Fantom 29PRO SL, Upgraded- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Fantom 29PRO SL, Upgraded

    Hey all,

    I spent last weekend assembling, disassembling, rebuilding, and tweaking my Pro SL, and thought you guys might like to hear about it since I couldn't get enough of this type of stuff when I was looking at bikes.

    The bike came in the standard Moto packaging and had the Elixir CRs thankfully. The top flap was mostly open (I think only one, maybe two staples on the top flap remained stapled by the time I got it) - maybe it happened during handling, maybe someone decided to take a peak and see if they could grab something easily. Thankfully, everything was in the box and undamaged, with no cassettes or crankarms poking through (as I've seen in other threads). Everything is pretty high quality. I don't think the finish on the bike is as nice as others have reported - it's not bad, but you won't mistake it for a Fisher. There were some scuffs in the clearcoat that you could pick up at close range, but on the flip side, the graphics look a lot better in person than in pictures.

    My build took place over the course of three days, but I was switching out a lot of parts, needed to have the shop face the bottom bracket shell (took a full day, should have had them chase the threads as well in hindsight), and went real slow since this was my first build and I had never played with disc brakes, air fork, etc. Everything was pretty straightforward with the help of the Zinn book and the Park website (it helps to have a computer in the garage, I've found), but I did run into a few issues, which I talk about below. First, the list of upgrades:

    * Crankset - Shimano LX
    * Front Derailleur - Shimano XT
    * Cassette - Shimano XT 11-34T
    * Chain - SRAM PC-971
    * Pedals - Shimano M520
    * Grips - ODI Ruffian Lock-on
    * Handlebar - RaceFace Evolve XC
    * Stem - RaceFace Deus 90mm
    * Seatpost - RaceFace Evolve XC
    * Chainstay Guard - old road tube

    I wouldn't consider any of these upgrades necessary, but I had the parts laying around from a build that fell through and figured that I should put them to use. The stock parts are going to go onto the backup bike.

    CRANKSET: The above mentioned bottom bracket shell was unfaced, so I had to take care of that. I've never messed around with bottom brackets before (my old bike is a 96 and still has its original bottom bracket), so I'm not sure that this is entirely necessary but I have read that external bearing bottom brackets are prone to damage on unfaced shells and I was in there anyways, so why not. Threading the bracket into the unchased shells was no fun and I'm somewhat worried about pulling it back out down the road. Pulling the Truvativ bottom bracket wasn't hard at all once I figured out how to get the crankarm off (don't unscrew the outer bolt because that creates a stop for the inner bolt to push the crankarm off the spindle). After comparing the two, I can see why most people prefer Shimano cranksets. I just wish mine was black. Oh well, it was cheap.

    CASSETTE: I've only changed one cassette before and I remember it not being a big deal. Either I've grown feeble over the years or someone cranked way the hell down on the lockring because I had to put a 2' PVC pipe over my crescent wrench to get that guy to unclench. That ripping sound when it let go scared the crap out of me until I read that that's what it's supposed to sound like. I pulled off the plastic donut while I was in there. The XT unit is definitely lighter than the Deore or whatever unit that comes stock. The extra two teeth on the large cog will probably come in handy on the uphills and Lord knows that I can use all the help I can get when the terrain heads up. And down. Ha. One thing that just happened to work out was the chain - no need to remove (or heaven forbid add) links to get the proper chain length ... not sure what would happen with the 12-36T "29er" cassette.

    BRAKES: Brakes are never easy to set up. I learned that with the cantis that came on my old bike and then with the v-brakes that I upgraded to. Discs are no better, but I'm hoping that future adjustments will be a lot easier after this initial setup and now that I know a little bit more about what I'm doing. At first, I torqued down the rotor properly, bolted up the calipers, and then put the wheel on the front... major rubbage. Some head scratching and forum reading later, I download the Avid manual (it was probably in the Moto parts box as well, but I was on the computer anyways) and go through the proper setup of leaving the caliper slightly loose, grabbing the brake six times, and then keeping it engaged while I torqued down the caliper bolts. I think I was on my third go-round (another guy said it took him six times) thinking that there was no way this was going to work when, magically, it started to work and the rubbing started to go away. Another adjustment got rid of almost completely. The rear was a lot easier - I think I got rid of the rubbing in one cycle. Now I just have to worry about bedding rotors. I will think about bleeding the brakes to get rid of the initial squish and shortening the brake lines down the road. Or maybe I'll just have the shop do it.

