Manitou Mattoc Pro: Amazing – teardown instructions / damper removal / oil service

Disclaimer: I apologize in advance, that this post won’t have a plethora of pictures.  I was in a rush to get to a ride when I did this work, but I will use what pictures I can to illustrate, and try to fill in the gaps as best I can.This is not an official guide and I make no claim that it is complete or whatever.

To begin with, I REALLY like the Mattoc.  It has gotten a couple of reviews online (Pinkbike, VitalMTB, maybe others), and I’ve seen one sort of review in print (BIKE magazine Bible of Bike Tests issue).

There is a great resource for changing travel using the travel spacers (that you should get with an aftermarket fork) and it can be found HERE.  I have not, however, found a teardown / rebuild of the damper side.

I have no desire to tear the entire damper apart, but to refresh the oil in the damper side I was able to piece together the information needed using this MTBR forum thread, as well as talking to Erik at Hayes Group to get the final details.  Manitou is promising the official guide any day now, but I can give this to you guys NOW.  So here it is.

Manitou Mattoc Pro Damper Removal and Re-assembly:

First off, remove your wheel, blah blah blah (do I really have to tell you this stuff?).  Remove your brake caliper and tie it to your handlebar or somewhere else safe (for your bike and your brake).


Currently at 160mm


Twice the Mattoc Awesomeness

Next, I always make sure my tools are laid out and ready to go.  To complete this task you will need the following:

  1. Tape Measure (that has mm designations)
  2. Shock Pump
  3. Semi-Bath and 5w fork oil (I use Motorex whenever possible)
  4. A syringe or other device to remove oil from the damper side to a specified depth
  5. Manitou Mattoc Tool Kit
    1. Slotted Cassette tool (with some sort of wrench to turn it – I’m using vise grips)
    2. 24mm flat ground socket (Not really needed for the damper service)
    3. 8mm thin wall socket
  6. 8mm and 2mm Allen wrenches
  7. 13mm socket
  8. drain bucket (to catch extra oil)
Mattock service bench and Tools

Mattock service bench and Tools

Now remove the rebound adjuster knob with a 2mm allen wrench, and prepare to remove the lowers (Manitou calls them the “casting”).  Let the air out of the spring side, which is generally helped by turning upside down to prevent oil from spewing everywhere.

bottom of the casting legs

bottom of the casting legs

Unthreading the air spring shaft from the casting.

Unthreading the air spring shaft from the casting.

Unthreading the damper side with the 8mm allen wrench and the air spring side with the 8mm thin-wall socket will allow you to pull the casting down and let the oil drip into the bucket of catch basin.  It should be noted that both of these appear to be REVERSE threaded.  This isn’t actually the case, since the inner piston shafts are technically threaded into the inside of the stanchion tube, but functionally, this is how it appears when removing them from underneath. After the dripping subsides you can remove the casting, wipe it down as needed and set it aside.

Draining Semi-Bath and wipe down legs.

Draining Semi-Bath and wipe down legs.

Next, remove the damper adjusters and remove the damper.  A 2mm allen wrench will remove the screw from the center of the HBO adjuster and you can then pull the high-speed damping adjuster up to remove BOTH the HBO and High-speed adjuster.  If you try to remove the HBO alone you will have 2 tiny springs and ball bearings fly out and ruin your day.

A 13mm nut holds the low-speed adjuster onto the damper head. Make sure you turn the low-speed adjuster all the way down (towards the negative, or less damping) to allow for the least resistance to removing the damper.

HBO and High-Speed adjuster

HBO and High-Speed adjuster

13mm nut holding on low-speed adjuster

13mm nut holding on low-speed adjuster

Use the slotted cassette tool and some form of wrench to unthread the damper from the upper and slowly pull the damper out using a controlled motion. Some wiggling may be required to keep from damaging the o-ring at the top of the damper threads.  There is a thick silver washer that rests in the top of the damper to space out the low-speed adjuster.  Just keep an eye on it – it will usually stay put.

Cassette tool to unthread damper

Cassette tool to unthread damper

pulling the damper up and out

pulling the damper up and out

This is your Damper

This is your Damper

You  will notice that the oil in the damper at this point will be very aerated.  It it a good idea to let this aeration dissipate before you proceed.  Go drink a beer or watch some cartoons…..

Aeration is NOT your friend.

Aeration is NOT your friend.

The good stuff.

The good stuff.

At this point you are either completely changing the oil in the damper side or just doing a level refresh or check. If you’re changing the oil completely, pour the oil out of the top of the damper side.  If you are just checking and verifying the oil level, wait until the aeration has off-gassed, and pour in / refill your 5w fork oil to the bottom of the threads inside the uppers.   Motorex 5w is recommended.  When the damper is removed it will have some oil inside its workings so you will need to add some oil regardless.  My take on this is if Manitou is specific enough to tell you “77mm on the Pro and 80mm on the expert” that the few cc’s of oil lost in the damper when you remove it needs to be allowed to drain, and then needs to be replaced in the upper tube before re-installation.

