Reader Ride: Pole Stamina 180 – Every Shade of Grey

Aug 29, 2021 at 6:26
by Jukka Mäennenä  

 buildingstamina Pole Bicycles Stamina 180 L-size storm grey
Pole Stamina 180
Every Shade of Grey
#buildingstamina project finalized and ready to ride!

The project of building a truly capable enduro bike that can be raced and is equally capable on long weekend loops has been a long-time coming. Partly this has been because I've been very, very happy riding my RIG v1 hardtail which has turned out to be even more fun than anticipated. It's almost silly what one can do without rear suspension once geometry and a couple of other vital factors are ticked off and the bike has truly proven that.

The goal of the new full suspension build would be to have something long-lasting, performance-orientated, and built with products that I like. Working in the industry has granted me a view on products and what goes into them that might be a bit outside the party line. There's no going around that access to some products is somewhat easier, especially during these times of component scarcity.

The Frame
As everyone knows, the frame is the heart of a bicycle and that is the case indeed with the build at hand as well. The choice was obvious. As an engineer and a person who likes to support local businesses when possible and justified, a product from Pole Bicycles really is the only option. It is impossible not to appreciate the technical details and engineering that has gone into the Stamina frames and other models that use the same manufacturing technology. There's nothing wrong with welding, but machining two halves of a frame out of solid 7075 T6 aluminum billets is just cool, no matter how you look at it.

The Stamina 180 frame ticks all the boxes when it comes to modern geometry and a truly capable suspension design. Many might think, and justifiably so, that 180mm of travel is overkill for most gravity-focused deeds, not to mention casual trail riding. At first, I shared the same opinion but was converted nearly instantly after getting to test ride the Stamina 180 on a local enduro race. Even during a long fire road climb, it did not occur to look for a lockout lever from the shock – which would have been nowhere to be found on that particular Öhlins shock.

The Build List
Frame: Pole Bicycles Stamina 180, L-size, Storm Grey
Shock: EXT ARMA v3, 250x75 mm
Headset: Cane Creek Forty
Spacers: Burgtec
Handlebar: Burgtec Ride Wide Enduro, 35mm clamp, 22.5mm rise
Stem: Burgtec Enduro MK3, 35mm clamp, 35mm length, rhodium silver
Grips: DMR Deathgrip Race Edition with flanges, thick model
Brakes: Braking InCas 2.0
Rotors: Braking S3 Batfly 203mm
Cranks: Shimano XT 165mm
Pedals: Burgtec Penthouse MK5, rhodium silver
Bottom bracket: Shimano XT
Sprocket: Burgtec 32T, Shimano DM, rhodium silver
Chainguide: Absolute black (included with the frame)
Shifters, derailleur, cassette & chain: Shimano XT 12-speed
Hubs: Onyx Vesper, Boost, 32H, ISO 6-bolt, MS driver, black chrome
Rims: Race Face Arc Offset 30 Heavy Duty, 29", 32H
Spokes: Sapim Race, black
Tires: Continental Der Kaiser Projekt Protection Apex, 29 x 2,40″
Inserts: Huck Norris Meganorris
Valves: E13
Dropper post: Bike Yoke Revive, 185mm
Dropper lever: Paul Components Trigger, black
Seat: DMR OiOi, black camo
Seat clamp: Bike Yoke Squeezy, titanium bolt as standard
Other: STFU DH-10spod Chain Silencer (included with the frame)
The addition of the new coating process sealed the deal. The only hard decision left was to choose the color. The "dictator gold" was on my shortlist for a long time, but eventually, the storm grey took the win. Having purchased a hub set for the project with the nearly matching color did make the choice easier, though.

For those questioning the strength and durability of the Stamina 180 frame, the recently completed EFBE TRI-TEST gives me all the peace of mind needed to really go places with this bike. Anyone who's even remotely mechanically minded will recognize that the EFBE test is no joke, and passing does not happen by accident.

The choice for the bump-absorbing components was obvious from the start. When it comes to rear shocks, coil-sprung dampers are yet to be rivaled in my books; the grip is unparalleled thanks to the utmost sensitivity enabled by the low friction of the system. It does not hurt that the setup is very straightforward as well after narrowing it down to the correct spring rate.

In this case, the EXT ARMA v3 shock was chosen. First, it's available in the required 250x75mm size, it's a top performer in every way possible and I prefer to have the HBC adjustment to control the bottom-out behavior. With the frame's stellar pedaling characteristics I found this feature to be more valuable than a lockout lever.

The fork was chosen from the same manufacturer. Although the performance and feel of a coil is the preferred default choice, the HS3 air spring of the ERA has a lot going to match the ride qualities of a coil-sprung fork. Coupled with all the cunning engineering that has gone into the fork to minimize friction in every way possible, the ERA is very much up in the very top contention in the modern enduro and trail fork category.
EXT ARMA v3 shock connected to the intricately CNC d links found on the Pole Stamina 180 frame.

