, but the new cassette has a tighter ratio so I can fine tune what I need a little better than the old cassette. I dropped the stock sram X.4 med cage derailleur for a X.7 short cage since I only have about 15t worth of chain slack difference to deal with. Overall I'm very happy with the gearing and snappy shifting of the new drive train.

Other mods have included shimano clipless pedals, thudbuster, and WTB power v saddle with beefy 8mm, rails. I'm a clyde and bend a lot of rails. The thudbuster and power v have helped to resolve that issue. I've thought about swapping the tektro brakes for some BB7s but I haven't been able to justify it yet. I've gotten pretty good at tuning the stock tektros but I'm sure the BB7s would be a lot easier to deal with for on the trail adjustments.

This has left me with one major upgrade left... the fork. The suntour fork that came stock is absolute garbage and needs to go. I want to get a budget fork since anything much higher than entry level could easily surpass the value of the bike itself (a fox fork on a hardrock sounds like a foolish idea to me). My rockhopper had a dart 3, and while it was a low end fork, it seemed to handle everything I needed it to. I'm seriously looking at the dart 3 29er but am looking at other options like the tora, recon and the manitou tower. Considering the cost of service for forks at the LBS, I really want a fork that I can maintain myself. Any budget 29er fork input would be appreciated. I'm interested in the manitou towers, but I'm not clear on the differences in the tower models. Thanks in advance!
 

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You can pick up a Reba or Tora for less than $300, easy (slightly used). That's what I would do.

Also, consider that your wheels would probably make more difference than the fork. Getting a nice set of lighter/stiff wheelset would be my first option.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks very much for your input. I hadn't really thought about upgrading the wheelset, and I was under the assumption that I would possibly need to buy some other components if I did. Are quality 29er wheelsets with 7 speed hubs readily available? While upgrading to a 8 or 9 speed isn't out of the question, I would need a new cassette and shifter to make the conversion (already upgraded the derailleur).

The suntour fork seems like a much bigger disappointment to me than the wheelset. When my front tire leaves the ground I can feel the fork drop the sag (I think this is due to a lack damping in the fork, correct me if I'm wrong) and on any drops over about 2 feet I bottom it out. I'm sure a stiffer spring would help, but I'm dealing with suntour and I can't seem to find an aftermarket spring kit. A used Reba sure sounds nice!
 

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You sound exactly like me a few months ago, my suntour went in the first month, I bought a lisghtly used Tora solo air SL from a Rockhopper 29er for $100 and stillo use it and I'm happy with it.
I bent my wheels and bought stan flows, also a great upgrade. The shop put a spacer on the new wheels so I could use the 7 speed cassette until I upgraded. I installed a Stylo 1.1 gxp 32t single crank set-up, another great upgrade for the money, and this week my shopis installing the rest of my drivetrain swap with X9 parts for a 1x9 set-up with a 11-34 cassette so I'll have a little more range on the high and low than the stock 12-32 that came on the Hardrock 29er.

In my opinion the fork made allot of difference in the ride but the new rollers and tires ae the bike allot better in all respects. The are more rigid and lighter which enhances the feel of the bike on twistie trails and the nicer tires gave more confidence inspiring grip. I had a guy from my LBS riding with me and giving me tips on my first ride with the new wheels and I as dramatically faster than before.

Changing the crap tektro mechnicals to some decent used hydros really enhances your enjoyment on the bike and takes weight off as well.
 

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oh, and second p nut's advice on the forks, the Reba is nice for the money and with it being spec'd on so many mid-range priced bikes they are typically easy to find slightly used by someone that bought the bike to build up with nicer stuff for a race frame, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Another 2011 Hardrock 29er 1x7 rider!!! And here I thought I was the only one :thumbsup:

Going from the 80mm suntour to the 100mm Tora, did you have any problems with the geometry? If I can get by with a 100mm fork, my options will really open up!
 

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Nope, the general consensus is that the additional 20mm is fine, voids your frame warranty but with specialized the color of your shirt when it broke may effect the warranty so....

Many of the shocks are adjustable down to 80mm if you prefer, your shop can do it for you.

I'm really excited about having the drivetrain swap done on my bike this week, the higher level SRAM stuff (X7/X9) is allot better then the X3/X4 stuf that comes on the Hardrock, huge difference.

The more I've ridden and upgraded the better I've gotten and I'm ready to buy a nicer, non-entry level frame to swap all my parts over on to.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
That is great to hear on the fork travel and will make shopping around for an upgrade much easier. Thanks!

I definitely agree on the higher level sram components. My X7 short cage delivers much quicker and smoother shifting than the stock X4 did. In short I'm loving my new 1x7 drivetrain and really the whole bike except for the suntour now. Its time to stalk ebay and the classifieds I guess.
 

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Allot of guys were picking up RST M29 forks a few months ago for $199 and its a pretty good fork for the money and I believe its an 80mm model, you might try looking for one of those new, but I'd try to find a lean, slightly used Tora air first.
 

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I just ordered a Tora TK coil for my 2011 Marlin, hopefully it saves at least a pound over the Suntour. I dont mind my Tektro's either.

You are lucky the Hardrock has a replaceable outer chainring, mine is riveted and I want go 1x9 but would have to buy a whole new crankset to do so.

Any idea how much weight you saved dropping the front der and shifter/cables?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I was looking at the sram/rockshox product catalog on their website, and it appears that the new Toras are only coil. I guess they discontinued the Tora air? I'm assuming the Recon is now the low end of their air forks. I'll keep my eye out for the used Tora air. Thanks again.