At this point you turn your rebound adjuster all the way slow and then back it out 2 clicks.  Now you will begin cycling the damper shaft SLOWLY 25 times (or so) up and down, up and down, up and down….. If you feel any cavitation or air bubbles you should keep going.  I found after doing this several times that if you cycle up and let it sit for minute, then cycle down and let it sit, you can can speed up the process.  You will feel a silky smooth motion without the feeling or sound of air after a while.  Remember – this is to get the best feel out of your fork – DON’T RUSH IT.  25 times is just a minimum, you will likely have to go longer.  Cold temperatures slow this process down as well.

Keep going....

Keep going….

With your damper shaft feeling like soft butter,  you will now refill the damper side to at least the bottom of the threads in the uppers, and let it sit to get any new aeration on top to off-gas.  Try to pour slowly and in a controlled manner to prevent this. This next part is also critical, so think carefully about how you will accomplish this with tools you can get your hands on.  I use a RockShox syringe that came with my Reverb dropper post, and a small piece of tubing, then measure and mark the syringe accordingly:

My damper syringe.

My damper syringe.

I have also seen other people using interesting devices (from the “Manitou Mattoc” thread on MTBR),

3198OGmXkgL IMG_1042

but the critical thing is that you can remove oil down to 77mm (for the Pro) from the top of the upper shaft BEFORE you reinstall the damper.  This 77mm is measured from the top of the stanchion tube, and you can just suck out the fluid until all you get is air:

Removing down to 77mm

Removing down to 77mm

Reinstalling damper.

Reinstalling damper.

When you prepare to re-install your damper unit, make sure the low-speed is still in the position of least damping for the easiest installation.  Wiggle / slowly push the damper back down and begin re-threading it into the upper.  When tightening the damper down, it should be tight, but don’t wail on it – I was warned about collapsing threads.  I snug it and then give it a very small extra pull.  I do not have a torque spec for this.  The torque for the air cap on the other side is 60-80 in lbs [6.8-9.0 Nm].  From here you can reinstall the adjusters at the top of the damper.

At this point you can change travel in the air side if needed.  I am not going to go through all this, but I will say that the 7cc of semi-bath that is recommended in the guide seems to give a lot of people trouble.  I grease the positive air piston seal with slick honey, add a small dollop to the top, and then add 2cc of semi-bath in the top once installed.

NOTE: Manitou Tech has corrected this last bit for me (us).  They do NOT recommend using Slick Honey anywhere in their suspension products.  They recommend using M-Prep Grease on these seals and then adding 3cc of Semi-Bath to the top of the piston. (Thanks Erik)

When you remove your air-shaft – release all the air and take off the top cap first and then pour out any oil from the top side.  If you get a lot of oil pouring out after you pull the air shaft out from the bottom, you likely had oil migrate to the negative spring side – this can cause a loss of sensitivity and extra harshness.  I felt it and am using this solution for now – it seems to be working good for me.

Finally, air up the spring side to 20-50 PSI to make sure the rod stays out, and pull the rebound shaft out to full extension.  Pour in 8cc-15cc of semi-bath oil in each lower leg when reinstalling the casting. Torque for both sides is 30-40 in lbs [ 3.5-4.5 Nm].  Finish airing her up, get your wheel and brake caliper back on, and take her for a ride!

EDIT: Couple of Notes from Manitou Tech:

  1. Place a bead of m-prep in the groove below the oil seal and between the dust and oil seal.  This will get that fork felling like butter and should remove any inconsistent feeling. 
  2. Fully extend the fork with the pump connected before filling with air.  If the fork is not fully extended it will have this dead stroke feeling.
  3. You should lubricate the air piston and fill the piston cup half way with m-prep.  Only 3 cc of semi bath should be placed on top of the piston.

If this was helpful, let me know.  If I missed something or you found something different, let me know.


Posted in Mountain Bikes, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Everything in My life Just Thinks for Me: The Commuting Chronicles

To prepare you, I have a short video (copyright of whomever, not mine, blah blah blah):

I have two jobs, one working as a mechanic at a bike shop (and overseeing consignment web sales), and another where I try to use my Zoology MS degree to earn a living and pay off the student loans.  Both of these jobs have heavy aspects connected to a computer and surfing around on the net for things (or on a phone).

It drives me nuts.  It makes me feel the way I imagine an autistic individual feels.  Everything blasting at you at warp speed, and my feeble mind is grasping at bits of information too unrefined to be useful (or too refined to get caught in the sieve).  As such I’ve been attempting the commute from my house to the bike shop:

Going down! Going up!

I’ve noticed two things:  first is the humility associated with showing up to work on a road bike after swearing I would never be caught dead riding on skinnies (though I still wear Mtn Kits), second is a relaxation and mental clarity at work on days I do this commute.  And the hard part is on the way home, at which point I arrive hungry, physically worn out, and, ultimately, ready for a good night’s sleep.  You’d be amazed how much staring at the blue light of a computer all day will disrupt your sleeping habits – not to mention drive you to drink regularly in exasperation at the wide wide world of everything just out there beyond the screen.  I mean, you’re staring at a portal to all the knowledge of the world with all of it at your fingertips, but you’re not out IN the world, experiencing the world, interacting with the world.  It’s kind of silly.

