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I loved this bike…there ya go. I had a killer time shredding it and every weekend when it was time to go to SolVista, I was actually excited to drive 2 hours to go ride. A lot of that had to do with this MSC F5. With all the ups, you may have a down or two, so dig in and learn about my experience with this MSC F5, which came all the way from Spain via Boise, Idaho.

POV video of suspension and 16 photo, full review feature below. Also included captions from each image at the bottom this page if you’re just into reading.

Huge thanks www.mscbikesua.com for the frame & www.bikesolvista.com for the build kit

Photo

Double-click to edit

Suspension POV Video with 3 angles of the frame suspension and one of the fork (note at 2:00 and 2:07 I’m almost dragging my bars through the turn : )

Captions from photo feature if you're into reading:

1. Remember this? Well this MSC F5 got more than its fair share of attention the last couple of months on the trails at the SolVista Bike Park. Dive in deeper to see the details and conclusions about this World Cup-level downhill frame that comes from Spain.

2. I wasn’t kidding…this MSC F5 got some attention. This image was taken after one of the most fun days I’ve ever had downhilling. All the elements came together and the MSC performed like a champ in the wet, lap-heavy session that day. I was so amped, I was pretty sure I could have beaten Mickael Pascal on any track anywhere in the world that afternoon. FYI, Pascal races on this bike and carried the fastest speed at Mont Sainte Anne during qualifiers…61.5kph!

3. The last day of riding. The only difference between this build and the one you saw in the previous photos are the tires. The original build had Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5-inch 3C and High Roller 2.5-inch 3C tires and this has Intense DH FRO 2.5-inch 4 ply (yes, 4 ply) tires front and rear. You’ll learn more about that later, but the build kit was provided the SolVista Bike Park crew and the spec sheet will be broken down throughout the feature.

4. The MSC F5 came with a Fox Racing DHX 5.0 rear shock (9.5×3.0 eye-to-eye and stroke) which is pretty standard for a bike getting 8.5 inches of rear travel. I don’t recall bottoming the bike. Watching the suspension POV video, I know I did (or came close enough), so the ‘multi-progressive curve’ that the links create must do its thing.

5. Based on the chart MSC provided, I had a 450lb spring on there to start (which I actually thought would be on the light side). It was way too stiff and I ended up running a 400lb spring (which they recommend for a rider weighing 160lbs). Considering my handle is ‘Gordo’ you can gather I’m heavier than that. Once the spring was dialed, I ran the shock with compression wide open most of the time and 3 clicks of rebound. The bike stuck to the ground like glue once suspension settings were sorted. All of 2008 I rode non-single pivot bikes, so it was a nice surprise to get on this and have a snappy, lively feel on the trail.

6. The suspension links and bolts use 3 different allen wrench sizes, so swapping springs and removing the shock was easy, but tedious as I had to grab a different wrench for every bolt. Just a minor thing, but something to be noted. Another thing to note are the small, but spiffy little finishes on the frame, like the anodized red bearing caps and covers. Those little things stick out and show attention to detail on MSC’s part.

7. Drivetrain was handled by SRAM/Truvativ using an e.thirteen LG-1. Everything worked as it should. No hassles, no problems. The nuts on the upper guide were crammed against the pivot bearing cap, but this didn’t matter as the cap and guide moved in concert with each other. If you wanted to get anal, you could find smaller nuts or do a little customizing to the guide. The finish on the Holzfellers isn’t the most durable (as everyone knows), but look at the conditions they were ridden in, LOL. Not a complaint about any of the drivetrain. Set it and forget it. I bought my own set of Easton Flatboy pedals for the review. Big platform, no frills, no surprises, just solid.

8. 83mm bottom bracket and one stiff bike. The bike weighed 42lbs with the Intense 4 ply tires. Not the lightest complete bike weight, but consider the tires I had, without any real weight-saving components and the bike is respectable in the weight department. The rear end was a real surprise. I did not notice one bit of flex or wiggle the entire time I had the bike. I checked pivot bolts, but nothing came loose and the more I rode, the more confident I became in what the bike could do. It would plow through rocks, but also felt quite snappy in the tight berms of Silky Johnson at SolVista.

9. The minute I built the bike, I put the head angle in the slackest position and left it there…65-degrees. There are 66 and 67 degree options as well with the swap or twist of the sleeve. I’d never ridden a frame with adjustable head angle and wondered if there would be play or loosening. I never experienced that with the F5. The iPhone angle finder app actually said the head angle was 64.5-degrees on my set up. The MSC F5 uses a ’semi-integrated’ headset design. I’d never heard of this, but quickly learned about it as I was building the bike up. I had looked at the headset sleeves and just thought, ‘they look bigger than 1 1/8-inch so they must be 1.5-inch.’ Bad assumption on my part which caused me to wait 2 days for a the FSA version of this headset to arrive. It worked flawless, once installed, however, so a little homework on my part would have saved me some time in building.

