I had posted earlier about all the issues I was having with my MkIII. Aside from the much-discussed suspension linkage slop, I had the following problems with the drivetrain:
1. Interference between the suspension pivot and the FD.
2. Sluggish, unreliable FD shifting
3. Frequent chain dropping
Others, including DW, have posted here previously that a Sram X-Gen FD will solve the problem with the pivot clearance. By PM, another mtbr member told me that he, too, had issues dropping the chain, and that switching to the X-Gen FD solved it "100%" (I must admit I was skeptical about his claim- more on that to come).
What did I have to lose? The bike was dangerous to ride because of the chain dropping. But if you check the Sram forum, many have expressed frustration with the X-Gen FD because the narrow cage makes it prone to chain rub, which, in some cases, no amount of tweaking could reduce to livable levels.
The solution to that, it seemed to me, would be switching to grip shifters, because they permit you to trim the FD. Whatever else anyone has to say in the trigger vs. gripshift debate, I have always felt that the ability to trim the FD is very desirable. You can also assure a quick shift by "overshifting" and then backing off a notch or two as soon as the chain settles onto the ring.
It just so happened that I had a complete Sram drivetrain- gripshifts, XO FD and RD on my hardtail. So I swapped the shfiters and derailleurs onto my MkIII. The stuff I took off the MkIII went on to my hardtail, where it works perfectly. Go figure.
To make a short story long, here's the verdicts:
1. Pivot interference- SOLVED. In the fully inboard position, the Sram derailleur sits behind the pivot instead of up against it. Makes me wonder if this aft position causes issues on other bikes....
2. Poor shifting- SOLVED. This bike has gone from the worst shifting I've ever had to the best. The gripshift/X-Gen combo works great and there are no rub issues. (It might be that it would work find using triggers instead of gripshifts, but I didn't try it that way, so I can't speak to that.)
3. Chain dropping- SOLVED. Well, probably. I've only taken the refitted MkIII on one ride, so I hesitate to declare the patient cured. But I did take it over 23 miles of moderately rough single track. Previously, over this same terrain, I'd drop the chain 2 or 3 times. But on my test ride, the chain did not drop once, and I was doing everything I could to get it to happen. I was looking for all the dips and lips I could find, and hitting them hard with slack in the chain, trying to knock it off the rings, but it never happened. Very encouraging!
All this solved by a very simple parts swap. Which brings me to the next subject. IH really shot themselves in the foot by selling this bike with a Shimano FD. Imagine riders who aren't plugged into MTBR trying to troubleshoot these issues. Imagine the college-kid bike mechanic at Supergo or Performance trying to fix these bikes by trial and error, without the shared wisdom and experience found on these forums. Maybe IH has sent service bulletins to their dealers, but there's no mention of the issues on their website, and when I emailed their customer support, they didn't reply. I wonder how many people gave up in frustration and concluded that these bikes are real POS.
Which would be fine if these bikes were real POS, but they're not. The core of the bike- the frame and suspension- is awesome. The rear is amazingly plush. The bike is so confidence-inspiring going downhill, I just know I'm going to get into trouble going over my head. And aside from the FD issue, the parts spec, on a bang-per-buck basis, is a great value. A week ago the bike pissed me off. Now I love it.
Thanks to everyone on these forums who, by sharing their knowledge and experience, helps guys like me solve problems. MTBR is an incredible resource.