Now, the hour it takes to get to work is mine to think, reflect, and assimilate my morning’s intake (and output) of thoughts and ideas.  And the hour and a half to GET home (all uphill now), I can change my entire state of being, and thinking, while working the good, the bad, and the ugly of the day into those places in my mind where it all truly belongs.

So, no real purpose here, just getting some thoughts out.  If you can, try a commute.  Take a safe route to start with, then mix it up.  My brain thrives on the endorphins cascaded out by moderate exercise, and the free coffee money the shop gives me per day of commuting, and the gas savings (20 miles each way, 40 a day) could lead me to affording a CX style bike to commute on (since I can’t borrow the bosses sweet Carbon Foundry Auger CX bike forever).

Cheers.  Happy Trails.

Bike Work Day

Bike Work Day

And, if you’re having issue with your digital recorders, counterparts, communications devices, location-enablers, ride-enhancers, and/or what-the-fuck-evers, listen to this, and remember that all the things that our bodies drop, leak, excrete, secrete, and let loose through crashes, wrecks, commutes, rides, pumps, jumps, and general two-wheeled madness will take out that com-device and free you for the time you’re willing to let go and JUST BE:

(I love you Alix and Lulu!!!!)

Posted in Musing, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chromag Samurai 65 Build pics

I’m tired and I’ve gotten 14 miles on the Samurai. 3 on my little home loop and another 10+ on my “fast” trails in Oroville.  Basically I have to re-learn how to ride a hardtail fast.  But the frame fits amazing, and feels amazing, and the Manitou Mattoc is absolutely unreal.  I really think I like it better than my 2015 Fox 36. Time will tell, as I plan on putting lot more miles on it in the coming weeks.

Build weighs in at 30 pounds even with pedals (I used Shimano M530s, since I’ve been dabbling in clips for the first time), thanks to heavy wheels and tires, as well as those brick shithouse Zee cranks.  I think I’m just going to leave them until I have a reason to change them.  Head angle is a measured 67 degrees static.  If I moved to 150mm it would be 66.6.  Beastly (or insert your own generic devil pun).


I’ll provide a more detailed update on both the Mattoc and the overall bike as soon as I get enough miles.  But at the moment I’m thoroughly impressed.  Need to put less pressure in the rear tire though.  She was BOUNCY.  32 PSI for these first 2 rides.  I’ll likely drop it to 26 PSI and see how it feels.

Till next time.

Posted in Mountain Bikes, Reviews, Trails | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

New build. Chromag Samurai 65 – Handmade Steel hardtail.

Allright, a quick and dirty before the build posts begin.  I spent a lot of time thinking and checking specs on every steel hardtail I could find.  I had it narrowed down to two:  the Transition TransAm and the Chromag Samurai 65.  After talking with both companies about geometry, intended use, blah blah blah, Ian at Chromag (the founder of Chromag) convinced me that the Samurai 65 was the bike I was really looking for.  Here’s what their site says on it:

“Just because I ride a steel hardtail doesn’t mean I’m a curmudgeonly retro-revivalist luddite. I have a beard because it keeps me warm, that’s all. I started riding mountain bikes years ago and I’ve been through enough flavours of bikes to know what’s worthwhile and what’s BS. I want something that will get me to the top of the hill or mountain with minimum fuss but I need something capable for when I want to charge into steep, rocky, roots trails. I don’t want to ever have to think whether I have the right bike for the job, just one bike no matter how long or how gnar the ride becomes. I want something that is designed by guys I know I can trust and is handmade by someone I respect. I want something simple because most stuff is unnecessarily complicated, but I want it to be absolutely up-to-date, including rolling on 27.5-inch wheels. Back To The Future at 88 miles an hour!”

Ok great.  Keep in mind this is a HAND WELDED frame that one guy – the venerable Mike Truelove creates himself and the amazing Chris Dekerf paints himself to customer spec. I can have it painted ANYWAY I WANT.  That’s great.  And it sucks.  I’m indecisive.  So I let Sean at Chromag decide for me.  Here’s what he did:

DSC_1596 DSC_1597Sean’s description of the paint:

“The paint process is 2 layers of clear-coat. The first layer is tinted green. These 2 shots don’t really do it justice but you get the idea. We have had no sun in a while and so we haven’t seen it in its final form yet but that is when this will really pop.”

I’m ready.  So, what will I build it with?  I like to try new things.  I get a lot of shit for this in the shop.  They can eat a buffet of dicks.  Can I say that here?  I just did.

  • Fork:  Manitou Mattoc dropped to 140mm – Black
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Zee cranks and rear derailleur
  • Cassette/Chain: RaceFace N/W 32t 1×10 with XT 11-36 rear
  • Brakes: Shimano XT 180F/160R
  • Wheels: WTB ST i23 on SRAM hubs (stock wheels from Bronson)
  • Tires: Continental Mountain King 2.4s
  • Headset: Cane Creek 110 (black)
  • Bars: Chromag Fubar OSX in Satin Nickel 780mm
  • Stem: Chromag Ranger stem in Black 60mm
  • Grips: RaceFace Half Nelson or Chromag Squarewave both black
  • Pedals: Chromag Contact in black
  • Seat: Chromag Lynx in black

So that’s it for now.  Frame should be on it’s way to me.  I’ll do what I can to do justice to the build.

