Friday, May 27, 2011

3 Simple Steps to Transform Your Zeppelin Elite into a Gnar Gobbling Machine!

In its stock form, the Airborne Zeppelin Elite is a very capable trail bike. However, if you want to go from "capable on the trail" to "gnar gobbling machine," there are 3 quick changes that you can make to get there:

1. Wide Tires

The size of your contact patch plays a massive role in how your bike performs in certain conditions. While a narrower, lighter tire may be good for fast, smooth trails and climbs, if you want to rail the descents and feel confident in chunky conditions, I personally recommend at least a 2.3" wide tire with big knobs for maximum control!

2. Wide Bars

Wide bars help you place your front wheel precisely where you want it. The extra width helps you to fine tune your steering, and while at a slow speed you might not notice much of a difference, when the speeds pick up the precision truly shines! Just make sure you don't go too wide, though: there is a happy medium that you need to find. I'm considering cutting mine (pictured above) down a couple of centimeters.

Also, a wider bar, especially a thick DH bar like the one pictured above, will significantly reduce feedback from the trail and help smooth the ride out just that much more.

3. Drop the Saddle

Yes, I know there are no pedals in this photo ;)
By dropping your saddle on really steep, nasty descents you are able to shift your weight further back over the rear wheel to allow the front end to float over all of the obstacles in the trail. Moving your weight back also allows you to pop the bike off of drops easily and to turn rollers into launch pads without a second thought! Finally, having your saddle lowered allows you to have a great range of motion over the bike as you are negotiating whatever challenge the trail throws at you. 

So when the going gets rough, the tough drop their saddles!

Your Turn: 

Do you know of any other easy modifications to improve the gnar-gobbling capabilities of your mountain bike?

PSYou only have 6 more chances, including today, to vote up Greg Rides Trails in the Crank World Cycling Blog Honors. Head on over and cast your daily vote now!


Greg Heil May 30, 2011 at 7:27 AM  

Esteban left a good question over on Facebook:

"Is there any reason why you change the way the rear shock goes on the Zeppelin elite ?"

Greg Heil May 30, 2011 at 7:27 AM  

My response was:

"Hey Esteban, the shock is designed to stroke better in that direction, and it also makes the adjustment knob and air valve more accessible."

Blundar,  November 9, 2012 at 12:52 PM  

Those are the exact same tires (WTB Bronson 2.3 race) that I upgraded to. That made a HUGE difference on my Zep Elite.

I did not get the wide bars but instead went with a Truvativ Hussefelt 40mm stem (stock stem is 80mm). Very inexpensive but robust built. That allowed me to move the grips further out, and push the brake levers and shifters outward all the way up against the grips. That simple mod ended up giving me close to 3" more inches of wider grip on the same bars.

A dropper seatpost would be a great upgrade but they are so expensive.

blundar,  March 14, 2013 at 10:22 AM  

Stock stem is 90mm (not 80mm). The WTB Bronson 2.3 race tires have been nothing short of amazing.

I swapped the shifter paddles with the brake levers. So now I have them set up as: grips, shifters, brakes. I adjusted it so that I now grab the outer end of the grips, and I can reach the end of the brake levers with my index fingers easily, and the shifter paddles are right under my thumbs without moving my hands.

I still do not have a dropper seat post (pricy option), but I did upgrade to a Hope QR Seat Clamp. I do have to stop the bike adjust the seat height, but it is really quick, and cheap. I am not racing anyway so it is not a problem for me.

I also upgraded the rear shock to a Rockshox Monarch RT3. Wow! This also made a huge difference. I barely get any pedal bob from the rear now. If I am doing some long climbs, I can also quickly switch to almost full lock out and pedal much more efficiently.

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