New Chiner! HongFu FM036 Review

I have caved in to -almost- every fashion in the MTB world. 29er, carbon and, gasp, purple anodisation included. (Going back a way here)

Well, I have just hotly penetrated the holiest of holies – yes – springs at the front AND the back of the bicycle. A dual suspension bi-cycle. I know – it’s wrong, it feels ..very very right.

You see, I have just assembled and ridden my new Chiner:

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It is a carbon 29er dual suspension XC race frame from Hongfu codenamed FM036. Catchy name huh?

The main things that terrify people about ordering stuff online from China:

Q1. Are the frames exploding piles of excrement? Surely you get what you pay for? Will it break and leave me with no front teeth?

Q2. Will my money disappear into some weird Asian black hole of e-commerce?

Here are the answers I have after buying 6 open mould frames from China.

A1: Amazingly, they are great quality.  They weigh what they say they do. The construction is fine. They use common and up to date standards around BB, headset, angles etc. Never had a breakage. I ride hard and often and have no technical finesse. Is it possible you will have a bike frame break and you will die? Yes, I suppose. But I’m yet to see any evidence that that happens to Chinese Open Moulds any more than any other frame. I notice that they seem to stay up to play on all the standards really well.  You can choose your BB standard, the head tubes are always the new style with the 1.5 bottom cup. The MTB axles are swappable between QR/ 10mm/ 12 x 142 – nothing weird and freaky. Just up to date and industry standard gear which is nice.

A2: The communication, ordering and getting on my doorstep process has been totally flawless every time. Now, if you end up having email exchanges, it might be important here to note that you are dealing with people who’s first language ain’t English. That might mean you need to be clear, concise and simple in the language you use. Don’t be a dick. Part of this deal is that you will maybe need to clarify a few things along the way. You are getting a great deal, so it’s worth it. Don’t get shouty in your communications with them because they don’t instantly understand every nuance of your language. If you think this is all too hard then don’t bother going down this route. If you think you can manage communicating clearly then it’s easy. You pay through Paypal so you are protected. Yes they pass the Paypal fee on to you. Swallow it and move on with your life. Here is the tracking data for this frame.

Status Scanned
1 Picked up 19:20 on 15/10/14
2 Left country of origin 23:46 on 15/10/14
3 Arrived in New Zealand 14:24 on 17/10/14
4 With courier for delivery 09:02 on 18/10/14
5 Delivery Complete 10:05 on 20/10/14

So, it was sent from Shenzhen at 7.20pm on 15 October. The courier attempted to deliver it to my door at about 10am 19 October. I got a calling card and picked it up at the depot at 10.05am on 20 October. So that’s errr, slightly less than 4 days. But actually it goes over the date line so I think it was actually 3. Either way – that’s awesome.  Here’s what you get:

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The ’36 is an XC race model designed for 100mm front and rear travel. I fitted a 165mm Rockshox Monarch R with Med/ Med tune for the best bang for buck and weight ratio and it’s a good match for the frame. The geometry is designed for 100mm fork so at the front I picked the tried and true RS Reba RL 100mm in 100mm with Poploc. I got some OEM deal on Merlins so it has limited ed. blue decals. It was cheaper than a normal one too. Cool!

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Open mould means that the carbon mould isn’t licensed by a major brand, so the manufacturer can produce unbranded frames for a third of the price and flog them on Aliexpress and ebay and the like. The ’36 looks like about 80% Trek Superfly and 20% Scott Spark. Frame weight was exactly 2230 grams on my kitchen scales. That’s including the plastic spacer thing for the shock. Yes I pulled it out and weighed it. Because I’m a freak. It was 25grams from memory. That makes this size 19 piece of moulded carbon 2205 grams or 4.86 lbs. The shock came in at 205 grams and the hardware (5 piece fox type) probably added another say 10 grams or so. So let’s call it 2420 grams all in. That’s exactly 1080 grams heavier than my HT FM057 frame. I’m transferring almost all parts for the build so in the end we will be looking at around 11.18kg/ 24.65 lbs with an SLX/ XTR build. *UPDATE* Fully finished it is 25.3 pounds/ 11.48Kg. The breakdown: ’36 frame is $735USD; Headset $15; Shipping $90; paypal charge (yes they pass it on to you) $35.33.  FYI, the paypal address I paid to was Jenny8088@126.com. Looks dodgy as hell huh? But no, it’s totally legit.

OK, so I got the shock on ebay for $NZD $208. Mounting hardware $60 at Mud Cycles. I got the 5 piece hardware kit for mounting it. You have to press out the existing bushing to install it. You need a special tool to press it out. Or take it to Mud Cycles and ask them to do it. They wouldn’t charge me for the job so I bought some tyres. Seemed fair. Support your LBS if they are nice to you. Mud cycles is nice to me.

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The rest of it was all transferred stuff, so I don’t know prices, but here’s a guide for possible build costs: I’ll skip the subtleties of exact specs but you’ll get the idea for comparo purps. Also you may be able to find cheaper with enough web snuffling. All NZD this time.