Quick note:

I did not take pictures of the Mattoc while changing travel, but I do recommend buying the tools provided by Manitou if you can afford them.  Otherwise you will need a grinder and steady hands to make the thin-wall 8mm socket and to cut the slot in a standard cassette tool.  Instructions from Manitou were straight forward.  I did not have the semi-bath oil stated in the instructions, but used RockShox 5wt oil instead.

Posted in Mountain Bikes | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bronson Carbon, Fox 36, Steel Hardtail (again)

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth.

Genesis 6:17

Yes I just quoted you a Bible verse.  Don’t worry, it’s not what you think.  It’s been raining for 7 days.  Which means I’ve been off my bike for 7 days.  And it’s supposed to rain 5 of the next 7 days.  Sure there are times when I could have ridden during breaks in the storm – but I was either working or it was still just too muddy to want to take the Snot Rocket out for a ride.  I’m stuck feeling that going out in this heavy mud will just work away at the bearings and pivots of my Bronson.  It’s now a top-teir bike, and I miss my steel hardtail that I would take out in any weather.  I do not enjoy being a fair weather rider.  Vernon Felton (again) speaks my mind.  I swear this man is my spirit animal:

Vernon Felton “The Web Monkey” – The Cold Truth

I’ve got a few things for you today.  First is an update on the carbon Bronson frame, dubbed “the Snot Rocket”.  Second is an update on the destruction of a second pike and the arrival of its replacement, the new Fox FLOAT 36.  Third is my lamentation of not keeping Darth Goat, and my new obsessive quest to find a new suitable substitute.

2015 Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon:

Working at a bike shop is, for certain reasons soon to be apparent, dangerous for me.  I love bike stuff.  I love parts, frames, accessories, clothes, whatever.  New stuff is exciting.  For better or worse, I’m a model consumer.  Except for the fact that I was a grad student for years ad never had money.  For that reason I dabbled in gear that was a couple years old when other riders bought the new and fancy.

Now, working at a shop, I have access to lots of lovely stuffs.  I still have to pay for everything I review here out of my own pocket, but it costs just enough less to be affordable to me. When I had the chance to pick up a new carbon Bronson CC frame (the high end carbon) for cheap, I set about making it happen.  Still cost me a few dollars to make the swap, but I was able to sell the alloy with a Kashima shock and mount the carbon frame up with my Cane Creek Double Barrel Air, keeping the original rear Evolution Fox shock for a spare.

I’ve got about 200 miles on the new frame and it rides the same, feels mostly the same, but is quite a bit lighter, same build with a RockShox Pike got down to 27lbs 6ozs (without the Cane Creek).  The ride characteristics are more muted I would say. Less chattery.  I would not really have thought it worth it if I were not working for a shop.  I definitely prefer the older color scheme!  But it’s an amazing bike, the weight savings have made a difference on climbs, and the frame has had a couple spills without any real damage.  Durable, light, not cheap carbon.  The carbon frames still have threaded bottom brackets (NICE), and the seat collar is not quick release.  All in all every part bolted straight from one frame to the next. I should note that you cannot buy the lower end carbon as just a frame.

We’ve built and sold a couple now and they feel pretty spot on, and the half pound weight penalty is well within reasonable for the almost $1000 savings (or more , depending on build) from the high end “Carbon CC”.  I also want to note that Santa Cruz hasn’t provided a way to differentiate the frames on looks alone.  Both the low and high end carbon frames say “Bronson C” so beware buying used.  You’d have to weigh the bare frame to really know I think.

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Death of a Pike, and enter the Fox FLOAT 36:

The Rockshox Pike is a fork with an amazing feel on the trail.  It has gotten almost universally rave reviews.  Almost every rider in my area who upgrades anything on their bike, or buys a new bike, wants a Pike on it.  It’s light, it’s buttery smooth. I, however, have gone through 2 of them, the second having two distinct problems.  My first Pike was a 26″ Dual Position that had a failure in the Charger damper after 50 miles.  I had to send it back, and bought an X-Fusion Slant while I waited, then sold the Pike when they sent me a new one back.  I was paying retail and was a little pissed.  When I bought the alloy Bronson I upgraded straight to a Solo Air Pike, 150mm.  It was great.  I loved the feel.  Then it developed a -clunk- when the fork topped out.  SRAM service said there was a tolerance issue with the air shaft that caused a bushing to hang up.  I should note for full disclosure that the performance of the fork was not diminished at all, but rock gardens had me freaking out that my headset was loose.  Disconcerting to say the least.  But – SRAM sent me a new air spring and I installed it, no problem.  Back on my way.  The process is simple and can be done without much fuss at home if you have basic fork service tools. During a ride in Tahoe, the -clunk- came back.  Keeping in mind that I was at 7500ft and the temperature topped out at 27 degrees that day, I chocked it up to the temp and elevation.  When I got back home I bleed the air out and cycled the lowers a couple times to equalize the pressures, and when I went for the next ride a slight -clunk- was there, but on larger hits to smooth surface, or cycling the fork while standing, there was a -clunk- followed by a dull -whump- from inside the fork.  Ok, irritated again.  SRAM required the fork back, and would need it for 10 business days at least.

