[Note that this entry was borrowed from Seb Kemp's blog 2FLAT and was written back in November. Soon we will have a catch up with Seb about how he has got on with the Butcher over the last nine months]
Beautiful isn't she? No I'm not talking about Squirrel in his prime, I'm talking about that lovely green beauty in the background, hanging on Anthony's bike rack after it got it's cherry popped on some SoCal singletrack sweetness a few weeks back. Here is a sort of full bike check.
So I took delivery of a new ride just in time for the winter of riding. By winter I was planning to actually spend it in lovely summer-esque weather, but so far Portugal has been more wintery than planned (more about that at a later date), so I guess i'll have to wait to get to the southern hemisphere again. I spent a long time trying to decide what bike I wanted to go with. First up, what brand? Well after Titus went tits up, I was left only one choice, the almighty Santa Cruz. I love Santa Cruz bikes because they truly are a rider driven company (even if Roskop is a former skaterboy turned boy band manager. Kidding, don't eat me if you read this Rob). In everything they do you know that a real life person has designed this bike rather than a focus group and complex algorithms. Then many riders have ridden this bike to make sure it does what it was designed to do, which is produce a tool to have lots of fun, rather than provide a tool just for furthering increasing profit margins. Then when you open the box and un-package the bike there is signs of a real human who has many social and cultural similarities to yourself. I don't mean you'll find empty Burger King wrappers, toenail clippings and the smell of 21st century malaise. You see, a real life person in Santa Cruz, California not Santa Cruz, Indonesia is responsible for taking the bits and pieces of the bike and placing them together to create a full bike build, then they attach a wee little job card that lets you know they cared, even if they are having to deal with rising mortgage rates, higher taxes, and living in a country that, according to Brice Minnigh, is in catastrophic decline.
So once I decided that a Santa Cruz bike was once again the bike of choice, I had to decide what particular model to go for. I had to decide what kind of riding I have coming up in the near future and what I want to get out of any particular bike. The first thing I decided was that after three years of lugging TWO bikes around the world during the "winter", I just wanted to carry one bike. So that immediately erases a downhill bike as being appropriate. I then decided that a dirt jumper is too restricted also.
I have usually lugged a pedally bike and a dirt jumper around because New Zealand, which is my primary destination throughout the winter, is heaped high with some amazing dirt jumping spots and I use that five or six months to get my yearly fix of trails (trails not trail) and dirt jumps. I decided that when I need my jumping fix at Gorge Road, Stoney Hills or the Frew Farm then I'll just buy a bmx becuase they are cheap, reliable, and pack down small. I miss my bmx days so it will be enjoyable to go back to pure fun riding once in a while. Anyway, back to bikes. I also think downhill bikes are useless unless you have a lift to get you up there, otherwise pedaling up on a suitable bike is ultimately far more rewarding, provides you with more actual riding time, and you can ride any downhill track on a pedally bike, just maybe not over and over again like if you have a lift. But anyway, one bike to rule them all was the call.
So, a pedally bike it was, but what does that mean? A race whippet? Good for some of the epic races and events I always have good intentions to enter. Great for those day long epics that I've fallen in love with over the more recent years. And OKish for general riding, but always a little bit too much work to be enjoyable. So what about a trail bike like the Tallboy? Well, I love the Tallboy. It is the greatest bike I have ever ridden. I have NEVER HAD A BAD RIDE ON IT. Every ride in the twelves months of riding it in five different countries left me smiling like a man who just discovered that using toilet paper is better than using his finger nails. So why not just give the Tallboy a tune up and keep riding it? Well, I thought about where I wanted to ride and what I wanted to ride and that included the possibility of some downhill races, some enduro events, and some big sucka jumps. I wanted a bike that could be tough enough to handle abuse and still useable enough that I could go anywhere on any day of the week. Yes yes yes, I know, I sound like some brand manager of a road bike company trying to sell their latest mountain bike to absolutely everyone, but I did need something that maybe carried a few extra pounds in weight, and possibly a few more inches than I have come to believe you need, but in doing so meant I would be at home riding with a backpack, baggys, and socks pulled up to mid shin height.
I've gone for a Santa Cruz and a do it all bike. But can you guess which? Well that would be the Nomad wouldn't it? Well yes, but after looking around a little I decided to look closer at the new APP bikes. I spoke with Mike Ferrentino several times over the year and he just kept harping on and on about them being "pretty damn rad" and "actually a lot of fun and really quite good". Then when he said that the internet forums haven't really grasped what the new suspension platform is about, then I knew this was my perfect next bike. If the anonymous internet sprayers of the forums and comments sections didn't rate this bike, then I meant this bike would actually be very good. It's called the Inverse Law of Mountain Bike Forum Rationality.