10. Fox 40 RC2, Sun-Ringle A.D.D. Lite wheelset. The wheels were great. I’m not a mega-smasher, but I’m not the smoothest clown on the hill. I’d heard plenty of ‘pings’ during runs, but was surprised to find only a couple small dings in the rims. As with any pre-built wheel, the spokes were tensioned after a couple rides and remained tight through my last run on the set. The Fox 40 RC2 was pretty sick. I’d never ridden one for a long period of time and I grew to love it. Based on starting point input from the SolVista pros team and Luby at Dirt Labs, I used the stock spring, kept the compression wide open most of the time and used 3 clicks of pre-load and 3 clicks of rebound. It was probably a smidge undersprung for me, but for the trails and riding I did most often, I loved it and it worked great.

11. Thomson stem (how can you go wrong?) and gaper amount of spacers. It wasn’t my fork, so I couldn’t cut the steer tube way down and hated having 4 spacers up high. Fashion over function I guess. If I kept this bike (which I wanted to do) I would have dropped the bars to the crown. I used Sunline V1 bars at full width (29.3-inches). They worked great and since riding this bike, I’m on a bike with 28-inch bars and it feels so sketchy, LOL. The 29-inch width seemed a good match for my shoulder-width and I’ll probably put the Sunlines back on the bike I’m riding now.

12. The rear end is a 12×150 rear end…the DH standard. The Hayes Stroker Ace brakes were predictable and had a good feel to them. Since riding them, I’m on a different brand/model of brakes and I miss the Strokers. Not too touchy and never had to bleed/adjust after install and setup. The thru-axle design on the F5 was easy to use and never came loose or caused problems.

13. The Sunline grips weren’t my favorite as they seemed a little fat, but they were part of the deal and after a while I didn’t notice the chubbiness. Hayes Stroker Ace brakes had nice levers and adjustments. On the shifter side, it took a little adjustment to find a good spot for the lever and shifter. Finding the balance of being able to reach the shifter, having the lever where I wanted it and not having alter the placement of my right hand was sorted after a run or two.

14. The tires…I just like the Intense Tires in DH tread pattern. Most importantly for me, they’re predictable and they grip well. I started with Maxxis Minion DHF/High Roller combo which was great, but just doesn’t suit my style. I don’t like the big float zone between center knobs and side knobs. When I leaned aggressively, there was no issue, but during ‘less-aggressive’ turns they felt skatey to me. Their 2.5-inch width felt like 2.3 which didn’t sit well with me. I went 4-ply because I hate changing flats…I freaking hate it! I’m not racing and I’m not concerned about acceleration, so it’s a ‘real world’ set up that is maintenance-free and fun. Keep ‘em around 20 or 22psi and have fun plowing, turning and ripping…just don’t tell the internet weight dorks.

15. So far pretty positive, right? Well let’s look at the top tube. I’m not a huge fan of the ‘fin’, strictly because of the way it looks. This feature was the first thing commented on by anyone who saw the bike. ‘Dude, don’t land on that or you’ll cut yourself in half,’ they’d say. I agree that it looks pretty severe, but I never fell on it and can’t actually remember the last time I rode the downtube. For me it was just cosmetic and not enough of a problem to warrant not shredding the bike because it worked so well. In fact, after a while, I’d get offended when people pointed out the fin, LOL (as if the bike was mine to keep). The bike was better than any cosmetic hang up of mine. My other concern was that replacement parts might be a little harder to come by than a ‘big-brand’ bike. MSC Bikes USA is in Boise, Idaho, however, so it’s not like you’ll be having to deal with Spain for a derailleur hanger.

16. I had a kick ass time on this bike and would strongly recommend the frame or any parts for those interested. Predictable handling characteristics coupled with proven parts spec make this a surprise-free and hassle-free downhill bike. With some bikes you hear people say, ‘it’s so great once you get used to it.’ The MSC F5 won’t have that bit dialogue surrounding it. The only things you’ll need to get used to are a sore face from all the smiling you’ll do while riding it and a dusty tool box from the lack of work needed to keep things running. It’s a high-performance bike that will do well in real-world situations and real-World Cup situations. Once you’re on the trail, you’ll want to stay there. Thumbs up to the MSC F5. - www.mscbikesusa.com or www.mscbikes.com


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