Megavalanche: Bike Build
This year we thought we would give you the low down on a couple of the bikes that we will be taking to the Megavalanche. Words by M.Rose.
Taken from Dirt issue 65, July 2007
The Megavalanche is one of THE classic downhill races in the world. It really is a total test for body, soul, and of course bike. It is held in the alpine town of Alpe d’Huez during the last week of July, and really we are pretty new to the event, having only attended for the last two years, each time taking out a variety of bikes.
This year we thought we would give you the low down on a couple of the bikes that we will be taking to the event. From the downright crazy hardtail bike from Dialled that Bill Thackray (resident hardtail freak) will be riding, to the altogether more sensible Intense 6.6 that team rider Rob Breakwell will be on.
I mean you can ride the event on anything, on a downhill bike it will be comfy on the downs, but a bit of a handful on the ups, and not really competitive. The ‘new wave’ of long travel, go anywhere bikes is really what you need. A solid wheelset, DH tyres, very good brakes and a strong but light build is really what you are after.
So here are just two of the bikes that the Dirt crew will be using out in Alpe d’Huez.
Well f–k me, I thought it would never get built, but stone the French crows, the Megavalanche hardtail project is a reality. And do you know what? It’s quite a sweet machine too.
So you’re thinking ‘why the hell do the avalanche on a hardtail?’ I say, ‘because it’s there’. No, wait, someone else said that. No, really what happened was, was, well what it is, is. Well, I did the race last year on some mid travel thing, and I thought to myself ‘you know, this is all very good fun, but I’m just a number here, number two hundred and fifty seven, just one of maybe fifteen hundred mid travel bikes’. I want to be different, I want to be free, I want to be loaded, I want to remember those lyrics. Throw into the pot the fact that certain people say it can’t be done on a hardtail, season with a drizzle of ‘you’ve gotta be nuts’ and garnish with a sprig of ‘keeping it real baby’ and if it’s done right you end up with a blumin’ good adventure. If not, it might be more of an eggy mess, either way it’s a challenge.
So this was January, the plan was kicked about a bit, and finally HQ said ‘enough kicking, something’s gonna get broken, go, build your machine’. So after four weeks of emails and phone calls I managed to track down two dust caps and a sprocket. Back on the phone to HQ, I said ‘listen, you’d better do it, but just promise me one thing, promise me that it’s pink and gold, has white tyres, purple spokes and is pimped to the max, got it?’
I don’t think they heard me, anyway here she is. A quick razz round and it certainly feels lively, pretty light too. And the stealth look is growing on me. See you in France.
Click through to view the Megavalanche: Bike Build gallery before reading on...
Pink, gold, purple, white...maybe not, but trick yes. After taking far too long to decide on exactly what we were going to use for this build we finally came to a decision. This is what we chose, and more importantly why we chose it...
Frame: Dialled Bikes Prototype
The key to this build was obviously the frame and it wasn’t an easy decision to make. We’d decided steel, or possibly titanium, purely for comfort and peace of mind, it was just a case of getting the geometry right. We’d been umming and aahhing for ages and then we remembered hearing that the guys at Trail Adiction (who run uplift holidays in Les Arcs area) had been testing out a prototype ‘Alpine’ hardtail for Dialled Bikes.
We’ve always liked the handling of their frames and when we found out more about this prototype it sounded perfect; Reynolds 853, designed for a 6" travel fork, big tyre clearance, etc, etc. Luckily it seems spot-on, not too small, but there’s massive amounts of stand over height thanks to the dropped toptube. I think it looks great, and I’m sure it’ll survive many more Megavalanches than Billy will.
Fork: RockShox Lyric Coil U-Turn
We chose these for a number of reasons; firstly they’re coil not air. If you’re ever going to have problems with air forks overheating, it’s going to be at the Mega, so I think they’re best avoided. The added bonus of choosing the spring over the air is that the U-Turn travel adjust allows us to precisely tweak the length of the fork, just in case it turns out to handle badly at full bore (seems like it doesn’t though). Can’t remember what reason I’m at now...anyway, they also work a treat, have an efficiency mode (if he can ever be arsed to use it), and feature all the damping adjustments you could ever want. Tool–less wheel removal is also another large plus point.
Headset: Cane Creek Solos
We could have gone for something huge, but instead we’ve just gone for quality bearings. The headtube is fairly substantial so we didn’t feel the need for anything stronger, so it seemed sensible to save some weight here.
Stem: Easton Havoc DH
We have sometimes come across issues when using certain stems with carbon bars, they just seem to distribute the stress badly, so just to make sure we don’t run into any problems we’ve simply matched the bar and stem. Billy said he normally ran a 50 mm, so that’s what we got him, and he seems pretty happy.
Bars: Easton CNT MonkeyLite DH
Some of you might not trust carbon bars, but I do. These are ridiculously light, and seriously strong, plus they’ll give a very much needed extra form of comfort. They’re about to receive some chopping though.
Grips: Industry Nine
Last year Billy deliberately ripped his grips off before the race, you could say he likes them thin. We were thinking ODI Ruffians, but then we spotted these in a box, almost an exact copy, just a tiny bit slimmer. Lock–On style fitting...perfect.
[part title="Megavalanche: Bike Build Part 2"]
Shifter: Sram X.0
Normally I’d choose X-9 for general duties (although I must admit the new XT is also damn fine), but this is a special race that calls for a special components. We said that it’d be pimp.
Derailleur: Sram X.0 Short Cage
For the same reason we got the shifter
Brakes: Formula Bianco
Not the most common choice maybe, but they are incredible. They are almost identical to the limited edition Greg Minnaar ones that we showed you last year, one finger levers, polished, and super lightweight. Unfortunately they are also the only thing that hasn’t turned up as yetz.
