The desire to build a hardtail.Since the ambition to get back on the mountain bike scene flung to life in mid 2010, it had been an interesting road as time has progressed to put ideas on the table. Formulating summit routes with the bike, and finding what I could do with the bike to make it perform better for the varying Utah terrain here. After finding that my first suspension bike, a 2007 Giant Trance 2, was too large for me, I ended up selling that bike and purchasing a 2008 Giant Trance X. With the bike being a medium frameset, and trying a lot of different options for change the geometry around for what worked best, the Trance X became a climbing and descending machine! Please check out the article Trance-X-Formation to get an idea about the different stages that bike has seen.
Since childhood I've always loved to grab a wrench and disassemble something, then put it back together. Since JR High School a lot of my time was spent on working and cars and motorcycles. After taking the shop courses in High School and learning the basics of automotive maintenance, the desire to wrench continued onward. Several project cars were purchased since then, one of those cars got an entirely new powerplant, nearly doubling the horsepower. After about 10 years on that car, pretty much the only original component to it was the body itself. The interesting thing about life as of late though since mid 2008 is that the wrenching took it's turn on the back burner, as another childhood love re-emerged. Hiking and climbing mountains. A goal was set to reach a summit a week, and soon the wrenches and tools laid dormant in the tool chests and the pack and hiking boots were used every weekend.
The mountain bike scene came back to life as well in mid 2010 out of necessity. After suffering a dog bite on the back of my left knee, I found that descending peaks and those routes on foot hurt and agitated the wound. So the bike began to be incorporated to reaching the summits with minimal strain on the injury. That wound healed up several months later, though the mountain bike scene has come back to life stronger than ever.
With the love of hands on mechanical and also that of the outdoors, the mountain bike has been quite literally the perfect way of blending those two together. And after re-building up the Trance X through the early part of 2011, I also had several storage bins full of extra parts. Just about enough to build up a second bike. I'd been mulling over the though of building a hard trail from scratch for about a month. Soon the quest was on for sourcing out a good yet inexpensive frame...
Sourcing out the frame and tear down.Back in early February of 2011 I began to search for the hard tail frame. I'd looked a little into getting a new frameset, a closeout 2009 Specialized Hardrock from one of the local bike shops here in town. The thing about that bike was that it was already built up, and honestly the basic component group didn't really seem to appeal at all. So I kept searching.
One day during my lunch break at work I was strolling around a local pawn shop. I happened to notice part of the shop where they had several bikes on display, and walked over to check them out. One stood out... an old, beat up tired looking red Specialized Rockhopper. This thing was a mess! No wheels or tires, the chain and rear derailluer were AWOL, the seat and grips were torn to shreds. Also it looked like the bike had been at the bottom of an oil pit for years. After noticing a couple things about the bike my interest was spiked a bit. A 17" A1 aluminum frame. Also, an IS disc mount on the rear dropout. Some slight damage from the chain on the chainstay due to the protector being missing. Other than that the frame looked ok. I looked at the price tag. $100.00. Yeah, right...
One of the pawn shop associates came over asking if I needed help, and I pointed at the bike, told him that it was a mess. Who would buy it without wheels and tires? After going on about the bike like that for a bit and explaining that I wouldn't pay $100 for it, he checked the computer, came back and told me he would sell it for $70.00. I agreed, and loaded the bike into my work vehicle. During the rest of my lunch break I stripped as many components off the bike as possible, where they made their way into the trash. Later on I stopped at a car wash and degreased the bike and jet blasted it about three times over to get all the grime off it.
Later that evening once getting home, I got what was left of the bike, brought it down to a part of the un-finished basement in the house designated for bike repair and storage. My kids soon joined me. After handing them some tools and racking the bike, they took over on getting the rest of the components off. Together we had the bike stripped down to the frame before it was their bedtime.
After they went to bed, I sanded down the pitted chainstay to a smooth finish. I also realized that getting all the old red paint off was going to be a nightmare...
Refinishing the frame and getting the build ready.The next morning I loaded the naked frame into the truck and headed out. During lunch, I took the frame to a chemical paint stripping shop, ironically known as "The Stripper." This shop used a special blend of chemicals, non-caustic, to get the red paint off. They called me a little later and let me know it was ready. Once picking up the frame later in the day, it was gleaming aluminum! I then took the freshly stripped frame to a local powder coat shop called Powderworks. There I decided on a two stage powder coat finish. The base coat is Raceboat Silver, metallic. The second coat was a clear powder coat overlay. The guys at Powderworks told me to expect it to be done in a couple weeks.