Screw it, I’m buying a Fox FLOAT 36.  I was wooed by our Fox tech during an in-house clinic. I sent the Pike back 16 days ago and still don’t have it back.  It is supposed to arrive Monday, 18 days later.  The Fox FLOAT arrived in 2 days from placing the order. 2015 Fox FLOAT 36 160mm 2015 Bronson with Pike 2015 Bronson with Fox 36 I have only had about 30 miles in Oroville and 13 miles in Napa on this and setup isn’t complete.  The fork weighed in at 4.28lbs with cut steerer, start nut and axle – and the 160mm version is 5mm higher axle to crown than the Pike 150mm so geometry doesn’t feel affected, plus more travel.  I’ll update with a full review once I’ve had the chance to get it out in a wider range of conditions. First impression was simply that I had too much air in it and the rebound and compression adjustments have a WIDE range.  And I was not dialed in where I should be – YET.  Not sure if I’m going to add volume spaces or drop the travel to 150mm, but the box came with all I needed to do both. STAY TUNED.

I may be selling my PIKE and also my CANE CREEK DOUBLE BARREL AIR on Pinkbike if anyone is interested.  Look up REACHCONTROL’s Buy Sell.

Missing Darth Goat (I’m buying/building a new steel hardtail):

With the weather being what it is, I’ve missed a couple opportunities to ride because I’m a pansy and don’t want the mud and grit to destroy my pivots and bearings prematurely.  I am pretty much against washing a bike after seeing how much quicker it forces maintenance on suspension moving and load-bearing parts.  If anything I let my bike dry, then use a soft brittle brush to get the mud off.  Brushes can be found at pet supply stores or anywhere brooms are to be had. I had an awesome steel hardtail and I sold it because I didn’t think I was going to use it much and I don’t like having things sit around collecting dust.  I’m sure it’s being well loved and trail-beaten up in Washington and that’s great.  But with the weather like this, and presumably staying like this for some time, I need something to ride on the couple trails that don’t really close.  I’ve got two options:  use parts that I already have and build a fresh steed from the ground up or sell parts and purchase something mid-range as a complete.

Potter Ravine and Potter Point

Potter Ravine and Potter Point

I have these parts on hand:

  • the Pike when it comes back (150mm)
  • Chromag Contact pedals
  • Race face half nelson grips
  • Bontrager Rhythm Pro 50mm stem
  • WTB i23/SRAM wheels from Bronson alloy
  • a few 650B tires around and about
  • old 750mm specialized alloy bar
  • RaceFace 32t narrow wide chainring (blue)

As you can see, I would still need cranks, cassette/chain, brakes, shifter, rear derailleur and headset to make it work.  A solid chunk of parts and money, AFTER buying a frame.  It also means I have to have a tapered head tube and 142×12 axle spacing (the rear SRAM hub isn’t convertible). Plus 650B.  I really don’t want a 29er.  Being able to swap parts between my two bikes is a HUGE plus for me. Still, I’ve looked at the following frames:

Now the TransAM isn’t available for over two months due to issues in manufacturing, the Soma is only rated for a 120mm fork and I’d have to get dropouts from Paragon Machine Works to make the 142 axle work, and Chameleon isn’t steel, the Surly is what they call “26+” and not really designed for 650B, we don’t sell Kona and I don’t want to rock a competitor shop’s bike, and Chromag hasn’t gotten back to my me yet.  And I can’t lay hands on an NS at the moment.

I’ve thought about bikes like the Chumba Rastro and REEB, but I think that’s going to cost too much for a bike that I just want to flog in bad weather. I would have chosen the TransAM and ordered yesterday, partly because they coat the insides of the frames to prevent corrosion (BONUS!) but the lack of availability was just not doing it for me.

Another concern of mine is head angle.  After having the 65.7 degree angle on the On One 45650B and feeling how this part of the geometry defined the ride of the bike, I am hard pressed to get a hardtail that has a steeper head angle.  Think about sitting on a hardtail – the fork compressed, steepening the head angle.  On a full susser, both front and rear sag to help maintain the stated geometry.  MBR.UK discusses this in their review of the Whyte 905 here.

I’ve also considered getting a different rear hub, eliminating the 142×12 requirement.  I could go back to On One at that point.  I’ve also looked at buying a complete Raleigh Tokul 4130.  Good parts spec for what I want, and I can get pretty damn cheap.

Help me decide!

Posted in Mountain Bikes, Musing, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2014 Santa Cruz Bronson alloy (aluminum) – review

So I’ve put a few hundred miles on my Bronson.  It’s a great bike.  I bought it right before I got a job learning how to work on bikes in a professional capacity.  What this means is I could only afford the R kit (the low-end kit).  Still packed with great parts, and I upgraded to a RockShox Pike right off the bat.  I swapped a few of the other parts with the hard tail “Darth Goat” to make both bikes better at what they do.

Well Darth Goat has been sold, to someone who’s having a blast riding it in Washington state.  One of these days I’m going to get up there and ride with him, thanks Bennett!  Hoping he’ll get a pic of him riding it and can round out the 45650B build series.

