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  1. #1
    steep fast and loose :)
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    Nicolai Helius AM - Ridden and rated !!!!

    Ridden today - 1st AM in the country [UK] - Eclectic build mix to get a ride in. Build equipment selection not finalised yet as it was thrown together with stuff lying around the workshop, but opinion so far is positive. Less stable than the FR, faster to turn, happier in it's travel and more responsive to suspension input and settings than the FR, yet almost equally as rigid.
    Full review and pics will follow, but here's a couple of pics to begin with ;-0






  2. #2
    Nightriding rules SuperModerator
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    nice!

  3. #3
    wyrd bi ful rd
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    that looks gooooood ...

    repositioned pix to level the wheels ... hope you dont mind LR ... thought the seat tube looks a bit too steep when compared to a certain other's FR then realised that the base of the wheels were not level ...

    20080802 Whafes FR MTBR FORUM.jpg
    20080802 reposition LRs bike MTBR FORUM.jpg

    a better perspective? ... slightly better but the position of the camera is not the same ...

    the head and seat tube angles for the AM looked almost the same whereas the FR has a slightly slacker head ... naturally due to its FR role ...

  4. #4
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    Nice..very nice. That camo frame is a very well painted frame.

    Since I don't believe we have a site that lists costs in US dollar, what is the price range of the AM and FR? I'm sure they are more than the high-end frames we have here due to many reasons (esp the Euro versus USD action) but I really have no idea by how much.

  5. #5
    steep fast and loose :)
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    all AM angles are 'apparently' the same as the FR, although , nobody really knows and the FR has now gone to a new home, so difficult to compare.
    however, the AM rides trail far better than the FR as it's able to use it's suspension correctly, not requiring huge square edged hits to get it moving. The FR is definitely a battleship , more poignant for uplift assisted riding, whereas the AM is rooted firmly in the trail riding category, where we spend 95% of our time riding.
    The other interesting issue, FR -v- AM, is the leverage ratio of the AM is definitely greater than that of the FR, as a consequence of extended seatstays perhaps. this lets a similar spring rated coil shock drop deeper into it's sag, therby giving the suspension a far more active feel. Without doubt, riding the AM was more similar to my 6 Pack CCDB than the FR CCDB arrangement. However, further comment will come from Dipper in due course, i expect

  6. #6
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    Looking good Dipper. I'll have to take the FR up your way in the next few weeks to compare.

  7. #7
    steep fast and loose :)
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    Paul - I think you'll be somewaht disappointed - The AM is equally as capable as the FR , but the AM rewards suspension set up and lighter riders far more than the big hitting FR.
    It has the FR's stiffness, but the AM is simply sublime, and athletic in the way it explodes out of the berms, esp. the runs on Ordiequish (sp ???).
    It steers faster, is more progressive in the mid-stroke and seems to have better mid stroke damping (even using the supplied DHX5, not even used the CCDB yet !)

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Lecht_Rocks
    the leverage ratio of the AM is definitely greater than that of the FR, as a consequence of extended seatstays perhaps. this lets a similar spring rated coil shock drop deeper into it's sag, therby giving the suspension a far more active feel. Without doubt, riding the AM was more similar to my 6 Pack CCDB than the FR CCDB arrangement. However, further comment will come from Dipper in due course, i expect
    Interesting.. the sag on my CCDB FR is 33-36% dependant on preload and its super super active... the tinyest pebble or round root seems to get sucked up. Not sure u had the right spring on the FR and or too much preload?

    looks very nice btw.. does it have better standover clearance that the FR?

  9. #9
    lazy piston
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    Hey The_Lecht_Rocks, thanks for the pics and the review!

    One question though: are you comparing the AM to the '08 FR or to an earlier version? I'm asking this because I read somewhere that the AM is very much like the '07 FR and it filled the niche that got empty when the FR was beefed up and rated for more freeride stuff for '08.

  10. #10
    steep fast and loose :)
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    c/f the 08 FR

  11. #11
    "Its All Good"
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    Mmmm, great stuff, look forward to hearing more as ride time progresses.... It should for sure be far snappier for want of a better word than the FR....

    Looks very good indeed...
    The_Lecht_Rocks: whafe - cheeers - may i offer an official apology for the wagon wheeler "dis-belief"

  12. #12
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    Got a bit more time in on the AM today and i'm very impressed. Still waiting on some parts so not in it's final spec yet(not that it'll ever have a 'final' spec!). Fitment of the CCDB is delayed as I specced it for the FR and the rear bush size is different. Currently fitted with a DHX C. Also, not quite sure which fork I'll be going with so I've fitted a newly serviced set of 2005 Talas RC2's.

