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  1. #1
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    My old-school '99 Specialized FSR DH (MAX Backbone) Build...(long)

    Thought i'd start up a little build thread for the '99 FSR DH frame I recently acquired from a fellow MTBR member (Thanks RodH!). Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's my old-age showing through (i'm 36), but I have an affinity for some of the older bikes (not that I wouldn't LOVE to have a 2010 SX Trail II ).

    Anyway, this all starts back in '98 when I went in to my LBS back in Baltimore, MD. Went in looking to upgrade to a full-suspension bike (rode hardtails and even rigid forks since high school, later upgrading to the first Rock Shox fork - the RS-1) and came outta there with a '98 FSR Comp (with the China-built welded frameset). I REALLY wanted the red FSR Elite that sat next to it (with the USA-built Extruded aluminum MAX Backbone frameset) but I just couldn't afford it at the time. Anyway, I rode the piss outta that FSR Comp back then, did some slight upgrades and then over time stopped riding due to my increasing levels of responsibility. Fast forward to this past year...just a few months ago, when I finally dusted off the bike and decided to go riding again with some co-workers. Here's what the old FSR Comp looked like after dusting her off:


    The Comp was pretty much bone stock except for me stripping and polishing the frame, a Chris King Headset, some Syncros riser bars, Oury grips, and a set of Race Face Turbine cranks...all of which were done before I stopped riding back in '98-'99. After that first ride though, while I realized how much I missed MTBing...I also realized that my equipment just wasn't really up to snuff anymore. The old Judy XLC fork was shot...leaking oil and bottoming out on even smallish bumps, etc, as was the old Rock Shox Deluxe rear shock. I thought about buying a new bike, but didn't want to go out and blow $3K on a new bike. My pregnant wife would slaughter me if I came back with a new bike in this economy. LOL. So, I set out to upgrade my old FSR...on a budget. Wanted some beefier, longer travel forks and a new rear shock for sure, and it all kinda snowballed from there. Ended up with a freshly rebuilt '04 Marzocchi Junior T (Super T internals) w/ direct mount stem, a Fox Vanilla R shock, Race Face Evolve DH handlebars (needed to upgrade to an oversize bar because of the forks) and a set of Race Face Diabolus cranks. I got great deals on most of the stuff since it was bought off of eBay with the exception of the cranks. For the cranks, I did a direct swap with a coworker for my older Race Face Turbines. I wanted beefier cranks and he wanted a lighter crankset so it worked out perfectly. I rode it like that for a bit before tacoing the front wheel in a crash, after which I ended up buying a Mavic Deetrax wheelset on clearance and upgrading the rear suspension with a Risse Racing Hex Link. Here's what she looked like after the upgrades and new wheels (with wire-bead Stick-E 2.35 Kenda Nevegals mounted):



    At that point, I thought I was done with upgrades on the bike, but after the Risse Hex Link I wanted more out of the rear suspension. I wanted a longer rear shock to better match the 170mm travel of my front fork. I was running a NOS 6.5" i2i Vanilla R that I got a smoking deal on, but I figured I should be able to run a 7.5" i2i shock with the Risse Hex Link. So, I started scouring eBay for shocks again and came up on a used 7.5x2.0 '05 Fox DHX 5.0 that I got for a great price. Wasn't sure if the large reservoir on the 5.0 would fit on my frame (I figured it might if I reverse-mounted it), but I bought it anyway...the price was just too good to pass up. Of course, it didn't fit the space in the FSR Comp frame AT ALL because of the reservoir. Doh! But then I remembered seeing pics of the MAX Backbone frames with reservoir shocks like the Fox Vanilla RC mounted and figured the DHX 5.0 would probably fit on that frame as well. Besides, the MAX Backbone FSR was the bike I really wanted back in the day anyway, and the extruded aluminum MAX frame is probably better suited to the AM/light DH/FR riding i'm doing these days so it was a perfect idea. And so began the search for a MAX Backbone frame.