I purchased the bike from North Rim Adventure Sports in Chico, the shop I now work for, but a couple weeks before they offered me an entry-level mechanic position.  I had visited every shop in the area on more than one occasion since I’ve lived here to try and find that shop I was willing to forsake internet purchases for in exchange for good service and a second home for my various steeds.  Service, availability of parts, brands sold, understanding of my riding sub-genre, were all there.


It’s probably best to start with the parts spec the bike CAME with:

  • Fox Float O/C 150mm Evolution series fork
  • Fox Float Evolution rear shock
  • Shimano Deore brakes 180 F / 160 R
  • SLX front and rear (clutch, SGS or long cage) derailleur and shifters, 2×10
  • Shimano Deore 175mm cranks 2×10
  • RaceFace stem (70mm) and bars (740mm) and seatpost – alloy
  • WTC ST i23 rims with Maxxis High Roller II tires
  • Lizard Skin non-lock-on grips
  • Cane Creek 40 top and 10 bottom headset
  • WTB Volt saddle

This build, at the time, retailed for $3399.

Now I’ve been riding just long enough to know certain things I want and what I don’t want, and North Rim (most local shops for that matter) will help you swap out and upgrade parts when you purchase a new bike.  So I made the following changes:

  • Added RockShox reverb seatpost 125mm – Stealth routing
  • Swapped Fox fork for RockShox Pike 150mm Solo Air
  • Bontrager Rhythm Pro bar (carbon, cut to 780mm) and stem (60mm)
  • Dropped the front derailleur and added race face narrow/wide 34t front chainring
  • Swapped the SLX brakes from Darth Goat (Deore was a better match on the 45650B)
  • Swapped the 170mm Shimano ZEE cranks from the 45650B
  • Added RaceFace Half Nelson grips (comfort and familiar grips)
  • changed the Cane Creek 10 bottom to a 40 bottom headset cup and bearing
  • Final addition was Shimano Saint flat pedals.  Not a clipless man.  Nope.

Final bike weight was 31 lbs 2 ozs:

Complete. 2014 Santa Cruz Bronson alloy.

Complete. 2014 Santa Cruz Bronson alloy.

And so I was off on the first full new bike I’ve EVER bought and the most technologically advanced and recent bike I’ve ever had.  I mean hell!  I had a current year model bike!  New fork! New EVERYTHING (almost)!  First VPP bike since I had the Blur 4x in 2011:

Blur 4x, LOVED this bike

Blur 4x, LOVED this bike


I’ve ridden this bike for 5 months.  I’ve had it all over local Bidwell Park, all over Mt Ashland in Oregon, at Downieville, Nevada City, Oroville Dam, Auburn, and a few trails in Sacramento.  This bike was just beautiful, fantastic, amazing!  I just mobbed stuff that I used to pick through.  This bike saved my ass on mistakes and bad landings.  I peddled pretty fantastic, and I often forgot to change the CTD settings on the rear shock for climbs, and didn’t bother much.  The efficiency of the rear was just head and shoulders above anything I had ever been on before.  Modern trailbike, eh?

After first Downieville ride!

After first Downieville ride!

I had a small issue with creaking, which was remedied by removing the locking collet hardware (best in the business!) and greasing, then re-tightening to spec.  Took care of it right away. I also had a feeling at times of twitchiness in the rear that I finally tracked to the rear shock.  I weigh 205 with gear and it felt like if the rear shock didn’t have the exact settings that worked, I would get some negative feeling at some point in the ride, especially  extended descents when the shock would heat up.  Small tuning threshold.


Where I live we have dozens of miles of trails in Bidwell Park that consist of lava cap covered with dust.  Just a continuous rock garden of non-moving baby heads, with rocks to catch your pedals and tear your flesh when you hesitate or make a mistake.  I’ve always had to have a suspension tune for Bidwell, and a tune for everywhere else.  Basically less air/compression and faster rebound for Bidwell and then “normal” settings for other places.  This bike didn’t need it.  The Pike up front and the firm yet compliant VPP rear allowed me to motor up the 3.5 miles (1200 ft gain) of unshaded sunbaked technical North Rim trail and then just drop into the rocky Hell-Chute that is B-Trail.  I could then simply load my bike on the Subie and drop the 5K+ ft of elevation drop in the woods above Ashland, OR.  Fiddle a bit with tire pressure, but it was insanely nice not to have to always remember a shock pump.

Climbing on this beast was just heaven.  The Reverb meant the right height, anytime, and the platform provided by the VPP rear meant that fast changes from up to down could be handled wide open without having to risk reaching for the shock switches.  I also dropped Time Warp in Ashland and forgot to take the rear out of climb mode without ill effect.  I mean I noticed after a bit of feeling like I was going to be ejected, but it wasn’t severe enough to cause a wreck.  Priceless.  I screw up, bike saves me.  It was like a dull floating carpet of muted quite happy trails to you!

After riding the bike with this setup for several months, I decided to take a bit of weight off.  I did this by getting a pair of DT Swiss Spline 1 XM 1501 rims and swapping tires to a Continental Mountain King 2.4 in the front and a Bontrager XR3 Team Issue 2.3 in the rear.  I also went with the One Up 42T rear cog and RAD cage (which meant getting the XTR backplate to go GS, or medium, cage). This brought the weight to 29 lbs and a few ounces.  I also have a Cane Creek Bronson-specific Double Barrel Air CS that I swap in and out on different trails.  I love the Cane Creek, and the WIDE tuning threshold it affords my weight, but there are definitely times when the svelt Fox Float is the ticket to get the job done.

