For most people reading this, the last bike you purchased probably looks relatively different now from that first moment you put a #newbikeday Gram pic up.
Our intense relationships with our steeds are ultimately ones of honeymoon period, adjustment, refinement, tweaking and innovative advancement until either harmony is reached, or you convince yourself the relationship simply isn’t working due to geometry fundamentals that just can’t be cured.
Or perhaps you shredded a lap on a mates machine, and couldn’t resist surrendering to the ‘different is better’ buzz washing over you, as you convince yourself you need more of whatever was just under you in your life. Ultimately getting faster, better or more stylish is more about getting bad habits coached out of you, or riding with rad cunts, but sometimes the right tweaking and properly evolved bike relationship can unlock a few doors to radness.
It occurred to me on the recent Queenstown mission that Megatron had never felt as pinned, capable, fast or comfortable to ride as it did on that trip. Feels like an odd thing to say given the 1,500km’s or so we’d covered together prior to that, but it did make me reflect on the basket of changes and updates since I did my long term love letter rant.
So much so, I felt it best to post a follow up on how things have become even more Mega as we rolled through summer.
#1 – Vorsprung Shock tune
You can imagine my joy when I hopped on Megatron one day and the Rock Shox Super Deluxe suddenly sagged to about 69% of its stroke… My annoyance of having a fucked shock was quickly overwhelmed by the glee of having another SRAM product shit its pants in front of me. My fingers quivered with excitement as they fantasised about tapping out unbridled disdain on the keyboard.
As much as I love the DHX2, I did want to keep rolling the air shock, and after raising both eyebrows at the prices of the 2021 X2 Fox air shocks, I turned to Jono at Suspension Lab for a third alternative. As much as I relished this finger pointing moment of cuntery from SRAM, I had been enjoying the Meg Neg set up and wasn’t totally ready to abandon ship.
His diagnosis was the Super Deluxe had packed a sad due to a large scratch on the shaft, which as the Rodfather will tell you, is an eye watering diagnosis… Also means its hard to keep things…. Inflated?
But, Jono had a plan. New shaft, obviously, but then he was going to Vorsprung this muthafucka with a Tractive tune. My eyes started to glaze over as I read what this entails, but much like my parenting style, I figured that if we thew money at it, then things would hopefully come out better off.
In the words of Vorsprung then, no, not a paid commercial here, this is what the surgery entailed:
“Simply put, the Tractive Tune is centred around our proprietary valving calculation software that achieves a customised damper characteristic based on rider weight, frame geometry, terrain and riding style.”
A quick survey later, in which you sort of have to confess you’re possibly not as rad as you’d like to answer, the SD was off and in Jono’s artisanal hands to undergo its German sounding (but Canadian) make over.
After the mild fuckbaggery of bolting the SD back into the Megatower with the usual washer dance done, it was time to see if the fancy marketing words on the Vorsprung site would deliver or not. Naturally I was mildly enamoured with the huge sticker:
Woah. Like, fucking WOW… Right from the first trail it was evident that this wasn’t just a change or an upgrade, that would be putting it far too mildly. I’m going to steer clear of using the word ‘Transformational’, because this isn’t LinkedIn, but suddenly it felt like the bike had an enhanced personality.
It was almost like I’d spent an entire weekend testing with a Pro team race mechanic and after endless comparison runs, this was the ultimate tune we had settled on for the race season. Obviously I had done none of that, but as I blasted the MT through various terrain and events, that’s the benefit I had reaped.
This is the part where I do a terrible job of describing exactly what is better about it (As Dok puts his head in his hands and lets out a soft and despairing ‘useless cunt’), other than saying “Everything”, but in many ways it feels like I now have the ultimate combination of a Coil and Air shock all in one.
It’s more supple initially, definitely more support through the mid-stroke and there is no bottom out hijinks to be had. Yes, I just spammed a whole load of suspension cliches on your face, so apologies. But perhaps the two best things about this change is 1) the overall feeling of quality and stability the shock now has and 2) the genuine feeling that this has been custom tuned for you and the bike.
Ride wise its made Megatron feel not only more capable, but also more fun to ride. Admittedly I haven’t done any back to back runs with the DHX2 to compare, but that’s mainly because I haven’t felt even mildly compelled to take the Vorsprung SD off the bike.
#2 – One Up Bars (and stem spacer)
I’ve been sold on the One Up bars for some time already, best bar ever etc etc, but had been seduced into running the 25mm rise model thus far. My ignorance had been predictably blissful.
