Time for an update!
This bike continues to impress, both uphill and down. More surefooted on off-camber and sidehill than I am ever prepared for, or expecting.
I guess you could just look at it and say "Duh, Mike -- you're surprised that a bike with 3.5" tires has good traction on off-camber?"
Put that way I don't disagree. But what I'm saying is that I *am* expecting the traction, and am still impressed by how much more seems to be in reserve.
I've been fiddling with suspension of late. Fine tuning might be more apropos, as I really like how composed both ends already are. But there's always room for improvement, right?
To that end I've installed MRP's RAMP cartridge in the fork, in hopes of getting it to stand taller in the travel without losing small bump sensitivity. It *has* achieved that, with the ancillary benefit that I can adjust air volume literally on the fly.
Why, you might be asking, would that be a benefit?
Air volume determines how quickly (or not) your fork ramps to bottom. Increase volume and it becomes hard to bottom the fork -- great if you're on a trail with lots of drops and/or harsh landings. More of an on-the-ground rider? Then you can reduce the volume with a few clicks of the knob encircling the air valve, which allows you to use more of your travel, more often.
The real beauty is that you can fine-tune air volume for any and every trail, *on the trail*, without having to crack it open to add or remove tokens. Simple and effective.
I also installed one of MRP's RAZE rear shocks. Fans of the Elke design need no introduction to this damper. I've been aware of the buzz for years but this is my first time riding one. Stictionless travel is always welcome and any coil shock is going to deliver this. Easily (and separately) tunable high and low speed compression damping mean that I can change each a click at a time in order to drill down to my ideal settings.
Thus far I've ridden the RAZE in Moab on Gemini/Blue Dot/Portal, as well as Porcupine Rim, and then locally on a hot (for me...) lap of Butterknife with hero dirt. Pretty good range of variability there, from medium speed smooth climbing to snail's pace rockcrawling, to high speed chunky descending, and LOTS of slow speed chunk.
The most memorable thing about the current package is that I don't really notice anything unless I'm chasing someone faster than I, thus way out at the edge of my comfort zone. Sending a few 6' drops on Porcupine, back to back, without scouting, left me smiling ear to ear at the bottomless and composed feel the Fatillac delivered.
After the weekend in Moab it occurred to me that it's going to be a few months until I can spend time climbing for hours into the alpine. As such there isn't much need for my typical micro drive front chainring. I replaced it with a 28t B Labs Oval ring before yesterday's ride, and am 3.5 hours into adapting to push the taller gear.
I love riding this bike and hope that our winter continues to allow unfettered access to hero dirt. Snow is fine and I'll ride plenty of that regardless, but ripping along on FS, and especially *this* FS, is my idea of nirvana these days.
Don't hesitate with questions.