    All up weight is currently 33.odd lb. I suspect with an air shock, lighter wheels and brakes then sub 32lb should be easily doable but any lighter and I think you'd be doing it an injustice. It's so much more bike than most AM type bikes I've ridden. Probably more how I excpected the 08 FR to be to be honest.

    The biggest revelation so far has nothing to do with the frame. The temporary 2005 talas fork is just stunning! I've ridden pretty much every 36 fork from the last few years and have never been a fan of the Talas. this one was a trade in that I sent of to Mojo for a service. No idea what all they did bt it's the best talas and probably the best 36 fork i've ridden. Will be trying some 09's next week as a comparison.

    Comparing the AM to my previous 08 FR is the obvious thing to do but theres a few subtle differences in spec that make this hard to quantify. The FR was a large, 50mm stem, Roco TST and 160mm Van RC2. The AM is a medium, 70mm stem, DHX-C and 150mm Talas.

    I loved the FR but have to admit that I was over biked most(if not all) of the time. It pedalled great so still worked as an all rounder but the AM has a few more tricks up it's sleeve that suit me and my riding better.

    There's 2 minor issues with the FR when compared with the AM when looking at them from a trail bike perspective. The FR was hugely stable, to the point that it required a fair bit of muscle to turn quickly. This may be the frame size but the AM is much quicker to turn and changes line far easier. Also the action on the rear shock appears different to the AM. The FR needs a lighter spring and more sag than the AM to feel the same level of plushness. This may be down to the different shocks but more than likely it's the intended uses. The FR is a big hit bike and needs to be more supportive in it's stroke to prevent blowing through the travel and bottoming out. The AM can get away with being that bit softer feeling.

    I'll post more once I've got more miles in but so far I reckon it's exactly the type of bike i need for 90% of my riding.

  13. #13
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    Hi Dipper, interesting! thanks for the report. Sounds like Mojo have put in the new damping
    for you in the Fox 36. I've been intending to do the same with my 05 Fox 36's( which are
    currently fitted to an Evil HT) and this is encouraging news that they are a big improvement.
    Regarding weight I would have thought you should be able to get the weight to below 32lb
    even with the CCDB, after all Whafes 08 FR weighs 33lb, I believe, with CCDB?

  14. #14
    steep fast and loose :)
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    i must admit, in a dog-fight yesterday between the 6 pack and the helius AM, the difference was my seat angle is slacker than the helius' and hence it climbed less well.
    climbing in this part of the world (north scotland) is a necessary evil, hence the interest in the AM from my perspective.
    however, running the DHX C versus my pack's shod CCDB demonstrated the difference between shocks. the ccdb is simply brilliantly damped and can control the mid stroke blow through of the 6 Pack perfectly. the DHX C however lacks the CCDB's finnesse, suffering from over sped rebound and a more distanced trail feel. but the stiffness of the AM frame and it's speed of turn in combined with it's ability to power out of the berms is simply stunning. i look forward to it being fitted with a matching wheelset (rear ran a 2.25" nob nic - unfair choice for the bike), the new 2009 TALAS R and the CCDB with the correct spring rate for me ! then we really will have a comparitive test, whereby i expect the AM will smoke the 6 Pack in every circumstance ! it's simply so well built, and so structurally sound, that I reckon Nicolai have taken the 160mm (+ ?) trail bike into new territory.

  15. #15
    steep fast and loose :)
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    fwiw, both bikes are similarly specified, (other than wheelset , Van 36 on 6 Pack, TALAS 36 on AM and shock choice) and both weigh in around the 33.2lb mark.

  16. #16
    "Its All Good"
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    ryates - yes I could get my FR down slightly in weight by whipping the tubes out and going tubeless, but the amount of travel that the bike does, no tubes can be a bit of a mess...

    I am really enjoying hearing these very good thoughts and comparisons re the Helius AM... The 08 Helius FR is a freak of nature bike wise, it is sure sounding that the Helius AM is a freak of nature as well.... All great stuff... Nicolai, you guys rock... Its all about the attention to detail and true functional art.....
    The_Lecht_Rocks: whafe - cheeers - may i offer an official apology for the wagon wheeler "dis-belief"

  17. #17
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    I'm saving my pennies - thanks for the test ride report!

  18. #18
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    How nice!
    I'm still waiting for my 09 Magura Wotan, which will arrive on Nov. or Oct.
    And my Industry Nine wheelset is coming in EIGHT WEEKS!
    I really want to ride on my AM asap.

  19. #19
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    Looks very purposeful so far...nice brakes too.

