Wheels & Tires: Derby Carbon hoops, Onyx hubs, Maxxis/Specialized Tires
Reasoning: The goal was bulletproof reliability. Over the past few years, I’ve had three pairs of Derby carbon hoops, ridden them very hard and never had any issues. The DH layup was selected with 34.5mm internal width. The width offers a nice balance between stability, grip and an acceptable amount of squirm when paired with a 2.4-2.5” tubeless tire setup. This was my first experience with Onyx hubs, and they are amazing. Instant engagement, total silence, and super low resistance when coasting. For tires, I love my Minions – 2.5” DHF up front. In the rear, I swap between a few tires – DHF or DHRII 2.4” when the terrain is chunky or wet, Aggressor when I expect to do some technical pedaling for some traction while rolling reasonably fast, and a Specialized Slaughter 2.3 in the dry, which rolls ridiculously fast, has nice big side lugs to catch you. The only knock is it just tends to peel out and slip when pedaling up steep bits.
Suspension: FOX 36 Float RC2, FOX X2
Reasoning: The 36 handles its 170mm of travel with minimal flex and has the RC2 damper, providing a wide range of adjustability (H/LSC, LSR). I selected standard (that’s a funny term) hub width, using the larger 110mm x 20mm axle. The 36’s air spring allows tuning the spring curve, helping to balance small bump compliance with firm end-stroke support. The X2 offers even more damping adjustability (HSC/R, LSC/R) and has enough ramp-up via volume spacers to merge well with this frame’s kinematics. The climb switch also helps neutralize the pedal bob on long grinds.
Dropper and Saddle: KS LEV IR, 175mm, Specialized Henge 155mm
Reasoning: Over the years I’ve ridden over a half dozen droppers and have had the best experiences with KS and like its smooth, damped action (that doesn’t smack ya!). Yes, I’ve had one KS fail, but the entire cartridge is quite simple to replace. Also, if you haven’t tried 175mm, don’t do it unless you want to buy a new post. With a 33” inseam, I cannot go back to even 150mm. The saddle is something I always have to swap out due to wider sit bones, and it’s nice to see more companies offering saddle width options. A Specialized Henge in 155mm was selected due to its long nose, to allow for a more forward position while climbing.
Drivetrain, backside: Shimano XT Derailleur, E13 TRSr Cassette
Reasoning: This was mostly personal preference on the derailleur, though I’ve had much better luck with the Shimano clutch than SRAM. However, I do miss that genius lock button that SRAM derailleurs have. The XT derailleur is robust, holds up well and is quite inexpensive in case a rock gets hungry. For cassettes selection, the starting point was an XD driver. I was initially skeptical about them due to the short engagement tabs between hub and cassette, but it’s held up very well and the weight savings are awesome. For that driver body, I’ve swapped between SRAM 10-42 and E13 9-46 on this bike, landing on the E13. The range is quite pleasing, shifting performance isn’t quite as smooth as with the SRAM cassette but shifts are executed each time.
Drivetrain, frontside: Race Face SIXC Cranks, AbsoluteBlack Oval Ring, KMC X11SL Ti Nitride, MRP AMg, VP Harrier pedals
Reasoning: The Race Face SIXC cranks handle my 200 lb weight with zero qualms and have done well on my other bikes, are relatively light and have proven durable. With the low bottom bracket height, 170mm cranks were selected. When moving from 175mm, spinning feels a tad funny at first, but you forget about it quickly. Their 30mm spindle passes through a Real World Cycling BSA 30 threaded bottom bracket, with angular contact stainless bearings.
AbsoluteBlack oval rings are on most of my bikes and the added inertia they provide when getting into the power portion of the stroke is like a running start at a hill. They are cinch compatible and offer multiple ring offsets to get a proper chainline, plus have excellent longevity. A KMC X11SL chain links the drivetrain together, is quite stout at reasonable weight and looks pretty dang cool. An MRP AMg holds the chain on for the rare occasions it tries to step off and offers a bit of protection for the ring. These VP Harriers have been performed well on many bikes for me, support a large foot very well and are fairly thin. When the bushings wear, rebuild is a simple process.
Cockpit: Shimano XTR Shifter, Renthal Carbon Fatbar 35 bars, Apex 35 stem, Sensus Disisdaboss grips, KS Southpaw dropper lever
Reasoning: The Shimano XTR shifter was selected over XT for its precision internals. Renthal’s handlebars have held up quite well and have the angles I like, keeping them at their full 800mm width lines things up well with my shoulders. The Renthal Apex 33mm long stem is perfect for my riding style. After trying Sensus grips, you’ll wonder why you’ve used anything else. For riding with gloves, the Disisdaboss has just the right amount of grip and the double lock eliminates housing flex. For riding without gloves, the Swayze offers a tad more grip. Concluding the setup is the KS Southpaw dropper lever, placing the lever below the bars and having a reasonably light feel.
Suggestions or questions about my build? What would you have done differently?