Finally, the build was completed (sort of) and I have a few good rides in. Since ordering the ML Exogrid I've really wanted to see how it would compare with the now departed Hammerhead. But my comments on the ride will have to wait. Just like I did, as little went as planned because getting the build done ended up being a challenge.
Most of the components were going to be switched over from the HH. The RD, FD, pedals, brake levers and shifters will be up graded to the 07 XTR, when it arrives at retail in August or Sept. However, due to the different seat tube size, I needed a new seat post and XTR front derailer. Also, I wanted to get new handlebars (as my old ones were showing some wear) and to go with all black cable housing.
The parts were ordered from my LBS just after I ordered the ML. Every two weeks I called to see if the parts were in and finally two weeks ago, I was told that they had arrived. Great I was good to go.
Thursday, the Exo arrived late in the day. God it looked gorgeous, I was dying to ride. I called the LBS to set up getting the head set switched over from the HH and made an appointment for Friday afternoon. Great I was good to go.
Thursday evening I break the HH down. I’m good to go.
Friday morning I take some pics and share them with you. I’m good to go.
Friday afternoon, I arrive at the LBS. To make long story short, the seat post is correct, the derailer is bottom swing instead of top swing and there’s no handlebars or cable housing. The LBS can’t get the bars as Easton was/is in the process of switching Canadian reps and they won’t sell to them until a new one is in place. They simply forgot to order the housing.
Not good news, but I can live with it. I get the LBS to weigh the ML Exo frame, it comes in at a surprising 5.75 lbs. (with RP3 and seat tube collar). The head set is done and I’m off to find a FD. I can still use my old bars and I have a mix of black and silver XTR housing, just enough to do the job. After visiting a few other bike shops, it's getting late and there's no suitable derailer to be found. I head home empty handed to start the build. I’m going to ride Sat., one way or another.
Saturday morning, I improvise with a couple of layers of inner tube around the seat tube and end up using the old XT derailer from the HH. It’ not pretty but it works. After waiting for the rain to stop and the Lock-tite in the BB to set (Rotor crank peculiarity), it’s four in the afternoon, the bikes on the car, and we’re off to the trail head.
After two days of pretty intense riding, let’s just say that I have a great big grin on my face.
I must mention that I loved the HH. The HH (Pushed front and rear) was/is a killer bike; a fantastic handler in all aspects and especially great at climbing the technical stuff. Though things could get a bit sketchy going down at speed through the really steep rough stuff.
Frame - Custom MotoLite ExoGrid (23" TT, 4.75" HT, 42.52" WB)
Rear Shock – Fox RP23
Fork - Pushed Fox Float RLC
Brakes - XTR Disk (currently w/ XT 756 levers, will upgrade to '07 levers when available)
Cassette – XTR M960 (11- 34)
Chain – XTR (DuraAce)
Cranks – Ti Rotor RSX4 crank system with integrated BB (24-34-44)
F Derailleur – XT (will upgrade to '07 XTR when available)
R Derailleur – XTR M960 SGS (Rapidrise) (will upgrade to '07 when available)
Cables – XTR
Grips – Race Face Good and Evil
Handlebars – Easton Monkey lite high-rise carbon
Headset – CK NoThreadset (Black)
Pedals – Shimano M959
Saddle – Stelle Elite Trans Am Gel w/ Ti rails
Seat Post – Thomson Elite (black) (wanted a Masterpiece but don’t come long enough)
Shifters – XTR Rapid Fire (will upgrade to '07 when available)
Stem – Thomson Elite (black) 100 X 10
Rims (front) – Velocity VXC (black)
Rims (rare) – Velocity VXC (black)
Hub (front) – Chris King ISO Disk (black)
Hub (rare) – Chris King ISO Disk (black)
Spokes – Sapim XC-Rays (black)
Nipples – Sapim Alloy SILP (silver)
Skewers - Salsa Flip Offs (Rasta) Cut
Tires - I have a bunch (my current favorites are Kenda Nevegals with Stick-E compound w/Stans)
Finished weight about 25.8 lbs.
The Exogrid is set at 5” front and rear, with both set at their recommended sag of about ľ of the full travel. To compensate for the slacker head and seat tube angles, when compared to the HH, I moved my seat forward and lowered my handlebars each by ľ inch. In this position, I felt comfortable and well balanced in the cockpit.
I predominantly ride a wide variety of fabulous technical single track through forested rolling hills filled with lots of roots, rocks, steeps, etc. For the most part we don’t have the long epic climbs or the great mountain top vistas.
Overall ride impressions:
Da bomb!!! In most respects, the Exogrid’s handling is equally impressive as that of the HH and flat out better in some. The Exogrid was buttery smooth over all terrain and exceptionally quiet. While riding the Exogrid, the comparison that kept coming to mind was that the Exogrid was stealthy (agile, smooth, and silent) and the HH equally agile, but a bit more edgy.
I’m really impressed with the stock RP23 in both the soft and firm propedal settings. I didn’t fiddle with the rebound at all, as it felt perfect from the get go (I’ll have to check to see what it is set at). The RP23 is a good match for the Pushed Float and both work exceptionally well together on the Exogrid for terrain that I ride. I spoke with Darren at PUSH about getting a Pushed 07 Talas and he recommended that I stay with the Float (set at full travel).
The Exogrid climbs, at least, equally as well as the HH, both while spinning and attacking. I noticed no wandering of the front end during steep technical climbs in either of the propedal settings. The front wheel effortlessly tracked wherever it was pointed. Traction was excellent seated or standing and the rear wheel stayed glued to the terrain at all times. Break away, spinning, of the rear wheel was predictable and it was really easy find and maintain the traction sweet spot in the cockpit.
Low speed tight twisties:
Again, virtually no difference between the Exogrid and HH. Steering was crisp and predictable. The higher BB and riding position did not affect the Exogrid’s low speed handling. Very tight off camber hairpin corners were a breeze.
High speed twisties:
A bit of difference between the two bikes was noticed through the swoopy high speed corners of forested single track. Here the higher BB and riding position became noticeable, but not in a bad way. With the HH, I could go more directly into a high speed turn, then with subtle breaking turn at the last minute and power out. This was particularly useful if there are trees close to the inside of the corner. I found this a bit more challenging on the ML Exogrid. At speed the ML wants you to lean more into the corner more, forcing a slightly wider line to protect one’s head and shoulder from the inside trees. This line requirement was not noticeable in more open areas. All and all, the ML Exogrid rails the high speed twisty stuff and is an absolute blast to ride. In many instances, I felt like I was cornering significantly faster on the Exogrid than I could on the HH, most particularly if the terrain was rough or rooty.
The ML Exogrid is heads and shoulders a better descender when compared to the HH. The bike just flies down the steep rough stuff. Stable, smooth, and predictable, just pick a line and go. Fun! Fun! Fun!
As I said, I still have a huge grin on my face.
Here’s a few pics for your enjoyment.
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