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Old 05-13-21, 01:52 PM
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2015 On-One Inbred 29er Review

A review 4 years in the making. (The catalog said it was blue.)

The Inbred was sold for around 15 years, though there were some slight improvements made over time. The originals were framed for 26” wheels, but by the 2010s, a second version of the frame, designed specifically for 29” wheels, was made available. By 2017, however, mountain-bike specific technologies had taken the market, and the Inbred was retired because of its “shortcomings”: quick-releases on the axles (instead of modern thru-axles), narrow steel seat-tube (instead of modern, widened seat-tubes for ‘dropper’ posts), tire clearances were fixed at about 2.4” (instead of modern clearances for 2.6” to 3.0” tires), the head-tube was 1.125” (instead of the modern 1.25” or tapered 1.5”), and last but not least, the geometry is just ‘all wrong’, with a steep seat tube and head tube, each greater than 70° (instead of the modern, slack sub-70° angles often found on new entry level hardtails).

Skipping a bit of history, it was difficult to date my Inbred to a specific model year. It seems the teal blue colorway was circulating as early as 2015. When I purchased mine, it was clearance priced and packaged with some of the fit-kit (all for around $300): frame, headset, stem, handlebar, seat, seat-post, and a seat-post collar. I should have ordered two!

The original build was simple enough. Alongside a rigid fork, the build also included a budget ‘29er’ wheelset, Avid BB7 brakes and levers, Shimano Zee derailleur and shifter, with a Deore triple crankset – “one-by” drivetrains weren’t common at the time, and the middle-ring of the triple crank provided the straightest chain-line (even the shifters and derailleurs were still being marketed as “downhill, ‘gravity-ride’ specific”). During my first year with the bike, the only real upgrade was the seat and seat-post: a RaceFace two-bolt design post paired with a Brooks B17. The setup was plenty robust for the cross-country trails I was riding throughout Iowa.

Left: At Sugar Bottom Camp and Trails. Right: Commuting.

Fast forward to late 2018, and a relocation from Iowa to central Texas. The erosional limestone that littered the trails kept me from even attempting the single-track for months! In any case, I knew that, at the least, the rigid fork was not up to the task. Unfortunately, quality suspension forks for the ‘outdated’ 1 1/8” headtube are few and far between – thankfully, Manitou had recently brought the Markhor to market: “a new suspension fork that fits your old MTB” ( The new fork model was not only compatible with the Inbred, but also affordable, and a major upgrade to anything I’d ridden before (the new forks were air-sprung with damper and rebound controls, compared to my earlier experiences with basement-tier damper-less coil-sprung forks). Even with the new fork, however, the Hill Country trail systems are still hard on the ol’ bike (not just difficulty – I’m actively afraid of breaking stuff!)

Not just my trail bike, but also a commuter: the “quick-releases” are bolted on and the Brooks saddle is chained to the frame (an old bicycle chain wrapped in a salvage inner tube).

I spent a year riding around Texas on the On-One (both trails and commuting). I was content with the rig as it was and spent my bike-funds elsewhere, rejuvenating the old 2013 Salsa Vaya instead – I was planning a 2020 highway tour in the western United States… then March of 2020 happened. With a global pandemic, such frivolous tours were on hold.

By midsummer, I was anxious to go anywhere (as long as anywhere included plenty of social distancing): Bentonville Arkansas seemed a reasonable choice. I could go on at length about the trails found there, but regarding the On-One Inbred, the cross-country ‘all-terrain’ bicycle was mostly out of its element. Whereas in Texas, most trails were rideable (to a degree), I found myself routing around many of the features at the Slaughter Pen trails; the Inbred was not built for ‘hucking’ or jumping (and certainly not for an unpracticed rider coming up short). Still, there are cross-country trails in Bentonville, too, and the Inbred was a perfect match: the bike rolled 22 miles on “The Back 40” and another 24 miles on the “Little Sugar and Tunnel Vision” loops. Although these trail rides were really only a few hours each, it got me thinking just how comfortable the Inbred really was.

As comfortable on hour three as it was the first hour; Bentonville Arkansas.

