Its a new year and after 2 seasons on my last steed I am lucky enough to be able to build up my new ride for the '07 season. While today's off the shelf rigs can offer an amazing value for what you pay, I wanted to build something unique that stands out a bit. What I ended up with is a 36.3 lbs coil sprung
DH bike that you won't see anywhere else.
I have to say that coming in a close second to the actual riding, the technical aspect of mountain biking is what really excites me. I am a self admitted tech nerd. I can spend hours reading about the latest gadgets from any sport, be it F1, MotoGP or even tennis. If its lighter, faster or uses a new material then I am interested. The great part about our particular sport is that if you have the time, money and knowledge you can build some really neat things. I don't have a great deal of any of those three things but I still try, even though a smart guy once told me it was the first step towards failure.
So what I did was try to build up a light and
very functional DH bike. Actually what I built is a full on DH race bike. I just happen to not race all the much, only hitting up a few each year. But what I do like to do is pin it. All-the-time. Weight was a huge concern for me, not because of any delusions of getting my pro number plate, but because this is my only bike. I have had more XC-type bikes in the past and I hated descending on them. It was not worth the uphill gain. I want to ride everything on my DH bike and to make that a little more enjoyable I had to pick my parts real carefull like. I just happend to end up with a really light DH race bike!
Fact: All 3 current Honda factory riders have raced World Cups on Oranges
The biggest decision to make when building up your dream bike is which frame you will decide to hang all your parts on. I had a few on my short list so there was some thinking to be done. The U.S. made Iron Horse Sunday frame is one that I've always had my eyes on (not that I'd ever rail a corner like Sam even if I was on his bike). The Glory from Giant was also hard to say no to, being one of the best deals out there. The DW Link and Giants Maestro designs look similar but work in different ways and are about as far away as you can get from a well thought out single pivot design as seen on the Orange
224 frame. I have spent the last two seasons on an Orange 223 and came to love the light weight and simple bike, so even though the 224 frame is almost more than the Glory and Sunday put together, I still wanted one. After doing my homework on the frames the decision was made for me. The 224 was the only one that had the geometry that I liked.
A bike's angles are absolutely the most important factor in its performance. There are a lot of different takes on suspension out there but the truth is that while some work different, they all do work good. But a DH bike with a 67 degree head angle will be entirely different beast than a 64 degree monster. The 224 has that slack 64 degrees up front and also the low b.b. height and longer wheelbase that I feel at home on. Another consideration of mine was a full length seat tube on the frame. Some of my best rides are "xc" rides from home with my iPod and the seat on my DH bike jacked up to the max. Oh, and it is light. The 224 is claimed to be one of the lightest production DH frames which is key when trying to piece together a light bike, might as well start off on the right foot.
Suspension is the second most important part of any rig. Again, there are a lot of things out there that do work great so it is more important to pick something based on your needs instead of just looking for the trickiest possible set of sliders. But what if I could have a fork that came in at under 6.5lb, had a super low crown to axle length and worked great to boot? I'd say that would be a pretty trick fork! So what I built is most likely one of the more unique forks out there. I started with a set of white '07 Boxxer lowers that use the Maxle system. Dropping the pinch bolts helped save a bit of weight but also means I only need a single allen key to get my wheel off. It doesn't hurt that the "athena white" lowers look dope next to my white 224 frame. I had originally planned on tracking down some of the old gold ti-nitrite stanction tubes, I did find a few but nothing in usable condition. Thankfully Tyler had some of the "slippery silver" tubes laying about from a buddies wrecked fork. The rest of the fork was garbage but the silver stanctions were mint so a small amount of money was exchanged and I nearly had a complete fork. Instead of dropping in some boring (but good working) World Cup internals, I installed a Mojo
Boxxcart in the right leg and the single Mojo spring in the left.
Now, you may or may not be aware that Mojo does not even produce these nice little units anymore. So why am I telling you about this stuff if its not made anymore? Because it is by far the best suspension I have even ridden. I'll admit, its not for everyone. It feels like ass in the parking lot (but thanks for telling me, everyone!) but once you open it up on dirt it will blow you away. Stay tuned for pictures and details of the Boxxcart that will be in the (really long) review of the whole bike this summer. So what I ended up with is a 6.2lb coil sprung and Mojo damped "Boxxer".
