I’d like to think that i’ve generally tried to do my best to not surrender to the depraved and unfulfilling bondage of consumerism that fuels our modern world. Having watched hordes of people over the years toil at jobs they hated to pay for absolute shit they don’t need, which ultimately stops them from doing the things they really want to do, it left me with the distinct impression that when it comes to buying crap, less is significantly more.
Except for when it comes to cycling
Hypocrisy is so fucking HOT in 2017 that I’m totally legit to decry consumerism whilst loading up on carbon goodness like I’m the Lockheed Skunkworks factory. But if we’re all allowed one vice then I guess mine would have to be croissants and donating large sums of cash to bike shops and Rob Roskopp. Like a cycling methhead I have a completely different formula and spending algorithm when it comes to Maxxis, Shimano, Fox or Santa Cruz when compared to every day life, exhibited by the fact I’m happy to complain about the price of petrol whilst sucking down gels that based on cost per ML, are twice as expensive, all while melting my intestines free of charge.
And in particular my main drug dealer is of course Santa Cruz Bicycles. No, I’m not on commission and No, I’m not an ambassador (Mainly because Rob and Joe worked out that if I started to get free bikes the sales graph would nosedive like a motherfucker). Just to remind you of my credentials, I’m simply a sycophantic fan boi who is possessed by those shiny gloss paint jobs and will happily slap someone’s face when they mutter ill of the VPP system, even if I don’t have relevant comparative experiences of other designs to invalidate my MTB echo chamber.
I’ve had the privilege of either owning or riding 2 Hecklers, the Bullit, 2 V10 rental bikes, a Nomad 2, a Nomad 3, Tallboy 2, and the Hightower and every time a new model is released or updated, I immediately call an emergency meeting of the DN Global Collective on the group chat so we can strategise what the justification is for acquiring the latest and greatest.
Speaking of which, in what passes for a faux midlife crisis, combined with repatriation fever and impending first child panic, allow me to introduce you to the two new editions to the Dirty Stable, the latest and the greatest:
The Latest – Santa Cruz Nomad 4
Ok… So, much like a ‘Pro life’ Congressmen that gets his mistress pregnant, I have to take a long dive off the end of my high horse here, and walk back my earlier tantrum and thoughts on this bike. Earlier in the year I stood on the abyss and yelled into my Intercunt echo chamber about who the fuck would actually buy this bike? Well, the echo has come back with an answer and the response is: Me
I’m not sure at what point I cracked here… Was it the glorious Ink coloured finish? Was it an unconscious desire to have branding alignment between bike & blog? Was it the Nomad 3 Millau experience rehashing the love? Was it Seb Kemp’s Instagram feed? Or was it because the decals matched the kashima goodness on the Fox parts? Who the fuck knows, but here we are:
Given that I’ve moved somewhere that has a glaring lack of chairlifts, not to mention not a lot of insane gnar, what’s the theory behind this 14.9kg, 170mm Monster? Allegedly its not an ENDURO bike, except for when its winning an EWS stage in Aspen, so given my penchant for the Big E, why would I want to partake in the latest version of this hallowed model? Well, aside from the fact that in person it looks quite amazing, the theoretical excuse for this bike is really Andes Pacifico 2018… However, once I started this project I realised it was about a whole lot more than that.
First, it’s a mythical model. Having owned a Nomad 2 and then the rather famous Gen 3 model, there was something intoxicating about the legend that is the Nomad (Note – That’s not to be taken as a highly narcissistic statement). Its early days, but I would say that this latest incarnation has the same vibe, but quite a different attitude. It seems bigger, its definitely longer and as it carries it’s weight low, but mainly it has all the hallmarks of being a fucking maniac:
Secondly, I’ve come to the realisation that whilst I go to races, a lot of the time I’m not really racing per se… Not in the same manner as the guys in the top 80 to 100 are at an EWS round. Yes, I’m more in survival mode or simply trying to lush out on the amazing trail that Chris Ball and the team have placed before my front Minion. As such, sacrificing some of the ‘raciness’ of say a Hightower LT for the straight up baller brawn of the Nomad 4 is probably a wise move.
Reinforcing this point, I conducted the N4 shakedown ride with Archie, a local teen shredder who spent the morning annihilating my ego as well as the TMP trails as I was reminded that its the rider than maketh the bike and not the other way around… You read it here first, someone needs to sponsor Archie ASAP and get him to an EWS round where he’s got the next 5 years to make a serious impression in the U21 ranks.
Its too early to really give much of an impression, other than holy FUCK this thing is insanely stable at high speed and is clearly gagging to be fed a diet of the most hideous gnar you can throw at it… Which is my current predicament, even running it in high mode I can’t seem to find the right terrain to really get to know it well.
