Unpacking the box like a giddy little schoolgirl (I'm always excited when a new bike arrives) the first thing I noticed was the lush, gloss black paint and clearcoated stickers (also available in Battleship grey). After 2 months of abuse from our crash test dummies, the paint is still one of the first things noticed by lookie-loos. With the abuse this frame's seen so far, that's impressive all by itself! I queried Luke from KeeWee about what goes into each paint job here's what his email said.
"We use the highest quality powder coat there is. We spend a great deal of time on prepping the frames before the get powder coated, and use a special kind of sand blasting of the frames which prepares the frames perfectly for powder coating, the powder coating is then applied by the best possible powder coater that we could find, the frames are then sanded down and the stickers are applied, the next stage we apply a very high quality, high gloss top coat, the frame then goes to an oven curing room to dry and harden for a few days before being assembled and packed."
Geez, all this time I figured paint was the easy part!
Next up in the "look at me, look at me, look at me, now!" department has to be the uber-burly adjustable dropouts. Measuring over 13mm thick right at the dropout, the aluminum bolt-on dropouts (with build in tensioner) can adjust the chainstay length from a super short 15.75" to a more DH-esque 16.75". Each dropout is double bolted to slots in the burly 4130 cromoly frame. The drive side holds the tensioner and thick (8mm on my micrometer) derailleur hanger. (It would take some serious abuse to bend this puppy!) Another nice feature is the IS brake mounts, once you've taken the time to dial your brakes correctly, there's no need to further adjust when changing wheelbase, your brakes move with the wheel! Bad news here is, the bike will accept just 6" rotors. 8" Hayes or 205 mm Hope rotors rub the chainstays ever so slightly. One of our test pilots discovered a downside to the huge dropouts. Unable to use a standard QR on the bike bacause it was too short, he was instead forced to convert his XT disc hub into a bolt-on version. I had no troubles with any of the wheelsets I'd mounted, but most of them were also bolt-on models.
Since we're on the subject of rear ends, I would be remiss not to mention the Progressor easily fits super fat 3.0 rubber in 24" size and a Michelin 2.8 in 26" guise. Some of that KeeWee attention to detail is again apparent in the use of solid bar stock on the drive side chainstay where the chainrings overlap the stays. If conventional tubing had been used here, along with reducing tire clearance, the chainline would have to be moved out at least 5 mm making for a less than optimal drivetrain adjustment. I'm sure not everyone wants to run 3.0 rubber, but let me tell you, on a recent 6200 foot heli-drop on the Progressor, I was loving the extra cush on the way down! If fat meat's not your thing, throw on a skinny 2.3 and hit the dirt jump park. Whatever floats your boat, the Progressor's more than capable!
A semi-slack 69 degree headangle (with 4 inch travel fork) and 21 inch top tube are comfortable in most environs and the addition of discipline specific equipment morphs the bike into a worthy steed! Want to hit the skatepark? Throw on a 3" travel fork, 26" rear and a set of hookworms, you're dialed (70.5 degrees give or take). How about DH"? Well that 24" 3.0 rubber's nice, and a Super T... mmmm let's see, that looks about 67 degrees. Jack of all Trades, but unlike me, this one's a master of most!
The bike also features an integrated headset, ISCG chainguide mounts (although my early production model lacks said mounts) and is triple chainring compatible. Sporting a super slack 60.5 degree seat tube that nicely lengthens the effective top tube length when you've raised the saddle, unfortunately makes the bike want to loop over when climbing steep sections. Bah, can't have it all I guess. Oh yeah, no cantilever posts are provided, so it's disc brakes or nothing baby! At 6.5 lbs with headset, I'd have to say this frameset's geared more towards the gravity crowd than the XC folks out there anyway.
In the sort couple months we've been on the KeeWee, it has been built up in many, many guises. I've had the short travel fork, skinny tires and SingleSpeed for dirtjumping, the fat 3.0, 8-speed cassette, chainguide and Super-T for heli-dropping and damn near everything in between. Hell, it's ever got a rigid fork on it now for some street action. In all my year's riding, I have never owned a bike so universally loved by those who've taken it for a spin. I'll be sure to keep you up-to-date on ths progress of the Progressor test. Suffice it to say, I'm thinking we're gonna spend a lot of time together...
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