  20. #20
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    Looks good and great to see all this feed back.
    My 2008 FR is about the same weight as Whafe's at 33lbs using a DHX4 Coil shock as said above it could be made lighter but at the lost of all road usage its not worth it. Its a big bike for big fun and games and that's what it gets.
    Nicolai Bikes in the South of England head to..
    http://www.head-for-the-hills.co.uk

  21. #21
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    33lbs seems to be about the lowest sensible weight for the current FR frame, agreed. Before 08 the FR frame was about a pound lighter, so 32lb is achievable with the old anodised frame. So the current AM should come in under these weights even with a strong build. I reckon that the target weight for the AM could be 31lb without using weak stuff.

  22. #22
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    called Mojo today to see what magic they'd worked with the Talas RC2. turns out they fitted the new 09 bladder as part of the service. If you have a talas fork my advice would be to get it in for a service whether it needs it or not. As stated earlier, I've never been a fan of the talas but these reworked 05's rock. Not sure if you'd get the same benefits on floats and vans but it's worth asking mojo.

  23. #23
    Nightriding rules SuperModerator
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    Quote Originally Posted by dipper
    called Mojo today to see what magic they'd worked with the Talas RC2. turns out they fitted the new 09 bladder as part of the service. If you have a talas fork my advice would be to get it in for a service whether it needs it or not. As stated earlier, I've never been a fan of the talas but these reworked 05's rock. Not sure if you'd get the same benefits on floats and vans but it's worth asking mojo.

    that sounds cool..I am happy with my 07 talas 36R, but I could send them to the UK for an 09 upgrade

  24. #24
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    The Lecht Rocks - does this mean you will be chopping in the 6-Pack for an AM?? I'm assuming you are on a med 6-Pack - if so, how do you find the med AM as I think the top-tube is quite a bit shorter?

  25. #25
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    My custom painted 05/06 Talas 36's where nice for the 1st 3 months then started getting pack down ! Make the bike feel very odd on the longer faster down hill section. These for where 1st used Jan 2008. They have been back to Mojo and not much was found but when they came back they where better for about 3 weeks but the day I fell off they had started to feel funny again. Now been out after a long time away from the bike and they are defo no good so long chat with the ever helpful Mojo and they are off to be turned in to 08/09 Floats as I never use the Talas so not point in keeping it.
    Not sure if I should have them upgrade me to run the RC2 setup ?
    So from what im reading happy days are ahead and I wish I had done them during the 5 weeks the bike was not being used !!
    Nicolai Bikes in the South of England head to..
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  26. #26
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    Hey guy's great post on AM can't wait to get mine. My 08 FR weigh's in at 31.6 pounds so i am hoping a under 30 pound AM.

    My AM should be here in a couple of weeks. Ryates my build on my 08 FR is pretty durable where we ride is pretty technical. But i have to say i am not dropping anything huge though. Whafe has rode with us like to see what he has to say it compares to where he has been riding.

  27. #27
    "Its All Good"
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    ncig's riding area is pretty sweet in my book, you can go as big as you like, and I mean BIG... But it is a very technical area in my opinion, really short steep climbs up rocks etc, and the many hucks to flat.... But yes the FR would be perfect, as would an AM, as would a HT fully rigid....

    It is exciting to read these views on this AM... But with my FR weighing 33lbs with tubes and a pretty bombproof build, I am more than happy with it.... In saying that, just maybe the AM could take the same punishment, am not sure though.... I would want it to be around 30 lbs for me to crack wood and want to get rid of the FR... As I have said like a worn out record, the 08 FR is a freak of nature... A lot like a 911.....

    But still, it is great to be reading reports of the AM. Bring them on, along with stacks of pictures...
    The_Lecht_Rocks: whafe - cheeers - may i offer an official apology for the wagon wheeler "dis-belief"

  28. #28
    steep fast and loose :)
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    now starting to take specification changes - note the addition of the CCDB and 2009 TALAS 36's.




  29. #29
    "Its All Good"
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    Keen to hear how the 09 Talas runs, pretty good report on the upgraded 36 that was on there previously....

    ANd hey, least you know the CCDB will be the ducks nuts.....
    The_Lecht_Rocks: whafe - cheeers - may i offer an official apology for the wagon wheeler "dis-belief"

  30. #30
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    Well I know the 09 'IS' the ducks-nuts and is better the 08, which is the lambs-lugs...he he he. Have'nt seen the internals yet.