The Mojo rebound knob
Out back the boing is handled quite well by a Fox DHX 5.0. Fox obviously know how to produce top end stuff as they have been in the suspension game for a long, long time. The great thing about the 5.0 is the range of adjustment. If I am on a trail or course that would normally be faster on a smaller travel (read: stiffer) bike I can turn my 224 into that bike without to much hassle. Likewise, she can be a rock and root eating machine and all I need to do it is a single 4mm allen key and a simple shock pump. Another plus is the range of rebound adjustment. Some of the newer shocks on the market seem to have no noticeable difference in return speed until the final turn of the adjuster. All this adjustment is great if you know what is going on back there but one thing I did want was a slightly more active ride out of my 5.0 shock. After some top secret trickery on a late night at the shop I think I have get her dialed.
5.0 w/ Ti spring
So you may be starting to see a trend here. I am building a very single purpose bike. A bike that is meant to pin it fast down fast trails. I am not the rider who stops to hit up the skinnys a few times or goes to sesh the local gravel pit drop, all I want to do is go. Sometimes the most important part of going is the stopping or just slowing down a bit. Only a little bit though. I am a huge Avid
fan, having spent time on the original Juicy 7's, 5's and Juicy Carbons. You can't really go wrong with any of those setups but I wanted something a little bit special. Last season some of the top SRAM riders were sporting the new Juicy Ultimate levers mated with Code calipers. Since I am nobodies "top rider" I had to spend my personal booty. Lucky for us peons the Code and Ultimate parts can be bought seperately. Using the Ultimate's upper end saved some grams over the 7's master cylinders plus there are no finicky red dials for "friends" to play with. You still have the ability to fine tune the bite point but you'll need an allen key to do it.
The Code calipers bump up the power a bit by using four pistons and more importantly a much larger pad surface area. After a few bleeds the Ultimate/Code combo works great, much to my relief as SRAM does not advise combining the two systems. Two years ago I saw a picture of Fabian Barels bike sporting a 6" rear rotor so I decided to give it a try. It worked great with my old Juicy Carbons, actually saves nearly a 1/4 pound and should perform just fine with the even more powerful Code calipers. I expect a lot of power but will my hybrid brakes keep the Juicy modulation that I love so much?
X.0 shifter and Ultimate lever mounted using Avids sweet Matchmaker bar clamp
It is no different with the wheels I chose but I did decide to avoid the more expensive rims out there. I put a rim that's on a DH bike in the same category as brake pads or a chain: Disposable. I wanted something light but nothing to expensive as I would most likely be going through a few as the season got bigger and badder. I have had nothing but great results with my set of Alex Supra D's, under 600 grams, easy to build and very reliable (gotta love the anodized gold option!). But at $90 msrp canadian they are a little expensive to be turning them into squares. The SingleTrack from Sun
seemed to be the perfect choice. Closer to 500 grams then 600, a decent width and cheap! The msrp here in Canada is only $40 so it was hard to say no. Hubs are a hard one. There are a lot of amazing hubs out there, some seem to be more art then a bike component. The truth is that they all use wheel bearings that I can buy from local hardware store or distributor so why drop more on a rear hub then most regular people spend on a whole bike? Well.....I can't! As much as I wanted a Hadley or DT I could not justify it. I would rather put that money into my suspension or brakes. I did manage to find a sweet set of hubs that come in at nearly half as much as some others, are lighter and are easy to service. WTB
may not jump out at you when you are thinking about hubs for your big bike but you should really look them up. The Super Duty rear hub is an amazing little bit of work. Unlike most hubs, everything is a push fit which makes it super easy to disassemble and clean. The 12/150mm Super Duty rear hub has been stripped of absolutely any extra material that it does not need. You also slide your cassette onto a aluminum freehub body which is where most of the weight savings come from.
WTB SuperDuty hub...Check the aluminium freehub body
Actually, the rear hub weighs 305 grams and the front comes in at only 190. The folks at WTB are also good people which has a lot to do with me picking their hubs over some others. Poor spokes. No one ever thinks about them and they do so much work. I really did want to build these wheels with Sapims super high end CX-Ray spokes but time was not on Sapim's side. All my parts were where they needed to be and I had some very nice black DT
Champion spokes to hold everything together so that is what I chose, pertinence be damned! The CX-Rays do make a lot of sense though and I hope to use them on my next wheelset. I have not had a spoke break in years but they are light and the minimal middle section is bladed which makes building and truing alot easier as I can hold the spoke with a special tool to prevent and wind-up (wind-up is when a spoke turns with the nipple when truing, it makes things difficult). Aluminum nipples get such a bad rap but as long as you treat them right they work great. I weigh in at 170lb. which is not huge but I have run al. nipples exclusively for years now with no problems. I am sure I have had no trouble because I look after my wheels though. With Al. nipples you need to keep the tension from getting to low as the constant loading and unloading of spokes can snap the heads off. I also use a four sided spoke wrench to finish the build, tension and true. Holding onto all four sides minimizes the chance of rounding the corners on the softer metal and also dropping a touch of thin lube into the nipple now and then keeps things from seizing up. A light wheelset can be the key to a fun and nimble bike so I thought it was important to choose parts carefully to end up with the right package, something I think has been done.