    Luckily, that search didn't take too long. A couple of posts and PM's here on MTBR and I had a line on a couple of MAX frames for sale. I settled on a '99 FSR DH frame because of the added gusseting Specialized added to the head tube for the '99 DH. I figured the added gusseting would definitely be needed with the taller fork I was going to run this frame with. Here's a pic of the frame as it was when I got it from a fellow MTBR member:



    After driving about 85+ miles roundtrip to go pick the frame up, I got to work stripping the paint right away. Felt kinda bad because the frame had been recently re-painted (hadn't even been built or ridden since the repaint), but oh well...wasn't really a fan of the paint scheme. Anyway, looks as thought the red/black paint scheme was spray canned over the factory powder coat. Using my usual brands of paint stripper, the red/black spray paint came off easy. The powder coat...not so much. Had to step it up to something more caustic to get through the resilient powder coat. Ended up with some Tal Strip II Aircraft stripper. Brushed it on THICK, let it sit for 30-40 minutes, waited for the powder coat to bubble, then scraped off with a plastic scraper and rinsed with water. Repeated this process till it was all gone (kind of a messy PITA!) then gave the complete frame a good rubdown with some Scotchbrite pads. Here's what I ended up with:



    Just for fitment purposes, I mounted up the rear triangle and test fitted the Fox DHX to the frame (with the stock link since the Hex Link is still on my FSR Comp for now):


    The DHX fits perfectly and should be even better with the Risse Hex Link. Next, I need to drill out all of the cable stops (I want to run full cable housings for the brakes and shifters), and figure out what I want to do about color for the frame. I was considering polishing this frame like I did with the Comp, but now i'm leaning more towards painting it a matte gunmetal color with black/white outline "FSR" and "Specialized" decals. After that's settled, it'll be time to swap over all the components from the Comp to the new MAX DH frame and upgrade to a rear disc brake as well (the new frame came with an A2Z rear disc adapter). Anyway, stay tuned. I'll update this thread as the work progresses...

    Alvin Caragay
    Hermosa Beach, CA
    Last edited by atchipmunk; 11-09-2009 at 04:58 PM.

  2. #2
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    Alvin, a couple of ?? Is that a second upper mounting point for the shock?
    What did you use for the mounting hardware for the Dhx? I hope that makes sense.
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

  3. #3
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    Skip...Yes, there are 2 sets of mounting holes on this frame. Not sure if that was just a function of the '99 DH frames, or if a previous owner added a set of holes, but when I got the frame from RodH it had 2 sets of holes. For the DHX, I have to use the upper holes because of the size of the spring, etc. The spring perch will foul on the frame otherwise.
    As for mounting hardware for the DHX, I used the same hardware that came with the frame and the Manitou shock that was on it. The bushings from the Manitou shock fit the DHX and it simply bolted in place with the smae hardware. When I actually swap parts from my FSR Comp, i'll have to use the rear shock bushings from the Vanilla R because they are sized right to fit with the Risse Hex Link (I cut the bushings that came with the shock originally to fit). Hope that answers your questions. If you have any more, let me know...

    Alvin

  4. #4
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    My frame is exactly like your's accept I don't have the extra mounting holes. Like you said maybe the previous owner drilled them. Seriously considering a Fox shock, a Van or Dhx, maybe that could be my christmas gift from my darling wife. Thanx Alvin, I'm sure I'll have a question or 2 come to mind as I go along here.
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by skip canfield
    My frame is exactly like your's accept I don't have the extra mounting holes. Like you said maybe the previous owner drilled them. Seriously considering a Fox shock, a Van or Dhx, maybe that could be my christmas gift from my darling wife. Thanx Alvin, I'm sure I'll have a question or 2 come to mind as I go along here.
    Skip...what year is your frame again? I just wasn't sure if maybe the '99's had these extra holes in them since I haven't been able to find too many people with '99's and I know they made some changes for the '99 DH frames like the added upper gusseting at the head tube. On your frame, which holes are the only ones you have? The upper or lower set? If they were drilled by a previous owner they must have been done with a drill press because I tested both sets of holes and they are both straight and in perfect alignment so they definitely weren't done by hand. Hopefully, I can get this bike together soon and can share my thoughts on the DHX on this frame with the Risse Link. That way, you can make a more educated decision if you want to go the DHX route...