When it comes to suspension performance, minimizing friction should be the #1 priority, and EXT has gone a long way to achieving that with ERA. These include things like chrome-plated steel shaft damper shaft, new bushing material, proprietary lubrication oil, a thrust bearing in the air spring to enhance movement under binding loads, etc.
EXT ERA fork with the proprietary HS3 air spring.

Cockpit & Contact Points
For cockpit components, the number of good or even excellent options is almost too long to list. In the end, the choice was easy though since components from Burgtec have performed flawlessly in every regard and there's no reason to expect otherwise in this case. As a plus, the new Enduro MK3 stem is available in raw silver which made a nice color-coordinated match.

Contact points were an easy choice – DMR Deathgrips. Brendog knew what he was doing while designing these. The Race Edition version uses a touch softer compound than the regular ones. My days on BMX bikes made me used to run grips with flanges, so that was a natural choice in here as well.

When it comes to keeping your seat up and having it move reliably up & down, the Bike Yoke Revive is yet to be rivaled. It was one of the first posts that were available in 34.9mm diameter which the Stamina frame employs. Based on Dan Roberts' review, a genuinely excellent product has gotten even better with its 2.0 version. Things were topped off with trigger from Paul Components which is a phenomenal piece of kit. The CNC'd aluminum construction coupled with a sealed bearing in the pivot provides a crisp operating feel. It's also worth noting that the trigger is compatible with either mounting style when it comes to cable attachment. There's a recessed contour in the lever that fits the barrel end of the cable, as well as a bolt with 3mm hex-end which enables the free end of the cable mounted securely in place.
Burgtec cockpit from start to finish Ride Wide Enduro aluminum bar paired with Burgrec spacers and Enduro MK3 stem in rhodium silver.

Paul Components Trigger is proudly made in California with full aluminum construction and sealed bearing in the pivot.
The Paul Components Tigger is made in the good 'ol USA. A sealed bearing in the pivot keeps operating smooth. DMR Deathgrips are default option when it comes to choosing quality contact points for one's mittens.

When it comes to keeping your seat up and having it move reliably up & down, the Bike Yoke Revive is yet to be rivaled. It was one of the first posts that were available in 34.9mm diameter which the Stamina frame employs. Based on Dan Roberts' review, a genuinely excellent product has gotten even better with its 2.0 version. Things were topped off with trigger from Paul Components which is a phenomenal piece of kit. The CNC'd aluminum construction coupled with a sealed bearing in the pivot provides a crisp operating feel. It's also worth noting that the trigger is compatible with either mounting style when it comes to cable attachment. There's a recessed contour in the lever that fits the barrel end of the cable, as well as a bolt with 3mm hex-end which enables the free end of the cable mounted securely in place.

Deceleration Duties
Braking has manufactured brakes for motorsport applications for decades. Since the release of the InCas models, I've been tempted to run a set. In the days of 4-pot brakes, the InCas differentiate themselves in the market by being a 2-piston variant. The company is confident in saying that the InCas provide all the power one could wish for and has even put a stamp on the brakes which makes them approved to be used with e-bikes.

No detail is left unconsidered when it comes Braking InCas brake levers.
The motorsport roots of the Braking can be seen in the shape and feel of the levers.

The build quality and aesthetics of the brakes tick all the boxes one could wish for. The calipers and the levers share some intricate milled details usually seen in Hope brakes but still maintain their own easily recognizable shape. The gold color does not hurt either when guessing what type of anchors can be found on a bike equipped with a set of InCas brakes. New for 2021 is the addition of KIT 3MM which employs a 3mm thick rotor in the rear to combat overheating and fading in the most demanding use-cases. That felt a bit overkill, and hence regular floating rotors were chosen for the build.
Braking InCas stopping power from Italy.

Rolling Bits
Wheel choice was an easy one! First, let's preface the list of criteria in the rear hub department that the freehub should produce as loud of a sound as possible, or be fully silent. Everything in between is a compromise. In the former category, the options include the likes of Chris King, I9 Hydra, or Profile Elite. For this build, an option from the latter category was chosen.

The Onyx Vesper hubs have some very intricate details when it comes to hub shell shape and other finishing touches. The patented sprag clutch mechanism is fully silent and provides an instant engagement which is often the main reason for choosing the Onyx hubs. It needs to be noted that instead of being a binary type of affair, the structure of the mechanism produces a certain type of softness in the engagement. This is caused by the sprags "standing up" between the axle and the hub shell before engaging fully and creating a solid interface between the two surfaces. Some like the feel and even list it the top feature of the hubs, and of course, there are riders who dislike it just as much. So far, I've found it beneficial since it takes the "edge off" when laying down the power which does add a bit of grip and prevent slipping in steep uphills for example.