  31. #31
    steep fast and loose :)
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    heihei - i ride a large 6 pack, 70mm X4 Thomson and it's perfect. The medium AM is too short for me so I'd need a large or custom top tube

  32. #32
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    I like the colour scheme, it looks familiar


    Needs black forks though

    On the subject of which, the AM looks better ballanced with the new forks, are they longer than the ones that were on it before?
    A quick spin on Yetimans FR had me commenting that the Fox forks on it were too short it's now the total bolx with the Totems

    Custom geometry - this 2004 Nukey was designed for the 170mm Sherman forks and has a longer top tube and a steeper seat angle than standard. It works for me
    Last edited by thepimpmessiah; 08-07-2008 at 12:22 AM.

  33. #33
    steep fast and loose :)
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    looks like the top of green hill @ pitfichie pimpmessiah ! ? !

  34. #34
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    Slightly off-topic here, but how do you cope with hike-a-bikes with the shock mounted under the top tube? Just grab it by the saddle and bars and carry it across the back of your shoulders?

  35. #35
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    stymie - personally it's very rare that I'm in a 'hike a bike' situation but yes when I have with these types of bike I put the whole thing on my back.

    pimpmessiah - Pauls told me about your bike. didn't realise it was the same colour scheme. Wouldn't mind a look at it some day.

    I was a bit concerned by the height of the front with the taller forks but it was spot on. never needed to wind them down at all. Looks like I'll probably settle on a Van RC2....or maybe a float RC2. vans because they're coil and black, or float because they're light and white?....oooh it's a tough choice!

    having never been a talas fan I'm hugely impressed with these 09's.(other than the silver clashing with my bronze frame). These are the R versions and low speed comp damping is light years ahead of previous incarnations and they don't bang through the travel either. They ramp up towards the end of stroke much like floats do. As I found with my old 05's, much of the improvements are retrofittable to older models and are well worth it in my opinion.

    Not much to say about the CCDB yet other than to say it's easy to make a hash of it! It started out feeling not too bad but in need of some tweaking. By the end o the first run it was a mess so back to standard settings and one adjustment at a time from now on.

    Bike now weighs bang on 33lb. You can save 1.5lb with an air shock and maybe 0.5lb with new brakes but I really can't see how you could realistically make a 30lb bike out of it without making it ride like a dogs dinner.The 2.25 NN UST's feel well under tyred for the bike. I'll be fitting 2.4's and wider rims shortly

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Lecht_Rocks
    looks like the top of green hill @ pitfichie pimpmessiah ! ? !
    ... somewhere far more exciting

    Quote Originally Posted by stymie
    Slightly off-topic here, but how do you cope with hike-a-bikes with the shock mounted under the top tube? Just grab it by the saddle and bars and carry it across the back of your shoulders?
    Shoulder under the top tube works best on bits you can cycle, when the going gets steep and bouldary you need to get the bike up on your back to prevent the wheels bashing off the rocks. The downside of this is that if you slip you have to let the bike go and hope it's ok while you save yourself
    No bike is easy to carry in these situations so you may as well get the one that works the best


  37. #37
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    Great photo messiah. Great riding as well.

    Dipper - I agree with you about the weight issues. I see no need to try and bring the AM down to 30lbs or under as it will definitely be compromising the ability of the bike. Why buy a heavy AM frame then try and build it light? A bike with close to 170mm of travel needs to be built to handle that kind of performance. Van RC2 + CCDB seems like a good choice.
    I'd like to try the Talas forks with new internals before you swap as I've yet to try an air fork that I like.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by yetiman71
    Great photo messiah. Great riding as well.
    Yeah, we got some great pictures from the climb and none from the descent

    Who wants to stop and piss about with a camera* when your having that much fun







    * or shock settings

  39. #39
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    Thanks for that dipper and pimpmessiah! Also, awesome pic pimpmessiah - the monochrome really adds to the mood

  40. #40
    steep fast and loose :)
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    more stoke :



    the cane creek however affects the AM's excellent stroke / leverage ratio and mid-stroke bump sensitivity control.
    Essentially, the CCDB damping circuits are wasted on the AM, so good is the linkage and leverage / stroke ratio. The bike , although running the correct sag seems reluctant to let into it's deepest travel, restricting movement throughout the mid-stroke and returning a harsh un-responsive ride and not a lot of feedback. Perhaps a further 100# reduction in spring rate will help, eh Dipper ?
    i reckon a DHX Air or reluctantly a RP23 is the natural choice for the AM. The RS Monarch seems cursed with problems reading the MTBR Shock & Suspension board.
    note also that the top tube length of the AM seems short for frame size. Medium frames with a 70mm stem have a star-nut centre to saddle nose (at farthest rear) of 420mm !!! Very short imo.
    However, usual Nicolai build qualities and attention to detail is superb, and realistically, this frameset could be built into a 30lb trail tamer without sacrificing strength or durabilty, as long as you have the 's.
    All in all, until the shock is resolved, judgement is reserved.