Every change just made the bike better, but none of them were required to make the bike the Silver Plate of Awesome that it has been every day.  My conclusion is that this bike, in alloy form, with entry level (for Santa Cruz) parts spec, despite the changes I made, craft a bike that is durable, pliable, functional beyond its means, and priced even better now!  You can get the base alloy for $3199!!! Check it out!  I hope this review helps those thinking about whether Santa Cruz Alloy is worth it in a world of Carbon bikes.

I say it is.  

The review is NOT based on where I work or what is sold there.  This series of reviews are meant to be from the perspective of the “every man rider” and this bike was purchased during that time period without a shop discount at retail pricing.  I hope all my reviews remain unbiased, but feel free to call me out on things that might not be.

Next will be a comparison of a newly acquired 2015 Bronson Carbon (the high-end) frame with the same part spec.  After that I hope to take the entry level carbon out and have a full comparison between the three.  I’ll leave you with the last photog of the lovely black Bronson (you can catch a view of the new carbon frame on the right in my Instagram feed).


2014-10-21 07.04.42-1

Posted in Mountain Bikes, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bottling the good Stuff

Short post, sorry for the long gap, lots of stuff coming:

  • Santa Cruz Bronson Alloy review
  • Rockshox Pike air service warranty
  • Cane Creek Double Barrel Air review
  • Brewing another 5 gallons of hard cider

We bottled our Oktoberfest, and I’ll let everyone know how it came out once it has conditioned for a full 2 months.  I took a growler to the shop and let the guys drink it, they said it was great.

But for now, pretty pictures of the meade that we bottled today.  We bottled 4.5 gallons of the honey meade (which is just to say unflavored), 1 gallon each of peach, blackberry, and native CA black raspberry.  This stuff came out AMAZING.  Far and away the best batches I’ve ever made.

So damn Pretty!

So damn Pretty!

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Yes, we make illicit alcoholic beverages out here too. (what else do you do after riding?)

I have been promising this for the entire time this blog has been around, so here we go:

First off, we bottled the cider we made from Noble Orchards pressed cider located in Paradise California, down the road from our residence (sorry I don’t have FaceBook so I dunno what this site looks like).  These guys have awesome selection, great prices, and I can roll my Bronson down there to pick up whatever I want in 10 minutes.


Bottled Hard Apple Cider! This shit ain't Mike's....

Bottled Hard Apple Cider! This shit ain’t Mike’s….

So, my friend Kevin and I spent 6 hours last night making 8 gallons of various Meades.  Meade (sometimes spelled MEAD) is a viking creation, and mixed with my long-forgotten background, the tattoos I’ve acquired, and the fact that I love biking and the hand-in-hand of drinking….shit I just like brewing, riding, and enjoying the products of both… point in misleading you guys for the sake of literary license.

The recipes I use are amalgamations of various recipes, accreted for the purpose of getting what we have on hand into mixtures that the largest amount of my friends will enjoy.  A couple recipes:


“Ale has too often been praised by poets. The longer you drink, the less sense your mind makes of things.” –Ancient Viking Hávamál Proverb

      Halfdan’s Viking Mead Recipe  
  Mead (Honey Wine) – 5 gallon recipe

8-10   lbs pure raw honey     (for light, delicate Mead)
   (or) 12-13                     (for medium sweet Mead)
   (or) 15-16                     (for very sweet or alcoholic Mead)
4-5    gallons purified spring water  (not distilled)
3      tsp. yeast nutrient    (or 5 tablets)
1      tsp. acid blend        (combination malic/citric acid)
5-7     oz. sliced fresh ginger root  (1 finger’s length)
1/4     tsp. fresh rosemary    (optional, as desired)
5-6     whole cloves           (optional, as desired)
1-2     vanilla beans          (optional, as desired)
        cinnamon/nutmeg        (optional, as desired)
        lime/orange peels      (optional, as desired)
        crushed fruit          (peaches, strawberries, grapes, etc.)
1      tsp. Irish Moss        (to clarify Mead)
1/2    tsp. clear gelatin     (to clarify Mead)
1      spotted newt’s tail    (optional, as desired 🙂
1      packet yeast           (champagne or ale yeast)

Heat spring water 10-15 minutes till boiling. Stir in honey, yeast nutrients, acid blend, and spices (rosemary, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, lemon peel). Boil for another 10-15 minutes, (overcooking removes too much honey flavor), skimming off foam as needed (2 to 3 times during last 15 minutes). After 15 minutes, add Irish Moss or clear gelatin to clarify. After last skimming, turn off heat, add crushed fruit, and let steep 15-30 minutes while allowing mead to cool and clarify. After mead begins to clear, strain off fruit with hand skimmer and pour mead through strainer funnel into 5 gallon glass carboy jug.
Let cool to room temperature about 24 hours. After 24 hours, warm up 1 cup of mead in microwave, stir in 1 packet “Red Star” Champagne, Montrechet, or Epernet yeast (or Ale yeast in order to make mead ale), and let sit for 5-15 minutes to allow yeast to begin to work. Add this mead/yeast mixture to carboy jug and swirl around to aerate, thereby adding oxygen to mead/yeast mixture.
Place run-off tube in stopper of bottle, with other end of tube in large bowl or bottle to capture “blow-off” froth. Let mead sit undisturbed 7 days in cool, dark area. After initial violent fermenting slows down and mead begins to settle, rack off (siphon off) good mead into clean sterilized jug, leaving all sediment in bottom of first jug. Attach airlock to this secondary carboy. After 4-6 months, mead will clear. During this time, if more sediment forms on bottom, good mead can be racked off again to another clean sterilized jug.

