- Bike Checks
It’s time to get real. Great bikes don’t have to be expensive. Help us build one of the best values in downhill.
Voting has concluded for the Value DH Project. Thanks for voting! The components receiving the most votes are listed below. Next we're going to build the bike, and with the money we saved we'll hit the trails in Whistler to see how it rides. Stay tuned for a build gallery, discussion with the various component companies, and feature length bike review!
Our recent introduction to the Value DH Project stressed that no matter how much it seems like the industry may want us to, the fact of the matter is that not everyone can drop their life savings on a bike. It’s just not feasible for everyone to build a $10,000 bike featuring the latest and greatest carbon componentry, nor is it necessary to really enjoy your time on the mountain. Because of this, we’ve listened to your cries for reviews and features on low cost components and bikes and we’re taking action.
We want your help in identifying the best value downhill products available. With your votes we think we can build a downhill bike that’s truly affordable, yet still very capable, durable, and reasonably lightweight. We’ve already chosen the $1,600 Airborne Pathogen as the frame, now help us choose which components to build the bike with.
Listed below are four to six carefully selected products for each major component type. How’d we pick them? Obviously value was of utmost importance. That doesn’t mean they’re all the least expensive parts on the market - it means we think they’re potentially very good products for the money. Many of them have a great reputation for that reason. Products had to be current to make the list of voting options.
Because budgets are always a reality, we did our best to choose affordable parts. Knowing that what you pay online or in a shop with your local’s discount might be a few bucks cheaper, there’s a good chance you could score many of these products below the listed prices. To keep things consistent and fair, however, we’re rolling with MSRP values.
We suspect many of you have experience with some of the products listed below, so factor that in when voting. Our goal here is to build a great bike at a reasonable cost. If you haven’t used any of the products, consider which parts you’d like to hear more about.
Depending on how your votes shake down, we’re looking at a total bike cost somewhere in the $3,400 to $4,900 MSRP range. Just like you would in real life, you might spend more of your virtual voting dollars on items you think really matter, like suspension, brakes, and tires for instance, then try to save a few bucks somewhere else to make up for it. Our 2013 Reader Survey results showed that you paid an average of $3,642 for each bike in your garage, so it’d be awesome to keep our project build close to that number.
Let’s get right down to business with the most expensive component. Front to back balance is crucial on a downhill rig, so we’re ideally looking for something that will pair well with the highly adjustable X-Fusion Vector Coil HLR shock that comes stock with the Airborne Pathogen. Options include the buttery smooth Marzocchi 888 RC3 EVO V.2 with gold race coated stanchions, SR Suntour’s RUX with loads of adjustments, the new RST Killah which comes at a competitive price with a dual high-speed compression shim stack, and the inverted Manitou Dorado Expert with TPC+ damping. Also in the mix are the lighter weight RockShox BoXXer RC with the option to upgrade to a Charger Damper, as well as the made-for-budget-builds Domain RC that retains the same external adjustments and damping system in a more affordable package.
Poor braking power or control can make even the nicest of downhill bikes scary to ride, and we’ve always thought a good set of brakes is a pair you don’t need to think about. Resistance to fade due to heat over long runs is also something to consider, especially when looking at the most affordable options. Up for vote areShimano's ZEE brakes with close to Saint-level performance, Avid’s hard hitting Code R brakes, and SRAM’s new Guide R with an improved feel over their predecessors. Hope and Magura also enter the mix with four piston stoppers ready for heavy duty use, and the latter just went through a big overhaul. While Shimano’s Deore brakes may look like an odd option, based on what we’ve experienced we think they’re up to the task when paired with big rotors.
Note: Weights include a rotor, though there may be some discrepancy on rotor size and whether or not adapters are included.
Wheels likely take more of a beating any other component, so it’s important to pick a set that’s in it for the long haul when dollars are short. Weight is also a factor, as too much rotating mass can adversely affect the ride. Spank’s big daddy Spoon 32 and surprisingly light but durable Spike Race 28 DH wheels both use their patented OohBah profile designed to increase rigidity. Guerrilla Gravity employs a neat strategy by sourcing various existing high-value components and building their own wheels in house that you can customize online. Then there are the Canfield DH wheels, which get things done without any fuss and recently saw a $50 price reduction. Finally, Azonic Outlaws have long been a go-to option for riders looking for a wheelset at a good price that can take a beating.
As the only point of contact with the ground, tires can make or break how a bike handles the terrain. We’ve selected six possible tire options designed for all-conditions use, hoping to get the most bang for our buck. The classic Maxxis High Roller kicks things off and is a long time favorite of ours front and rear with good rolling speed and cornering bite. Bontrager’s G5 Team Issue tire has found a lot of success on the World Cup scene under Trek riders, and is a great step in the right direction for the brand. Geax, Vee Tire Co, and Kenda all present some options that will save some coin over the more heavily used brands. The formidable Specialized Butcher rounds out the voting options, and is a tire we put a lot of trust in, but it comes at close to a premium price.
There are hundreds of flat pedal options that will likely get the job done, but there aren’t many that really distinguish themselves from the crowd. This selection includes pedals that do stand out thanks to their low price, design, thickness, and/or weight. Specialized Bennies pedals are a reliable option with loads of traction. Xpedo’s super thin Spry pedals come in at an incredibly low weight, which could slim the build down some. Superstar Components has a pretty thin pedal that closely resembles many you’ll find on the market, and is the least expensive of all the copies. Both VP and Deity do a good job in the nylon body game by offering pedals with metal traction pins at a great price. The classic Wellgo MG1 caps off this category with a large magnesium body that has done well for many riders over the years.
A quiet bike is a happy bike, so we’ve chosen four clutched 10-speed derailleurs that are reasonably priced. Only Shimano’s ZEE group is gravity specific, but SRAM’s X9 comes in a short cage option that tucks up nicely to stay out of harm’s way. Both brands offer compact road cassettes that work well for downhill use.
While cranks may not be the sexiest component, they help transfer your leg power to the back wheel, and translate what your bike is feeling to your feet, so a solid, reliable set is pretty important. They also have to be very strong for DH use given the high speeds, big drops, and unexpected slams into rocks they'll likely endure. Race Face has been producing great cranks for quite a while, and the Respond and Chester models are no exception with their unique ability to adjust the chainline. Truvativ’s Husselfelt 1.1 are reliable and popular on complete bikes, and the Ruktion 2.0 RG shakes things up with a super low price point. Finally, the Shimano ZEE cranks bring Saint strength and stiffness to the table at only a slight weight gain.
Dropped chains suck, literally. Each of these options offer the promise of chain retention combined with chainring protection. Both e*thirteen and MRP offer affordable versions of their popular taco-style LG1+ and G3 guides that use steel backplates instead of aluminum to keep costs down. Gamut’s bash ring style G45 was the brand’s introduction into the MTB world but still delivers today. The DMR Viral Bash also relies on a bash ring, but gains a little extra security by sandwiching the lower pulley. If you’re willing to spend a few more dollars, Da Bomb’s Recoil CGS-G is a super light guide with taco-style protection.
The remainder of the build will use components included with the Airborne Pathogen frame (shock, headset) as well as a few we’ve selected from Gravity (seatpost), Joystick (saddle, bars, stem), and Lizard Skins (grips, frame guards).
Hopefully we'll be able to rally it as well as Airborne's own Caroline Buchanan!