Cranks: Middleburn RS7, 170 mm
As soon as I saw the frame, I knew it had to have Middleburns. They just look right on a steel frame of this nature, luckily they are also about as strong and light as you’ll get, and what’s more they’re made in good old Blighty. The ISIS axle format is plenty strong enough, especially with a thicker axle, and the bearing issues have largely been resolved by the item below.
BB: SKF BFR-600
Full stainless-steel construction, the best bearings and seals that man can make, it’s the saviour of ISIS.
Ring: Middleburn 36t
It just made sense, plus they’re bloody strong. Final ring size is still in question, but this will probably be the one.
Chain Guide: Gamut P40
Simple, light, reliable, what more could we ask for? We nearly went for the new 36t Max version, but decided to go for this one just in case he ended up wanting a bigger ring.
Cassette: Sram PG-980, 11-34t
We would have had the top of the range cassette had it been in stock, but to be fair this is the one that I’d normally run, it’s just much better value. You’ll note the widest gear range possible, Billy wants every bit of help he can get to tackle those climbs, without having to resort to a triple chainset, or a tiny front ring.
Chain Sram: PC-991 Hollowpin
If you’re running Sram X.0 it just seems sense to run this pimp chain of theirs. Powerlink connecters rule.
Pedals: Sunline V–One
Gnarly flats for a gnarly race, hopefully Billy will soon have a nice pair of 5.10’s to go with them.
Wheels: Hope Pro II Complete Wheelset
You can go too far wrong with a pair of Hope hubs, these came built up (direct from Hope) with DT spokes and rims. The EX5.1D rims have proven in the past to be better in many ways than their bigger brother, but only time will tell if they’re going to up to this task. Billy’s going to be giving them plenty of grief beforehand, so we’ll know before race day comes. We’re also using the DT Tubeless Conversion Kit, tubeless is the future, especially for this sort of event.
Tyres: Hutchinson Bulldog 2.5" Tubeless
We knew that we wanted something big (to make up for the lack of any rear suspension), and when I saw these bad boys lying in the corner of the office I thought ‘why not?’ The final decision hasn’t really been made yet on tyre choice, but after some scary no–brakes testing it became clear that these have definitely got some grip going on, and the sidewalls are suitably thick.
Seatpost: SDG I–Beam
Billy decided that he wanted to keep it simple and so the idea of something telescopic was thrown out the window. The I–Beam set–up is the lightest and most reliable that we know, so that’s why we chose it.
Saddle: SDG Bell Air ST I-Beam
Great saddle, and it obviously fits the seatpost.
Seat QR: Salsa
Even though Billy reckons that he never puts his seat up even the slightest, I just thought it would be safer to at least give him the option. I got him the best (and possibly the most beautiful) one I’ve ever used.
THE REBUILD: FULL SUSPENSION
OK, so Billy is crazy and is going to ride a hardtail (good luck, he’ll need it), but most sensible people ride a 6" travel singlecrown ‘All–Mountain’ bike. With that in mind Dirt team rider Rob Breakwell was on the look out for a bike. He did race last year after a disastrous start to the week. He was riding around the car park, bunny hopped a rock a wrenched his back. This left him in agony and prostrate on the floor for three days. Anyway, lets hope he doesn’t try to be the ‘stunt bunny’ again this year.
Now the Dirt team is sponsored by Intense, so the choice of course was to be their 6.6. Component choice was sorted too because we have those all those covered by our sponsors. The slight problem was that the bike is actually mine, and had a load of ‘non team issue’ products on it. The bike needed a bit of a rebuild and of course a rethink.
Now you may think that we are just putting the team sponsor stuff on because we have to…well there is that, but to tell you the truth, the reason we chose all these companies to sponsor us in the first place is because all the products are brilliant. Simple as that.
There were of course a few things that we could have kept. The XTR crankset has shown that it can take the rigours of the Megavalanche, Steve Jones proved that two years ago, but we thought that this time around we would go for a single ring and chain device set up. So we chose the burlier Saints with a 36 tooth ring and an MRP guide. Simple…well you would think so, but the 6.6 does not come with an ISCG mount. Anyone who has ever tried to fit a chain device will know what comes next…spacers in, spacers out, mount on, mount off, bottom bracket in, bottom bracket out, scratch head, cup of tea etc, etc. Trying to get the right BB spindle length for everything to work was tricky, and to get everything bang on we may need a little creativity with a grinder later on!
Wheels were swapped for Mavic CrossMax SX with Intense tyres. There are some XC style tyres on it for now, but as soon as we get into the real mountains full DH tyres will be the order of the day. But having said that Rob is still trying to decide whether he should go for a semi slick DH tyre like the top boys run. Most of them run a semi slick on the back with something more aggro on the front. We have them in waiting, but we will just have to see on the day if they are appropriate.
It seemed a crime but we had to take off the new Hope V2’s and vented rotor and replace with Shimano Saints. The Saints rule but it was a bit sad to have to remove the Hopes. Bar and stem were replaced with Easton offerings.
Next up was suspension. The Manitou Nixons were swapped out for coil sprung Fox 36 Vanilla RC2’s. The whole debate of coil or air is still ongoing. We have both an air version of the 36 if we need it and a coil version of the Fox rear shock. Air is lighter, but the coil versions are more reliable. Again we are going to try out both forks and shocks to see which performs the best, you know the Megavalanche is a full–on, so we need to get it right.
The final component that we have to add is a telescopic post. Again this will add a bit more weight but will come into its own once out on the course.
So that is it. You’ll have to wait until Dirt 67 to see how they got on.