When bottling, in order to add carbonation, add either 1/4 tsp. white table sugar per 12 oz bottle, or stir in 1/2 to 1 lb raw honey per 5 gallons mead (by first dissolving honey with a small amount of mead or pure water in microwave).

Enjoy! Skål!

Pomegranate Mead
This is a variation of my first original recipe, which was really well received – so good, in fact, that I have another batch aging now.  It’s on the expensive side for my brews, but unusual, subtle, and delicious.  Makes 1 gallon.
1/2 gal Pomegranate Juice (No Preservatives)
2 1/2 pounds Honey
Water to make 1 gal
1 tsp Gypsum
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1 tsp Irish Moss
2 bags Rooibos Tea
1 bag Black Tea
1/2 package Champagne Yeast
Put all liquids, honey, gypsum, nutrient, and irish moss into your brewpot and boil for 15 minutes, skimming the foam off the top periodically.  Add all teabags and continue boiling for another 5 minutes, then remove the tea. Remove from heat and cool to 70-80 degrees, then pitch the yeast.  Ferment for 6 months or until clear (whichever is longer), racking every 2 months, then bottle and let age for a year, if you can wait that long.  I couldn’t.


—-Between the great advice in these two recipes, and what my venerable father taught me about the art of brewing with delicate flavors I have never had a batch go bad or be un-drinkable (or even marginal that only the best of friends will hang and drink).

So pictures tell the best story – PLEASE ask if you have questions about any part of the process.  A lot of the captions tell enough, but I want anyone wandering here for the brewing art to be able to make this happen in the closet.  SHARE THE LOVE!

Don’t get yourself down.  Life happens on it’s own accord and community is just a handshake, an offer, and a smile away:


Tonight we make OKTOBERFEST!!!!!!  My father’s 1996 2nd-place winning creation.  I challenge you to bring me a better beer.   Neither of us would regret it!

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45650B part 4.0 – Selling my Baby and Welcoming a New Love

Welcome back!  Thank you!

Been a while, lot of changes going on.  I have drastically changed my role at my wildlife job, and will be focusing more on my bike job.  Too long of a story and with too many dangerous associations to explain here.  This next part of life will suit me much better.  Hey, we all gots needs yo.

Part of this change is I can no longer keep two bikes.  Finances and my upcoming union to a woman far better than myself (no, that’s not saying I’m a woman…jeez, middle school much?), and our long -planned extended honeymoon across the globe mean money needs to be funneled to different places.  So the beloved 45650B that has generated over 70% of this blog’s traffic must go.  I have another bike, a 2014 Santa Cruz Bronson alloy, that can do more in a greater number of places I usually ride, plus my shop sells Santa Cruz, so it helps my position there that I’m repping something we sell:

This leaves poor Darth Goat in need of a new home.  Tons of you guys have been here to look, and I don’t really see anything wrong with selling a bike that has gotten so much attention.  It can be seen on its PinkBike selling page.  I really hope someone has been enamored of this bike, and wants to give it the ride time and attention it deserves.  If you’re new here you can see the buildup at the following pages:

This bike has been a lot of fun, and, frankly, taught me to ride better. Contact me if you’re interested.

Next up: I’m currently making 8 gallons of Meade.  One plain batch of 5 gallons, and three 1 gallon batches each of a different flavor:

  • local orchard peach
  • back yard harvested native black raspberries
  • back yard harvested non-native blackberries

Stay tuned ya’ll.  It’s about time I added some brewing into this blog.  Tomorrow it gets better: my Dad’s award-winning Oktoberfest recipe (2nd place national Zymurgist competition 1996), making it in time to condition for Oktober (this is as festive as I get….)!


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10 Things not to say to someone from Pakistan

Oh I love travel. And this is an amazing bit deserving of the sacred “re-blog”.

People wherever deserve understanding. Shit, they’re people damnit!

Omaira Gill

Road in Pakistan. Not photoshopped Highway in Pakistan. Not photoshopped

I grew up in Pakistan. In my travels across the world, I have encountered many a misconception about my home-country. We’re everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood failed state if Fox News is to believed, and I was amazed at how shocked people were that an actual living, breathing product of the dark side of the moon was stood there talking to them. Here are some of the weirdest things people have said when they learn where I come from.

1)   Wow! Your English is really good?

This is the commonest comment anyone from Pakistan will hear the first time they have a conversation with someone. People are astonished that anyone from Pakistan, let alone a woman, can speak, read and write completely fluent English. The world expects us to either be the frothy-mouthed zealots or mini mart owners they see on TV.

English schooling systems are…

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