Monday, November 17, 2008

Video, Initial Ride Review of the Salsa Big Mama...

Here's an overview of the Big Mama I shot with my Flip video camera on the bike's maiden voyage this past Saturday. I just got it uploaded to Google Video and the version out on Google's site is larger than the version here, so if you want max quality, I'd recommend going out there to check it out. You should see the native video coming out of the camera... Totally television quality - amazing.

My initial ride impressions of the Big Mama are very positive. The design of the suspension, while essentially a linkage-driven single pivot, is very efficient yet active due to the tuned flex seatstays, which work with the Fox RP2 damper to minimize interference with pedaling and remain responsive to the widest variety of bumps possible. The low leverage ratio requires very low air pressures. Even with the smaller-volume air can on the Fox RP2, I only need to run 95psi to achieve 25% sag (12mm on the damper), and I'm running the rebound damping wide-open (full-fast). I read on the Speedgoat blog that they felt like this was a bike that was really created for ProPedal, but I really couldn't disagree more. I feel like the Big Mama is a really efficient bike on the dirt with the ProPedal in the off position. I don't even really want it when I'm on pavement. Yeah, I do notice a subtle difference under moderate to hard pedaling on pavement with the ProPedal engaged, but anytime I'm on dirt, I like the bike wide open. I mentioned this to Jason Boucher earlier tonight when we spoke and he said that it was likely I'd end up dropping my air pressure in the rear just a bit as I got more used to the bike, but that said, he was on the same page as I was on the ProPedal thing... The bike is designed not to need ProPedal, especially off-road. If anything, I feel like one of the Big Mama's distinct strengths is its efficiency under pedaling without the need for damping-based pedaling aids. It gets up and goes when you punch the gas. I like that.

The Big Mama is also very neutral handling. I can get off my El Mariachi and get on the Big Mama and ride either bike hard without drama. That's cool. You can feel that they're from the same family and that's something I've come to appreciate from Salsa's bikes. Consistency. As I get a little older, I appreciate it more and more, so I was relieved to ride the Big Mama and feel that familiar handling that I know and love, only better. It's laterally stiffer and obviously better suspended than any 29-inch Salsa to come before it, and those two things should ultimately make it the best-handling Salsa 29er to-date. I believe time will bear that out to be the case. Please don't tell my El Mariachi...

The handling is definitely stable. My Manitou fork doesn't have as much offset as the new Rebas, which would make the Big Mama handle a bit quicker. I'm thinking about trying my Maverick SC32 on the front, just for fun. Jason ran an SC32 on one of his prototypes for quite a while and I have to admit, it sure would look sweet... We'll see if I feel adventurous. This is the time to do it, I suppose! No time like the present.

Enjoy the video!



Jason said...

Wow! Nice review and feedback. Great video too ;)

Not to be weight weenie, but what do you think the weight of the bike sits at? I'd be on a large and if I could get the thing in the 25/26 lb. mark, I'd be pretty geeked. And potentially swayed to the Big Mama! HA!

The whole pro pedal on/off debate is interesting. I'd have to say I would error on the side of having it ON. I really have to think that no one would set out to design a FS bike with it set to the on full time. If you're gonna have FS- soak it all up!! ;)

Guitar Ted said...

MG: Nice write up, as usual. One thing I wondered about, isn't the Manitou a 46mm offset as is the Reba? Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought that was the case.

Anyway, it doesn't color the results here, which are consistent with my take on the bike. One thing I would want you to comment on; however, is how you feel the suspension reacts to your quick accelerations. How does it wheelie? Can you get that front end up when you want to if you want to clear a larger obstacle? You know, the power moves, and accelerations out of corners. (I've a feeling I know what you'll say, but I don't want to lead you with my thoughts here)

Okay dude! I'm gonna have to hire you on for video work one of these days for Twenty Nine Inches! That Flip cam does a great job, but the guy running it has to have some talent too!

Take care and ride on!

Jomax said...

Nice job on the video and write up.

I am in the process of building up a Big Mama with the reba u-turn. Is your fork a 120mm? What are you thoughts on the handling with a 100 vs 120?

