WHEN THE CLOCK STRIKES 12 BROOKLYN MACHINE WORKS…THE BIG BEN
From Dirt Issue 105 – NOvember 2010
Words by Steve ‘the Butcher’ Walker. Photos by The Butcher.
I ain’t gonna bullshit you. I’ve always wanted a frame built by BMW. Not the German car manufacturer that wanna be ‘footballer’s wives’ all aspire to be sat in, but the guys who prevail out of New York City. The masters of making bike frames out of metal that’s real…i.e. STEEL.
Up until now I never owned a Brooklyn, and I’ve owned a lot of bikes. It isn’t the type of thing that your local shop keeps on the shelf. Similar to trying to buy a Donna Karen dress (who also prevails out of New York) for your first love, you want it, the money has been saved, but a trip to the local market or shopping mall isn’t going to cut it this time. If exclusivity is what you are looking for, you’re going to have to search. In other words don’t bother the Roberts boys at your local Halfords. They won’t stock it.
In complete contrast, Ged ‘The Head’ the U.K. importer of Brooklyn ‘stuff’ is apparently one of the most down to earth, gritty f–kers you will ever meet. He’s a working class window cleaner who takes no prisoners and yet has a fantastic friendship with the Big Apple based frame building specialists. Bit like good cop, bad cop scenario I guess?
The first time I actually saw a BMW in the flesh was down at the Chicksands bike park about two years ago. It was a Mini Link and I dribbled all over it. The dribbling scene was similar to a foam machine at an Ibiza night club. Sadly I didn’t get to ride it. So when John ‘Hughie’ Hewitt offered to loan me his 4X race bike at the 2010 Redhill national my reaction was similar to going on a dinner date with Megan Fox. Pathetic I know, but true…
The fact is ‘Hughie’ annihilated the competition at Redhill and lost the final by default. Everyone knew he was the real senior class winner, even if he didn’t stand on the top step of the podium. His nearest rival on that day (and throughout the 2010 race season) was Tom Gethin. Now Gethin is a fantastically smooth trails rider who just so happens to be blessed with natural speed and is one of the few remaining flat pedal racers on the U.K. national 4X race circuit. So when I called ‘Getha’ up to see if he would be interested in hammering the hell out of his nemesis bike I don’t think he could believe his luck!
“Are you serious”, he asked.
I replied “Yes”. Here’s what he thought:
“Following Butchers description of his love for Brooklyn bikes, I have to agree with his logic on the fact that these bikes are exclusive to few people, all with great taste. His phone call to ask me to have a blast on John’s Brooklyn race bike filled me with great excitement. Yet also a weird feeling that I’d be getting to ride my rival’s bike, an insight into something that has taken him to victory more than a few times over the period of seven rounds of NPS 4X.
Pulling the bike out of the van, you immediately notice the weight is right down, probably below the 25lb mark. John has built it with the highest quality parts, Crank Bro’s Iodine wheels, Fox 831’s, Raceface, XTR, Hope and MRP. This is an all–out race bike, made to go fast and it doesn’t disappoint on the track.
Riding the bike is a dream. Nothing less I’d say. Once you’ve decided whether it’d be a good idea to actually ride this bike (rather than hang it up and admire it in your living room), you get to unleash a super smooth and responsive ride. There’s plenty of room in the cockpit with a 22.3” top–tube that’ll cater for even the tallest ride (aka John ‘the machine’ Hewitt). Sprinting out of the gate it’s incredibly quick, due to the stiff back end. The power isn’t lost at all, similar to the Yeti DJ frame, only it rides better! Picking up over pump bumps and manualing through triple rollers is once again effortless. The 16” stays are long enough to keep the bike stable, but short enough so that picking up over stuff is sweet. Once you are in the air it gets even better, as the bike seems to respond to your every move and thought. Control on the ground is responsive yet planted and turns like a F1 car (Ed note: when have you driven an F1 car!?), it’s just that good!
I felt completely comfortable on this bike from the off, flowing down the track taking pump jumps and berms with ease. It just feels right. They’ve built a superb frame, I honestly can’t find a fault with it. Butcher will tell you the same, just loveable all over. Comparing this frame to the Yeti DJ, which most U.K. four cross racers regarding this as the bench mark frame of 2010 (with its World Championship riders input) the Brooklyn holds its own with me. It’s easily a much better frame in my opinion…maybe it’s the steel? I believe this is due to the larger cockpit area, with perfect length stays and minimal gussets that keeps the whole frame stiff and sweet. John has built an incredible race bike here, so if you see him just ask for a razz. He’s a very friendly bloke, and is happy to let you experience the beast (as long as you don’t look like a pikey)!” Tom Gethin.
So we know the test bike John provided us with was built up as a race winning weapon, and out on the race track and trails Geth was ‘loving’ the steel beauty, but I was kind of curious to see how Big Ben performed down the woods? You know, over root, rock, braking bumps and wall to wall jumps. How a U.K. 4X track should be I suppose? So off we went to the Dirt 4X test track.
No lies. My first run down, old Ben took me by surprise. It sent me into a nose dive that required me to change my shorts. This time I was lucky, but it made me a little apprehensive on what I could and couldn’t do on the BMW. It turns out the near disaster I had was simply wanker…I mean rider…error. Once I adjusted my body position to how the bike jumped there was no problemo. The feel of steel shone through once again and the bike made me feel like I could do no wrong. It manualled with ease, railed berms and flat corners, but what impressed me most of all is the way this bike accelerated when pumping from the transition of landings. I suppose this frame is really as good as it gets.
However it should be. The Big Ben frame isn’t cheap. In fact it’s 700 mo fo US$ cheap. It’s made from true temper Super Therm, which is used a lot in BMX frame production. This process has proven very successful in BMX, so for a company like Brooklyn this was a no brainer. The seat and chainstay is of a much higher quality, which makes for a clean and thin lined looking frame. By doing this the frame is a lot lighter than the original Ben frames, but at the same time is equally strong. Each frame is meticulously hand welded in New York, and I must say the clear black frame they do started me foaming at the mouth (again), as sexy as it gets really.
A prize winning idiot once said to me “Yeah, but all steel hardtail frames are pretty much of a muchness”. So the question you guys (and me for that matter) really want to know is, do you buy one? This is a difficult one to answer given the price is $700. This is a lot a moolar for a hardtail frame.
Let’s put it this way. A guy walks into a department store to buy two navy blue pinstripe suits. One section of the store is ‘suits are us’ the other is ‘designer’. On the hangers both suits look the same and yet the designer suit is double the dollar. Now our suit guy can’t decide which one to buy, so he gets both with the idea of wearing each suit on alternate days. The problem is our guys a bit accident prone and has to have each suit dry cleaned at the end of each week. After 52 weeks of wearing and tearing of each suit he finally lands a dinner date with our Megan, the girl of his dreams. He wants more than anything to impress but only has the two navy suits to choose from for his date. Now, which one do you think he will choose?”
Think about it…
07931 350 095 (ask for Ged)