Onyx Racing Products Vesper front hub in black chrome.
 stealthmode. Onyx Racing Products Vesper rear hub provides instant engagement and fully silent operation thanks to the sprag clutch mechanism found in the freewheel.
Besides being top-performers, the black chrome color of the Onyx Vesper hubs complemented the rest of the bike nicely.

When it comes to hoops, aluminum versions were chosen to hit a sweet spot in performance and costs. I am of the opinion that rims are wear items and one can run through several sets of aluminum rims before reaching the cost of a single carbon rim. I reserve the right to change my mind in the future on this issue if a truly interesting carbon option ticks all the boxes, though. The ARC 30 HD rims were the first rims with asymmetric profiles that I've built, and the first impressions are very positive! Being able to use more balanced tension in the spokes on both sides of the wheel only leads to good things. Spokes that were used are Sapim Race ones – a well-proven contender in this area.

For tires, some European rubber was mounted on the rims in the form of the Der Kaiser Projekt tires. One has to applaud Continental for naming a tire like that! It's next to impossible to come up with a more German and confidence-inspiring name. For inserts, the new MegaNorris' were used. The ease of installation, level of protection, and simplicity make these a winner in my book. Whenever feasible, I prefer to support companies who have done the original pioneering work and still offer a relevant product. Something that's often time forgotten is that HuckNorris was one of the first, if not the first, to bring tire inserts to mountain bikes.

More is more when it comes to suspension travel, but the same logic does not quite hold true in the number of gears. I'd been very happy to run an 11-speed SLX which is a true workhorse in the world of groupsets. Besides, an 11-46 cassette provides all the range one can wish for. Based on prior experiences with Sram drivetrains, the big 50-toothed chainring has been just along for the ride without much use.

However, the temptation to see if Shimano would be able to deliver with its new Hyperglide+ technology was too big to resist. Therefore, the new 12-speed XT drivetrain was chosen. The 51T sprocket on the cassette is most likely overkill, but it comes as a part of the package. It remains to be seen if my pride (and my legs, first and foremost) remain strong enough that the big ring is still clean as a whistle by the end of the season. A 32T Burgtec chainring was chosen since it nicely matches the theme of the build. MRP AMg v2 would have been the default choice for a chain guide (if it's good enough for Mr. Hill, it should suffice for mere mortals as well), but the frame is supplied with a guide from Absolute Black which leaves no room for options. The integrated nature of the chain guide and bash guard does come with some noticeable upsides. The lower suspension link has built-in mounts for the OneUp Components bash guard which creates a far more robust structure than those puny ISCG05 tabs could ever do.

Chain guide and STFU chain damper are nicely integrated to the frame.
Chain guide, bash guard, and STFU DH10-spd chain damper are all integrated into the frame.

The Hollowtech 2 cranks are an underrated piece of hardware. No other manufacturer can rival those when it comes to price and performance when it comes to cranks. The new Shimano XT's were an obvious choice for connecting the pedals to the drivetrain. The 165mm length was an obvious choice since the added ground clearance is very noticeable while not creating any compromises when it comes to pedaling efficiency or peak power output.
 Flatpedalswinmedals which is the case with Burgtec Penthouse Mk5 s.

Speaking of pedals, I tout the ethos of #flatpedalswinmedas. Or put another way, I am too much of a p***y to ride clips and find no benefits in using them. This goes back to the roots grown on a freestyle BMX in my youth. The idea of being attached to the bike is still to this day truly terrifying and I find it perplexing how clipless pedals have reached the position of being considered a standard piece of kit. Back to the issue of flats. The list of criteria is short and sweet: grip and durability. The bigger and longer the pins on the pedal, the better. Many options tick the boxes on this front, but it made a nice and completed build to run the Burgtec Penthouse pedals which have reached already their 5th version with the MK5 model. The generous size of the platform provides plenty of support for the foot and the combination of sealed bearings and bushing should keep them running smoothly for several seasons.

In Closing
This build has been a long-time in the making which makes the result all the sweeter. Built to last was the sentiment of this project, and I am planning to give the bike a run for its money the best I can, whether it's on a casual weekend loop on the start gate of a national enduro race.

DMR OiOi seat and Burgtec cockpit provide premium contact points to hold onto.
The black camo color of the DMR OiOi seat brought a few more tones of gray and black to the mix.

About the Writer
Name: Jukka Mäennenä
Stats: Age: 34 • Height: 182cm" • Weight: 89kg
After spending two decades on various two-wheeled and non-motorized vehicles he still finds joy in everything bike-related, whether it's riding on any wheel size from 20 to 29 inches, learning about the latest developments in the technical side of things, or building frames in the garage. When not riding, Jukka can be found lifting weights off the floor and occasionally all the way overhead.

Social media handle – @jukka4130


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