Written by Anders Larson Tuesday, 30 June 2009 01:00
Tester: Anders Larsen, Team Bikeman.com Rider, Certified Bikeman Product Tester
Conditions: Roots, rocks and race courses across New England.
I have a long history with full suspension bikes. Way back in ‘94 (?) I was the first in the neighborhood to own a Voodoo Canzo (titanium) full suspension. (the first real full suspension owner in the Orono, Maine area goes to Tim Jones, who had one of the GT RTS bikes). The Voodoo was a unified rear triangle design, and for the rolling, rocky, rooty terrain that was found in Orono, it pretty much rocked. Once the terrain turned upward or you stood up, things weren’t so hot. Well, that bike was stolen from the roof rack while at a yoga retreat (weird karma) and with the insurance I upped it to a Team GT LTS, with the grey generation XTR 8 speed group (97? Or 98?). It was a dream machine, I was the envy of the town on that one. That bike rode really well too, except the dreaded “stink bug” effect of jacking up when braking. This made downhills pretty exciting when one didn’t need more exciting. I moved to southern Maine and went to the Gary Fisher Sugar. I really liked this bike because it seemed fast, had a reasonable weight, and some fast pros were using it giving it some cross country credibility. It broke, and then I went with the excellent Salsa El Santo. The lightest full suspension I’d owned, this was a great bike and suited the New England race courses really well. I sold this eventually after riding a Carver 96er and then I got a Salsa Dos Niner. Along the way I also owned a Schwinn Straight 8 downhill bike and a Kona Stinky, both real fun.
So the last few years have been without rear suspension (except the ½” of the Dos). Just for giggles, I went to the Trek demo day at Bradbury mountain last month and tried one of the new Top Fuels. Though a 26er, I was reminded of the ease that a good full suspension can provide, and I pretty much decided then that with my aging body and need for comfort, it was time to move back to full suspension. I wanted a 29er, and it had to be raceable and good for long days in the saddle. I decided to give the Kona Hei Hei 29er a try. Reviews were good, and the only complaint with the ‘08 I came across was the weight of the wheels and some of the parts. As I had a pretty decent build of my own, I was just interested in the frame. Fortunately, Bikeman.com had a 19” in stock, so I did it.
So here is my build. It should be noted that this bike built up with no issues. All contacts points were where they should be, and faces were clean and accepted parts easily. It has a 72mm bottom bracket shell, so I removed the spacers from my bottom bracket. A nifty feature were 2 threaded holes on the top tube above the shock. Here the derailleur cables or rear brake line can be held with a nice little guide. Very clean, and much more sano than a zip tie.
Fork: Rock Shox Reba, 2006 (?) Set at 100mm
Shifters: SRAM X-9 (from ‘07, still work like day one-great shifters)
Derailleurs: SRAM X-9, bought with the shifters, still excellent)
Brakes: Avid Ultimates, super brakes that are light and strong
Crank: Race Face Deus XC with 26 and 36 chainrings
Chain: SRAM PC-971 with a gold Power Link (best invention ever)
Cassette: SRAM PG-980, 11-34
Wheels: DT 240 hubs with Bontrager Mustang rims, 32 spoke. These wheels are reasonably light and have been totally bombproof for over a year now.
Stem and Bar: TruVative Team stem and Noir bar. I really like the feel of the carbon Noir. I had it on my Dos Niner and it fit by body really well. The larger diameter feels more precise, too.
Grips: ODI Ruffian-my favorite for a few years now.
Saddle: WTB Rocket V-all my bikes have them. Love the fit.
Tires: Panaracer Rampage up front and WTB Nanoraptor in the rear.
Cables: generic hosing and cables. I don’t mind changing these out every month or two. Keep it simple.
I have not ridden this bike yet except for an hour and a half road ride. As some of you know, painfully, most of Maine is now a swamp and I just can’t bring myself to having this bike’s first touch of dirt be mud. I’ll give a proper review once I get the thing off road for a few rides. I did notice that the 80mm Reba felt a bit low and outclassed by the rear end, so I’m setting the travel at 100mm. Several riders with time off road on this bike suggested this also. If it doesn’t work I can always set it back. As for weight, I don’t have a scale. By the feel of it I’d put it around 28 to 29 pounds. Not as light as I’d like, but not a deal breaker.
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