Sunday, 22 June 2014

Old Bikes Never Die..... they just get tinkered with - The General Lee's new clothes

My New-Old Tallboy - Ready to go up, and down, the Bavarian Alps
In with the old AND in with the new! I have been riding my giant orange Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon, aka The General Lee, for a few years now, and it has lost the position of race bike to become a "do it all" trail bike, as a newer, bluer Tallboy has taken this role. But that doesn't mean it ever stopped being my favorite. I now find myself living a rideable distance from the Alps and have swapped the UK's rolling trails for some seriously grown up hills. The hot weather is finally upon us, time to build a bike for the Alps......


The shopping list was simple, all be it a little long:
  • Longer Forks
  • Bigger brakes
  • Knobblier tyres
  • Fully lockable front and rear suspension
  • Dropper post
  • Lighter granny gear
  • Shorter stem & wider bar
  • Don't make the bike weigh a ton and keep the light, fast character
The first item on the list was the bang up to the minute dropper post. A cable operated Thompson Elite unit quickly made it's way to the top of the list and the project was underway.....

The frame come complete with cable guides for a dropper post, an inspired move for a frame that is already now 4years old, and despite it being a lightweight race bike, it shows that it was designed with going down in mind. Add in a neat little thumb lever on the bars and it makes a net, integrated setup.
Compact thumb lever, inconspicuous and, importantly, also not bashable by by knee!  
Now you see it......
.....now you don't! 
Next came the suspension. The bike had to deal with the long, steep, twisting, rocky descents but also rather than a "trail friendly" suspension, the riding here is either full on up or full on down, therefore nothing but a fully locked setting, for hour long (or longer) climbs was necessary. As soon as I saw the Rockshox Full Race hydraulic lock for fork and shock in a single button, I knew I needed this. Front and back on and off with the press of a single bar button. Decision made. The Monarch XX shock was is the only shock to work with this, and throw in a SID 29er 120mm fork with QR15, and I was on my way.

Monarch XX sits quietly at the back and just gets on with business
Up front a SID fork with QR15 + 120mm of travel hits the sweetspot (for me at least)
between, stiff, rock-muching capablity, trail manners and lightweight 
All controlled with a light press of a single, hydraulic (mud/dust proof) bar switch
Colour matched disc, makes
me faster.... probably 
So, with going up and going down now sorted, I was left with just going around corners, stopping and going to work out. Stopping was easy with a look around my shelves. Out of the box of bits came some, of the era-of-the-bike XTR brake levers and calipers (actually taken off another bike), the UK friendly 160mm rotors were ditched in favour of a pair of colour matching Orange disks, with a 180mm disk up front, care of the wonderful XC Racer.com Shop and their selection of lightweight, pretty Alligator Rotors. Add some heat resistant resin pads (no UK mud here). Stopping sorted.

Next going. Lightweight, half bald racing tyres swapped for some EVO Snake Skin 2.25" Nobby Nics. Light enough, rock-resistant, set them up tubeless, let a bit of air out and forget about them until they are worn out! Add a cassette with a 34T gear and a 38/22 double chainset with an Alps-friendly granny gear for long winches up mountainsides in 30°C heat and a light-enough 9x2 setup, and enough gears for up and down, no matter what the Alps throw at me. Such a gear would be unheard of in the UK for me, but a few long suffering slogs last year and I have learnt my lesson about appropriate gearing!

That left me with just going around corners to fix. As I had a Thompson seatpost, a Thompson bar and bombproof X4 stem seemed the only logical choice. Pushing hard against the project budget boundary, a stem 1" shorter than the previous race/marathon setup was dropped onto the fork, and the extra inch was added to the now wider Thompson All Mountain bars, with a little rise and sweep to replace the flat affairs that adorned the bike the day before. 

Throw in some new, slightly chunkier and, importantly, orange, lizard skins grips and the cockpit, and the bike rejuvenation was complete. The General Lee is dead, long live the General Lee!

Shorter stem & wider bar complete the gnaaarrrrr 
Not everything changed.... when I look down I still get the identical view, which always makes me smile:
Not everything changed

And, of course, I still know what time of day it is!
So there we have it. My New/Old General Lee. It now lives in Germany and has got dressed to suit the local conditions. The first trip to the Alps is already panned for 6 days' time, just time to bed things in and fettle the suspension before winching it up and Alpine Mountain or two, pausing to admire the hard-earned view before throwing it, and me, down the other side. Just Fab :-)
My Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon - Dressed like a local, and every bit as good as before,




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