full suspension mountain bikes from each end of the spectrum. Two opposites yet built with the same goal of fun and speed. Two completely different looks yet drawing inspiration from the same source.
This is the story about Project BRG - British Racing Green. Two custom bikes I hadn't even planned to build at all initially, but ended up putting my heart and soul into along with a couple of hundred of work hours. And as if that wasn't enough I decided to custom paint helmets and even wrap my car to match...Background and Inspiration
During the autumn of 2018 I sold the two Scott XC bikes some of you may remember from the "World's Lightest 29ers
" story. The plan was to build a new "Hyper Spark" for the 2019 season, with all the latest tech and some of my own wild ideas such as completely hidden cable routing. This was something I had already tried to make happen two years earlier on the super light Scott Scale. I even had custom handlebars made for the purpose, but unfortunately I was forced to abandon the project that time around.
There seems to be a small curse over that particular idea of mine though. Being faced with all sorts of delays, spring arrived and I realized I wouldn't be able to finish the project in time for the riding season. So what to do? Get another Scott Spark RC 900 SL frame set of course! Just to do a "quick build" and get a nice bike up and running. I should've learned by now though that there is no such thing as a quick build for me, but on the other hand the end result is usually quite good when things escalate.
Having spent the previous summer at the bike park riding my Scott Genius as if it was a downhill bike, I couldn't help but to long for the real thing after several years away from big bikes. During the winter an opportunity arose and I got my hands on one of the Gambler frames from the by then defunct SCOTT Velosolutions team, including the team only carbon fiber swing arm. I had many different ideas for design and color, but in the end I decided to build two matching bikes. Also, not feeling the need to go all out for low weight I decided to let paint and looks be a top priority.
The goal was to come up with something really clean and classy that still would stand out from a mile away. Having a lot of aluminum parts for the Gambler that I wanted to polish, I started to look for colors that would go well with chrome. Naturally, British Racing Green was one of the first to come to mind. In fact there have been many variants of this color over the years, but they're all a deep and dark green.
So how do you put logos on while keeping it classic? By looking at old race cars and drawing inspiration from their characteristic round number boards. How you instantly associate it with racing and speed was also fitting. For the SCOTT logos I felt that the white box style look of old Shell sponsor logos tied it together nicely with the white circles.
In the bicycle world everything is always designed to be viewed from the drive side, especially text. But every time I pictured the Spark in my head I always viewed it from the front, or as if meeting a car being driven on the right side of the road. So I chose to put the top tube logo on the "wrong" way around as a small detail for myself.
Compared to a bicycle, a car has more of its total area painted making the color itself very dominant. Wanting to create a similar feeling I decided to take a gamble and color match pretty much everything on the Spark, something not often done in the mountain bike world. For the Gambler, on the other hand, I wanted to create a motorcycle feeling to it. Lots of chrome, a painted main frame and a contrasting swing arm. The Build Process
A piece of downhill history, soon to get a new look.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that my somewhat extreme ideas would require a lot of sanding to become reality. Like, A LOT.
First, all of the original paint had to be removed. The aluminum front triangle on the Gambler could thankfully be chemically stripped, then sanded for the primer coat. But the carbon swing arm, the full Spark frame, and don't forget about cranks, handlebars, seat posts and whatnot had to be stripped by hand using knives and/or sand paper. It's not very difficult work, but extremely time consuming since you have to be very careful not to damage the carbon fiber.
There was also a lot of sanding to do on all the components for the Gambler that I wanted to give a chrome look. Even things like the already raw Intend components took four rounds of sanding with different grit papers before the metal was smooth enough to be polished. The anodizing on the Acros hubs was chemically stripped with caustic soda, a handy although warranty-voiding trick that leaves laser etched logos in place, giving the hubs a factory look.
No knife work for the Spark, sanding only to keep things as smooth as possible for the new paint job.
Having done my previous projects with rattle cans I felt it was time to go face first into the realm of black magic that is painting. I invested in spray guns, automotive paint and even a vinyl plotter to make my own stencils.
For each thing I prep and paint I just get more respect for those who are really good at the trade. It may not seem that difficult at a glance but there are so many things that have to be done correctly and so many little tricks. Not surprisingly, I ended up feeling like a cartoon character tumbling down a hill, painfully bouncing along the way. You make one mistake and it leads to five others. Luckily a lot of mistakes can be saved by putting in extra hours of work, and I sure learned a lot.
My goal was to get that true show car look, and as close to perfect as possible. As a hint to my previous work and raw bikes I decided to make every logo on the Spark like a clear-coated window for the carbon fiber. Even the tiny Eagle logo on the cranks. It's one of those details that just pops beautifully in sunlight. Everything else was masked and painted.