    CONTROLS: I spent way too much time messing around with controls placement, and still managed to put the Pushloc on the wrong side. Another bike I played around with had it on the left side, so that's where I put it right before I finished the bike and didn't feel like going back and changing it yet. Brake levers on the inside seem to work best for me. I aligned the end of the lever with my index finger. I can still get two fingers on the rear brake lever if necessary by angling my hand slightly. The Shimano shifters don't play very nicely with the Avid brakes. SRAM shifters couple a lot better with Avid levers, as one would expect. I didn't like the look of the WTB grips, so I'm glad I had the ODIs on hand. My RF stem is about 20mm shorter than stock and seems to be the perfect length for me. I may try to drop it down further on the steerer tube or reverse it (not ideal because the graphics are upside down at that point, something that you wouldn't have to worry about with the Ritchey stem). I didn't bother cutting the handlebar down because the current width feels great to me now and I'm hoping that doesn't change out on the trails..

    WHEELS: There's a slightly wobble in both wheels and there's a pitch variation when I pluck the spokes to compare spoke tension. I don't really know what the range of acceptability is, but I do know that all of the spokes on my old bike sound pretty much in tune after being trued at my shop back in November and being ridden about 200 miles since then. I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to wheels and it seems like it's something that's pretty easy to screw up. I think that I'm going to leave them as is and see what happens. With the discs on there, I'm hoping that it doesn't matter much.

    WRAP-UP: Here's the point where I should give you my ride report, but there isn't one unfortunately. We had some freakish weather earlier this week that conspired against me and by the time that cleared up, work came down like a 10 ton hammer and now I'm traveling for the next week. I will say that the bike handles pretty nimbly around the neighborhood and feels very tossable. I don't feel like the wheelbase is much longer than my 17" Fisher 26er, it's just that it seems longer when you're staring down at that big wheel in front. I'm 5'10-1/2" with a 31-1/2" barefoot riding inseam and went with a 17" Pro SL after reading the geometry chart and emailing BikesDirect for their opinion. I was initially worried about the standover because it seemed so tall, but it fits great all around. I never felt like I was perched on a pedestal on a 26er like some of the taller guys do, but I definitely feel like I'm sitting between the wheels on this 29er, almost Tron style, and it is a very cool feeling. Admittedly, I had never ridden a 29er prior to placing my order, but I'm really liking what I've seen so far and I'm really happy about my purchase. The bike is about 27.5 lbs in full kit according to my bathroom scale, but I'll have my shop measure it if I take it in to get the wheels trued and brake lines shortened.

    And now, it's porn time ...
















  2. #2
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    Crankset: The LX Cranks are a fantastic deal right now ($85 various online) and a nice upgrade for just this kind of bike. I almost bought 'em myself but splurged on XTs even though they will sit around until I can get a new ride.

    Regarding surfacing, and granted I don't have tons of miles on any crankset I've replaced, I've yet to run into any external BB issues with a 'non-faced' BB shell. I've installed three without issue.

    Cassette: I think I've run into just about every cassette issue one can. The first time putting one on a Mavic wheel (missing its spacer) was a fun one! IMO, a '29er cassette' is a waste in a Triple (or even Double) chainring setup. I think its a great idea for a Single though.

    Brakes: My GF has BB5's on her Moto. They work nicely, but I have to adjust them after EVERY ride to get rid of rub. Why aren't V-brakes an option on (nearly all quality) 29ers? I've NEVER been disappointed with my V brakes and they RARELY need adjusting.

    Controls: I'm an Ergon (and Ergon knockoff) junkie. I'll never use 'round' grips again. Do yourself a favor and try out a pair.

    Wheels: After the frame, probably the biggest cost-savings area for bikes direct. The wheels on my GF's Fantom are OK overall, but nothing to write home about. Obviously, no one expects (or should expect) hand-built quality out of the box.