Everyone go buy Srams
X.0 shifters and derailleurs. And if you can't afford them then sell a liver or something because you owe it to yourself to roll with X.0. I like nice stuff (obviously) but my rides don't depend on it. If I am on a test bike with a lower end group set I will have just as much fun as on some rare super bike. But this X.0 stuff is amazing. Basically, you put it on your bike and then 6 months later you scrape the dirt off it and maybe make a small adjustment. The 1:1 cable pull ratio means that stretch and other variables that can cause shifting to go haywire will have half the effect that it would on Shimano's traditional 2:1 pull. I love how I am able to move the lower shift paddle to a more comfortable position for my tiny girl's hands. It's a feature that I thought was more gimmick than function but now I just would not be comfortable with a stock non adjustable shifter. All around quality parts and despite the fragile look they can take a beating.
Ok people, stop buying outboard bearing cranksets. They are not
better. In the real world they do not
last longer and you can not
tell me that you can feel a differance in stiffness on your mountain bike with big knobby tires and suspension. Ok, you can tell me whatever you want but I won't believe you. I will go through two ISIS b.b's in a year of riding. I gave outboards a shot a while back and if I had stuck with it would have gone through four sets of cups. Lame. Take your chain off your external bearing crankset and give it a spin, not to great eh? Even on a broken in external bearing b.b. you will have a ridiculious amount of seal drag, way too much to be acceptable for the meager amount of power we put out. Unfortunetly, the amount of companies putting out nice light ISIS cranks is shrinking so hit up e-bay and scoop up what you can get.
I am so pleased with my set of NSB
Freelight cranks that I am moving them over from my last frame. You can check the review I wrote last year HERE
or you can just trust me on this, they rock. Super light at 542 grams for both arms which I think is actually slightly lighter than the cranks on my road bike! After two seasons of hucks, chucks and pinning, they are still just as straight as when I took them out of the box. NSB does not suggest them for big bike use but I am pretty confident that I'll never have a problem with them. The only flaw is the length options are 170mm or 175mm arms. There have been a few times where being to eager has cost me. When you catch a pedal you are on the ground before you even knew you were going down, some 165mm arms would be nice. Word on the street is NSB may be discontinuing their cranks so go to their site and pester them with e-mails begging them to keep it going. And ask for some 165's!
Anyone out there remember ISIS?
All this good stuff spins on an FSA
Platinum Pro Ti Megaquad bottom bracket. Titanium is usually something I would avoid for such critical areas as a spindle but because my bike uses a short 113mm spindle I can get away with it. I have been able to get away with running Ti bb's for the last few years, if I keep getting fatter that might change! It comes with some really neat aluminum crank bolts which is also pretty trick. I make sure to torque the arms down with steel ones but after that I thread in the lighter black bolts and have had no trouble and dropped a bit more weight. After it was all said and done the combined weight of the b.b and cranks arms comes in at under
800 grams. More importantly, I have run a similar setup for two seaons and have not bent or broken parts from either company.
A 36 tooth envy
ring is bolted to the arms and a pimp gold Wipperman 909 chain is wrapped around the little plate. I would usually run a ring with 38 teeth but I thought I would try a 36 to make for a little easier early season long rides. A chain is a pretty bland piece of metal but the gold adds some color. They also do a champagne colored chain for those looking to add a touch of class to their rides. Since I couldn't possibly get any classier I just picked the boring gold color.They also have a stainless option which is great for our wet weather or if you commute, a teflon impregnated version for smoother shifting and even a titanium model if your chains hang low and dangle too and fro. On the other end of things I run a PG990 cassette. Light with a anodized aluminum carrier and it goes well with the rest of my SRAM
kit. It's capped off with an anodized red lockring fashioned out of aluminum instead of the usual steel jobs. I roll with a very un-downhill like 11-34 spread so I can pedal my rig to the local McDonalds to buy myself an Oreo Mcflurry with extra Oreo without working up too much sweat.
The Money Shot
For those of you that were doing the two wheeled thing in the mountains back in the mid nineties you know how far along chainguides have come. With the help of stronger crank spiders and bottom bracket spindles that don't bend most riders manage to keep their chains on most of the times. Back in the day I ran a AC chainguide and actually had a season where my chain came off every race no matter how it was set up or who did it. After that lovely season I decided the only way to keep my chain from hanging low was to sandwich it between two plates. At that time there were a few players in the guide game but the only way to run the sandwich was to bolt up an MRP
. I haven't lost a chain since. And I like carbon. So why not buy a carbon guide! Don't scoff, this carbon guide has lasted me longer and been more reliable then any thing I have used before. And it's light to boot. Besides looking great and being a touch lighter the carbon has some usefulness also. My aluminum boomerangs had about 3 months of life to them, and thats including removing it and bending it back to where it belongs every two weeks.