The key to getting the "wet paint" look is flatting the clear coat down by fine grit wet sanding, to make it perfectly smooth. If you look closely at a bike or a car there is always some orange peel effect in the clear coat, like small bumps. It still looks nice and shiny for sure, but it doesn't have the finish of custom cars or motorcycles you find at shows. Sanding clearcoat is a nerve-wracking job since going just a tiny bit too deep can ruin the whole thing.
Once everything is as smooth and even as can be, you polish it back up using various compounds. This too takes time but it's very satisfying to see your work go from dull to a mirror shine.
My helmets went through a painstaking masking process before being given looks to match the bikes. While having a matching riding kit isn't too unusual, I guess that wrapping your car to match your bikes is taking it to the next level. It was an idea I got from early on given the automotive inspiration. I almost gave up on it, but in the end I could make it happen. For the design I copied the Spark, with white circles and a huge SCOTT logo on the roof to mimic the top tube on the bike.So Far So Good
The biggest part of the project was now finally done, and I got to build up the frame sets. It's always an enjoyable part since it gives you the first real feeling of what the end result will look like. Tech, Components and Details Frame:
The bike is built on the Scott Spark RC 900 SL frame. It's their lightest option weighing in at around 1799g including shock and hardware depending on size. Despite being introduced as a MY2017 it's still one of the lightest options out there. My old stripped frame with some tuning came in at an incredible 1650g. But maybe more importantly it rides great with a geometry that's still quite modern and really good suspension characteristics. Being a rookie painter I ended up adding just a few grams, but continue reading to learn how I compensated for that.Suspension:
Fox suspension front and rear, with a 32 SC Factory fork and a Nude rear shock. Both offer 100mm of travel and are controlled by the Scott Twinloc remote, whish has been updated for 2019 with a much more ergonomic design. I know, I know, some of you can't stand the extra cables. But truth to be told a lot of it comes down to taking your time trimming your cables to the perfect length and making it all nice and tidy. I like a clean cockpit more than most (remember my plan to hide every single cable) but on a XC / marathon race machine like this a remote is invaluable.Cockpit:
A Syncros Fraser iC SL in 90mm virtual length and 720mm width (cut) is the centerpiece here. The one-piece design eliminates the weak point that is a regular clamp, and allows for continuous carbon fiber orientation. In other words, super strong and very light. As for the whole backroll debate I personally think it's a bit overplayed. Sure some riders are extremely picky and can tell very minor differences (or rather aren't able to get used to them), but most will be fine within a "good" range. A very nice feature is the integrated Garmin mount instead of regular top cap. The 7.8g grips comes from Italian brand Extralite.
The seat post is a Schmolke Carbon TLO (The Lightest One) that offers low weight, obviously, but also extremely good comfort thanks to flex exactly where you want it. Not super important on a fully, but still a nice feature. It's paired to a Syncros Belcarra V 1.0 saddle from their revamped lineup. This one plays a big part for the looks, with the brown color being my version of tan leather interiors quite commonly found on these old BRG cars.
Why no dropper you ask? Most of the time I'm fine without one, but the plan is to have a wireless Reverb AXS to use on any of my XC bikes when I feel the need.Brakes:
Nothing too crazy going on here, but the latest Shimano XTR Race version paired with Formula discs. The latter are my go-to for good value/performance/weight and also the 6-spoke design matches the...Wheels and Tires:
With the car sounding name Biturbo RS I almost had no choice but to go for these wheels from German BikeAhead Composites. And no, they're not MagWheels. Rather they are 1250g (including valves) modern full carbon wheels with 27mm inner rim width, and obviously no rim tape needed. The design is striking to say the least, and may take a little getting used to. However, on the "right" bike and especially in the flesh they look absolutely amazing. Best part is that they actually perform great too, and a small but oh-so-convenient bonus - they're so easy to keep clean!
Thru-axles from Extralite and for tires I went with the relatively new Schwalbe Racing Ralph + Ray combo. No silly weight weenie stuff this time around.
Six spoke discs and six spoke wheels.
Here things are getting a little bit unorthodox. I went for the SRAM XX1 Eagle rear derailleur, shifter, and cranks, so no surprises there. But while I understand the "better safe than sorry" mentality of wide-range cassettes I personally can't help but feel it got a bit silly at times. Kind of like how more travel always equalled better downhill bikes many years ago. For burlier bikes and steep long climbs a 500% range is great, but where is the SRAM Hawk 10-44T system for the XC / marathon crowd?