    Wrap up: Currently I'm still waiting on whether I will be able to close the deal on a used bike I'm interested in. If I can't, the Pro SL is a fallback, although I hear the 19", which would fit me, is OOS. Perhaps the bike gods are telling me to wait awhile longer.

    Enjoy your ride! I'm envious.
    Last edited by Slee_Stack; 05-13-2010 at 12:47 PM.

  3. #3
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    I got the same bike on its way now I cant wait to get it!!
    nice ride!!

  4. #4
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    Very nice!


    My Pro came with a right hand poploc too.. I would have prefered left, but It's not a problem.
    You think YOUR shifters don't play nice with Avid levers? You should try with the Deore LX triggers... the brake levers only fit outboard!

    Great looking bike, for sure!
    "Fear not the ob-stackles in your path"

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    Thanks for the compliments, guys. I'll start racking up the miles on her next weekend and let you guys know how the ride is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slee_Stack
    Crankset: The LX Cranks are a fantastic deal right now ($85 various online) and a nice upgrade for just this kind of bike. I almost bought 'em myself but splurged on XTs even though they will sit around until I can get a new ride.

    Regarding surfacing, and granted I don't have tons of miles on any crankset I've replaced, I've yet to run into any external BB issues with a 'non-faced' BB shell. I've installed three without issue.

    Brakes: My GF has BB5's on her Moto. They work nicely, but I have to adjust them after EVERY ride to get rid of rub. Why aren't V-brakes an option on (nearly all quality) 29ers? I've NEVER been disappointed with my V brakes and they RARELY need adjusting.

    Controls: I'm an Ergon (and Ergon knockoff) junkie. I'll never use 'round' grips again. Do yourself a favor and try out a pair.

    Wheels: After the frame, probably the biggest cost-savings area for bikes direct. The wheels on my GF's Fantom are OK overall, but nothing to write home about. Obviously, no one expects (or should expect) hand-built quality out of the box.

    Wrap up: Currently I'm still waiting on whether I will be able to close the deal on a used bike I'm interested in. If I can't, the Pro SL is a fallback, although I hear the 19", which would fit me, is OOS. Perhaps the bike gods are telling me to wait awhile longer.

    Enjoy your ride! I'm envious.
    Yeah, the LX cranksets are a very sweet deal right now as the big online guys dump them to make way for the SLXs. Those XTs are very nice but I'll probably splurge on the SLXs myself because this bike looks so much better with black cranks. The LXs would then get moved to the old Fisher.

    I'm actually pretty excited about the discs after dealing with very early Avid V-brakes and the long (L-designation) levers. Just switching the levers out to the current SD7 levers was a huge improvement so the current brakes are probably much improved as well. Having said that, the V's don't inspire much confidence after stream crossings, mud, etc. so the discs are very welcome in that regard.

    Regarding Ergons, I actually have a set of the CG2s on my Fisher and they have cured my hand pain along with going to a wider riser bar from a flat narrow bar. I may end up throwing on a set of the GP1s on if the ODIs don't work out.

    Good luck on your bike hunt. I see in the other thread that someone was able to order a 19" recently ...

    Quote Originally Posted by HamfisT
    Very nice!


    My Pro came with a right hand poploc too.. I would have prefered left, but It's not a problem.
    You think YOUR shifters don't play nice with Avid levers? You should try with the Deore LX triggers... the brake levers only fit outboard!

    Great looking bike, for sure!
    Jeez, I would pick up a new set of shifters for that reason alone. With my setup, riding with inboard shifters would be downright dangerous.

  6. #6
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    What shifters are on that bike? My XT shifters have gear indicators on them. Did you remove that from yours? I would really like to move my brake levers in on the bar, but the shifters will not allow.
    Last edited by Adim_X; 05-14-2010 at 06:54 PM.

  7. #7
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    Nice build and review... Congrats on your ride.
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  8. #8
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    I found my answer here. This thread details how to remove the indicator and install the cover, so that you can more your brake levers in more positions.

    http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=398993

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiddyHitch

    Good luck on your bike hunt. I see in the other thread that someone was able to order a 19" recently ...
    The used bike seller flaked on me so I gave in and ordered a 19". I guess my cranks won't be waiting that long for a home. Also ordered some Ergon GC2-L for it.

