2016 Canfield Jedi 27.5: First Year in Review

My first season on the Canfield Brothers Jedi 27.5 is a wrap!  Given all the fun I've had on this bike, it seems like a good time to share some background on my choice to ride one and my perspective after seven months. I first came to know the folks at Canfield Brothers after reading an article last March about their decision to make the switch to Direct-To-Consumer selling and fulfillment. This sales model and their focus on downhill bikes was right on target with what I do here at DoubleBlackBikes, so I gave them a call and ordered up a Jedi to ride for the year. At this point, I had 5 years of experience building up Specialized bikes and Demo 8's to ride and race downhill, but it was time to make progress towards my goal of supporting smaller companies more sharply focused on downhill mountain biking. Based on what the frame geometry and suspension design indicated 'on paper', I had high confidence that the Jedi was well suited for riding the steep stuff. I had no idea how good of a ride this was going to be.

Rolling through dry, dusty conditions at Bailey Mountain Bike Park.  PC IconMediaAsheville

This is my second article sharing my riding impressions of the 2016 27.5 Jedi, so please take a few minutes to read my First Ride article on from the May time frame. Since then, I've accumulated 7 more months of riding experience and a full race season. I've had a chance to ride in a wide range of conditions after an unusually wet spring contrasted by drought conditions in the fall. From the muddiest, steepest race course at Snowshoe Pro GRT...to Whistler in August...to moon dust at Windrock Bike Park in November, I believe I've covered most of the bases with this bike.  I'll break this article down in to these topics:  

  1. Ride It Like A Jedi
  2. Plow Bike or "Playful"?
  3. Frame and Build Details
  4. First Race Results Are In!

Ride it like a Jedi

If what you're looking for is the same experience you had with you're last bike - don't get a Jedi. Abandon the way you used to set up and ride your old bike - that's history now. This Jedi is different, it's not just marketing hype, and the design can be a game changer for you. I'm a simple guy, so I followed the recommendations from Sean at Canfield.  Just tell them your height and weight and go with the size frame and spring rate they recommend.  When you get the bike Built - set the sag at 33% and use the Jedi Base Tune on the Cane Creek Double Barrel. Do yourself a favor and dial in the right amount of sag on your forks with these bikes while you're at it. You may be more familiar with less sag up front, or feel faster like that, but just try your forks at 33% too. The Jedi rear suspension flattens the rough stuff out so well and provides so much traction that you'll be better off keeping things balanced.  If you're hitting the big stuff, then ramp up your air fork with MRP's Ramp Control and let that expensive damper on the front do it's job - you'll be happy with the results.  Don't worry about bottoming out the rear - you'll prevent that by taking the previous recommendations.  In my experience at a typical Cat 1 40+ pace you are best suited running 33% sag and letting the bike take you places you never thought you could go.  Leave the popping, hopping, and hammering to the pros that strength train all year.  This bike can be playful with the right damper settings, but I think it really differentiates itself when the wheels are on the ground.

The geometry is superb for DH racing - embrace it's advantages.  Let's say you're used to riding a 64 degree head angle, or a specific wheelbase, or something else that seemed to be optimal on your last bike.  Forget that too.  Embrace the 62.5 degree head tube angle seek out the steepest trail that used to haunt your dreams, let off the brakes and be willing to reach that elusive 'minimum speed' these bikes need in order to function properly. It is closer than you think! The Jedi is my first DH bike where I have experienced the feeling of how smooth higher speeds can be.  In rocky, ledgy sections of the trail this bike begs for you to just let off the brakes, look forward and smile.  Oh, and if things get a bit rowdy along the way...the traction is incredible regardless of what the terrain is like.  You'll be able to bring things back under control in a hurry with this bike.  

The point I'm making here is:  this is your new bike, embrace the strengths this design has, and be willing for exploit those attributes for speed and control.

Plow Bike or Playful?

There are excellent reviews on the Jedi that articulate how this bike excels in steep, gnarly terrain at high speeds but doesn't excite the rider as much in the area of playfulness.  We will define this as the ability to pop off smaller features, whip through tight turns, and get rowdy on machined jump trails at a moderate pace. This conclusion seems well supported by frame's design, weight and intended purpose. As you know - you can't have your cake and eat it to, right? I had similar opinions in my initial review, and I still agree that the Jedi's strength is not it's playfulness. But with that said, after hitting the trails with other (better) riders also on a Jedi I find myself questioning this notion that the Jedi doesn't 'play' well. I think maximizing this bike's potential requires some adaptation and a good suspension tune. I've seen competent riders throw this bike around like a toy. I believe it is simply harder to tap into these capabilities in contrast to the easy-to-leverage strengths it has.