Don’t get me wrong, it will quite happily handle your day to day trails, but much like taking a Velociraptor to a sushi train, you won’t really get to know what its capable of. I need to get this motherfucker to the Gorge, Queenstown or Finale ASAP! Until then I really won’t be able to do this machine the justice it so desperately deserves. I shall try and thrash it as much as I can in the mean time and report back with my usual vague rantview ravings.
For those that like a quick technical wank on the build, here are some of the bits and pieces of the puzzle:
- Fox 36 RC2 fork with 170mm travel and one spacer so far, matching Fox Kashima Transfer post, mated to the excellent wolf tooth remote
- Rock Shox Super Deluxe RCT rear shock – Yes, massive sad face that A) its not coil and B) its not Fox… Watch this space, I’m patiently waiting for Fox to work out that holy fuck, yes, people do want aftermarket DHX2’s in metric sizing!
- Chris King Boost hubs laced to DT Swiss XM481 rims, 32H – For some reason I’ve had my eye on this set up for ages, but now its in place it appears to be mega dependable and solid, but not that exciting… If that’s even possible to say about CK hubs. I think the SC Reserve wheels have fucked up my plan to have reliable Alu wheels and be happy with it. 30mm internal width on the rims and naturally shod with a Minion DHF 2.5 DD upfront and oddly currently a Minion SS in the rear, AKA Death Wish 5. Probably more reflective of location than riding ability
- Shimano XT drive train of course, with deviations for the CK BB and XTR shifter, because I’m that kind of cunt. Saint brakes with 203mm rotors, which is overkill for probably 75% of riding conditions, but exceedingly welcomed the other 25% of the time
- First time on a 35mm bar, Santa Cruz of course @ 780mm wide, which I probably don’t need, but fuck it. Can’t seem to tell any difference thus far, but aesthetically it does look bad ass, which is clearly a priority. I also wanted a different standard from my other two bikes so I could bitch about industry conspiracy theories while cleaning my shotgun.
The Greatest – Santa Cruz Stigmata
And now, for the second dirty newborn, we travel to the very end of the spectrum for something not only completely different, but also a little bit of a dirty secret.
Continuing with the theme of closet hypocrisy, I’ve invested significant time over the years turning my hairy nose up at CX… Most likely as it became the latest fad for the road brethren to pile into like mud covered lemmings whilst vomiting on their skin suits and complaining about destroyed drivetrains.
Given I had taken this stance, it put me in an awkward position when I secretly started to covet the sexy flowing lines of one of the most visually appealing, shall we say ‘drop handlebared’ bikes, around. Motherfucker, How could I still acquire one of these machines without looking like a total cunt?
Thankfully for me, two things happened: A) in 2017, even if you said something on national TV you can deny ever saying it and people just shrug their shoulders and B) I moved somewhere that had one thing that gave me enough plausible deniability – Gravel roads.
A + B = Fuck yes:
Ok, so admittedly I took the piss out of Gravel Grinding, mainly as it spent it’s time doing the rounds as the latest marketing fad for the Big S and others to sell bikes, and if, like me, the concept of hurtling your 6kg, 25mm clad road bike down a gravel road is abhorrent, then welcome to being a purist.
In theory if you like changing tubes, then sure, you can get busy fucking up your road bike on epic gravel missions… Or, you can do things properly with this incredibly delicious beast. Granted, the Santa Cruz Stigmata is in theory designed more for the… Well, the discipline that we shall not speak of, but its also absolutely perfect to move into your stable and fulfil multiple roles, and it just so happens that it excels at reaming gravel roads…
Actually, let’s not bullshit – I just really wanted one in THAT colour, which I have to say has to be one of the most iconic SC paint jobs ever, up there with the blue (Actually Aqua) Nomad 3 and the Pink (Actually Kalimotxo) Bronson. That and the fact that an epic Das Wolf deal came up on my radar that I couldn’t say no to. Some alarming initial points and facts about this bike that I’ve discovered in the very early days:
- This is my first ‘C’ Santa Cruz, which is the lower spec frame model in terms of weight and how they lay up the carbon… Can I tell any difference? No, not in the slightest (not that I have a baseline to compare to)
- This is a supremely comfortable bike to ride, almost freakishly so to the point that getting back on a road bike feels strange. The geo matched with the 33c tires @ 45psi leads to a full magic carpet ride
- I’m on a size 56cm, which is fucking weird given every road bike I’ve ever ridden is a 54… I was highly skeptical, but I trusted Das Wolf and the SC sizing chart and oddly this size is spot on for my 179cm chassis, even with my stumpy torso and T Rex arms
- Unfortunately its dripping in SRAM, which is the first time I’ve had this unfortunate experience on the road side of the ledger, but thus far, and rather annoyingly, I’m yet to find fault with the Rival gruppo… Fuck it.
