[Eds. Note: This review of the 2011 Canfield Brothers Yelli Screamy first appeared last September. Since then, Noah Bodman has spent a lot more time on the bike and has added his additional thoughts about the Yelli Screamy.]
Bike: 2011 Canfield Brothers Yelli Screamy (29er)
Intended Use: Anything you’d want to do on a hardtail trail bike
Size Tested: Medium
Weight as built: Around 26.4 lbs
Geometry can be found here: http://www.canfieldbrothers.
Test location: Various trails around Whitefish, Montana
Rider: 5’8″, 150-ish lbs. Likes rocky, rooty loam, preferably steep (down). Dislikes: machine built trails (although there are exceptions – looking at you dirt merchant).
The build: A hodge podge of parts pulled off of other bikes; Reba RLT 29 (set at 100mm currently), Bontrager RLX R. wheel, WTB something-or-other f. wheel, Thomson seatpost / stem (70mm), Sunline v1 bar, cut to about 29″, 1×9 drivetrain, time pedals.
Days Ridden: 10 days on the bike so far….
I’ve owned a 29er for a few years now; my previous ride was a Raleigh XXIX, which I hated. It was good for going out and getting a quick pedal in when I was feeling lazy, but it wasn’t any fun to ride. I rode various other 29ers, and they generally felt the same: they plunder over trail detritus quite nicely, but they handle like crap. What I really disliked about them was that (1) they didn’t like to turn, and railing them into a berm felt at best, stupid, and at worst, sketchy. (2) Manualing them was next to impossible in a trail setting—I could sort of get the front end up on smooth surfaces, but I felt like I was going to herniate myself from pulling up on the bars so hard. And (3) when trying to bunny hop them, I felt like a monkey humping a football.
So I’d pretty much written off the 29er thing. They have some benefits, but for me, the downsides were far more significant.
But then I saw the Canfields. They make the Yelli Screamy, which is aluminum, and the Nimble 9, which is essentially the same frame in steel, and is also single speed-able. They have super short chainstays (16.7″) and a relatively slack head angle (69 degrees w/ a 100mm fork), which had me wondering if they might actually handle reasonably well. All the reviews I’d read were favorable, but I was still a bit skeptical of the wagon wheels.
I happened to run into Sean from Canfield Bros. at a race earlier in the summer, and he said the bike was actually as fun as I wanted it to be. That, along with the great deal that he hooked me up with, finally convinced me to go for it. I bought it, built it up, and did some riding.
A couple notes on the build process: The bike came with an already faced bottom-bracket shell and head tube, which is nice. The bottom bracket threads were a little chewy, but the bottom bracket threaded in without needing to be tapped. There is only cable routing for one cable, so you end up just clumping all the cables together and zip tying them as a bunch. While this may sound inelegant, it actually works just fine.
The one strange thing I found is that the rear brake mounts appeared to be slightly incorrect. By this, I mean the holes didn’t quite line up correctly with the disc adapter (avid 160mm). The mount holes on the frame were around 1mm too close together, which meant it was a slight chore to get the bolts to thread into the adapter. While a more patient mechanic would have filed the mount holes slightly, I just forced them until they lined up. Once mounted, the brake worked without any alignment issues. Other than the chain line issues that I note below, the rest of the build process was pleasantly uneventful.
My late night build only left time for a quick spin around some neighborhood trails. The bike felt fun, but lots of bikes feel fun on flat smooth trails. Next up was my backyard pumptrack. This was a better test, since I have yet to find a 29er that didn’t feel totally stupid in the pumptrack. Turns out, the Canfield was pretty damn fun (although I won’t be selling my dirt jumper any time soon). It was a good start though; I did not yet regret my purchase.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces on some of our local trails.
Climbing: I expected this thing to be a wheelie machine on steep climbs. The short stays, coupled with what feels to me like a relatively tall front end seems like it’d be a recipe for crappy climbing once the going got steep. But I was pleasantly surprised on the trail. With the 1×9 setup (which makes my easy gear a 32×32), I can easily stay seated until I can’t pedal anymore. Basically, it has to be really steep before the front end starts to come up. As a slight caveat, I don’t spend much time on true XC machines, so saying that the front end stays planted is just in comparison to a more “all-mountain” breed of bike.
Descending: This bike goes down stuff fast. The current limitation in downhill plundering is the tires, not the frame. I’ve ridden a lot of bikes, especially 29ers, that just feel sort of sketchy on the descents, at least until you get used to them. I felt immediately at home on the Canfield, and was starting to hit jumps and drops on my first ride.
The best way I can describe it is that it feels like a dirt jumper that’s been tweaked a little bit to make it trail friendly. I’d compare it to a Santa Cruz Chameleon, or something along those lines. And when I say that, I don’t mean, “it’s like a Santa Cruz Chameleon that someone bolted 29 inch wheels to.” I mean it actually rides more or less like a 26″ trail bike that’s geared toward going downhill and hitting jumps.