Every year I dedicate a certain amount of time on the build list to prototype my own bikes to update geometry tweaks, improve handling, try new set ups and overall refine the ride. This past year of 2015 was no exception where I built new prototypes of my Huntsman, my Kid Dangerous 1×11 mountain bike and my own personal Marauder SS with an option to run it as a 1×11 and with a 30.9 dropper. So let’s roll up our sleeves and review what changes I made and why I made them. One of the biggest changes was the move to front and rear thru axles on all of these bikes.

Marauder SS : Back in Black

First up is the Marauder. Many ask me what the difference is between the Marauder and the Kid. In short there isn’t much difference geometry wise. More specifically, they are designed around a specific riders preferences as well as style and terrain frequented. If anything, the Marauders a tad shorter in the rear and a touch longer up front. But most specifically the differences are in the physical looks of the build. The Marauder is a strictly traditional diamond hardtail and it’s my take on the low slung New England breed of hardtail we all know and love. There’s some modern updates and personal touches to my own of course. One other key difference is being that the front triangle of the Marauder is much larger, clients looking to take advantage of two full sized water bottles, this would be the bike to suit their needs. I also steer larger riders in this direction too since the seat post, although maximized in terms of extension, is fully supported by the top tube and the seat stays. The Kid design relies on maximizing top tube clearance and has a distinct straight line from head tube to dropouts so if you want to carry two bottles, 99.9% of the time you’re going to be carrying a large and small bottle. Some must have that pair of large bottles while others it’s ok to skimp as their rides or races are well supported. But truth be told, I had to go way out there and build the Kid so I could come full circle design wise to reinvent and put my signature on the classic New England hardtail. Classic Side Shot albeit in high weeds… Check it out!

Marauder SS w/ 1x11 Option

A big driver for this build update over the previous version was that previously, my Marauder was a dedicated single speed. That’s fine normally. It was one hell of a clean build… but, (and there is a but) I really wanted the option to build it up as a 1×11 for shows since I pretty much bring my own personal bikes as show bikes. The big factor here was being able to show case both Shimano and Sram setups in my booth. I can’t tell you how many people ask me what the differences are so what better way to speak to these questions than to have them both sitting in front of the client. The builds vary a touch too so I can really show cyclists differences and benefits to these types of setups. Most seem to come to me to replicate what I have, and it would be nice to showcase different techniques. One big one is internal vs external cable routing and how both can be done quite cleanly. Ones a bit more aesthetic than another while the other comes from a more practical standpoint and allows for set up swaps easily. Thru axles were scrutinized with that previous dedicated SS, so this one got the thru axle treatment as well:

Endless 19t Kick Ass Cog

I also have two different length forks. The Marauder sports a 100mm Fox 32 Float while the 1×11 sports a 120mm Fox 32 Talas (Soon to be swapped for a 120mm Fox 34 Float). So I’ve got two different forks to compare too and can speak to benefits of either fork length – but I can talk about these benefits because I have both fork lengths and ride them regularly on both my 29ers.

New Bike Day : Marauder SS

Next up is my personal Huntsman. By far the bike I build the most of (and when I offer Titanium, this is where I will offer the material first). One big driving factor was to see how the power transfer benefits of thru axles on a mountain bike translated to a road bike fit for dirt and light trail duty. Another was simple: I always kicked myself for NOT painting my bike black (even though red is my favorite color – damn that flat black looks tough!) So we painted this one black:

Huntsman 1x11

Power transfer proved increased and without a decided change in stiffness. The resilience of steel on long rides holds true even with thru axles. I also started to notice on the previous build that the front wheel after heavy braking over the course of several rides would be slightly cocked towards the non-drive side. The ENVE CX fork does not have metal inserts at the dropouts so it’s a metal on carbon contact and I’d say the carbon dropout tends to be a bit slippery even when the quick release is tight. Metal on metal seems to have more bite to it – so the addition of a new ENVE CX TA fork was a no brainer for this build:

12mm TA

I also noted in conversations with clients that I’d often be using my bike as a reference but having to backpedal and tell them that the bike was only for reference and we’d be doing it differently. It became obvious I was building the majority of the Huntsman’s a certain way so what better than to build my own in that fashion which included routing for a 2x setup but run as a clean 1×11. Most didn’t want to believe me that it would look untidy but the pics spoke for themselves or if they saw the build in person, their fears were unfounded.

