When I first assembled my mountain bike, the world of mountain biking was dominated by hard tails. Dual suspension was sort of a curio species. Nowadays where full suspension bikes are part of the mainstream and where, according to Mountain Bike Action Magazine survey, is rapidly becoming the norm rather than an exception in terms of new bike purchases (that is in North America); I still stayed on and stuck with my hard tail as my primary mountain bike. But I am still open and would consider having a full suspension in the future. Maybe later in life when the body is too old for the punishing rigors of the trail.
My first mountain bike was a Schwinn Moab (now converted as my touring and commuter bike). The components were the recently extinct LX series (I remember I also did had an Exage parts back in college, the oldest mountain bike Shimano parts I ever had). As I eventually had the opportunity and capability to upgrade, I became a weight weenie. It’s actually addicting, I may call that state as being “weenie-holic”. I read a lot of publications and the internet to satisfy my quest for the lightest but durable parts as it became an obsession. So the product is my ultimate racing cross country mountain bike. I am not sure if to date, this is still the lightest out there lcoally but I would definitely bet my money on it (Saw this site and was amazed on the lightest bikes out there- http://www.light-bikes.com/. I entered my bike here). Last time I checked, I was able to reach the sub 17 Ibs mark. I used this reference for products but I would say some of his parts are also not the lightest based on actual tests – (http://luckynino.blogspot.com/) but a great reference indeed.
During our early mountain bike days, we practiced naming our bikes with girl’s names (as we often “ride” them- no pun intended). I remember I named mine Diana. But after my wife nagged me into why I have chosen Diana, the practice died down as males are known to rather “drop it rather than explain it”. So just between the two of us- this is Diana II.
So here is my ultra-light cross country mountain bike specs:
Frame : Merida FLX 2000 Carbon Hard Tail 2008. But last time I checked, the newer Merida FLX was even lighter. There was also a Scott version that claimed to be the lightest. But since frames cost a fortune- it’s not like the other parts where one can easily sell, replace and upgrade, I have decided long ago that I will stick with this for keeps.
Fork : Rock Shox SID Team 2004. The newer SID’s have bigger stanchion diameter for stiffness but I would tend to think it’s heavier than my older version. The World Cup version, especially the one with the carbon steerer is definitely lighter than this but I am still not sold to having a steerer made of carbon plus the cost is already bounding the obscene. There was this fork I have researched to be lighter at a lesser cost- it’s the Spinner Ti but the problem is, it is not only unavailable locally, it’s also difficult to source even in Taiwan where it was manufactured. Nino claims the DT XCR Fork as the lightest at 1.257 grams but I bet it will cost a fortune as most European parts do.
For the stem, its Token. I had the Easton EA90 stem before, which is even lighter compared with the EC90 but after I weighed in the Token stem, it was lighter by some grams. I have replaced the bolts with titanium bolts to further reduce the weight for both the head clamps and the steerer clamps bolts. I would tend to agree after more than 3 years since I bought it; there might be newer products out there which may be lighter but I guess I am half cured of my being weenie-holic.
Brakes- the Formula R1 Disc Brake, the lightest out there. Though it’s the lightest, it has better stopping power and modulation than the other cross country brakes I have tested. I encountered one problem though, I lost the brake lever bolt once when I was riding, rendering one brake useless. But I am more optimistic that this is an exception to the rule rather than the norm. Or maybe my love of this product blinded me. Besides, I am satisfied with their service as Formula sent me replacement bolts directly from Italy after the issue has been reported. I have used a different titanium bolt to mount the calipers to further decrease the weight.
Rotors- Alligator Cirrus Rotors. The lightest rotor out there that seems to be reasonable. The Cirrus model is even lighter than their Ti coated models. I found an interesting replacement though but I was not able to buy it before I lost interest in weight reduction. It’s the Scrubs Rotors. The Scrubs is too expensive and needed to be ordered from the US. The Stans Al rotor on the other hand has been pulled out of production so it may not be that reliable (using Al as rotors- what are they thinking ?!).