    I'll see how the stock bar is but I have an Origin 8 spacebar I could swap to it. The spacebar is goofy looking, but comfy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adim_X
    What shifters are on that bike? My XT shifters have gear indicators on them. Did you remove that from yours? I would really like to move my brake levers in on the bar, but the shifters will not allow.
    Sounds like you got your answer, but it's pretty easy - remove the two screws on top of the indicator housing, twist the housing slightly counterclockwise while pulling it off, slide the top caps out from the underside of the housing (nice feature, Shimano), snap top cap into place on shifter housing, and screw down top cap.

  11. #11
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    Ahhh...

    I didn't know the top caps were under the indicator housings. I have some re-aranging to do!
    "Fear not the ob-stackles in your path"

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    Your bike looks great. Thanks for the thorough write up. Can't wait to hear how it rides....

  13. #13
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    Very nice ride, Giddy Hitch. Couple of questions.....Have you been able to weigh it yet on a proper scale ? I'm really considering this bike or the Sette Razzo. Any 'weak links' on the Moto ? thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Major Glory
    Very nice ride, Giddy Hitch. Couple of questions.....Have you been able to weigh it yet on a proper scale ? I'm really considering this bike or the Sette Razzo. Any 'weak links' on the Moto ? thanks

    Weak links are subjective to personal opinions and hardly based on any real facts… Like with having 80mm of fork travel as compared to100mm. Is there a fault in having less and costing more?
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  15. #15
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    True enough but isnt that what this forums all about - personal opinions ? I'm just wondering if GiddyHitch was disappointed in anything about the bike. For me, it seems you cant go wrong with this bike, I'm just wanting to cover all the bases before I make my final decision.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Major Glory
    True enough but isnt that what this forums all about - personal opinions ?


    Not if you're looking for factual information to base a true purchase on. If I’m truly looking too buy some kind product. I don’t want their opinion. I want facts…
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  17. #17
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    which we have. What about it, G.Hitch? After having the bike for a little while, anything that you see now not jibe with what you thought before you bought ?

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    To follow up on a couple of questions ...

    Regarding weight, I haven't had it on a proper bike scale, but I'll ask my LBS to weigh it next time I bring it into the shop.

    As far as weak links, there are a few, but nothing that dissuaded me from purchasing the bike nor caused me buyer's remorse since then. These weak links are:

    * Ritchey Comp handlesbars, stem, and seatpost are heavy
    * Bottom bracket shell isn't faced and chased
    * Stock pedals are lame in comparison to rest of bike
    * SB8 up front makes me nervous
    * Spoke tension is a bit uneven
    * Brake lines and cable housings are longer than ideal

    "Weak links" is probably too strong of a word. These were conscious specification decisions to hit a specific price point and target rider. They could have put lighter, more expensive Ritchey components on it, but most people are going to switch these in and out as they experiment with fit. Tires are likewise a very personal choice based on local terrain and riding style. They could have put an XT or XTR front derailleur on the bike, but in all honesty, how much better performance out on the trail would a rider have noticed versus the extra $40-75 in cost (my estimates)? The hubs are no-names, but then again, most hubs are below the $3000 mark. Furthermore, a nicer wheelset is one of the easiest and most popular upgrades that you can give a bike. What BikesDirect has done then, is give you a solid foundation (frame, fork, brakes, drivetrain, controls) that you can customize to your purposes with stem/handlebar/seatpost, saddle, pedals and tries. You don't have to worry about the stuff that's hard to change out on a bike (and potentially very expensive), you only have to worry about the easy stuff and all for less than a grand. In other words, imo, BD put your money to its best possible use given a one-spec-fits-all scenario.

    Alas, I still haven't gotten any serious riding on the bike since work was so hectic last week, I had to fly back East for a wedding this past weekend, and now I'm on a plane headed to the Midwest on business. My plan is to do a shake-down ride on Friday in preparation for my first group ride on Sunday. I'll report back after that ... especially with how the bedding of the rotors goes and how the SB8's hold up. They are most likely getting switched out for Geax Saguaros that I pre-ordered, but you never know.

