Words and photos by Bono Barrett
Put yourself in these shoes: you have two older brothers, Matt (15) and Andrew (13). They are both bike-mad. They work hard to make money for their hobbies. They both race downhill and uplift most weekends, both have sponsorship from Pearce Cycles and J-Tech suspension, but worst of all they each have FULL SUSPENSION DOWNHILL BIKES. Now life isn't easy when you are the youngest of three boys and watching your older brothers buying new gear and racing their shiny bikes is “not fair.” “Why can't I race at nine years old?” and “why don't they make full suspension downhill bikes for nine year olds?” These are just a few of the questions often heard here in the Barrett household. So when Harry drew back the curtains on Christmas morning he didn't expect this...
He didn't expect this!
At just nine years old Harry has been riding for nearly five years now. He thinks after this amount of time there should be more small full suspension downhill bikes for riders like him. They should have “twenty inch wheels, loads of ground clearance and suspension like Matt and Andrew.” All of this would be “mint.” However, if you only weigh 4 ½ stone fully kitted out and with your helmet on and you can walk underneath a timing beam without setting it off, finding a bike is a bit of a nightmare. The choice of full suspension bikes that “work” and fit him can be counted on one hand, or make that one finger. The Scott Spark Junior 20" is the only bike that even comes close. This is a great bike with front and rear suspension that actually works and is relatively light with decent build quality. The only drawback is that it is designed for cross country and definitely not downhill!
After two seasons of Pearce Cycles uplifts Harry's second Scott Spark has seen better days. The rear linkage is a bit playful and the forks are practically rigid. He has had so many new brake blocks for his V brakes the sidewalls of his rims have blown through. Those two seasons have taken their toll.
Haz at Bucknell on his 2011 Scott
So as Christmas was just around the corner his new 2012 Scott Spark Jnr was ordered. This would be the third Scott Spark in a list of many Harry would now have owned and wrecked...
Over the last two years of Pearce Cycles uplifts, Harry has caught quite a few eyes glancing at him as he carves his way down the tracks. James Williams from J-Tech suspension is a guy who can spot talent, and has a list of very talented riders such as last year's British Downhill Series overall winner Al Bond under the J-Tech wing. James has been watching Harry progress over the years and in early November he emailed me saying that J-Tech had a few ideas on how to customise a set of forks for Harry's bike, and they already had a customised Stratos TR1 shock which was kindly donated by Harry's mate Rob earlier in the year. I’ll admit, the nine year old in me came to the fore... As there are no 20" triple clamp forks currently being made the project was too good an opportunity to miss, and the race was now on for the Christmas deadline.
We started with a pair of single crown Marzocchi Shivers and a new crown would be needed to create the fork - ebay came good on that one. After all the parts arrived J-Tech worked their magic and shortened the Shivers from 120mm to a buttery smooth 90 mm of travel on the upside down fork. The shock, with its custom made spring to add to its remote reservoir balanced up the forks producing a bike that would be kept planted firmly to the ground.
J-Tech Customized Marzocchi Shivers 90mm
J-Tech customised Stratos shock with remote reservoir
With the all new suspension being worked on, the original V brakes of the Scott would not fit the new forks, so they would have to go. A set of hydraulic disc brakes would be ideal for small hands, but what would the discs fit to? New hubs would be needed. New hubs means a new wheel build so we may as well get lighter, stronger rims. So a week later and in a second and near fatal moment of weakness (it will be when my wife finds out) I ordered and upgraded all of the bits for the rest of the bike, which included:
- Shimano Deore hydraulic brakes with a 160mm rotor up front and a 140mm rear
- A new cartridge bottom bracket and cranks
- 8 speed cassette with Alivio shifters
- Shimano rear mech
- Specialized grips
- Sun Ringle Rims
- Hope Pro II front hub
- Shimano Deore rear hub
We also had to make a custom chain device and rear brake mount...
...all that was left of the 2012 Scott Spark Jnr 20"was the frame seat post and bars.
The custom rear brake mount bracket and Sun rims
Shimano Sora shortcage mech
The custom chainguide
The week before Christmas would be when everything came together, the forks and shock had been J-Tech'ed and fitted to the frame, Pearce Cycles’ Mechanic Dave Radcliffe then worked his socks off to get the rest of the bike ready in time for Christmas Day.
Dave Radcliffe working on the bike at Pearce Cycles
The finished bike
To put a twist on Harry's Christmas day, I boxed and wrapped the original factory fitted parts off the Scott to make one big, heavy present. When this jumbo present was opened, Harry thought we were about to repair his old and battered Scott. A big smile came over his face as the original new wheels, tyres, brakes, forks, cranks, bottom bracket, front and rear mechs and shifters from the new 2012 bike came spilling out of the box. This made for one happy little chap as what youngster doesn't like helping Dad with bike repairs in the kitchen on Christmas morning? Little did Harry know that less than two feet away hiding in the window behind him with the curtains hiding it from his sight was his new custom bike. I told him to pull the curtains, the room was electric. His two older brothers knew what was about to happen as we looked on. Harry flicked back the curtains and saw this...
Harry on Christmas morning
After much jumping up and down and hundreds of questions as to where it had come from he finally got to ride it.
Harry testing the new bike
Now we have all had presents that stick in our minds for years and years, I somehow think one way or another this present will stay with Harry forever... so look out Brendan Fairclough, you’re not the only one on a new Scott this year!I would like to say a big thanks to
Dave and Lindsey at Pearce Cycles, as they have supported Harry throughout the last two seasons and have built up this amazing bike! Gary Brain of Pearce Cycles for speccing the required parts. Dave Radcliffe of Pearce Cycles, for his mechanical skills. James Williams at J-Tech Suspension, for the original ideas and creation of a custom shock and triple crown fork. Matt and Andrew Barrett, for keeping the secret. Finally, thanks to my wife, Sarah Barrett, for everything she has to put up with.
If you can't buy it, you've got to build it...
Harry in the garden
Christmas day at Hopton