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Let me begin by stating that this review is for theCarver 96’er frameset. However, I could do a review on so many items on the bike, since I have never ridden any of them before. I wanted this build to be new and fresh as I always do, rather than build with components I am familiar with. In this way, I am able to have a broad knowledge of many brands. I try to be unbiased when evaluating different items, and judge them on their own merit. However, I will state that I would not change a single component on the bike – everything performed flawlessly!
I have been riding a rigid single speed 29’er for the past several months, so I am very familiar with riding 29” wheels. They are great for rolling trails, but I would prefer a 26” bike for racing or very technical singletrack. One of my good friends has become a 96’er convert, and now has a rigid Carver single speed, as well as another brand’s full suspension bike. I was intrigued by the 96’er idea, especially having come from a motocross background. A larger tire up front will roll more easily, which is why so many people are now riding 29”-wheeled bikes. On the other hand, it does take more effort to spin up a rear 29” wheel, so technical riding can suffer when acceleration out of corners is required. Companies making the 96’er-style of bicycle use this as the rationale for using a 29” front wheel and a 26” rear. After building Tom’s Carver 96’er single speed, I knew that would have to be my next frame! However, all three of my current mountain bikes are single speeds, so I knew that I wanted gears. I plan to race again (2 or 3 x 9), but in the meantime, I felt that a 1×9 would serve me perfectly in the Atlanta area, since I could ride most trails on a single speed. Given the benefits, a 96’er 1×9 would seem to be the perfect all-around bike.
As built, the Carver was 25.5 lbs. with pedals – very respectable, considering the fact that it had a 29” front wheel and fork. I was not aiming for a light bike necessarily – after receiving the frame, I bought the Halo rims, knowing that they would be relatively heavy since they were freeride rims. However, I compensated with the other components. I have never personally had Chris King hubs, but I have built dozens of wheels with them. I knew that I wanted the best. I decided to use a 20mm thru-axle just because. Originally I was going to get a FOX fork, but they did not have any 29’er forks in stock since they were transitioning to 2010 units. I currently have FOX, Marzocchi, and Rockshox forks on other bikes, so I decided to try the Manitou. I have been riding several models of Avid and Hayes disc brakes, so I wanted to try Magura SL. Finally, I went with the Ritchey carbon bars, stem, and seatpost.
The first thing I noticed about the bike was how responsive it was! The tubeless tires helped, but I was immediately comfortable on the bike. My friend Dave was riding behind me, and he commented several times on how well I was able to flick it around. I actually had to keep reminding myself that it was not a 26”-wheeled bike. It pulled a wheelie much easier than my other 29” bike, and just felt “right.” I was a little reluctant to push heavily into corners at first due to the standard tire converted to tubeless on the front, but my confidence increased as the ride progressed. The harder I pushed the bike, the more it seemed to want! The bottom bracket was super-stiff, and handling was exactly as expected. I have an old Mazda RX7 GSL-SE I am restoring, and this bike reminded me of that car – point it where you want it to go and it does the rest!
Descending was zero effort, and I felt perfectly confident at any speed. I will admit that the tires and brakes were a large factor, but the geometry of the frame was the main reason. Climbing was equally as impressive. I tried the new “Monster Mile” at the Fort Yargo trails in Winder for the first time, not having any experience with it. There is a decent-sized “horseshoe drop” which was the most technical part of the ride. The bike dug in and climbed out of the Georgia clay without incident – I never put a foot down on that entire trail!
I can’t say enough about how happy I am with the bike – it is the PERFECT mountain bike for almost every trail in Georgia! I am definitely a 96’er convert now, and that will be the bike I use mainly. Sure, the components were incredible, but they were only as good as the foundation. A painted Carver 96’er frame is $399 MSRP. I would take that frame any day over a $1,500 carbon 26” frameset! It was stiff and responsive with perfect handling. What more can I say? The bike was amazing!
Frame: Carver 96’er
Fork: Manitou Minute-29 Super 09 Absolute T-A – 100mm travel
Rims: Halo Freedom Disc (29” front, 26” rear) with Stan’s NoTube kits
Hubs: Chris King ISO Disc (20mm front thru-axle)
Spokes: Black Wheelsmith double-butted with blue alloy nipples
Brakes: Magura Marta SL (180 front and 160 rear)
Headset: Chris King NoThread
Shift Lever: SRAM X.0
Rear Derailleur: SRAM X.0
Chain: SRAM hollow pin
Stem: Ritchey WCS carbon
Seatpost: Ritchey WCS carbon
Handlebar: Ritchey Super Logic carbon
Tires: Kenda Nevegal (standard 29” front and 26” UST rear)
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Troy Lee Design
Pedals: Crank Brothers Egg Beater Ti