    BTW...what spring rate are you running on the rear of your bike (this is also an open question to any other MAX Backbone frame owners out there)? Wondering what setup others are using so I know general ballpark if one of the springs my DHX came with will work. It came with a 550#, a 600# and a 650# spring and i'm about 195lbs...

  6. #6
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    I believe it's a 99, looks just like yours w/o the extra holes. I have the lower set of holes and gussets top & bottom. You know though, I can't be 100% certain it's a 99 because I was givien this frame as a gift, Fathers Day "07". My family purchased it from Kevin Risse.
    I talked to him about it later and he said "99". As far as spring rate, I am running one of Risse's air shocks, the Astro-5.
    I think if it was me,I would start with the 600# spring and go from there. Hope this helps.
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by skip canfield
    I believe it's a 99, looks just like yours w/o the extra holes. I have the lower set of holes and gussets top & bottom. You know though, I can't be 100% certain it's a 99 because I was givien this frame as a gift, Fathers Day "07". My family purchased it from Kevin Risse.
    I talked to him about it later and he said "99". As far as spring rate, I am running one of Risse's air shocks, the Astro-5.
    I think if it was me,I would start with the 600# spring and go from there. Hope this helps.
    Ah, yes...forgot you were running A Risse air shock. That was exactly my thinking...I have the 600# on there for now. Figure i'll test it with that spring once I get it all together and can change it from there as needed.
    My stock FSR Comp came with a 700# spring on it and it felt somewhat soft, but I believe the leverage ratio on the welded, non-MAX frames is a bit higher. Just thought i'd ask for some input from people running this frame.

    As for your frame, from what I gather only the '99's had the additional gusseting so yours must be a '99 as well. Yours is Cosmic in color, right? Anyway, Thanks again.

    Alvin

  8. #8
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    I was hoping it was a "99", as far as color, I think Risse had it powdercoated and they were calling it "city lights", whole lotta metal flake in it and it also changes color in sun light. 3 distinctive colors, rootbeer, cool green, deep purple. It looks black when it's in the house. Anytime and Thank you.
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by skip canfield
    I believe it's a 99, looks just like yours w/o the extra holes. I have the lower set of holes and gussets top & bottom. You know though, I can't be 100% certain it's a 99 because I was givien this frame as a gift, Fathers Day "07". My family purchased it from Kevin Risse.
    I talked to him about it later and he said "99". As far as spring rate, I am running one of Risse's air shocks, the Astro-5.
    I think if it was me,I would start with the 600# spring and go from there. Hope this helps.
    Bikepedia.com doesn't even list the "'99 Specialized FSR DH," but the '99 Stumperjumper appears to be the same frame with the extra hole:

    http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/B...0524&Type=bike

    The straight-up FSR does not appear to have them:

    http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/B...4879&Type=bike

    Regardless, I think your project is quite cool!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by SurfSailRide
    Bikepedia.com doesn't even list the "'99 Specialized FSR DH," but the '99 Stumperjumper appears to be the same frame with the extra hole:

    http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/B...0524&Type=bike

    The straight-up FSR does not appear to have them:

    http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/B...4879&Type=bike

    Regardless, I think your project is quite cool!
    Neither of those frames are of the Max Backbone flavor.
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by SurfSailRide
    Bikepedia.com doesn't even list the "'99 Specialized FSR DH," but the '99 Stumperjumper appears to be the same frame with the extra hole:

    http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/B...0524&Type=bike

    The straight-up FSR does not appear to have them:

    http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/B...4879&Type=bike

    Regardless, I think your project is quite cool!
    Thanks SurfSailRide...but as Skip already pointed out, neither of those bikes utilize the MAX backbone frame. The second link you posted is actually my current bike...the Ground Control FSR Comp pictured earlier in this thread. The main difference between that frame an d the MAX frame is that the MAX frame was made in the USA featuring extruded aluminum for the frame where the other frame is China made using regular welded aluminum tubing. The Extruded MAX frame is supposed to be stronger and beefier than the China made Comp frame, hence the reason for this whole little "build".