The carbon boomerang will flex to where it needs to go and just pop right back into shape, its amazing. I can't count the times I've absolutely buried my bottom roller into the dirt or 50/50'd a large wooden structure only to roll away with the only damage being done to my fragile ego. Everything mounted great on my 223 but the new 224 frame has a lower profile swingarm that sits lower on the frame, making contact with the top of the boomerang and keeping me from using a roller. After some thinking (que the smoke coming from my ears) and some cutting and some beer and some more cutting and some filing and some beer everything was aligned perfectly. I know there are guides out there that would have fit without any mods but you can't go wrong with the sandwich.
So why are we still holding onto these silly riser bars on our DH bikes? A lot of people are taking fork height into consideration as a lower front end can make a big downhill bike corner easier and with more confidence. I have even seen alot of riders drop their forks from the now trendy 8" to a more manageable 7" for this reason (and 8" front ends are only for chuckers!). So why are we still putting bars with 2" of rise on our bikes? Up until recently the lowest rise bar in a full DH width and sweep was something with a 1" rise but we have finally been given another option. Enter Chromag
and the Fubar OS flat bar. A full 28" wide flat DH bar. It just makes sense. And for all you 90lb kids that ride two-wheelers with 4" of spacers....Sort that shit out as its just making things harder!
You know what doesn't make sense though? Traditional stems! I bolted on an e.13
Ali direct mount stem. It's a nice clean two piece job that lets you choose from either 45mm or 55mm reach and includes shims for 25.4 or take them out to run 31.8 bars. I should mention thats its one of the lightest of the bunch at only 202 grams. I've had some riders tell me they would rather have a crooked stem over twisted lowers after a big off but since selling my Dorado I have had neither so I'll roll with the direct mount for now.
The rest of the parts are things that are light and have given me no troubles at all. I sit on an SDG
I-Beam I-Fly seat that is pretty pinner at only 150 grams. It is also much more comfortable on longer rides that a large padded seat. That's bolted to an I-Beam aluminum post. I would have tried the carbon version but it only comes in a 300mm length which is to short for me to get proper height on "xc" rides. If this wasn't an issue I would have bought one despite it being recommended for road/xc use only.
Highroller tires. It don't get any better. Actually, there are a lot of killer tires out there these days but I am used to how the Maxxis
rubber handles and when they will let go. Nothing but confidence up front. I wrote a review of the 3C version
last season, I was pretty happy with the tread life as you can see. Because I am only sporting a Highroller up front I chose the SuperTacky version as the front will see al ot less wear. Last season I tested a Kenda
Cortez on the back of my bike, you can read about how much I loved it here
. It rolls a lot faster than a full size tire and makes for some really fun riding. The sideall isn't quite up to par with a real 2 ply DH tire but I have set it up using the "ghetto tubeless" method so I don't have to worry about pinching anything. The traction is there when I want it but all it takes is rolling my wrists forwards a bit and she breaks into some sweet no-brake drifts. Just like a some other things in life, loose can equal fun!
If there was a catagory for "funnest tire" the Cortez would win
Flipping through catalogs I found a sweet, simple little headset offering from Tange
. It's nothing fancy but with nice aluminum cups, regular sealed bearings thats I can get anywhere and a weight of only 81 grams (!!!!) it made a lot of sense.
I know lots of you out there will only run steel or deeps cups which is a smart choice if you're a heavy hitter, but I've run nothing but light aluminum xc headsets for years with no troubles.....So why change?
I put my feet on a sweet set of Syncros
Mental pedals, the aluminum versions.
They keep my feets where my feets are supposed to be, and I have a lot of motivation to keep them planted as I have seen bone from them tagging my shin on more than one occasion. I guess I should start wearing protection. Remember kids, using protection can prevent awkward trips to the doctor.
So that is my bike. One late night at the shop and it was mostly ready to roll. Besides having to mod the chainguide, everything went together perfectly. Pizza was eaten, beer was drank and we bumped to some Lucero
and The Hold Steady
late into the night.
Since I have some strong opinions of my own, I would love to hear some of yours. What would you have done differently? If you want to hate, then commiserate, lets hear it. Likewise, if you like what you see then let me know. I already have 4 months on the bike so I can answer some questions if you have any.
Hey there...you come to this deck often, baby?
Even though this was the first date it wasn't awkward