So, then was it to be the Nickel or the Butcher? One more svelte with 120mm and a little longer in the top tube than many SCBs, or 150mm of smash power, a little slacker, but more along the lines of traditional SCB top tube length, similar to the Blur LTc or Nomad?
Well, I really had issues with this choice. I like longer top tubes. Not 90s long, just something with a little room in the cockpit for swinging knees and twisting hips. But I hate, or should I say I personally don't get along with, 32mm diamater trail long travel forks (anything above 120mm), and I prefer big burly 36s for positive steering, ability to stand stout through chunder, and not flex backwards under heavy late braking or steep transitions (it's not just that I'm a hack, it's just the kind of trails I like riding, I like steep trails which have technical features that creep up on you fast). So surely the Butcher would house the 36s better? Couldn't I get some 36s on the Nickel and internally wind down the travel to suit the bike more? Well that could be an option, but why go to that hassle. Lets just go for the smash. But then I noticed the Butcher doesn't come with bottle cage mounts, something I really like for those quickie hour long rides before work when you don't want to lug a bloody huck sack around. The Nickel does have bottle cage mounts, so I was torn?
Would my bike be ultimately be chosen for me by a bloody water bottle? Have I gone full circle. Wouldn't that just be like turning down a ride in a Le Mans car just because I would have to climb in through the window?
So I caught myself and I went for the Butcher. But then it meant choosing the color and spec. Fark! This doesn't get easy does it? Well, actually it does because I had a few short and easy criteria for this bike. Firstly, ten speed with chain guide. No messing and the Sram 36-11 cassette with a 34t up front does everything I need, and if I can't get up a hill with that then I will either be needing to drop it to 32 up front or harden the fuck up. Secondly, dropper post and it had to be the RockShox Reverb as it blows everything else out of the water. Thirdly, the 36 up front, but which model? Van for performance, Float for weight, or Talas for those times I want to speed the steering up a bit (I recently realized I actually like a steeper head angle that I realized. As long as the front centre and BB drop is good then I don't necessarily need a horizontal head angle). Ferrentino told me I was a moron for going for the Talas and so I went for the Float to keep weight down, but then when I opened the box I found there was a Talas attached. Maybe this is Ferrentinos way of telling me something. And lastly the colour. It had to be bright, that's all I ask. Blue was a good choice but there was none available so the green it was. I am absolutely in love with this color now, and it helps one of my favorite riders rides a bike in this color too. I don't think it's going to get lost in the bush of British Columbia as it is really bright in the flesh.
I had a few other choice components lined up for the build. Firstly, Chromag bar, stem and seat. The only way. Perfect width, sweep, rise and all that jazz (come on lets face it, most bars have the same specs these days). So it came down to wanting to rep the local boys. Every thigh burning climb I ride up I look down at the bar and stem, which my lungs are hanging out on, I see Chromag and I'm reminded of good times racing alongside Julian Hine. Every peak I stand atop whilst slouching over the bars I am reminded that the Chromag crew have probably been there before on a Friday ride. And everytime I am slamming down a trail stood behind the bars I am reminded that if I look at the bars then I am a hack and I deserve to be eating shit.
Next was brakes. Only Srams for me. I've tried a lot of brakes, especially over the last few months when we were testing the latest offerings, but none of them fit my fingers, give that effortless pull, correct swing arc for my hands, and provide enough braking power without having to yank my knuckles out of joint or end up skidding down the trail as the tires are over-powered by the braking power. Ok, I still skid, but it's a controlled skid deliberately done when I plain view of forum nibblers and internet sprayers who derive more pleasure from talking about bikes on the net as their anonymous avatar than they do actually riding them. I got a pair of lovely new Sram XOs from Cam McRae at NSMB.com. I don't know what I did to deserve them but I'm not complaining. Thanks Cam, you the man.
Finally, the crowning achievement of this build, thats right, I managed to snatch a pair of Easton's brand new Carbon Haven wheels. 20mm up front, QR on back (there's options for QR or 15mm front as well as 135mm bolt thru rear and all are sold as individual wheels not wheelset which makes it easier for costumers to get the pair for their bike). This babies weigh 1450grams and come with a two year guarantee. Yes they are extraordinarily expensive, but for the peace of mind that you should not have to buy another pair of wheels for two whole years at least. AT LEAST! A good pair of light capable wheels transforms any bike. So I figured that even though I might not have the light weight of the carbon Nomad, at least I can have the super car performance of a set of wheels which brings the overall weight of the bike down and still should allow me to have round hoops at each end of the bike for a while. I am testing these wheels for a number of different sources and I will be keeping regular updates of how they go. So far? Well they are still round, I haven't got carbon splinters in my eye (sorry to disappoint internet dweebs but carbon is actually very good), they look sexy, and they make other riders give me hate filled looks, which is most important.
This is my current bike and it's currently in Portugal with me getting in some wet and very rocky riding. I have a very unique bike check video coming up soon. Watch out for it.