    I looked on bikepedia as well before and didn't find the FSR DH listed either. In fact, I've found very little even when scouring the internet about the FSR DH aside from a couple of small, grainy pics, etc. Not too much seems to have been documented about these frames...or the info just isn't available anymore.

    So anyway...for updates...

    I decided to just spray paint the frame for now and settled on going with a gunmetal color. I'd really like to get it powdercoated for a more durable finish, but I don't want to spend the $$ right now for it and am kinda anxious to get the bike together so i can ride it.
    Before getting to paint, etc though, I drilled out all of the cable guides since I am going to run full cable housings on all of the cables. After that it was time for paint.
    Here's the cans of primer and paints I used:


    I cleaned up the frame first, blew off any dust, etc and sprayed a few coats of sandable primer:


    After the primer coats were done and dried, I wet sanded any rough spots or imperfections then laid down some primer sealer:


    After the primer sealer was dried, I again wet sanded any imperfections and laid down the color coat. Here's the frame after I sprayed the 3rd coat of color:

    And a closeup of the color itself:


    Next up is some clear coat to add a bit of protection for the paint, but I want a satin or matte finish. Still trying to find a spray can matte or satin clear, but if I can't find one i'm thinking about spraying a regular gloss clear then sanding that with 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper to achieve the matte look. Anyway, that's all for now. Will update more as work progresses...

  12. #12
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    Lookin good Alvin. You puttin stickers/decals on it? I'm curious to see it finished.
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

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    Thanks Skip. Yeah, definitely want to put decals on it. Thinking about putting "Specialized" Stickers on the side of the main tube in black w/ white or silver outline and "FSR" stickers on the sides of the seat tube section in the same color scheme (Black w/ white or silver outline). Just want to kinda replicate the stock stickers but in a different color scheme. Just need to find someone that has a vinyl cutter that can make me some vinyl cut stickers in the colors I need. Also want to test and see if I can clear coat over the stickers as well without them pulling up, etc.
    Anyone know and good decal/sign people or places that might already have the Specialized and FSR logos on file? I know I can go to any of the local sign and graphics shops and have them make them, and i'm willing to do that. The problem is the logos themselves. The Specialized logo is no big deal...can get them all over the internet, but I'm having a hard time finding a clean shot of the actual "FSR" logo...

  14. #14
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    Hey Alvin, you could really go custom and find someone GOOD with an airbrush and have "Specialized" and "FSR" painted on in the colors you wanted. Then you could spray some clear over that.
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

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    Yeah, I considered actually painting the logos on as well, but I figured i'd have to have some stencils cut of the logos and apply the colors using the stencils. I determined that it was a little more work than I wanted to spend on the logos and I think I can achieve a similar result with clearing over vinyl. I've "heard" you can do it...just never tried it myself. Never thought about having it airbrushed though. Hmm...
    Too bad I don't still live back East...have an old friend back there that is really good with an airbrush and has a vinyl cutter, etc for making stencils. He actually custom airbushes helmets for racers (car and motorcycle mostly) and i'm sure he'd cut me a really good deal...

    Anyway, I just found some satin and flat clear coat. Gonna do some test panels with the two to see how different they are and decide which one i'm gonna go with for the frame...

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    Great, detailed write up, and nice work on the frame.

    So, at this point, are you money ahead or money behind? How about ride time?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Val Garou
    Great, detailed write up, and nice work on the frame.

    So, at this point, are you money ahead or money behind? How about ride time?
    Thanks Val. Money ahead or money behind? Not sure what you mean. Please explain...

