Brittany wanted a mountain bike, and we ultimately decided that I owned the exact bike she wanted, so I sold her my Dragon. Which left me in a bit of a hole.
I purchased bikes from bike shops before I opened Pedal. Sometimes I said, “I have this amount of money and I want this kind of bike. Please maximize it for me.” Sometimes I rode a lot of bikes and picked the one I liked best. Sometimes (tri bike) I went with the bike the fitter recommended. Sometimes I pointed to a picture in a catalog and said, “That one.” Sometimes I obsessed over everything and put together exactly what I wanted. This bike falls into the last category.
I started riding a couple of our demo bikes. Yeah, hard work. I rode the Kona Explosif during the bike portion of an XTERRA duathlon and the Big Kahuna for a long, winding day of road and trail. In the end, I’m a 650b kinda guy. The slightly smaller wheels just work better for me. So I called Kona to tell them I wanted an Explosif. I’m still not entirely clear on what words were said during the course of that conversation, but the next thing I knew I had a titanium Explosif frame on backorder and way too much time to think about parts. I’m going to have our water tested.
A word about the ti frame. It has the exactly same geometry as the Reynolds 520 frame I’d been riding, but is made in Tennessee by the fine folks at Lynskey Performance of 3-2.5 titanium. It has all of the attributes you’d expect from a hand-built ti frame: superb welds, beautiful finish. It’s really, really top shelf.
What to do about a drivetrain? I’ve been nothing but pleased with the SLX/Deore combo on the Dragon. It worked flawlessly and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. While I had zero problems with the Avid Elixir brakes on the Dragon, I’ve been mightily impressed with Shimano’s brakes lately. So it naturally follows that I have XX1 and Magura brakes on this bike.
Last year SRAM expected to sell 5,000 XX1 drivetrains. They sold 15,000. I don’t know if it’s weight, looks, simplicity or what, but single-ring drivetrains are a big deal these days, and I’ll admit that they work particularly well around these parts. Standout features of XX1 (and now little brother X01) include really cool chainrings that eliminate the need for a chain guide and a super-big (10-42) range of gears in the back. Good or bad, right or wrong, I like to personally try the technologies that interest our customers, so XX1 it is. Initial impressions: setup is a bit fussy, but it looks fantastic and shifts super great.
Thinking about that sampling new technologies thing, we have several demo bikes with SLX brakes. You, dear customer, are welcome to give ‘em a shot. They are superlative; I recommend them without hesitation, but there’s no new ground to tread. I rode a bike with Magura brakes recently and liked a few things — mineral oil for brake fluid, easy to bleed, good (and still improving) access to spare parts, excellent tech support — beyond the overall performance. Plus: oh my goodness are they light. So a pair of MT-6 brakes grace the bike. I’ll write more about these as I have a chance to get to know ‘em, but they look very promising.
Fork. Fork fork fork. What to get? Another Loop (which I loved)? Rockshox? Fox? X-Fusion? Are these not good times when I can look to more than one suspension company for a 650b fork? I swear that I am not a weight freak (look at me, for heaven’s sake), but I was a bit conscious about keeping the pounds off of this thing. Important factors were 120mm of travel, a tapered steerer and no remote lockout. Many options were available, but the Darth Vader dark side SID was too much to resist.
Wheels I have: Stan’s Crest in a comp build. Tubeless. Nobby Nick in the front and Racing Ralph in the rear.
So: you put all this stuff in a bowl, stir it up, place in a preheated 350 degree oven and a few hours later: Voila! A new bike!
Pretty welds. Ugh. The stress of riding a bike made to go fast. Nice dropouts, convertible from 10mm QR to thru-axle to single speed. And a fancy derailleur. Head tube, oversized to fit a tapered steerer. The fancy ring. More beautiful welding and ISG tabs. Fork! And here’s the final number, with pedals. Pretty great.