I’m not sure if it’s my rural roots, subconscious pride, or some other ineffable force, but I feel like an imposter without a steel hardtail around. Like a kid from northern Idaho fumbling to mimic a Brooklyn accent, something is amiss. So, after handing off my last set of pipes to a friend I decided to build up a new banger.
With the same reach measurement as my main full suspension bike and a race-worthy 150mm fork tucked under the bars, the new steel Norco Torrent frame has all of the character I look for in a leg-suspension bike. Most frames I build up could be characterized as ostentatious or garish. Or simply colorful. This is my first go at a blackout bike. I decided to name it Croass, which means crow in the local Piedmontese dialect.
I have some high alpine bikepacking trips and home-trail lunchtime rips planned for the build, and nearly every bit but the saddle and shifties will be reviewed in due time. Details on the Stan’s CB7 wheelset, and everything attached to it, were published in a prior article. For now, here are some details on the bike and its bits.
Norco Torrent frame
The chromoly Torrent frame has space for a 29×2.5″ tire out back, and up front the slack 64° head tube angle (HTA) is based on 150mm of fork travel. Since the head tube becomes steeper as the fork compresses, the HTA after sag will be closer to 65°. This medium size frame cuts the wheelbase a touch with whippy 420mm chainstays and an average length 450mm reach.
The 76° seat tube angle (STA) is steeper than that of my other bike, and it will also move toward vertical with sag. Once the saddle position is set, in relation to the BB, I’ll be experimenting with different stem lengths to adjust for the shorter saddle to stem measurement created by the frame’s (STA).
Norco sends a 44mm cartridge bearing headset along with the frame that appears to be well built. Since the bike takes external headset cups, it’s possible to mount an angle-adjust headset if you prefer a little different fork lean.
Torrent frames come with a thin piece of clear tape to protect the chainstay, so I wrapped it in a tube and added a set of STFU chain dampers so I can listen to the birds instead of my bike. The chain is absolutely silent. I would like the paint to shine for a season, so I added Invisaframe protection to the high traffic areas and a layer of All Mountain Style protection under the downtube. Gotta keep that bass boat luster.
Manitou Mezzer Pro fork
We can now select forks by 1mm stanchion diameter increments if we choose. One of the many exciting pieces of review gear in this build is the Manitou Mezzer Pro fork, with its statuesque 37mm stanchions and sexy black/chrome matching colorway. Manitou claims that they have created the lightest and stiffest enduro fork on the market, and I look forward to sharing how it rides.
The Mezzer Pro is available for 27.5″ wheels with a 37mm or 44mm offset or 29″ wheels with a 44mm or 51mm offset. The fork’s travel is internally adjustable in 10mm increments by inserting the included spacers. There’s no need to swap out the air spring or purchase proprietary tools to perform the adjustment.
The Dorado Air Spring uses a self-equalizing negative spring that allows you to fill the positive and negative chambers in tandem. Atop the air-spring leg, the Infinite Rate Tune offers precise volume adjustment so riders can dial in the small bump compliance and bottom-out pressure that fits their riding style. Finally, a hydraulic bottom-out takes care of any harshness at the furthest reaches of travel, when it really counts.
Manitou says that the MC2 sealed cartridge damper is ready for the harshest riding conditions. Low and high-speed compression are externally adjustable, with a single rebound knob to handle the pop.
$949 MSRP, currently on sale at JensonUSA.
Magura Vyron eLECT wireless dropper post
Wireless electronics on a steel hardtail? Sounds like a rap group with a banjo player, and I dig it!
Magura’s redesigned Vyron eLECT wireless dropper post has a reported 25% increase in reaction time and extension speed over the original 2018 model. Having popped it up and down several times now, its minor speed lag seems like something I’ll quickly adapt to. It’s available with 100mm, 125mm, and 150mm of travel, in 30.9 and 31.6 diameters.
While wireless components are not the most budget-friendly, one Viron eLECT could replace the droppers across a whole quiver of bikes. I opted for the narrower 30.9x150mm version for exactly that reason.
The Vyron eLECT’s battery charges in roughly three hours via USB cable, and will last an estimated 400 operations. You can either pull it from the frame and charge it next to your other electronics or plug a portable charger battery in while it sits in the stable. The wireless handlebar remote uses a small 2030 battery that can be swapped in seconds.
Priced at $550 but currently on sale at Moosejaw.com.
Hayes Dominion A4 brakes
Fans of Rémy Metalier have heard all about the power and performance that the Dominion A4 brakes from Hayes provide. A pair of grub screws that interact with the caliper’s main mounting bolts create the “Crosshair Caliper Alignment” which allows the calipers to be precisely aligned once, and easily removed and remounted without centering the pads a second time. The caliper also has a motocross-style dual bleed port system so that it can be bled more accurately.
Reach for the Dominion A4 levers can be adjusted on the trail by turning the light-action disc on the lever blade. Right and left side levers are identical and interchangeable, and the lever blades are available in two sizes to fit different hands. My index fingers like lever blades to sit fairly close to the handlebar and the Dominion A4 brakes are the first I have tried with an adjustment range extending beyond my preferred point.
As a lifelong fan of motocross, I have a soft spot for ProTaper gear. Their carbon mountain bike bars come in a few different shapes and materials. The Carbon 1″ Rise bars I’m testing arrived in an 810mm length with an 8° backsweep and a 4° upsweep. I have cut them down to 780mm, held by a 30mm-long ProTaper MTB stem with a 35mm clamp. The brand’s brawny stems are available in 5mm length increments, between 30mm and 50mm. Finally, the ProTaper MTB Meat Hammer grips hold fast to the bar’s Textured Grit Grip finish with a single clamp. The grips are a little fatter than I typically use, but their soft rubber squishes enough to make up that difference.
e*thirteen cranks and Nukeproof pedals
Standing at almost 32lbs (14.5kg) ready to ride, this is no dainty hardtail. The fourth-generation LG1 Race Carbon Cranks from e*thirteen maintain that burly character in one of the lightest packages possible. The DH-tested crank’s 30mm spindle is attached to the non drive-side arm, so swapping the direct mount chainring is wicked quick. LG1 Race Carbon Cranks come in 160, 165, and 170mm lengths, fitting nicely with the brand’s internal or external bottom brackets.
Nukeproof’s Horizon CS clipless pedals will move this ride forward, with their multi-angle clip-in feature and traction pegs to keep me on the bike most of the time. Each pedal has a pair of replaceable sealed cartridge bearings and a single bushing to spread the load. They sell with a set of cleats and are SPD-compatible. I’m sure they won’t look this shiny and clean once they’re ready for review.
We would like to thank the above brands for providing gear to test and review. Look for articles on each of these products in the coming months.