Here's my experience: I was riding and testing setup at Windrock Bike Park with Brandon Blakely (an engineer at Cane Creek Cycling Components) hitting up some new trails. Brandon is about 6' tall and 185lbs, he is highly skilled on two wheels of all kinds (and pogo sticks). His Jedi is size Large with a CCDB coil, 450lbs. spring and he runs Fox 40 forks.  For a headset he went with a Cane Creek Angleset (not the official Canfield recommendation, but seems to achieve what he wants). I spent the morning following him down the trails, until he warmed up and I couldn't keep up with him any longer. After his first couple of runs he stopped to make some adjustments to his suspension and the next run it seemed like he and his Jedi were transformed in to a different creature. There are a number of small features sprinkled around Windrock that enhance the fun and there are some tight berms as well...Brandon was blowing these things up into launch platforms and take-offs. When I asked his opinions at the end of his first day on a Jedi, he responded "this thing is playful!" (True story, I have witnesses).

The same story played out a couple weeks later when a different rider/friend of similar skill hit the trails there. Now, I realize that both of these riders are in the 6'1" height range, strong and very skilled - so this sort of play might not be within everyone's reach, but I've seen good riders exploit this Jedi to do things that have changed my perspective on the 'playfulness' it has to offer. I believe this 'playful' factor is largely up to the rider's ability and deliberate choices in the suspension tune, headset spec, and other variables that can impact head tube angle. 

Frame and Build Details

  • External Cable Routing:  personally, I like the externally routed shifter cables and brake hose. They follow the most logical, straightest path I've seen on any bike and you can install a rear brake without the hassle of removing the rear wheel and or the rear shock. Speaking from experience as the mechanic for an amateur downhill race team - internally routed cables are a total hassle on a race bike. There is no way to quickly swap a rear brake - an event that's fairly common in racing where damage and or failures are routine. On top of that, in some frames the cables don't have any mechanism to prevent them from rattling around in the downtube.  Let me count the reasons internally routed cables are a bad idea...
  • Frame Protection & Chain Noise:  I need to improve my solution for chain-noise control. The Jedi doesn't come with any frame protection from the factory. I suppose since they don't use paint at Canfield Brothers, and the Ano is super durable - it just doesn't seem important.  That said, I like a quiet chain and the Jedi's rear suspension and frame design doesn't lend itself to being quiet. It's unique movement results in the forward portion of the chainstay coming very close to chain as the rear compresses - making chain slap noise inevitable even with modern clutch-type derailleurs. I tried a layer of industrial Velcro, but that didn't suffice, so I upgraded to the typical budget solution of an old inner tube secured to the chain stay. I'm not happy with the unfinished look, so I'm going to try layers of 3M Mastic and see if I can build up a durable solution. This is the one area I would love to see Canfield Brothers invest a bit of time on.  Over the past 5 years, bike manufacturers have really improved how quiet DH bikes have become and I believe there must be some solution on par with the other high guality details of their other small parts like the Skull badge and the cable/hose retainers.
  • Headset Choice:  While I embrace the slack head tube angle for racing and the steep stuff...I am considering experimenting with a Cane Creek Angleset (headset) to have the option of changing the head tube angle a bit.  On occasion, I'd like to have a geometry that helps with tight, slow turns.  Since I'm running a 2016 Boxxer World Cup that has one of the longest axle to crown dimensions on the market, I'm curious about how the bike might handle with a slightly steeper head tube angle. Brandon seems to love it, and we have a few different size large Jedi's on the team set up for 185lbs. riders so comparisons are easy to accomplish.

First Race Results Are In!

I'm not going to bore you with the details here, since I know most of you are not in to this bike for the racing.  But for me, racing is where I quantify my progress and see how I stack up.  It's good for me, and racing inspires me to challenge myself and improve my riding skills.  Less than a year after I petitioned USA Cycling in order to race Category 1 - I end up on the podium of a Pro GRT in the competitive Cat 1 40+, I took first place in my class at a Beech Mountain DH race, and pulled in faster times than folks I haven't been able to beat down the mountain before. From my perspective - I attribute much of this to confidence I've gained and other benefits I can leverage from the Jedi's unique design.

In Summary:  

I'm a huge proponent of the Jedi after a full season of testing, tweaking, learning and having fun. So much so - that after riding on it for a year, and getting to know the folks at Canfield Brothers Downhill Bikes - I sought out a partnership with them to establish an East Coast Race Team in 2017.  We are organizing that now...check out our new Gravity Crew website and we hope to see you soon on the mountain!