Monday, July 21, 2008

2007 Santa Cruz Heckler Air - AM/FR Bike Project

The Late Mr. White (after my step-dad who died in December)

It's hard as I get older to burn off the winter beer flab, and get motivated for a daily ride. To do this, I buy new crap. This year, I decided it was time to build another bike, (which is often my decision when I don't feel motivated). It always does the trick. I've been riding this bike nearly every day since I finished it. It plays in nicely as contrast to my big black evil Banshee, which I cannot find the power to part with, and was my 2006 build up.

To say this bike has everything would be an understatement.
Here's the bottle opener.

This build was designed with the goal of being as pure all mountain as I could get, but with the ability to take any impulsive drop that stood in my way. So I built it light, with the exception being the wheelset (Transition Revolutions), because the DT EX 1750s were just too expensive to bend... I could buy 3 pairs of the revolutions for the same price... So I put up with the heft. The TBRs have 32 spokes, and a 150 thru-axle on the back. The hoops are very similar to the Vuelta Xcalibers I bought off ebay a couple of years ago. In fact I'd guess that was the OEM.
The brakes are Magura Julies, the drive train x9. The cranks and king headset came with the frame off of ebay for $850 new!

White Peaty Grips, and the Spank Lounge Bar Complete the Monochromatic look.
This shot also shows my jealous Banshee muscling in like Sen. Lieberman to a photo-op in the shot,
reducing the photo confusing a jumble of bike parts.

The Marzocchi All Mountain 1 SL, ( fork is actually the third fork in three weeks I tried on the bike, blowing through the Maverick DUC of my last frame, which felt to XC, a Fox Float 36 that I picked up off of craigslist, which surprisingly didn't play nice with the rear DHX AIR, and could not be tamed/tuned. It would have been nice with a coil rear shock, I could have put it on my Banshee... but It was just too Freeride for the bike that I was imagining here. Once I found the white Transition wheels and the white Marzocchi SL, I got hooked on finding more white for the bike. I got the Spank Lounge bar from and the white peaty grips. Logically, Mr. White became the name.

The ride
A few things stood out from the start.
1. I had the sensation of being propelled along with more than my own pedal power at times. Sounds wierd, but after riding the Banshee, which is not very light, my guess is that this bike felt slightly self-propelled as it would roll nicely, and was so much less effort to ramp up to speed.

2. It has a short rear chainstay, which means that you get air with the slightest effort, which is a good thing. It's easy to change up which end of the bike you want to land on mid air, depending on your jump... Not like the Banshee which crashes abuptly to the ground, only to be saved from its inertia by its Incredibly plush suspension. This air suspension takes a lot longer to dial in, but needs to do less work with 10lbs less weight. The disadvantage to the short rear end is that it seems to "stink bug" more easily when you are hoping for rapid slow down, (I don't skid - it's a sign of weakness), but on this bike, I had a few embarrasing moments of lock up when my speed could not be checked in a controllable manner as on my Banshee... ( I swear that Banshee(horst really) 4-bar has not been improved upon yet). For gearhead that may argue this, I heard good things about floating suspension from magazines etc. But I've ridden VPs that seemed loose and flabby in back, and know of many that failed in back. That made me go Heckler for simplicity sake. Though you cannot deny VPPs ability to hit sonic speeds on the DHs... Maybe next frame.

3. The SRAM x9s are shit compared to Shimano precision. I could not afford all this and XT, so I settled for X9s, which shops like cause they are easier to setup, but they are sloppy compared to XT precision in shifting, especially on the high gear. Maybe its my lack of adjusting ability, or just a matter of preference, but I'd take XT if I could afford it any day.

4. The Marzocchi All Mountain SL is at for 399. I was suspicious at first, but Marzocchi lives up to the hype and doesn't disappoint me again! It's my favorite fork brand fer sure. I've had them all.

5. The DHX Air is boring. Fox is boring. Not worth talking about because everything they say about their product, is totally true. It works flawlessly. It is totally predictable. Any Fox Rear Shock I've had is the same. It lives forever and just, well, works. What else can you say? It's like reviewing a ball bearing. It's just what we've come to expect. Totally dependable and everything you think it would be. No complaints. Air vs. Coil is another argument, and one I won't get in to here, having a DHX 5 and an Air and loving them the same.