  41. #41
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    Lecht Rocks, what's your rider weight and spring rate? I am 190lbs/450 on old FR and will
    probably use 350 when I switch CCDB to Helius CC.

    What damping settings are you using?

  42. #42
    steep fast and loose :)
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    ryates - way too much spring rate ion the AM CCDB - 550# and it's OTT ! even though that gave 30% sag ! ? !
    CCDB is over-necessary on the AM.
    DHX 5.0 Air for me I reckon

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Lecht_Rocks
    ryates - way too much spring rate ion the AM CCDB - 550# and it's OTT ! even though that gave 30% sag ! ? !
    CCDB is over-necessary on the AM.
    DHX 5.0 Air for me I reckon
    What about easing off the high and low speed compression? Also if it s a bit harsh it might be that your rebound is a bit fast. You should be able to make the CCDB feel like whatever you want?

  44. #44
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    I took a pic of my AM at the shop couple days ago.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  45. #45
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    Wow - looks great! Please post some more pics when this ride is built up.

  46. #46
    steep fast and loose :)
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    HostilityLin - What shock are you proposing to use ?

    Thanks.

  47. #47
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    Holy gold bits batman!

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Lecht_Rocks
    HostilityLin - What shock are you proposing to use ?

    Thanks.
    CCDB, but I don't know the spring rate because I didn't open the box then.
    As you post, the CCDB might not be the best choice for AM, I'll try it anyway.

  49. #49
    steep fast and loose :)
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    mine is now ordered.
    ano black, white graphics, to run an 09 Fox 36 Float RC2 and a DHX-Air (initially).

  50. #50
    steep fast and loose :)
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    got another few hours in on Dipper's AM yesterday.
    now i'm a huge fan of coil shocks, having recently ridden Fox's Vanilla DHX 5.0 (+ PUSH kit), Zocchi ROCO TSTR, and of course my Cane Creek Double Barrel all fitted to the Pack.
    The AM was fitted with Fox's 2008 RP23. I wasn't expecting much, other than a considerable weight saving, even though Dipper had suggested it rode better, as he'd not enough time to set up the CCDB.
    So I headed up to Dipper's local woods up in NE Scotland. There's a mixture of long dragging climbs, erected shore and drops, steeps and fast man-made singletrack with 6' berms and the usual fire-road inter-sections.
    initially, the bike felt lighter out of the car. On the first climb which takes you to the very top, I was impressed with the goat like ability for climbing. No bob whatsoever and a firm and planted tracking rear end. I suspected the preload air pressure was too much. The steeper seat angle of the AM c/f the FR helps on the climbs dramatically, and my only criticism is that Dipper's AM is a medium and I need a large which put too much of my weight over the front, as I was constantly edging over the rear of the seat, even at farthest rear position.
    The fork remained at 160mm throughout the day - never once was there a need to drop it to 130mm as the geom @ 160mm on the 2009 36 Fox is perfect. I think the a2c is 545mm - can anyone confirm as I know Nicolai design around Rock Shox, and for the AM the Lyrik.
    Anyway, once the trail got pointy downwards, things were perceptible. The bike was taught. It's got SO much feedback. It doesn't wallow, it doesn't sag. It points and fires out of corners, and it does it all without you realising it's working. It's subtle and it's brilliant.
    It doesn't blow through the mid stroke , remaining incredibly controlled throughout it's full stroke. The fork geometry is bang on, matching the RP23 with the TALAS is a master stroke - They gel together, in synchronicity. Suffice to say i am impressed. It's a taut, fast, rock gobbling mountain goat.
    It works best with the RP23. Wonder what the Monarch is like ? Dipper, perhaps my option if the DHX Air is unavailable.
    It is unfazed climbing @ 160mm.
    It is rock solid on big drops and there is absolutely NO flex apparent (12mm BT @ the rear on Dipper's demo).
    But the most impressive thing is there is so much feedback as a result of it's lateral stiffness, and it gets to the bottom of the trail without you realising how much work it's done for you, all without wallow and un-responsiveness.
    It's a revelation, and I want one NOW !

    For reference, I'm 82kg and the TALAS 36 was finally preloaded @ 55psi, the RP23 finally preloaded at 185psi.
    I'm 6' tall, 34" inseam and long arms, the frame is a medium (I'd need a large) and was running a 70mm 5 deg stem on CNT DH's @ 711mm wide. Inline post with saddle @ rearmost position. 175mm cranks.
    It deserves Kenda 2.35" tyres width on suitably strong rims, and warrants the strongest , lightest build you can give it.

    Simon.

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