But I think the main thing to know about this bike is simply how fucking amazing it is – Like, no bullshit… From the very first ride its been a love that’s starting to move into inappropriate territory. I had an odd expectation that this thing would be a total pig to be honest, but the way it rides on and off road has been nothing short of a revelation. In terms of investment I went pretty cheap on this machine, but in a murphy’s law world its turned out to be the one that I am having trouble putting down: Out of my last 5 rides, 4 have been on this fabulous stead, its quite literally addictive.
I have significantly more gushing to do on the Stig, but I shall try and keep some of my load shooting in check for a future post. If you think its perplexing, disgusting and odd that I appear to be frothing more about the Stigmata than the Nomad 4, then you’re not alone.
Firstly I think there is something refreshingly simple about a bike with no suspension, especially when you’ve lusted after it secretly for years (people with work crushes commence that special inside secret pang now), but I suspect this froth will all balance out with more time on the Nomad 4 and more importantly, more time in the right terrain! Wairoa Gorge and Queenstown trips anyone? Mountain bikes always take longer to set up, bed in and get used to, so stay tuned as that process unfolds during the summer ahead.
Secondly, the Stigmata has suddenly opened up an intriguing & inspiring new genre of riding, which I think is the more compelling aspect here. Suddenly new routes, loops and zones have suddenly opened up to tap. Added to that, this thing thinks its a road bike when on the tarmac and then suddenly has a split personality and turns into a mountain bike when you ride it full gas onto gravel or dirt. I’m not sure how many Unicorns Santa Cruz put through the abattoir to produce this bike, but the result is quite superb.
Don’t worry – I’m first in the queue saying “What the fuck cunt?” at the fact the froth appears to be the wrong way around here.
Ah, not to be forgotten of course, the main machine from 2017, the Hightower, has not only undergone a makeover, but also a significant diet over the last couple of months since it came off ENDURO duty and has moved back into ‘Trail’ mode, AKA fucking mountain biking, AKA just riding your bike around. Turning this thing back into its theoretically intentioned guise has even had the side effect of increasing its sex appeal:
In terms of ensuring the HT retained some relevancy in the arsenal, it had to differentiate itself from the machines around it, which shouldn’t be hard to do given its the only 29er. As part of its new vibe, weight loss was at the top of the agenda and in the end I think close to 3kg’s has been shed from its previous ‘beast mode’ setting, all achieved through the following adjustments:
- Wheels – WW Flites swapped out for DT Swiss XMC1200’s. These were originally destined for a TB3 project which got canned, leaving me stranded with an expensive as fuck carbon wheelset that aren’t really XC and probably not ones you’d trust in Finale, so they’ve ended up on here. They’re head scratchingly light and whilst the latest versions are 30mm internal, I can’t seem to notice much difference with these at 24mm.
- Pedals – Big ass DX’s out and trusty XT trail’s in, worth a solid chunk of weight, even if they do make my feet slightly sore on longer descents
- Rear shock – This was the hardest change to make, the superb DHX2 out and the original Float X EVOL back on, a big chunk of weight and oddly it almost feels like this shock might suit the bike slightly better? I’m a cunt at working all that stuff out obviously, but I suspect the shorter stroke of the HT rewards the Fox air shock slightly more
- Tires – Gone are the Maxxis DoubleDown tires and their 300g weight penalty and in are the rather ambitious Minion SS on the back and a 2.3 DHR2 on the front. Pretty much the bulk of the weight savings right there… No Huck Norris in the rear either (Phrasing)
- Fork – Its 140mm Fox 34 time up front, Boost of course and quite svelte when compared to the much more ENDURO worthy 36. I feel exceedingly uncomfortable with the fork change, but in theory this is the correct spec, so it will be interesting to see how it rolls. Watch this space…
I initially thought that it would actually ride like a skittish nightmare after a life to date of relative fatness and lush ENDURO parts, but strangely I didn’t really find that to be the case. Shock horror, could it actually be a good idea to ride a bike as designed? Obviously I wasn’t hitting any EWS stages, but everything I’ve done on it so far has not only validated what a wonderfully capable machine this is, but also how fucking nice it is to have a lighter weight rig for a change.
A massive Dirty shout out and THANKS to the boys at The Hub Cycle centre for the awesome work and attention to detail getting all three of these weapons beautifully refined and meticulously set up for many thousands of kilometres of radness and good times. Banger job chaps.
So then, essentially 3 new machines declared operational just in time for the cunty spring weather and the arrival of DN Junior, whilst I don’t usually dwell on personal life here (aside from all my intimate cycling insecurities), I thought I should reference the Stork delivery to explain dropping off the blogging radar for a while. Stay tuned for future posts some time in November as I start to bitch and moan about training for Andes Pacifico whilst highly sleep deprived!