During the ENVE Open House framebuilder exhibit, one builder traveled further than the others: Mark from Prova Cycles in Melbourne, Australia. I’d never seen a Prova in person. Instead, I’ve had to check out his work via the lens of FYXO and the Prova Instagram. Mark learned at the Bicycle Academy in the UK and has been really putting in work on his brand. Let me tell you. It shows.
Hardtails. Antiquated examples of mountain bike technology to some but to others, they’re liberated and simplified machines. Each year, I plan on riding a full suspension in Downieville, yet I always end up bringing my hardtail for one reason or another so this year, I took a look at just some of the bikes that were rolling around this Gold Rush town.
Downieville is a sleepy little town in the Lost Sierra. It was first known as “the Forks” due to its geographical location at the confluence of the Yuba and Downie rivers. Like many towns in the area, Downieville was founded in 1849 during the Gold Rush. Later, it was named after the town’s founder, Major William Downie. As you might imagine, this place has a sordid history during the lawless heyday of gold mining, including being the location for the only hanging of a woman in California history. Josefa Segovia was a pregnant Californio resident of the town and was lynched by an angry mob, accusing her of killing a miner in July 1851.
Nearby, in the Sierra Buttes, the largest gold nugget in California history was found in 1869. It weighed a whopping 109.2 pounds. Gold has always been on the lips of those who flocked to Downieville. Still, to this day, don’t be surprised to see active mining claims and people panning for gold at the confluence of the Yuba and Downie rivers.
Since 1995, the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship has thrown a special little event in this town. The Downieville Classic features an XC race on Saturday and a Downhill on Sunday. The terrain is rocky, steep, and silty, making for a tough day on the bike no matter what you’re riding. While they’re by no means rare, seeing people riding and racing hardtails always causes a stir. So this year, I set out to photograph some of these bikes, including Curtis Inglis from Retrotec‘s own Funduro, a shining, gold nugget of a bike.
That’s right. It can be done and it’s a lot of fun. We’re heading to the Downieville Classic this weekend and while I’ll be out on the course shooting photos of the race, I’d love to feature a gallery of all the hardtails that are being ridden at the Classic. Each year, it’s the bike I bring with me and I am always amazed at how many people are there racing on their steel hardtails as well. So, if you’re at the Classic, make sure you flag me down with your bike because this should be a great gallery!
Bozeman, Montana is a magical place to mountain bike in the summertime. Last year’s trip was epic, so this year we wanted to re-visit this quaint little mountain town. While we were there last month, I was able to shoot Adam Sklar’s latest project, the Sweet Spot 29er MTB. While Adam usually takes on custom bikes, the Sweet Spot will be the brand’s first production model. The Sweet Spot is made in Bozeman, Montana, just like all Sklar Bikes. The aim here is to lower wait times, while not sacrificing quality. It also enables Adam to sell a model that is in-line with his philosophy on mountain bikes.
Ringing in a new era for Ribble Cycles is their HT TI titanium hardtail. With a 64° head angle and 150mm of travel up front, this 27.5 x 2.6″ hardtail is designed to compete in a world dominated by full suspension designs. Fully-built completes start at $2,815.06. See more at Ribble.
Words by Locke Hassett and photos by John Watson
Some bikes are just too good to get rid of. Or too sentimental, or broken, or otherwise a purely “eye of the be(er)holder” sort of thing. This Soma B-Side is that bike for me. It has lived its life as many different bikes. For a long time, it was built up as a new/old school Montana singletrack shredder, with a 2x drivetrain (gasp!), 660mm bars (double gasp!), a short fork and no dropper. It lived a few months as a 26+ singlespeed when I found a pair of Nokian Gazzalodi tires in some back room of Free Cycles.
Kona Big Honzo CR/DL Carbon: Good Hardtails will Never Die
Words and bike photos by Locke Hassett, action photos by Spencer Harding
Blurred lines seem to be all the rage in the bike industry these days, and with every season, a new category seems to evolve. Gravel, Adventure, Downcountry, trail…yadda yadda. While this constant categorization is overwhelming, it also means that bikes are simply getting better. Then over here in the corner, sipping scotch while the kids play beer pong and try to “find themselves”, is the humble hardtail MTB. This has been elaborated on to a great extent on this site, so I’ll spare you the poetic wax. Sure, a few folks out there are pushing the boundaries of what to expect with hardtail geometry, with huge forks and headtube angles more suited for plowing a field than climbing a fire road, but for the most part, we can look to the hardtail for consistency.
