Pat’s 650b upgrade – Lefty and XLR8 hubs on Alex XD-Lite

27.5" Lefty Wheel Builds

Image of XLR8 MD MTB hub custom hand built onto Alex XD-Lite 650b or 27.5" MTB rims.Patricia has been riding a Cannondale Rush for quite a few years now, and her rig is showing it’s age. The frame and ever reliable Lefty fork still have plenty of life left, but the wheels were weighing her down. The entire bike was a little porky, so Pat came to XLR8 for advice – “new wheels” or “new bike”? It might surprise you that we answered “No” to both questions! And then we showed her how we could also answer “Yes” to both with a 650b wheel conversion for her bike!

There is a generation of 26″ MTBs from the mid 00s that changed the way we ride. The Yeti 575, Cannondale Rush, Ibis Mojo and Santa Cruz Blur LT* added another couple of inches of travel to the front and rear, extended the wheelbase, dropped the bottom bracket height, and handed us stable, capable rigs that took the big hits out of Marathon MTB racing and trail riding.

Photo of XLR8 Cannondale Lefty hub custom hand built onto Alex XD-Lite 650b or 27.5" MTB rims.It was a revolution – advanced 5-6″ travel suspension that went uphill as well as down. A significant improvement on the 3-4″ travel XC frames that many riders had been on for years. The only real downside was the long wheelbase (in order to fit advanced suspension designs) and lower bottom bracket resulted in slower handling – an issue that the manufacturers addressed by steepening the head angle. This steeper head angle took some getting used to if you liked more “challenging trails” (read steeper and rockier terrain), but was fine for your usual tame Marathon course.

Pat’s Rush is a one of the many 26″ bikes that can converted to the new 650b wheelsize with the addition of a new set of wheels. Handy, as she had already identified that this is what she really need to do to lighten up the bike.

The added bonus is that the extra half inch of wheel radius raises the bottom bracket (the Rush has a very low BB so pedal strike was a big issue on every ride) and the effective increase in fork trail slackens the fast handling.

The conversion makes what was a very good trail bike, into a great one. A happy accident for sure!

Oh, and as a result of the conversion, we pulled a handy 700g out of her wheelset!

* Yeah, yeah, there are others – Intense 5.5, offerings from Orbea, etc – but those were the big ones in the Aus/NZ market.

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