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:
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.
|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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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