Last year upon relocating to the Bay Area, I consolidated my all mountain and down hill bikes, selling them both off. In their place I built up a Santa Cruz Nomad, going with the popular “one” bike approach familiar with those trying to get the monkey known as “Visa” off their back. With a second DH specific wheelset I reasoned, I had my bases covered, and for the occasional DH riding the Nomad with coil suspension worked well.
There was a drawback to my plan though. I don’t live in the northwest, or Vancouver, BC.
The Bay Area is a bit lacking when it comes to technical trails littered with features- especially jumps. When you have a bike that is forced to do it all, you end up with a bike that does a lot of things pretty dang well, but I’ve found that the Nomad is either too heavy, or too light for what I’m riding around here. Or specifically, who I’m riding with. The Nomad is a ride that wants to attack trails full of technical awesome, and is always going to be my number one choice for traveling to ride new spots to seek out that sort of awesome. That is, unless I’m riding dedicated gravity parks- just because it covers most of the bases. However, I have been really wanting a light version of the Nomad, or that is to say, a dedicated XC bike with Nomad handling, which Santa Cruz recently created in the form of the Blur TRc. For the typical trails here, that’s the bike to have. Light enough to keep up with team spandex and challenge their Strava times, but with all mountain handling so I can focus on crushing the downhills as well.
Yep, my next bike was going to be a lightweight trail whip. However, it didn’t quite work out like that. Instead, I’ve built up a bike solidly in the other direction. The newest addition to the quiver features 8″ of rear wheel travel, and is much more suited to bike parks like Whistler and North Star than our local single track. How the hell did this happen? In this case it came down to timing. Turns out the Driver 8 has been discontinued. I’ve been keeping a close eye on this bike for some time, as it is one of the few DH capable bikes on the market that has a pedal friendly seat angle. Most DH bikes have a limited amount of seat height adjust ability, which is just as well, since typical seat angles are so slack that if you raise the seat to pedaling height you’ll be sitting somewhere above the rear axle.
Since they aren’t planning to make more of this frame, deals can currently be had, and since the plastic tubs in my closet contained enough parts to build the frame up into a complete bike, I somehow managed to justify the frame price. After about a week of deliberation and driving the girlfriend crazy with my bike talk, I finally bit the bullet and clicked the buy button.
A while later, a large box showed up, and my quiver became even more heavily biased towards gravity riding. I’m 5’10, and typically run a size medium across the board for most manufacturers. In the Santa Cruz gravity line-up, the reach of the mediums is a bit shorter than the offerings from other manufacturers, which puts me in the slot between medium and large on their sizing chart. It also just happens to be the way I like it when it comes to big-hit, jump friendly bikes.
Building her up
Since I already had most of the parts, the build went fairly easy. The only thing holding me back were brakes and cranks. Sadly, my favorite crank of choice, the Saint by Shimano was a 68/73 mm bb shell model. Fortunately our friend Bobby of Ride Blind Racing/ WTB had a set of Raceface DH cranks in an 83mm version that would fit the bike as well as a Gamut Guide to boot, paired with a SRAM X9 nine speed drive train.
I ended up going with Saint brakes as well, stealing my favorite brake of all time off my Nomad, which could be lightened up now that it wasn’t required to act as a downhill bike in addition to its trail duties.
Fork-wise, I decided to run with my Rockshox Totem fork. The Totem is a burly fork that works great in bike parks as well as on the trail. Since I’ll be pedaling the bike a lot, I wouldn’t have minded a 180″mm Fox 36 model for lighter weight, or the long travel Lyrik, but the Totem is a great fork- not to mention it has been sitting in the back of my closet for over a season. I also had the Cane Creek Headset I originally used on my Nomad; however, I’ll likely swap it out for the greater customization that their Angleset model provides. According to Santa Cruz, the stock head angle comes in at around 66ª, which is a bit more steep than I’d prefer for high speed riding.
I had a set of Easton Havoc Wheels lying around from a review I wrote from Mountain Bike Action a few seasons back. These wheels have been awesome for the most part, and have held up well with the exception of the rear hub that developed a bit of play that won’t go away. (It appears the alloy cone is a bit ovalized and will need to be replaced in order to adjust properly.) Other than that, the wheels have stood the test of time: they spin well, and are for the most part, straight and ding free.
My favorite DH/ FR saddle, the Formula MT, has been brought back into the game as well. However, although the Driver 8 has some seat height adjustability, it doesn’t quite have as much as I hoped. The first ride was on a SDG post that was cut a bit short too boot. After the first ride I installed a Gravity Dropper that looks to be the solution. We’re ready for the lifts to open!