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Santa Cruz Mountain Bike
By accident – riding through the famous bike, Wringer. In two and a half years it has changed, broken, remained serviceable or untouchable.
In 2019, before becoming a beta beta, Ryan Palmer built My Megatower as a Dream Build. This is my first time disassembling a bike and building it out of frame, and this is the result of daydreaming, trying on bikes and parts, and mentally assembling my perfect bike.
This is the first Dream Build Palmer and I shot together in the saga of our former employer; Experiment to bring the spotlight to the long-hidden process behind the pages of the magazine’s entire, blingy bikes. Bellingham, of Palmer, Washington, frozen my ass in the shop, surrounded him with a camera, and ducked my bike under his masterful hands.
Then by some obvious fluke of the algorithm, millions of people watched the resulting video. Statistically speaking, I’m not sure this is the most popular video I’ve ever made in my entire life, and since then we’ve been startled by the whole thing.
For me though, this is usually irrelevant. When I think of my megatower, I don’t think of YouTube views. Instead, I think of the most perfect bike I would be happy to learn. Since then, many bikes have come through the garage, another Dream Build. But when I ride every day, I catch a megatower. I’m pretty spoiled for choice when it comes to bikes, but when I take a break to write in a few lines to get to the pedal, guess what chain I lubricate?
I have never seen a bike as good as this megatower, dialed-up, good-looking, and jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud, every lip-and-smash-per-source on a lap.
Honestly, even after all my machinations and dreams, I was a little apprehensive about this bike coming together. I was a die-hard 27.5 person before Megatower, and reserved for the long-haul 29er everyday bike. I do a lot of pedaling (when life allows), and I love a lot of squash underneath me, I really enjoy pretending I can throw the bike a little bit and play the trail. As parts of Palmer’s store crashed, a certain uncertainty struck me — maybe a hightower or a nomad could fit in?
I’ve had a lot of fun on a lot of different bikes and many different trails, but I’ve never felt better than a bike, dialing, sounding and jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud, yank-every-lip-and-smash-over-the-top like I did on this megatower lap. Root is great. And sure, the new bike day is always better and the bike feels better in general, but the beauty of this particular machine is that some variations of that feeling have made me durable ever since.
Ultimately, this part comes off as descriptive of how the bike evolves and holds up, but I ignore it unless I give it a mile-high overview of why my Megatower is so much fun. First of all, it goes up. There is no need for any decoration – it’s a large, loose bike that always prefers gravity, but it’s comfortable enough that it won’t stop me from riding as much as I want. Going down — in a nutshell it is actually two — this bike is capable of hitting the chunk like a near-Holy-Grail-esque Baja truck, and then dancing and playing like a ballet junkie shortly after. Of course it’s not as fun as the 5010 or as efficient as the V10, but for me, it’s the right balance I want on the bike.
I know, Bike Media Instant Face Palm:
Using “confidence-stirring” and “playful” in a sea of the same text. But to take on the clich and make them my own little bit – this is not a bike for everyone, but for me, it is best to allow me to ride in a way that is more fun. Simple.
And now, two and a half years later, after pushing this bike into things, here’s a brief summary of what I have changed, broken, serviced or left untouched:
I pulled the link completely three times to clean and grease everything. Well, almost everything — contrary to Santa Cruz’s recommendations, my busy life and lack of proper grease-gun fittings — never stops greasing at the link below. Alas. I’m not sure which is more appropriate, but it seems the subject is still going well. Other than that, there are a few minor scratches, and there is some kind of low erosion as a result of rock jamming between the chainstay and the lower bracket area, and on the same ride I let out my shock and it started spitting. Sounds like a new trumpet player. I thought I was being treated to a pretty “spirited” solo jazz show that day, but if I knew it was a duet of harmful sounds, I could have unmasked that rock pretty quickly.
The original DHX2 coil was dreamy, and I absolutely preferred the coil on the megatower. Unfortunately I may have sent it with the camera pack several times and finally dropped something inside. Fortunately, my parts sponsor / workshop guide / personal mechanic Palmer has plugged Float X2 properly. However, he said the shock has a slightly longer stroke length than the one specified in megatower, which gives my bike a little more travel and one of its better nicknames: “ol ‘overstroke”.
A year later and after switching with Fox 36, the orange ripened and became 38. While that update certainly solidified the front end and made the bike a little more relaxed, all the changes I’m accustomed to are complemented by the capabilities of this steed. . The shock swap slowed the ride a bit (more stroke + more sag = less sitting on the rear end), so everyone said this bike would not win any silly switchback races. No complaints here.
One day I mysteriously drilled a hole in my rear rim, “gently” drove it over a bunch of rocks for a while and eventually switched from Santa Cruz to the warranty rim. (You can watch the rim swap — and maybe learn a new trick — here. Thanks Palmer.)
As for the tires, the rear wheel has gone through the Maxxis Detector, the Schwalbe Magic Mary, the WTB judge, and is now in Noby Nick, but the front is back to the Ascegai, the Magic Mary, and then back to the original Ascegai. It’s worth it from that back tire list, I give the detector “Best DH-ish tire for pedaling”, “Best Hooker-Upper for judges” and Magic Marie “Best All-Rounder”. Hope this is not neglected by the lack of words, but the Assegai just gets “the best.”
The codes are good enough today, but they need some love over the years to stay that way. I have had some piston issues on both calipers, but fortunately I have some resource and generous colleagues that have helped me get them back into shape. The pads have been changed and the systems bleed three or four times, but after the last bleed these brakes are much better.
Real negligent, truly impressive. When the bike was about a year old, it was completely torn down and cleaned in Bellingham, especially after a kid’s week. And another time to remove the cassette and treat the toothbrush, “maintenance” started here and ended up lubricating the chain. The AXS derailleur is very well brushed, I rarely charge batteries (and never change the shifter’s battery), and will tweet along the rail rails, with the occasional small missshift when downshifting under load.
There is some play and sheer scratch in this saints set, but they are clipping, unclipping and my favorite pedal. I haven’t touched them except for my shoe, clean and a healthy list of some of the best rocks, roots, trees, poles, curbs and concrete in the Western Hemisphere.
Reverb AXS post gets me every time. There is some level of play now, but not enough to bother me. I have never killed a battery and have never missed a post or thought about slowing down.
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Santa Cruz Megatower
The Pasenti Bar and Stem combo seems to be as established as ever, but it totally complements how this bike rides for me. The 20mm trunk gives you so much control over this big bike. If I had the style, why would that combo. The grips are the original census mite claws. They are worn in one or two by rubber, but that makes my gloves more flexible, plus, glove.
So it is. This bike just creaks or complains, it just goes, and it has given a lot of fun these last few years. It’s not even close to retirement (you can’t bike it until it crosses at least two chains, so I still have some time), but I’m not sure what will change it when it’s always time to hang this guy, but I’ll never forget this bike anytime soon. In the meantime, you know what I’m riding.