Having pushed a 38T chain ring on my old bike I decided to go for a huge 40T this time. The practical reason is that for a lot of fast marathon riding it lets you stay on a bigger cassette sprocket which is more efficient and causes less wear. But honestly a big part was that I simply think it looks great with a big chain ring and I wanted to spark a little discussion on the topic. The warranty voiding solution to make this work on a frame with a 36T max clearance was to have a custom offset (and size) chain ring made by Garbaruk in Ukraine. It's paired with their new and very light 12 speed cassette. It's available in 10-48/50/52T size but being an optimist and also thinking that a smaller cassettes looks better I went for the 48T. The pedals are Xpedo's M-Force 8 Ti, which I've found to be the best lightweight alternative to the benchmark XTR pedals.Tuning:
It wouldn't be a true Dangerholm build without a bit of weight weenie tuning. A carbon derailleur hanger, inner cage plate for the derailleur and fork air cap from Hopp Carbon Parts saves a few grams. So does the Extralite Ultrabottom lower headset and running the bottom bracket without a sleeve. An often forgotten detail is cables and housing. For shifting that requires perfect performance I'm running a regular steel cable, but housing from Powercordz, weighing 24g per meter compared to 40g for regular housing. The suspension remote system doesn't need to be quite as exact, so there I went with synthetic cables from Powercordz and the ultralight housing FASI Turbo Plus at just 17g per meter. I basically came up with my own method on how to safely tie and use these cables for this purpose. The housing is not as durable when bent due to the full aluminum wire construction but no issues so far.
To keep the bike silent I got the ribbed chain and seat stay protector made for Scott Ransom frames, which will fit just fine after a bit of work with the scissors. All cables were put through Capgo noise cancelling foam tubes that weigh next to nothing but do a great job at stopping any rattling inside the frame.
My favorite Syncros bottle cage rounds it off.
While the Scott Gambler chassis just got a huge update with the all new 2020 Tuned model, the old one still has its charm. The sharp-eyed of you may recognize this particular front triangle as one ridden by Brendog and the SCOTT Velosolutions team in 2018 when developing the new bike. The carbon swing arm was used during previous seasons by the team, and saves around 600 grams compared to the standard aluminium version. So while not as light as the 2.65kg 2020 model, this frame set comes in at a competitive 3.37kg with all the hardware (no rear shock).Suspension:
Since drooling over Marzocchi Monster T's way back I've never wanted a fork more than the Intend Infinity. All the CNC work makes even the dropouts small works of art, and it has got some pretty cool features like no traditional steerer tube and pneumatic seals on the air side minimizing friction. Thanks to the small scale production taking place in Germany, I could have one custom made in raw finish. While it looking amazing, it simply wasn't good enough for this project. Many hours of work later it finally had that chrome look finish to give the bike a truly unique motorcycle look. Weight is 2492g and it felt like half of that was the steel axle.
I continued my European theme when choosing the rear shock. I knew from the start that I wanted a coil shock, and the new EXT Arma V3 ticked all the boxes. These are made in Italy and custom tuned to rider weight, preferences and the bike it's going on. For the suspension nerds out there this also has some cool features, but the short version is that except for the custom tuning it has got LSR/LSC/HSC and something called HBC (Hydraulic Bottom-out Control). A feature that - you guessed it - hydraulically controls the last 15% of the travel. Weight is kept down thanks to lightweight steel springs. And seriously, have you seen how nice that thing looks?
Not photoshopped, in the sun it actually looks that shiny.
The handlebar is a Schmolke Carbon DH Lowriser weighing in at just 178g for this 780mm version. That is bound to freak a few people out, but you have to remember these are custom made to your weight and preferences from top quality carbon. So if you weigh a 100kg and want something guaranteed to survive an apocalypse they'll make you some slightly heavier ones. But having used their 100g xc handlebars for two seasons I'd happily use this as a crowbar.
The unique looking stem is an Intend Grace DH, which is basically a high rise direct mount stem. The idea here is that many riders are using lots of spacers or riser handlebars to achieve their desired height, and this design will make for a simpler and cleaner look. It also especially helps on the Intend fork since you can't run spacers under the top crown. It may take some getting used to but I like it.
A Syncros headset lets me change head angle in +/- 1 and 2 degree steps, and I'm also using their lock-on grips.
To save some weight the seat post is a Syncros FL 1.0 Carbon paired with the nice looking carbon railed Syncros Tofino 1.0 seat.Brakes:
Trickstuff Maxima - The world's most powerful bicycle brakes. Having spent a lot of time on both their Piccola and Direttissima brakes I had no reason to doubt this claim. One of my favorite features on Trickstuff brakes is less talked about though, the lever feel. Running on bearings they're just way smoother than anything else I've tried, something that's makes other brakes almost feel cheap. Which, of course, they are in comparison. Either way it was an easy choice and I was incredibly eager to try the Maxima model.
