I thought I'd write up a bit about my new bike, because it's one hell of a bargain and not one that many people have come across. It's also rather hard to find much solid info about.
So here it is, the 2007 BeOne (B1) Nirvana 1.0. The 2007 Nirvana is a horst-link 4 bar, with the pivot below and forward of the rear dropout on the chainstay. Note that for 2008 they have gone to a linkage single pivot. I paid £350 for the frame and shock from CRC, who had it down from £700. Unfortunately they sent it with the wrong shock (Rock Shox Bar, instead of the Ario it was meant to have). However, since I wasn't going to use the RS shock anyway, I was happy with the refund for that...
Taking the frame out of the box and unpacking it the overwhelming impression is one of quality. The welding is very neat and nice beading, the paint finish is very high quality, the bearings in the suspension are smooth and there's no play. It exudes solidity... At 3.2Kg inc RS Bar (about 350g with mounting hardware), it's not light though. It's certainly heavier than the Marin Elite Monocoque (single pivot, East Peak/Mt Vision frame), equipped with a Fox Float RC, that I was riding before. In taking the Bar off the Nirvana, I discovered another bit of good attention to detail by B1 - the top shock mount, which is pretty wide, is a stainless steel single-piece mount similar to the heavy duty mounts sold by BETD and TF Tuned in the UK. Just a pity I took it straight out, but I ordered a similar mount from TF for my Fox shock. The next bit of quality that jumps out is the faced rear disc mount. During the build, there's other little details that you really appreciate - The zip-tie disc hose guides, the great finishing inside the headtube and bottom bracket, etc.
I build the bike up with the components from my previous bike where possible, with the only changes being headset (from Cane Creek S2 to FSA Orbit Z semi-integrated) and the seatpost and clamp (it uses 30.9, rather than the 27.0 of the Marin). A quick rundown on the rest of the spec: Magura Asgard 100 forks, Magura Louise/FR brakes, Magura/Hope hubs, Mavic 717 & 36 spoke DT wheel builds, SRAM X9 RD, Shimano XT M760 FD, X.0/X.9 shifters, PC991 chain and XT M760 cassette, Ritchey Pro cranks and FSA platinum BB. Built up totally as pictured the weight is dead on 13kg. You could easily build it lighter - My build is completely about long term reliable high performance, rather than lightest weight.
Once I acquired the mounting hardware, I fitted the Float RC that I had been using on the Marin, with a new DU eyelet bushing at one end (the other end was still tight and free of play). With the Float RC mounted with the lockout lever forward, the shraeder valve is partially hiding behind the rocker, making it very hard to fill the shock. Not a problem with the supplied Rockshox, and you could solve it by mounting the shock the other way around, but then the lockout lever would be between the rocker plates. I did take a dremel to the frame to cut out the cable stops to allow full-length cable housings to be threaded through. I am glad that I did, as it looks fantastic in my opinion...
Setting up the drivetrain I discovered another problem - the XT Topswing mech fouls itself on part of the frame. I never liked the topswing mech due to its tendancy to lock up after catching a stone from the rear wheel, and only used it because it was necessary on the Marin. I've ordered an X.9 conventional front mech though, so that problem will be going away.
Once on wheels, it's notable that the bottom bracket is a whole heap lower than the marin, mainly because the marin was freaky high (at about 14.5" to bb centre). This sits at about 13" which is pretty normal it seems. Once on it, it feels much better balanced - trackstanding is possible sitting down, with a low and rearward centre of gravity in the frame. Suspension action seems very linear and well damped, and unlike the single-pivot, it is barely affected by rear brake application.
Getting it out on the trail, it is very much vice-free. It turns responsively and feels confidence inspiring. There is some pedal bobbing when you mash (I'm not using a platform shock), although it feels different to that of the single speed - it seems to push the rear wheel down when you push down on the pedal, rather than pull it up as the single pivot does. I did find that it felt easier to climb, although it was very windy today, helping to push up the hill (although later on some pretty fierce headwinds). In the windy conditions something really noticeable is that it is not badly affected by huge crosswinds - compared again to the sail-like Marin Monocoque.
Getting on to some rougher downhills with some turns (nothing desperately tight though), the handling was quick and responsive. Something I did find in very tight turning was that the head angle is a little bit steep - worth noting that in B1s builds they put 5" forks on it, so that's probably the issue.
The suspension was very well controlled, although I've not yet finished getting it set up - it needs significantly lower pressure in the shock than the marin did, and much less rebound damping applied (even with lots of rebound damping wound on, coming off a bump the marin could rodeo, pushing you off the seat) - and yet it doesn't bottom out. Getting just a little bit of air I felt much more confident in the B1, with its lower and more rearward weight distribution. One thing that it really did show up on the rougher stuff though was that it was crying out for a bigger, better fork than the asgards. If it were simple to switch over (ie no crown races to deal with), I'd put my 130mm Menjas from my singlespeed on it, because I think that would be a great combo. As it is, I will pick up a pair of Menja or Laurin for it at a later date (once my bank manager will talk to me again...).
Mud clearance seems good, with plenty of room in the (disc only) frame around my 2.1" Fire XCs. Standover height is pretty good, and much more dignified to get on and off than the Marin.
Is it all good news? The marin's high bottom bracket avoided pedal strikes, and I lost three pins out of my MG1s in a single ride on the B1. With the use of lockout on the climbs, the marin was perhaps a little more efficient, but nothing like as good to ride. The 17" BeOne fits me (5'7) much better than the 17.5" Marin (which always felt tall).
To conclude, I think the B1 represents a very good trail bike for XC/enduro and places like Llandegla and Coed Y Brenin, chucking it around singletrack and berms, getting a bit of air and generally having fun. For efficiency in racing I suspect that the lighter Marin would take the crown, but I'd rather spend all day on the B1.
Technical Specs (that aren't published):
Shock: 165mm eye-to-eye
Travel: approx 100mm
Shock mountings - Top: 52mm M8, Bottom: 24mm M8
Headset: 1 1/8th semi-integrated (50mm OD, eg FSA Orbit Z)
FD: 34.9 top pull (conventional swing recommended)
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Thread: B1 Nirvana 1.0