Thanks again,


MG said...

Hey Jason, Thanks for the thoughts. I have a habit of not weighing my bikes, simply because I also have a habit of running big, heavy tires and thick spokes, but that said, I'd estimate I'm in the 27lb range right now for my large. I think you could easily get it into the 26lb range, and if you threw XTR/CrossMax29-type of bling on it, you'd get it down in the 25s, if perhaps the high-25s. For me, that'd be more than raceable. Honestly, I'll race mine at the weight it's at now... Gladly. I'm just happy that my back won't be taking the pounding five hours into a six hour race, or eleven hours into a twelve hour race... You know what I'm sayin'.

Guitar Ted, I think the 20mm Hex Axle version of the Minute is indeed 46mm offset, but I believe the QR version of the fork only has 43mm of offset. It's kind of weird that they are different, but that's how it is.

As for your question on how it powers out of corners, and how it wheelies, for getting the front-end over logs, steps and such... it's actually very, very good in this regard. It manuals well, wheelies really well and is very responsive to pedaling effort. You obviously have to treat it with a certain amount of respect -- it still is a dualie, but you also can point it straight through bumpy sections without need to necessarily find the smoothest line. I guarantee that ultimately makes you faster on the trail.

As for the 100 vs. 120mm issue, I think you're fine to run the longer fork, especially since with a Reba, you can easily tune the amount of travel you're actually running. If you feel the steering is too sluggish for your tastes with 120mm (which I suspect it probably won't be, but) you could easily reduce it to 100-110mm of travel to speed it up a bit. That's what I'd suggest. Good luck and have fun!

Thanks again for the comments, guys.


Guitar Ted said...

MG: Thanks for that reply. Yeah, you are basically coming from where I was on that aspect of the performance of the Big Mama. I felt it would "squirt" forwards with ease when you stomped the pedal. A great feeling in a dually that I can not say that I have experienced on any other FS design. It made me think that the Big Mama must have shortish chainstays, but quite the contrary, to my utter amazement.

Emily said...

that video made me feel funny.

MG said...

Yep, we're totally in-sync there, Guitar Ted. I think we're feeling the same sensation.

Emily... I'm not totally sure what sensation you're feelin', but I'd say to go with it. ;-)

paxtoncoyote said...

SWEET! The Big Mama is my second dream bike, right behind the Fargo!

MG said...

I hear ya' Matt. It looks like you and I have a lot of the same dreams! I'm already assembling the parts kit for my new Fargo as I type these words.

With a Big Mama, a Fargo and an El Mariachi, I can't imagine what you'd ever want for as far as dirt riding goes. Well, perhaps a true 'cross bike, so throw either my Chili Con Crosso or my La Cruz in there too... Man, I'm such a bike ho!! I don't know if I'll ever be able to own just one bike.

Talk to you soon, Matt.


Oliver said...

There is a 'fisting your big momma' joke in there somewhere. :)

I picked up mine today and had a good ride home. Can't wait to take it out on some single track.

Take care.

MG said...

Ollie... Congratulations my friend. It doesn't surprise me in the least that you're on-board the Big Mama train. And as a certified Salsa Amigo, you're gonna' love it too. I'm headed out to Wilderness Park right now, in fact for some "continued testing." I love work like this! Hope to see you out on the trails soon, Oliver.

Look for an update of my testing, including some sweet Gnat-recommended cable routing hints, coming soon. The cable routing thing has been an amazing advance for me... Holy cow! Thanks Jason!


C said...

Decent video, info wise, nothing more than salsa's website. I have to admit I felt a little uncomfortable listening to the heavy breathing in between sentences! Frame looks sweat, anyone know the life span with the flexy seatstays?

MG said...

Hey C -- Thanks for checking in. After seven months of riding, I'm more stoked than ever on the Big Mama and the flexing seatstays are holding solid. According to my friends at Salsa, they'll last the lifetime of the frame, and based on my experience with the Dos Niner, which has flexing chainstays (which flex significantly more than the Big Mama's seatstays), I'm confident they're right.

Good luck!