    One thing I forgot to mention that came up in another thread: be sure to grease the bearing and cam surfaces of your seat post clamp as well. An unlubed clamp can be very difficult to close (due to friction) and make you think that your seat post is snug in the frame, only to find out that it's pretty loose out on the trail. I went through this recently on another bike I pulled out of storage. I also cleaned and relubed the headset races and cups (all bearing surfaces really) because the stuff that comes on there, like the chain, is more packing grease than lubricant.

  19. #19
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    Thanks for the reply G.Hitch. This is the info I was looking for and you're right, for the $ its a great deal. I was primarily wondering about the weight - not that its a deal breaker. For me, money's tight when it comes to a new ride and I'm just gathering all the info I can before I purchase.

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    So I finally got a chance to take the Moto on a couple of real rides - a half hour tune-up ride on Friday between meetings and then a proper ride on Sunday (my first group ride!). I'm happy to report that the bike is awesome and there was almost no learning curve going from a 14 year old 26er with an old coil open-bath fork and original v-brakes to this brand new 29er with a dual air fork and nice disc brakes. This 29er works as advertised - it rails up hills, remains super stable at speed, and makes it a lot easier to pop over obstacles without any noticeable loss of tight singletrack handling. On climbs where I would normally have to get out of the saddle and grind away, I could just lean forward in the saddle and juice the cranks a little more. This thing just feels faster and lighter than my old bike.

    The brakes were grippy even on the first ride (I'm used to old v-brakes, remember) and the shifting was damn near instantaneous - sweet! There was a decently steep and long downhill on that first ride at the end, so I took the opportunity to bed the brakes - getting up to a decent speed and then getting on the brakes as hard as I could without completely stopping about 8-10 times in a row. I got a funky pad smell coming off of the rotors at the bottom of the hill, so hopefully I have a nice base layer of pad material on the rotors and won't have to worry about shudder down the line. The brakes continued to perform great on the longer ride - great modulation and easy to lock up the rear to swing the tail around on a couple of switchbacks into which I went too hot. One thing that did have me worried was that after taking the front wheel off and then putting it back on, I got major pad rub on the rotors. No rub on the rear though. This was frustrating because I was running late for my second ride and had really taken my time unbolt and bolt the calipers when I was setting up the brakes. I tried shifting the hub in the fork drops and playing with the quick release tension to fix the problem, but no dice. Rather than miss the ride, I decided to suck it up and ride with a rotor rub even through I knew that it would annoy the heck out of me. The rub magically went away by the time I unloaded the bike at the start of the ride, so thanks for small miracles. Also, the shifting wasn't quite as crisp towards the end of the second ride, so the cables have probably stretched a bit and will need adjustment before I head out again. The sharp *ping* from the aluminum frame when I upshift the rear derailleur or downshift the front is something that this old steel frame rider will have to get used to, too.

    A few of the adjustments that I need to make are my technique on bunny hops (seems like I only get half the height compared to my old bike) and setting up the Reba. My old fork is an old Marzocchi Z2, which is renown for its plushness, and the Reba was kind of stiff and jarring in comparison. I'm chalking this up to setup at this point, so I'll play with pressures, compression, damping, etc. and report back. This fork does seem to track well and combined with the 29" wheels, it's point and shoot and makes picking a good line so natural that it saved my butt a few times during last second course corrections. Also, I think I'm too used to Ergons because the ODIs were uncomfortable at times and will probably get switched over after a couple more rides.

    I had to make a change when it came to the tires as well - the Small Block 8 in the front was sketchy on some loose/sand over hardpack on some tight singletrack, so I switched them both out with the Seguaros (based on Dion's and other MTBRers' reviews) and they were fan-frickin-tastic on the second ride through hardpack, loose over hardpack, and sand. They were so stable that I found myself riding a lot faster than I normally would on trails I had never ridden before and there wasn't a sketchy situation to be found. I may try a Nevegal up front with a SB8 in the rear at some point, but not any time soon.

    As you can probably tell, I'm super stoked on my new ride and none of it is really due to my upgrades, save the tires. It's a solid bike that will takes some effort up front to get assembled and adjusted, but if you take your time and do your research, it's a pretty rewarding experience to get out there and thrash something that you built up. Assuming you built it up correctly, ha.