So, what happens when a company known for rowdiness and generally not caring too much about the status quo takes their tried and true hardtail model and releases a version with boxes checked for the modern consumer (read: big tires and carbon?) That’s what I wanted to find out by spending a few months with the Big Honzo CR/DL.
I think they nailed the opening text from the new Doctakawk page when they say “Longer, lower, slacker, faster, stronger, slacker, etc etc, did we say slacker?” The new Chromag Doctahawk is a 27.5+ or 29’r mountain bike with 180mm of front travel, a 62º head angle, and a 77º seat tube angle, making it a veritable shreddy hardtail! While it looks bonkers at the side profile, I hope to one day throw my leg over this monster! See more at Chromag.
What say you, Bicycle Pubes?
The Karate Monkey has seen many permutations over the years, with various wheelsizes and build kits, but the latest might be my favorite. The most obvious change is on the front. That squishy thing is a RockShox Sektor RL, 27.5+ 140mm travel. This iteration of the KM is also 27.5+, to offer some extra cushion for all the hardtail buckin’ you’ll do. Check out more info at Surly and see one in person at your local dealer.
We love seeing videos where people straight up huck their hardtails!
The Bike Hub in Spokane, Washington looks at the feasibility of hardtail mountain bikes as both XC race-ready machines and trail shredders. Are they the future? I dunno, but I can say those bottles look slick on that bike!
While Nukeproof might be better known for their enduro bikes, two models in their 2019 catalog might be of interest to readers of this site looking for new bikepacking rigs. The Scout is a 27.5 hardtail with 140mm of travel, a 65º head angle, 73º seat tube angle, and room for 2.8″ tire, perfect for singletrack touring. While the Digger is an all-road bike either 700c or 27.5 compatible, with a carbon fork and internal routing. Both bikes are available in a variety of packages. Pricing TBD. Check in at your local Nukeproof dealer for more information.
Without showing any favoritism, out of all the bikes at Grinduro, this bike made by W.H. Bradford Designs was one of the most unique and the only hardtail in the whole grouping, discounting the Southpark ‘rigid’ with the Lauf fork. When I first saw this bike, I was partially blinded by the fluoro front end on it. But then the brushed purple rear triangle and the little angry mountain – a symbol from Grinduro, angry Mount Hough – caught my eye, all carefully executed by Eric from Color Works Paint. It’s those little details that make bikes fun and that’s what Grinduro is all about right, fun?
With matching Yanco Bags, a SRAM MTB kit, Industry Nine wheels, and its mean and rowdy stance, I might not be showing favoritism, but I feel like I saved the best for last. What was your favorite bike from Grinduro this year? See them all in our search string.
Bear Claw Bicycle Co was born on the back roads and byways of the scenic outdoors, built with rugged terrain in mind, and delivers versatile bikes with no-nonsense designs. From the 700c/650b drop bar Thunderhawk, to the rowdy Beowulf hardtail, and the fat AF Balthazar, Bear Claw has just about any ride you’d need to tour, bikepack, and get rad on. Check out their full lineup at Bear Claw Bicycle Co.
Be it for singletrack slaying, bikepacking, and beyond, the new Ibis DV9 throws its hat in the ring of carbon hardtails. It’ll fit a 2.6″ 29’r wheel, is designed around a 100mm fork, comes in an variety of build specs, and has an updated geometry. See all the specs at Ibis.
Anytime there’s an Edward Abbey reference in the cycling industry, my interest is piqued! Back when Advocate Cycles was around, their Hayduke MTB frame offered up a modern hardtail geometry in steel or titanium, at a more affordable price. When Advocate closed shop, the owners began to work on Esker Cycles, which launched earlier this summer. Now, the Hayduke hardtail is back with new features, new geometry, and the same desert vigilante spirit as its namesake. Get out to the desert with your own Monkey Wrench Gang and see more at Esker Cycles.