    Alvin

  18. #18
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    What's the word? Build coming along ok? How bout your stencile/decal quest? Kinda curious to see it all done. CHEERS!
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skip canfield
    What's the word? Build coming along ok? How bout your stencile/decal quest? Kinda curious to see it all done. CHEERS!
    Well, I found someone to make the decals. I'm just trying to replicate the FSR logo in Adobe Illustrator so I can get them made. Also, the paints I'm using for the frame are acrylic which unfortunately takes a LONG time to dry completely. It dries to the touch pretty quickly but takes a long time to fully harden. Trust me, no one wants to see it finished more than I do. LOL. I'll definitely update this thread as things progress...

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    Alvin, Looks good. Glad you sent me the link on my text, I didn't even know you were doing this thread.

    II must say, that FOX shock looks BAD A!!!!! So let me get this straight, you have the Fox DHx, Fox vanilla, blown RS Deluxe and the Manitou? Geez, that is crazy. I wonder how the Manitou performs compared to the Dhx or Vanilla (as you know, I never got to rid it).

    My bike now is set up with the Vanilla Rx 5.625 travel mode (with the BETD link) middle setting and I use a 950# spring and I weigh 185-190. Hope that helps.

    I know this may sound stupid, but I think this FSR frame and the old Intense frames are the most attractive FS frames ever made. And I really don't think the newer designs are any better performing. I am totally (re)digging my FSR and new frames don't tempt me one bit. The technology that was put into that MAX frame is so much better than a typical pipe welded frame, if I went with one of the new frames I honestly think I would be going backwards when considering construction techniques and technology.

  21. #21
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    I think the FSR Max frames are the shizzle. I'm not changing anytime soon.
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

  22. #22
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    Skip, if you look at the serial number under the BB, it will give you a series of numbers, the first 2 numbers are the model year.

    Quote Originally Posted by skip canfield
    I believe it's a 99, looks just like yours w/o the extra holes. I have the lower set of holes and gussets top & bottom. You know though, I can't be 100% certain it's a 99 because I was givien this frame as a gift, Fathers Day "07". My family purchased it from Kevin Risse.
    I talked to him about it later and he said "99". As far as spring rate, I am running one of Risse's air shocks, the Astro-5.
    I think if it was me,I would start with the 600# spring and go from there. Hope this helps.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodH
    Skip, if you look at the serial number under the BB, it will give you a series of numbers, the first 2 numbers are the model year.
    Hey rod, because of the powdercoating I can't see the numbers.But my frame looks just like that one Alvin got from you..
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride, she fights MMA.

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    Heh. Yup...got the DHX, the Manitou, The Vanilla R, and the old blown RS Deluxe. The Vanilla R is currently on the FSR Comp and will probably stay there. Perhaps sometime down the road, i'll scrounge enough components together to put that frame to use as a spare or a second, more XC oriented bike. I dunno...we'll see...
    I do definitely plan on trying out the Max frame with both the Manitou and the DHX shocks though...just for comparison sake. Curious how different they'll feel.

    As for updates, I finished up the vector graphics for the "FSR" and "DH" logos today with some work in Adobe Illustrator and found suitable vector images of the "Specialized" and "S" logos. I've been trading emails with a couple of possible sources to have the decals I need made so hopefully soon i'll be able to get them onto the frame and can lay down the clear. I'm really itching to get this frame finished so I can get the bike together and ride it...

    And yes...I definitely agree with both of you. These frames were ahead of their time. I love the look and build quality of these frames and look forward to riding this thing for some time...
    Would I take a new SX Trail or Demo 8? Of course I would! But it wouldn't replace this bike, nor would I ever get rid of this thing. I Love it!

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    The guy i'm working with for the custom decals (a fellow member here on MTBR ) sent me the proofs for the final artwork for the decals today. Here's how they should look:

    Unfortunately, it's gonna take 7-10 days before the decals are done so it'll be a little bit before the frame is done. Dammit. I just wanna get this thing done already!

    Alvin

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