  21. #21
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    Your post makes me...well...giddy!

    The CORRECT bike is supposedly being delivered today, so I'm excited.

    It's been a long two weeks since I ordered. I'm excited to get my SL assembled!

    Sand is sand. I've yet to NOT have a bad time riding in it, regardless of tire type.

    I'm not keen on swapping tires, so hopefully the SB8's will suffice for my needs.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Makes me all the more anxious!

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    After going on a couple more rides this weekend, I figured that I would throw down another update:

    * Geax Seguaros continue to delight and impress me in all Northern California terrains.

    * ODIs got tossed in favor of some Ergons and my hands are grateful.

    * I get a little pad rub on the rotors if I spin the wheels when the bike is in the stand. I'm going to have to reseat the calipers if I want to get rid of the rub completely methinks.

    * Chain jumped into the spokes today on a climb - first time that's ever happened to me. I tightened up the high limit screw a quarter turn on the trail but I'm going to have to look at it before I head out again.

    * I was getting some chain skip at high speed today when I was in the middle ring and the small cog. Not sure if skipping is related to a slack chain, but shifting into the big ring seemed to cure the problem.

    * Air pressures in the Reba SL still need to be addressed. I'm probably around 215 fully kitted and I started out @ 135+/135- psi but complained about plushness in my last update. There seems to be some debate as to whether more pressure in the positive or negative chamber gives you plushness, but everyone seems to agree on two things:
    1. You should have a 10psi differential
    2. The SRAM air pressures are too high
    I checked my pressures before my ride today and I was surprised to see 135+/120-. I know the negative air chamber is pretty small but I didn't think I had lost any air to this point. Oh well, I guess I know why it rode so stiff now. I'll have to keep an eye on it going forward. I pumped it up to 135+/140- and it was pretty darn smooth this time out but I think there's more plushness to be had. I'm going to try 130+/140- on my next ride and see if that gets me close. I haven't touched any of the rebound or compression settings since I tuned the fork to the SRAM recommendations when I built the bike. I'll take another look at them after I dial my air pressures in.

    * This bike doesn't mind getting air. I've been throwing down some fun 2' jumps off of trail kickers as my speeds and comfort on the bike have increased.
    Last edited by GiddyHitch; 05-30-2010 at 12:51 AM.

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    i made almost the same upgrades to mine when i got it, except i went with an SLX crank. as far as the fork pressure goes, i'm about 205 fully kitted and found plushness by doing 130+/140-, hope that works for you as well!

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    Quote Originally Posted by grizzler
    i'm about 205 fully kitted and found plushness by doing 130+/140-, hope that works for you as well!
    Indeed, I was pretty pleased with 130+/140- on my last ride - pretty plush, full travel, no bottoming out. I need to do a few more rides on well known loops before I settle on my final pressures though - for some reason I feel a need to always check out new trails on this bike. One thing I noticed is that the negative air chamber is so small that the pressure goes down once you connect your shock pump (by about 5 psi with my Bontrager pump) since it takes some volume of air to pressurize the pump hose. Something to keep in mind.

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    I had heard the rule of thumb was to keep the (+) chamber 10 psi higher.

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    There seems to be some disagreement as to what setup results in optimum ride quality, but more pressure in the negative chamber will give you a softer ride at the expense of fork travel.

  27. #27
    In Transit
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    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Posts
    511
    Here's a more recent pic with the Geax Seguaros and a Planet Bike Protege 9.0 computer installed:



    I have since replaced the ODI Ruffian grips with some Ergon GP1s much to the delight of my hands.

    The bike just got back from a full wheel true at the shop as well. They originally thought that it was going to be a minor true based on what little lateral runout was there, but then they needed to add another layer of tension and it turned into a major true. Truing is one area where I've decided to just let my LBS do the work - the wheels come back straight, the spokes sing the same note when plucked, and I don't have any issues even with my awkward landings, so it's money well spent. These wheels should fine for multiple seasons worth of riding or until I get the urge to upgrade to something nicer and lighter.

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