But recently I was following the Professor and noted that I was plowing into shit with all the finesse and timing of a Ted Cruz family holiday, whereas he was definitely not. When I tried to emulate his silky smooth moves, I found getting the front end up slightly problematic.
T Rex arms aside, I suspected this was most likely because I had the low rise One Up bar slammed as low as that stem would go. Who the fuck knows why? Too much Bandito in my life? Solution time:
Up a 10mm spacer and the low rise 25mm bar swapped out for the 35mm rise model, and the result has been fucking excellent. I won’t get into technical chapter and verse about the merits of lifting the stem vs. changing the bar rise, but as a package this has resulted in not only a lot more confidence when shit gets real, but allowed me to have a better shot at that finesse I was aiming to emulate from The Professor, instead of just barging into shit.
Granted, the higher rise bar aesthetically takes a little getting used to, but I ran out of fucks to provide about that when it felt vastly superior to ride with them.
#3 – 200mm One Up dropper
Not to come across as a total One Up fluffer here, but I was fairly sure I wasn’t going to give up my Fox Transfer any time soon, but price, availability and the large amount of post I had sticking out ultimately forced the change.
Yes, technically it’s the 210mm model, but given the tightness of the MT hole in accomodating the shaft, we shimmed it down to 200mm to get things working correctly.
If you’ve ever gone from a 150mm dropper to a 175mm one, then you’ll understand how fucking great the leap another 25mm to 200 is. I’d been rolling the 175mm Fox Transfer on there previously, and while it had never missed a beat, the cost and performance of the One Up was hard to go past when it came time to create some more space.
The result? Instantly noticed a big difference first time out in Queenstown, which confirms the advice to always run the longest possible dropper you can possibly manage. Whilst this might seem an obvious AF change to make, the freedom of movement and ability to get low can’t be overstated as massive wins.
#5 – Back to low setting on the linkage
Admittedly this felt like a slightly odd move, but I have become obsessed with getting a shorter reach set up. I may have ridden some other bikes recently where my T Rex arm length enjoyed a shorter reach, so any chance to replicate had to be taken in my mind.
I still suspect that high is better for all round trail riding, but when chasing your high octane cycling friend group down steep gnar, low definitely has a place in this world from a confidence perspective. Mind those cranks though, no room for a lazy pedal moment here.
A series of less eventful tweaks & changes, but all incrementally helped guide us on the path towards the summit of Peak Megatower:
- Moved the XTR shifter pod onto an Ispec clamp on the lever to clean up the bar and give me some better adjustability in placement
- Ditched the Ergon GE1 grips in favour of the GD1’s, which is an awesome trade. The funky orange wasn’t by design, but it sort of works with the frame colour… he says hopefully
- Switched to Power Arc saddle from a no-name brand, after someone commented that it was peculiar that I had an XC saddle on my Enduro bike <<Horror>>. Upsides is it’s shorter, so less chance of cuntbaggery when you need to cut some emergency shapes
- Ended up with a 2.4 DHR2 on the back, as the Rodfather likes to say, you can really feel that 0.1 of an inch extra…
Where to from here?
So, if I’m approaching ‘Peak Megatower’, where to from here? What can possibly be done to continue to improve performance or tweak shit up a bit? In normal parts swapping terms, I feel slightly tapped out at the moment given the pedigree of everything bolted to the frame.
Short of new innovation hitting the market, there are only two fucking random thoughts on how I could take things to another level:
- Get a Medium sized one – But only for Rotorua! Yes, this is a strange one, but I currently have a weird obsession that may be completely wrong, but every time I get into janky or narrow tree lined trails, I feel compelled to be on a shorter bike. The size large Megatower was fucking insanely perfect down south, but I would love to try a medium for a weekend back to back in the land of pumice.
- The Mega Mullet – I still can’t find the words to correctly describe why, but I am also currently enamoured with mullet bikes…. Maybe it’s a phase, maybe it’s the future, but fuuuuuuck I would LOVE to try a MegaMullet, or perhaps a Megatower MX, who cares what they’ll call it, but if Santa Cruz decide to drop a mullet option on us like the V10-MX, I would be hiding the stain in the front of my shorts while trying to get my hairy fingers on one. Watch now as Nick Anderson either has me assassinated or sends me a pre-prod model for middle aged testing.
I would encourage you at this point to go forth and get tweak crazy on your machine to continue to refine and improve your relationship together, but parts and bikes appear to be vaporising at a rapid rate as we head into some sort of cycling industry supply armageddon, so until that’s resolved perhaps best to love what you have and find some rad muthafuckas to chase instead.