XT M780 group w brakes: $727 http://www.merlincycles.com/shimano-xt-m780-2-x-10-disc-brake-groupset-54656.html

Hope Hoops Wheelset: $533 http://www.wiggle.com/hope-hoops-pro2-evo-29er-wheelset/

Fork: Reba RL 100mm w Poploc $499

Bars/ Seatpost/ Clamp/ Stem/ Pedals/ Saddle/ Tires/ Grips: About $750 (High ish spec nice stuff like Thomson Elite/ Fizik/ Easton/ Schwalbe)

Yes, I’m probably forgetting something, but if I add that up that’s, errrr, $3804 ish.  I believe. That’s a nice build too.

Trek Superfly Elite: XX1: 10.1kg: $6610

Scott Spark 920: XT/ SLX: 12.1kg:  $4704   

Hongfu FM036: XT: 11.48kg: $3804

Now, with MTB standards all over the place these days, you are gonna have to do some homework i.e. serious internet forum lurking to make sure you get all the right parts. Yes, you can ask the seller obviously, but sometimes its hard to phrase nuanced questions about the minutiae of bike builds  the right way and it gets a bit lost in translation. Make Google your friend for all the ins and outs of BB standards, headsets, weights yada, yada tools…To some people, like me, this is awesome fun. For example, as a total newb to installing rear shocks, it took me probably over an hour of googlage plus an hour of messing around to figure out the different systems/ sizings etc. That was just for mounting the shock…Pay attention  to the options they provide for the BB and rear axles so you don’t get it wrong.

If you are the sort of person who wants simplicity and doesn’t have the time or inclination for this sort of thing, do yourself a favour and head to your local bike shop and hand over your credit card. Like a lot of things, that extra cost at the LBS actually pays for something – namely convenience – its not actually a waste of money for lots of people – convenience is a valuable commodity. I’m hoping by writing this, I can basically quantify somewhat, exactly how much that convenience costs – it’s somewhere between about $1000 – $3000 in in NZ moneys. For some people that’s probably a bargain. For me, I like building bikes in my kitchen, whilst drinking gin and tonics and poring over internet forums – so for me, it’s not a good deal. Just different – not better.

How fast?

OK, here’s the moneyshot. I used a local loop called the ‘Grand Loop’ in the Makara MTB park right here in tropical Karori as a kind of XC test. Its a 12km loop taking in rough rocky sections. sharp climbs, long climbs, fast smooth climbs and descents, rocky twisty stuff – basically “a bit of everything” http://www.strava.com/segments/1426741

Strava says I’ve ridden this sector about 50 times in the last couple of years but it will be way more than that (my garmin misses the segment all the time).

Between a 26er and 29er carbon hard tail Chiner (FM038 and FM057), my top 5 times:

1. 40.08 (FM057 29er)

2. 40.11 (FM038 26er)

 3. 40.29 (FM036 Dually)

4. 40.47 (’38)

5. 41.30 (’38)

My first lap. Never ridden before. Never tweaked. Virginal lap on the ’36 was 40.29. Yep thats the 3rd fastest one. And we are only talking about a handful of seconds. That’s basically on par.

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The black middle line is the PR on the 29er. The Purple is the PR on the 26er and the blue is on the FM036. Note how much time lost on the descent on the 26er (1min 30sec). Also note how the dually and the 29er are basically on a par the entire time.

Now, bear in mind, that’s being new to the bike.  Also, I was really trying to keep to about 80%. At race pace, I will take at least 1-3 min off that. Seriously, I was holding back like crazy especially on the climbs I was only at 150 BPM. That’s 9 beats under aerobic threshold. The weirdest thing was the speed on those climbs. The main big climb is called ‘Aratihi’ It’s a 2.1km. narrow but medium rockiness climb. The ’36, ridden at 80% was exactly on-par with the nice. lightweight hard tail FM057 ridden at race pace. At race pace the heavy dually will be much faster. Why? Well it feels like the ability to sit, pedal, and carve the turns just means better momentum and higher average speed. Also, I kind of felt like I could mash the pedals more in tricky parts. and not worry about wheel spin.

The descents were also on par or slightly under my fastest hard tail times, but again, at race pace I think it will be way faster.

In the first 2 weeks of riding the dually its completely obvious that its transformed my riding. I’m searching out all the most technical gnarly trails and getting PR’s on all of them. Some of the stuff I’ve found hardest is now easy – Like Ridgeline or Vertigo at Makara Peak. I have always lost time on every descent when I’m tracing, so this will even it up. At the most recent race at Belmont Park, I lost only a few seconds to one of the best young descenders – Eden Cruise – on the main descent ‘Borderline’.  It didn’t win me the race but I would have lost way more on the HT no doubt at all.

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In the end, I don’t think I’ll go back to the hard tail for racing, on pretty much any course. I love this bike.

If this has helped you, and you order one, can you please go through Cherry Zheng at Hongfu. Her email is sales03@hongfu-bikes.cn and she is really super nice to deal with. I go to her direct every time I order a new bike. If you let her know I sent you it helps me out too and she will make sure you are looked after.