I really have no clue how much weight I lost going 1x7. I know I lost a little bit, but the simplicity of not having a front mech is what drove my decision. On the hardrock the stock granny ring is riveted to the middle ring, but thankfully the outer ring wasn't.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Would anyone care to weigh in on my current fork choices? I'm looking at:

Manitou Tower Expert (ACT Air/Coil) $283 + firm spring kit
Manitou Tower Pro (MARS Air/Coil) $369 + firm spring kit
Rockshox Tora TK 29er (coil) $202.30 + firm spring kit (all of the Tora spring kits I can find are U-turn coil kits and I don't think that the 2011 Tora TK is a U-turn)
Rockshox Recon Silver TK 29er (solo air) $296.65

I'm leaning towards the Recon since it doesn't have a spring that I will need a kit for. It is also less expensive than the Towers once I factor in spring kit costs.

Thanks.
 

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recon air, I have something similar and love it, ease of set up and rebound adjustment, fewer internal parts, etc.
 

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I installed the Tora a few days ago and it made a huge impact on the ride. I average about 177lbs and I feel like I am maybe 5-10 lbs too heavy for the spring in it, Haven't came down from any significant drops yet but I know I can get it to bottom out. The fork is a huge upgrade from what I had though, the front tire stays planted over messy stuff and the front end feels lighter, quicker and stiffer.
 

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And I recently went to 1x9 as well with a PG 950 11-34 cassette, x.9 shifter, salsa 34t SS chain-ring, and Paul's chain keeper. 1x9 is the way to go, it's simple, a lil lighter, and smoother (you wont make a shifting error ever agian, like shifting into the granny) and it will make you stronger. With a 34t front and a 34t big cog I can still climb over the same stuff I was before, and still hit 30 without spinning out. I will eventually be getting a short cage x.9 derailleur and a stronger chain
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks to you both.

I've tracked down the spring I'd need for the tora and it is $20. The technical manual for the tora says to remove the lowers before servicing the spring. That sounds a bit unnecessary to me, but I'm no suspension mechanic. I would hope that the spring is a bit easier to replace without draining the oil from the lowers. I've ridden a dart 3 on my stolen rockhopper (26" though) and it was much better than my current suntour.

The tora including a new spring will be about $75 cheaper than the recon,assuming I can do the spring swap myself without extra service expenses.

I'm guessing that I'd be happy with either the tora or the recon. The recon will probably be faster for the initial setup since I don't have to replace a spring. I'm not sure which fork would be easier for me to service in the future, coil tora or solo air recon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I'm toying around with the idea of going tubeless. I found some flow 29" laced to the sram x9 hubs (not much info on these hubs) for about $370 + sealant and new tires. The only other hub choice so far are Stan's 3.30 hubs and that will be about $135 more.

I'm also kinda leaning towards the coil Tora TK 29er fork. Based on what I've read on mtbr, I can swap the spring without taking the lowers off, despite what the technical manual says. It also sounds like maintenance on the coil fork will be easier and possibly a more plush ride over small bumpy roots like I have here. Plus I found some Tora TKs for under $160 which helps to open up the possibility of funding the move to tubeless.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I scored a Tora Race Solo Air 80mm (adjustable to 100mm by removing the spacer) and it has the recommended Motion Control damping. It is an OEM take off and only ridden once. I'm hoping it was a good deal @ $190. Considering a new dart 3 with correct spring would cost me about $150, and a new Tora TK with correct spring about $225, the Tora Race sure sounds like a deal to me. My rig is really starting to follow yours, madsedan, you have good taste. Flows will probably be next.
 

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I would stay away from the X9/X7 hubs, while they do have 3 pawls the X9 is only 18 POE. I was able to pick up a set of Flows with Shimano M629 (same as the SLX M665 which are both 32 POE) for ~$300 from Orion Cycles. I would definitely go with the fork first because that is where you are going to see some weight drop, wheelset and tires next as those are the next heaviest rotational items.
I was able to get one of the RST M29 forks for $200 and have to say it is a great fork (and I got 100mm one) for the money. I have a feeling once I find the right psi and rebound settings that it will pretty much be a set and forget style fork.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks very much for the input Greg. I've emailed Orion Cycles but have not heard back yet. My fork (tora race solo air) should be here today!

I was out on our local trails yesterday and took a bad spill and seriously bent my front rim. Not a taco but close. It looks like I need to buy this wheel set sooner than intended.

I definitely want to go tubeless with flows. The most that I am willing to spend is $527.66 which is what a set of Stans 3.30 QR hubs and 29er flows would cost me including shipping directly from NoTubes. I've heard of people getting better deals than that though (Hope II / Flows for $500, Greg's Shimano / Flows for ~$300), I just haven't been able to track those deals down myself.

So far, my only other option is a set of the Handspun with the X9 hubs. I've read about less POE on these hubs, but I don't know how much that will really affect me. I'm aggressive but I'm no racer and no expert. I've been riding on the stock no name hubs that came on my hardrock and I've had no problems with the performance. I don't think I'm experienced enough of a rider to tell the difference between POE advantages of expensive hubs. Or maybe I've just always used cheap hubs and never experienced anything better. Obviously I'm trying to justify the X9 hubs to myself. I've read great reviews on Handspun wheels. The X9/Flow Handspun set is only $370 to my door.

I need to take my new fork to the LBS tomorrow to get the steer tube cut, star nut and crown race installed. They are a NoTubes dealer. I'll see if they can work something decent for less than $525 but I'm not overly optimistic. I want to support them but sometimes it is hard for me to justify their higher costs.

I'd really appreciate tips on where to find flow wheel sets under $525.
Thanks.
 
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