Big Cassette...

TA’s front and rear, wide range 10-42t cassette for a clean 1×11 setup, an option to run it as a 2×11, room for 2 bottles and then some, slightly sloping top tube and geometry to provide stability when the going gets rough but quickness and acceleration to match so the bike didn’t feel like a slug. It’s all in this build. I also moved my water bottle mounts up a touch on the seat tube to make reaching down not so much of a reach. Another set up change was a little more rise in the handlebar to saddle set up (I recently installed a Thomson 10° 90mm Elite Stem) and the addition of that 10-42t cassette from a 11-32t was eye opening. I really felt like finally the 1×11 setup was dialed in and on point for my local punchy terrain and when I was out for a long ride, I really could just sit back and pedal painlessly while seated on big climbs 30 miles into a ride:

51mm ISO

One decided different tweak was lengthening the chain stays to make a bit more room for a 40mm tire and also giving myself more clearances at the seat stay bridge and chain stays for additional mud clearances. I also tweaked the head tube angle slightly to add a bit more stability. I also had refined how I was making my chain stays and seat stays so it was nice to put those processes to use on this build to make it as current and up to date in terms of process and methodology as possible: A fully realized and refined machine.

Clearance

Last but not least is my personal 1×11 Kid Dangerous. The bike that nods to more top tube clearance, flowy curves and is just down right fast and fun.

The New Whip

Big changes for this build were Thru Axles front and rear, I adjusted my cockpit length a touch (lengthen it actually), and gave myself a bit more clearance for a small water bottle at the top tube / seat tube junction. I also have been making my radius seat tubes differently with dedicated dies and bending techniques / tools. So I incorporated that into this build as well as the Marauder as well. The new technique allows for a better, more consistent curve in the seat tube and because of this kicks the tube forward a bit more than previous techniques. Interestingly enough, by tweaking the effective seat tube angle from 73 to 72 degree’s, I’m able to give the rider a bit more saddle set back in relation to the bottom bracket and place the saddle in the same place as if it were a straight tube at 73 degrees:

Junctions

This bike also was built with internal cable routing but also will not technically take a dropper. I wanted to have that as an option for people to see and compare. This build is also a bit more of a endurance style build or rather an all around mountain bike so I wanted to have a post that was fixed. 1×11 drivetrain and Shimano XTR M9000 was a special treat for myself this year.

Proper

I also made the jump from Crank Brothers back to Shimano SPD’s and could not be happier I made the jump back to Shimano’s venerable SPD system. Snappy. Positive engagement. And the damn things last a lifetime instead of 3 months before the springs start to feel loose…

1x11

OH! And I’m back on WTB tires. I’ve fell in love with those WTB Trail Boss 2.4 and 2.25″ tires. Just an all around great mountain bike tire.

WTB Trail Boss 2.4"

I always kid myself about if I only could keep one bike, which one would it be? Man… that’s a tough choice but hands down I’m coming to this 1×11 build. No question. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a steel hardtail mountain bike and it’s everything I’ve worked towards that makes a 44 Bikes and 44 Bikes. The previous version of this build actually had a mistake on it.. The non-drive side seat stay’s bend up by the tire was a bit “off” so it appeared to be a little closer to the tire than the other side and hence it would often stay at home instead of going to shows. At the time I was under the gun to get the bike done in time for a race and only had enough material for one shot (these bends aren’t easy as they are in two separate planes). I nailed the bends this time…

Clearances

Curves

Pretty soon some parts will be coming back from a review bike and I’ll be able to build up my Marauder as a 1×11 Sram X1 build and outfit my 1×11 with a Fox 34 Float. I’m really excited to put the 34 Fit4 through it’s paces – too bad we JUST got snow of course… But I’ll have plenty of time over the winter if snow doesn’t seem to want to melt sooner than later to dial in the setup and get things ready for a back to back test with both my Marauder and Kid Dangerous in tow. Not only will I have a chance to compare Sram and Shimano back to back but finally I’ll be able to see how a dropper effects my riding style. I have some thoughts but I’ve been keeping my opinion tight lipped until I actually have some time on one (Thomson of course!). Till then, here’s the 1×11 back from a longish ride this past summer:

Post Ride Shakedown