For the wheel set, I have combined all of the lightest products out in the market. I used the Alex Scandium rims (I went to Binondo just to get one), the Wheelsmith spokes (lighter than the DT Swiss models) and the American Classics hubs- I should have brought the complete wheel set and just take out the hubs as the prices for both are not really that far apart. I could have ended up with extra rims and Sapim spokes. For rim tape, I have just used the transparent 3M duct tape for lesser weight.
Just for road or light trails or for “show” and not recommended for technical riding (so that I will not be blamed later)- the tires I have used is the Maxxis 310 which is 310 grams each. I just brought the Maxxis 320 after I saw the 310 so ended up with 2 sets of tires. For the tubes, the Bontrager XXX Lite outweighs all standard tubes out there but there is this upcoming transparent plastic tube that would beat them all. Not sure if this is the same one as the self healing being sold locally (Update- got this transparent tube from local bike shops- It was promising as the label claims an 80 grams weight but after getting back home and weighing it- its actual weight was around 110+ grams while the XXX Lite was just 95 grams).
For the group set- I used the 2009 XTR trigger shifter. Then the same series front derailleur and rear derailleur, replacing the rollers and bolts with after market options and not the Yumema. For the crank set, the 2003 XTR is lighter than the 2009 but didn’t trade off the small weight for the uniformity of having the same model series. Though I am looking forward to using the Agilis crank set which seems to be lighter plus to try out the oval rotors- if it indeed has its benefits. For the cassette, I also use the XTR and same as with the crank set, the 2003 model is lighter by a few grams but again I stucked to 2009 for uniformity. I have a “show case” cassette though; a lighter Ti-Al KCNC cassette. Didn’t use it as my everyday cassette as nothing beats the Shimano HyperGlide shifting and the Al parts of the KCNC will deteriorate faster if used frequently so better use it for show. Haven’t compared the newer Ti cassettes though. By the way, I have removed the granny rings from all of my mountain bikes as I don’t have a use for it. Not that I am powerful in climbs, but my logic is- if I use the granny gear, then I will just rather walk as I am faster walking than riding in granny’s. Anyways, I don’t have issues walking as I value intellect more than brute force. I think even McIlvan and RC of MTB Action agrees that a 2 X 9 is the most effective combination not only because of gear ratios but more so because of cross chain issues. Manufacturers on the other hand agrees with the 2 but claims a 10 is better as it has better gear transition from the tightly spaced cassette. But of course, a 2 X 10 is lighter than a 3 X 9 but a 2 X 9 is even lighter.
Now that the 10 speed XTR is out- am planning to evaluate this in the future- if budget permits.
Others includes: seat post – KCNC Ti (the Token was lighter but since its a 27 and the frame is a 30, the added weight of the shim makes the KCNC lighter- but I think the Woodman is the lightest out there), Saddle- Selle Italia Carbon SLR, an Itune Ti seat collar, an Alligator iLink Al cable housing (lighter than the more expensive Nokon), a synthetic PowerCordz cable from the US (I bet one of the few installations here in the Philippines), foam grips by Ritchey and Crank Brothers 2Ti for pedals (my budget didn’t reached the 4Ti), and KMC 9SL Gold Chain.
I often hear the word “it’s not about the bike” when somebody notices your passion and investment on bike products. I do agree to a certain point but if the motive is only about sourgraping, then I guess it’s a negative vibe. As these same people will do buy one if they have the money. If everything else is equal or near equal, then its about the bike- that’s why pros spends millions of dollars to invest on these. And most importantly bike riding is a separate thing from the admiration on the technical ingenuity of man particularly in this human contraption called “the perfect machine”, the bicycle. (It was said that if an alien sees a bike, without seeing a human being, then he can figure out what kind of form a human beings has). These falls as a hobby and passion on the bike technicalities itself and not the riding. Much as people spends money on collectibles and hobbies, this is just the same. Lucky for me, I am both a bike riding enthusiast and a bike technical enthusiast!