Dialed. I have finally got the Ahrens Revolver 29'er dialed. And I will say this: TIGHT! Mike, my friend, you did it boy. You built me the perfect bike.
I ended up going for Ritchey WCS bits featuring a 120mm 4-Axis stem which I have on all my bikes. With it flipped an the steerer now cut, I feel more comfortable on this bike positionally than any mountain bike I've had before....and that is nearly an IMPOSSIBLE statement for me considering I have been saying for a decade + that my 1996 Dean Colonel frame was (and still is) perfect.
So why do I say this and not just giving props to my hombre who built me this frame (and trust me, Mike as an engineer by trade want me to nuke it if it wasn't performing)? I would say that it boils down to this:
- Geometry: Mike knows my style of riding is extremely aggressive. If there is even the slightest lip or bump, I'm launching it and he knows after years of riding with me that I'm pretending I'm Lopes most days in the woods carving and wheelie-ing and leaning. You get the picture. But specifically, the head and seat angles are spot on and tight for the type of immediate steering precision and wheel-under-ass acceleration I love. I do NOT want a hook and ladder fire engine feel for my mountain bikes and I feared that going to a 9'er would immediately give me this degradation to my riding experience and slow the whole feeling of the bike down. NOT the case! The bike feels equally stable bombing fire roads as it is nimble when I rail the big wheels and my 6' 2" carcass around trees in tight single track. Recommendation if you talk to Mike about your Ahrens: Add an infinitesimal degree change to the front steering (to slacken) and a 1/4" to 1/2" to the rear wheel base to lengthen and it will fit that nearly all-around riding style. My proto frame is perfect for me, but may not be ideal for all riders and these tiny production run changes will be the nut.
- Design: Yummy. What makes Mike's bikes nice to look at relates to the whole picture. The Gothic graphics are rad but it's the frame aggressive style and overbuilt appearance that make me stare at my own bike like Augustus staring at a Wonka bar. Mike is an engineer's engineer and it shines through with the over-built qualities of the bits holding the Easton 7005 (or Scandium) tubes together. Mike will CAD himself through complicated problems of his frames for his customers to eek at the best performance to weight to strength ratio. And he has nailed it. My 4.4 pound XL frame built up to approximately 24 lbs and change but the solidity of the yokes...the BB yoke in particular shown here is spectacular. It is pure beef having been CNC'd out of a solid block of 7K series aluminum and the acceleration I mention above is in part due to this and the beefy chain stays. Yet the lightness factor is still maintained. Incredible. Many frame manufacturers are now coming to Mike for his engineering work on complicated problems like sliding drop outs and other bits he now OEM's to them.
- Stuff Mike is not responsible for: Mavic CrossMax 29'er wheels and Shimano XTR Groupo. Both are capital N nuts. The Mavic's are bomber. I bought them as I have the 26" version on my 1 x 1 and they are so solid under that kind of stress it is crazy. I am running them tubeless thanks to Tim Faia's donation of the Bontrager tires to try out (which are AWESOME and hook up beautifully in our terrain here in CO). The wheels are not stupid light but I will take a bit of heft for reliability and solidity any day. There is no flex. Say again: NO flex. The way I like it. The Shimano bits are as you would expect: Flawless. I am running the paddle shifters this time (I ran the integrated set on my old Moots) and I like the feel. Shifting is super crisp...about as crisp as my Dura Ace on my cross bikes and road bike. As mentioned before, I made the mistake of getting the Mavic's in the 6 bolt pattern and not the Shimano lock ring style. So, I am running Hayes rotors with the XTR brakes and they are super solid.