As an editor I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to building bikes. Athletes for the most part have to run parts and equipment based solely on who sponsors them with little say in the matter. At least full factory ones. In mountain bike media, if you want to do journalism any justice in terms of product testing, you need to remain brand neutral and praise only what is most deserving.
Whether it’s in a long term “run it into the ground” scenario or just swapping bikes with athletes or other editors, naturally I get to try a ton of stuff out. At the end of the day, my bike has become a rolling stock of what some sites would call “editor’s choice awards”. We don’t do that here so I figured I would go over the finer points of my current do-it-all bike. It smashes on the downhills, climbs incredibly, jumps well, is snappy in the turns – flickable and responsive. I could spend all day on the bike and in terms of the build, even if given the choice – I literally wouldn’t change a thing on it.
Trek Slash frame. In my opinion, the best bike that I’ve ridden in this category to date. An absolute monster in the rough, agile in the corners and incredible on the climbs. Perfect geometry, dialed features. All around weapon.
• 27 pounds & 2 ounces without pedals.
• 160mm front and rear
• 65/65.5º head angle
• 17.1″(43.5mm) chainstays
• Size 19.5″
DVO Diamond. Although this is my most recent test fork in the 160mm category, it has won me over so far. Incredibly supple with a great range of smart adjustments. Perhaps my favorite feature is the OTT(off the top) where you have infinite range in adjustment of the negative spring. With a few twists of a 5mm allen key, you can take the fork from fully linear to super progressive. Genius.
Perhaps my favorite feature on the Slash. The bike isn’t riddled with over the top adjustments. There is a lower/slacker setting and a higher/steeper setting via a pair of flipchips in the seatstays. The differences between the two are subtle enough that the bike doesn’t feel foreign when you switch it up, yet noticeable enough to actually use the feature quite often depending on the terrain. Oh – I love that it only takes 2 minutes to change.
Rock Shox Debonair. Game changer through and through. At the moment, it’s the best air shock on the market for this category. I love that you can fine tune the progression curve and doing so is surprisingly quick and easy. You don’t even need a strap wrench. 2 volume reducers for me at the moment.
Renthal cockpit, SRAM guide brakes with the Reverb lever set at left side/underbar. I prefer the remote lever there because if I need to flip the bike over to work on it trailside, it doesn’t interfere. It’s also more natural to operate. The 60mm Renthal Apex is quiet as could be and beautiful to look at. 6º rise and beautiful machining. The full width 780mm carbon FatBar takes the edge off, yet it’s plenty stiff when you want it to be. I didn’t have moto roots as a kid, but man there is something about grips that are glued and wired instead of locked on. They feel like a second skin. The kevlar compound push on grip is unbeatable. Guide brakes are the new leader and their levers feel flat out incredible.
IBIS 741 wheels. I’ve had a hard time(read : smoked them) with carbon wheels from some other brands, but these are built to last. They’re so stiff that it might take some getting used to in the corners. The super wide 35mm internal width/41mm external width gives your tires a bit more volume and in turn – gobs of traction. I opted for the DT swiss upgrade. Not only do IBIS offer the wheels with a 350 rear hub, but it has the lightweight 36T star ratchet upgrade. It doubles the number of engagement points. Considering that the upgrade kit itself is close to $100, it’s worth spending the extra $150 on the DT hub. The front hub is generic looking, but good as gold and rolls on ceramic bearings. Besides, have you (or anyone you know for that matter) ever had an issue with a front hub?
For the most part, my drivetrain is SRAM X0. XX1 cost a touch more and a great deal of the parts are virtually the same. I prefer the black cassette and it’s stealth looks. I opted for XX1 on the chain and on the shifter. I love the carbon thumb lever’s feel and although I can’t explain why, it seems to feel a bit more snappy and positive than the XO shifters I’ve used in the past.
The Rock Shox Reverb has always been my go to dropper post. I’ve never had an issue with one and they feel just right. Cheap plastic Time ATAC pedals. Growing up on the east coast of the US, I wasn’t alone in running ATAC’s. They were the only thing that consistently worked in the mud. I’m still riding a 12+ year old set on my other bike. I guess it’s the only engagement/release that I’m comfortable with so why change? Chromag trailmaster saddle. Perforated leather, high cut in the back and wide at the nose. All day comfort and great for technical climbs.
Specialized Butcher/Slaughter 2.35″ combo in the “control” casing. Stupid light(755/725gr) and just right for a huge variety of conditions. The compound is a touch hard, but they wear really well. I will save the finer details for the review, but these are amazing and can’t be beat for the price($55 each).
One of my personal favorite parts that I could oogle over all day – the Chromag Sequence DM. I mean look at this chainring. It’s beautiful. There are dozens of options on the market and while there are slightly lighter offerings, this thing is stout! Since I don’t usually run a guide, I want something beefy. I also want it to work. It might sound like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but Chromag actually licenses the X-Sync technology from SRAM for their rings and I truly think it works better than your standard narrow/wide profile.
Parting shot. Thanks for checking out my trusty steed.