If you have any questions about what you need to build up one of these beauties comment away!!! steve

http://hongfu-bikes.en.alibaba.com

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20 thoughts on “New Chiner! HongFu FM036 Review

  1. What would be definitively useful would be to give both bikes a go at race pace in the same month. Its also pretty hard to tell the difference between 1 year gaps as your obviously doing a lot of serious training. I guess the quick win would be to ride the hard tail this month at the same power outputs and see what the difference is?

    1. Oh yeah baby. I think I’m asking Santa for a Stages Power Meter to add that to the mix. It will be super interesting to see. On the dually though I think part of it is actually less fatigue overall thats a big factor. But yeah, needing out on MTB power definitely coming can’t wait!!!

  2. I thought you had a power meter? or is that only on the road bike? If you really want to do some testing then you can borrow mine for a day 🙂 a bit of advice, don’t get a second hand one, had nothing but issues (stages).

    Fatigue is a fair point, I usually just leave my rear locked until the down hill. The only concern I have with a Chiner full suspension is the efficiency of the swing arm and whether that is zapping power, kind of hard to test that though.

    1. Yeah I run a PowerTap on the road bike for training. What kind of crank do u have? The q factors are all different so you have to use one that matches but Id love to try it out if its compatible mate. pm me. I can’t see any reason for the swing arm design to zap too much power – i.e. i guess that the thing that really affects that would be the bob and, as a related matter the compression rate. I’m running 20% sag and that feels pretty good.

      I reckon its pretty easily testable. i.e. – do some runs at X watts up a climb, and compare distance per time or time per distance for different bikes or setups. I’m definitely gonna test this idea when I get the power on the mtb. I’m thinking the difference will be pretty marginal but would be interesting to know! Lockout would be great but that might be next upgrade.

    1. Hi Terry!! I’m 184cm/ just over 6 foot – I went with the 19″ and I’m still super happy with it. You’d probably be fine with a 19 too unless you really like a long bike. Not sure if they do a 19.5 or not, but if not try looking around Dengfu or Flyxii etc. For some weird reason sometimes one of the manufacturers might offer sizes that the others don’t. Good luck dude fire away if you have any other questions about the build. FWIW I’ve put in a solid 6 months of racing and training on it and its still mint. Once you go black (chiner) you’ll never go back!!

    1. Hi Graham! Thanks! Enjoyed having a read through your blog. According to Veloviewer, My FM036 has done 76 rides, 84 Hr 48 Min and 1,286KM since I got it about a year ago. It hasn’t developed any slop at all as far as I can tell it rides as new. The only maintenance on the pivots was just re torquing them after around 6 months riding. I guess they had become a tiny bit loose (although I didn’t actually notice it – it was a mechanic). He just re torqued them (the bolts have the torque specs printed on them) and they haven’t needed to be touched since. I don’t really know what the pivots are – I’m guessing they are bushings rather than bearings as such, so can’t really be sure on that sorry. Still in love with the bike though. Looking at getting some carbon wheels from HongFu shortly too. If I do I’ll review ’em here. Cheers! steve

  3. Hi Steve

    I read your review and the bike is really awesome! I’m about to build a 036 myself. I have been buying parts for the last year and finally I have enough funds for the 036. I’m also planning to buy the seatpost and handlebar with the frame. Do you have any experience with those?

    And for the sizing of the frame. I don’t know if I the 19” or 21” frame will be best for me. I’m 186 cm, and I have an inseam of 87 cm. Can you help me?

    Best Regards
    Andreas

    1. Thanks Andreas! I’m still loving the 36. Just got the frame bearings replaced – my mechanic said they were stuffed, but they lasted a year of pretty hard use that’s probably pretty normal so I’m not worried. Not expensive to fix either. I don’t know what the chinese bars or seat posts are like sorry. Never tried them. I’m 185cm and inseam is 85-86, so basically same as you. I’m super happy with the 19″. Ask for good old Cherry Zeng at Hongfu (sales03@hongfu-bikes.cn). Tell her I sent you she is awesome to deal with. Enjoy mate : )

      1. Hi Steve 🙂 Thanks for the reply! Then I will probably also go with the 19”. Okay sounds great, I will contact her :-).

  4. I’ve been looking at 29er carbon FS frames and I came across this model from DengFu as they call themselves. I typically ride KHS bikes, and after having looked at the 2016 model Team 29er, KHS is based in Taiwan, which is as republic of China. This frame is pretty much identical to the KHS Team 29FS frame, minus the components. I wouldn’t hesitate to order this frame considering KHS uses the same frame for it’s Team racers, and they don’t seem to have a lot of complaints. Thanks for the post, it was informative in more ways than one.

    1. Yo Joe, Thanks you’re welcome. You can just unbolt the thing on the frame so don’t worry about it. Doris is still going strong by the way. Sometimes I feel likeI want to upgrade her and I’m like “why this bike is awesome” ha ha.

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