Luckily, yesterday it was almost 60 degrees, so we got a super ride in, and I got to ride my Salsa Big Mama too, so that was super sweet. I've been lovin' that bike more and more as I've gotten more saddle time in on it. I can't believe how little pressure I'm running in the rear shock. I'm down to 90psi now.
As I've lowered the pressure, a definite dual nature has developed. At first, when I was running 95-98psi, I didn't use the ProPedal at all, but I also never used all the travel the bike had to offer. Now, I'm able to access all the travel, especially with the shock in the open position, but it definitely has more shock movement while you're pedaling now at 90psi. I think this is mostly due to weight shift and the fact that the suspension cycles on bearings, so it's super smooth, so your body's weight shifts as you spin are able to cycle the suspension slightly, in a cyclical fashion. I say this because the bike still feels nice and firm under pedaling. When I step on it, it goes forward nicely.
That said, when you engage the ProPedal, the increase in compression damping causes the rear end to ride a bit higher in the travel, effectively steepening the geometry of the frame ever so slightly, which makes it feel a bit racier, more willing to accelerate. That's where this dual nature I mentioned earlier comes from, I think. When the shock is open, it settles back in the travel and is more chilled-out. It still pedals efficiently, but its overall demeanor is more laid-back. When you engage the Propedal, it's like you downed a double shot of espresso and are amped and chargin'. All the sudden, it wants to rip... Pedal hard with immunity, out of the saddle, in the saddle... it doesn't matter. Just hammer. Hit stuff hard. It'll take it. That's how it feels.
Smooth... The routing works out much nicer at the front when you're able to run the cables to the opposite side of the frame. What's the difference? The housings don't touch the frame while you ride, so your paint doesn't get messed up by your cables. Big difference...
My cable routing has evolved quite a bit too. Jason B. at Salsa gave me the hot tip early on that running the rear derailleur cable over to the left side of the bike, then crossing it over at mid-bike was the hot tip, and he was right. I also realized early on that it was a good idea to run the zip-ties on the rear brake and rear derailleur housing relatively loose, so that they're free to slide along the guides as the suspension cycles through its travel. Running the zip ties too tight made the housing kink up at mid-bike as the suspension compressed, making the bike ghost shift and messing up the paint.
Not good... So by running it a bit looser, you let it slide instead of making it kink. Gotta' keep it lubed with ProLink though or it'll squeak. That adds a new paradigm to cleaning and lubing the ride -- lubing the rear der housing ferrule slide points. Oh the fun of full suspension. You don't have that on a hardtail! It's a tradeoff I'll gladly take though for the benefit of suspension though, I'll tell you that.
Bird's eye view of the mid-bike crossover the cables make to get the rear derailleur cable back onto the right side of the bike. It works pretty darn good...
I've really enjoyed the past month with my Big Mama. It's an incredible ride. I can't believe how comfortable I am on it already...
Some other notes from my first month with my Big Mama include:
- A second bottle cage mount would be nice. After seeing that Salsa was able to fit six bottle cage mounts on the new Fargo drop-bar off-road adventure touring 29er, the fact that they were only able to fit one on the Big Mama is not as impressive. How about a three-hole under-the-downtube combination bottle cage/Crud Catcher mount? That'd be super cool? I can live with one, but two would be so much better...
- The seattube and downtube protect the damper from rocks, debris and spray from the tires -- perfect on messy days like we've been having frequently lately here in Nebraska. The shock and linkage are mounted low in the frame, giving it a low center of gravity, something that's immediately noticeable in the bike's handling on the trail.
- The rear dropouts are replaceable and secured by two chainring bolts on each side. This is very cool -- secure, light and durable. Big Mama owners will want to be sure to check these four dropout bolts regularly, particularly after the bike's first five rides.
- The three-bearing main pivot is very smooth and seems to be flex-free. When I pedal as hard as I can, when I look down, I can't see any movement down at the front derailleur. The lack of flex it displays at the bottom bracket is especially impressive, in fact.
Overall, my goals moving forward with my Big Mama are mainly to drop a bit of weight and just keep stepping the performance level up. I'd eventually like to look at a new fork and perhaps a set of XTR disc brakes, but honestly, I could race it as-is and be pretty darn happy, if a bit dehydrated.