Brake discs were also an easy choice. Intend Aero discs are expensive but unique. It's easy to think that big holes equals great heat dissipation. But one very important aspect is surface area. The most common example of this is of course cooling flanges. A huge amount of very small holes gives you a bigger surface area and thereby a bigger area for the heat to escape. Having used these all of last season I knew it worked well and as a bonus it gives braking a very "smooth" feeling. There is no pulsing or vibration, just power. If that's not enough for you they're also available in a thicker 2.25mm version. More material means it handles heat even better, but at a small weight penalty of course.
Wheels and Tires:
Moar holes = moar braking.
Time for more German parts. The hubs are Acros Nineteen DH which is one of the lightest options out there. Acros' parent company is a huge bearing producer, so hubs are a pretty obvious product for them. They use a 38 POE ratchet system and is super easy to work on. A cool little feature is that there are three spring placement options depending on how loud you want them to be.
While carbon rims are all the rage these days you might be a little bit surprised to learn that I don't think they're the obvious choice for downhill bikes. And this is coming from someone who truly loves carbon wheels on shorter travel bikes. It's just that if you want them strong enough you seem to hit (or even surpass) the weight of aluminum rims anyway. Sure, you may have different ride characteristics between the materials, but that can be said of different models and rim widths too. Either way, I came across the Newmen Evolution SL A.30 rims that have been getting some great reviews. A special rim profile with the side walls slightly flared outwards is said to make them handle hits better, and they have channels to lock the tire in place. The latter is something I've found to be working great against burping air. Sanding and polishing the shot-peened finish took forever and is something I definitely don't recommend doing. Partly because of how boring the job is, but maybe more since removing that special finish removes a tiny bit of surface strength. I'm sure I'll be fine at 72kg but remember that most things you see here are warranty voiding and potentially dangerous.
Spokes are the tried and trusted Sapim CX Rays and for tires I went with Maxxis Minion DHF 2,5 DD. I always ran a DHF combo in the past and it felt like a good place to start. The wheel set weighs 1772g including valves and rim tape.Drivetrain:
Shifting duty falls on the SRAM X0 DH system, while the crank set is something a bit more rare. The crank arms are Intend Rocksteady, which adds nicely to the polished kit. They have a 30mm axle and use the same chain ring interface as RaceFace. They're easy to install as well, with a simple pre-load and pinch bolt system. A Garbaruk chain ring here too and no chain guard. These have fairly long teeth and I've never dropped a chain, so I'm pushing my luck a bit further.Tuning:
There's actually not much going on here, except for more of the lightweight FASI cable housing and Scott Ransom chain stay protector.
Perfect if you want to check that your goggles are on straight.
______________________________________________________________________________________The Result SCOTT Gambler BRG - 14.23kg / 31.37lbs w/o pedals
______________________________________________________________________________________SCOTT Spark RC BRG - 8.83kg / 19.47lbs with pedals
CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTER!
______________________________________________________________________________________Summary and What's Next?
As it so often does the project took a lot longer than I had hoped for. Luckily the result was worth it. The bikes ended up looking better than I even expected. There were times during the painting process when I questioned if it really was the right color choice, or if it'd be too much. But they came out so nice once built up.
But even more importantly, they ride great and have already brought me lots of smiles and good times. Of course these can truly be considered top of the line bikes and don't come cheap so you expect nothing less. But expensive doesn't always equal great riding quality, it's a lot about simply getting the right frame and components for your riding style and preferences. However, I'm quite sure that most people would enjoy spending some time on these two bikes.
Next up is first and foremost to ride as much as possible the rest of the season. But then it's time to dig into that Hyper Spark project again, and also make the finishing touches to my quite unique Scott Genius build. And at the back of my head there are always new wild builds taking shape and I'm sure I'll have some really cool stuff coming for next year as well.
If you want to keep up with the new projects or want to learn more about these builds and their quite rare components, feel free to have a look at my Instagram
And while it's not about green bikes, the song title is just perfect so make sure to play that music video at the bottom to get you in the mood to go out and hit those trails just a little bit harder!
Warning and disclaimer:Please keep in mind that any modifications such as paint stripping, repainting, sanding or in any way modify frames, components or safety equipment is potentially dangerous and can lead to crashes and injuries. It will always void any and all warranties, and is strongly advised against by SCOTT Sports and all other manufacturers, which take no responsibility. If you choose to modify your bike anyway, always make sure to do so with safety in mind and remember the points above.