During that time I went through my inventory of parts. A lot of the parts in the bins were left overs from the Trance X rebuild. I had a complete drive train, wheels and tires, stem and handlebars and the Hayes Brakes.
I took the old dirty drive train components out to the solvent tank in the garage and cleaned them up pretty good. I then washed the solvent off in warm soapy water, put them in a bin to dry.
I did end up ordering a new headset which arrived in the mail by the time the build was ready. I found a Sunline V1 seat post and 2010 Rockshox Dart III fork on clearance at a local bike shop which I picked up.
The Original Build.After those two weeks passed, Powderworks called and let me know that the frame was ready. Excited, I headed over and picked up a gorgeous metallic silver Rockhopper frame!
I got the parts and tools in order, racked the frame and got started. First the headset went on with a make shift headset press. I didn't want to dump the cash on a regular press thinking that particular tool wouldn't be needed as much.
Next came installing the Dart III fork up front, cutting the steerer tube to size and getting the star fangled nut installed. Then the bottom bracket went on, the Deore XT crankset. I installed a Sram X9 rear derailluer and a Deore front derailluer. Next the Sunline V1 stem went on, then the Gravity 777 flatbars. The shifters came next, Sram X7 trigger shifters. I then installed new gun metal gray cable housing cutting each section to size and installing the ferrules. After running the cables through, the base of the build was coming together.
The wheels and tires went on, then the Hayes Nine Carbon brakes. The new seatpost and existing WTB saddle were mounted. I spent about an hour after this installing the other smaller items and dialed the bike in. Feeling pretty good about the build, I took it off the rack and into the office for a quick photo!
The Interim.After seeing the bike the next morning in it's completed stage, the kids and my wife were surprised. "That's the old red bike?" They asked. My wife really liked the color of the metallic silver on the bike and it remains her favorite finish on all the bikes I've got in the arsenal now.
Soon the bike starting getting action on both paved and dirt trails. It was built up well for the paved trail system, though in the dirt and off road it didn't feel similar to the Trance X. I started thinking seriously about what I could do to the bike to replicate the Trance's geometry as close as possible.
The first change came by installing the same Phenom saddle that I used on the Trance. I found a 2010 version of the seat here locally for a good price. Next, I pulled off the Deore XT crankset and bottom bracket, originally 175mm crank arms. I installed the same type of crank that was on the Trance, an FSA Afterburner 44-32-22T setup with 170mm crankarms. A new MegaExo bottom bracket was installed as well. These changes helped a bit though more was needed ultimately.
I found that the Dart III fork had it's drawbacks. I was especially alarmed when I noticed that the steering had almost seized up after only about three months! I took the fork off the bike and found that the steel steer tube on the Dart III had rusted up good, and had ruined the Woodman headset. A bit frustrated about this, I found a Crank Brothers Sage SL Directset and a brand new Rockshox Tora 302 with nice burly 32MM stanchions on clearance at another local bike shop. The Tora's steer tube was aluminum as well, no more rusting! I installed those two together, again using the makeshift headset press I thought I wouldn't need to use as much. Smooth butter steering afterward and a heck of a lot more suspension travel. After this the bike stood almost two inches taller than before up front, nearly the same as the Trance.
Another geometry chance after this was the change out on the Gravity 777 flat bars. I purchased a Loaded AMXC low rise bar, same as the Trance. This bar's width is 711mm, with a nice low 15 degree rise. I also installed Specialized BG contour locking grips, again the same as the Trance. Even the same type of bar ends and plugs. At this point the geometry was a close as it was going to get.
One more change I did was the wheelset. The older Crank Brothers champagne Cobalts came off, and I replaced then with Crank Brothers new Cobalt II's. The new wheelset has the same cool looking anodized silver rim and black spoke design as the Cobalt setup on the Trance. The main cosmetic difference is the spoke retainer cylinders on the wheels are anodized blue, and the rear hub has a different pawl design than the original Cobalt's. Much more quiet now.