If the Inbred was to go much over three- or four-hour rides though, it would need some modifications. My original build only had one bottle cage, often requiring a hydration backpack to cover any appreciable distances. The handlebars were great for control, but a little painful on the wrists after too long. Most significantly though, the gearing was too high – “downhill” gearing was a hard sell when slogging uphill (even with a big cassette).

Adding water capacity was the most fun improvement to make (literally): for the cost of one triangle-frame bag, I was able to purchase materials for three prototype bags (with scraps yet to spare). The finished frame-bag (over 1,000 miles logged) now carries the toolkit, a spare tube, and as much as 3 or 4 liters of water – with a bit of fussing, a hose can be routed down into the bag, providing on-the-roll hydration. I took the added capacity a bit too seriously, and also added two handlebar “feedbags” (MooseTreks brand), enabling carrying two additional water bottles there. Around this time, I added a rear rack – for a little extra capacity, just in case.

As riding to and from the trails is often part of my typical rides (and road-connections common on longer rides, too), a more aerodynamic position was needed. There are various suggestions as to how. I often do things cheap, so I contemplated clamp-on bar extensions, but ultimately, I decided a Velo-Orange Crazy Bar (at about $60) was a good all-around investment. The aero ‘horns’ are 42cm, so very similar to road-bike bar widths; the traditional grip (or ‘flatbar’) position is swept 45° and plenty wide. The results are two distinctive positions: a full aero tuck out front or a full upright stance on the flats; hovering around the ‘’ or the inner flat bar offers a middling compromise with good access to the shifters.

Frame-bag prototype #1, also with Crazy Bars, feedbags, and a rear rack.

After improving water capacity and ergonomics, only the drivetrain was in need of adjustments. I optimistically started with SRAM Eagle 12 speed – an off-the-shelf one-by drivetrain with impressive gear range (a 32-tooth chainring fitted to a 50-tooth cog provided a 64% reduction gear); it all worked well initially, but after 800 miles (of rugged use) shifting had gotten sloppy. Of course, the chain and cassette had worn but the derailleur – which was stiff as nails – had actually appeared to bend the Inbred’s flexible steel derailleur-hanger (maybe I spent too much time at full extension of the derailleur pedaling in low gears). In any case, while the Eagle drivetrain wasn’t exactly broken, it was in for a fix – and replacement parts were not cheap.

Rather than a new 12-speed chain, new cassette, or worry about the stiff derailleur and soft hanger, I considered my options. The ideal drivetrain needed exemplary range with a tiny reduction gear; it needed to be easy to adjust and service, and parts needed to be cheap. The only way to hit all the goals seemed to be with a mix of new old-stock parts: 9-speed offered the best price and availability. Still reusing the original Deore Hollowtech II triple crankset, I was in for two Shimano derailleurs (front and rear), two Microshift friction shifters (left and right), a chain and a cassette – the total cost was comparable to the retail price of SRAM’s Eagle, but replacement parts (especially chains and cassettes) should be much more affordable in the future.

Left: ‘Crazy Bars’, feedbags and bottles. Right: Microshift friction thumb-shifters.

In its current form, the Inbred has gone a bit beyond ‘long day rides’, stretching the limit towards full-dress all-terrain touring. A bit of nylon webbing and some needlecraft holds a sleeping bag and map pocket under the handlebars; two waterproof Nashbar panniers rest on the rack, further tethered by lengths of paracord and some creative knot-tying; a ‘gas-tank’ bag was stitched together from frame-bag scraps; the wheels and cassette have been updated to Velocity Cliffhangers with 36 spokes on Deore XT hubs, shoed in tubeless tires with copious liquid sealant; the rotors were upgraded from 160mm to 180mm and the brake-pads are now sintered rather than organic, for longevity. A full review of the current configuration will require some field testing (rather than the current local trials it has undergone) – perhaps later this summer.

Underneath all the dress, however, the On-One Inbred is still just an entry-level steel hardtail painted in blue-green livery: a cross-country frame that proves bicycle geometry really hasn’t changed all that much in the last 10 years (or the last 100).

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