It only took an hour of me riding Specialized's all-new Stumpjumper 29 before I knew exactly what I'd pick for my Dream Build this year. I had already pretty much made up my mind but was holding off making my decision until I got a leg over the highly anticipated Stumpy update. And when I finally did, I was positive—I'd build an Ibis Ripmo.
By the time I got to demo a new Stumpy, I'd spent a couple months on the Ripmo and had fallen in love with it. The bike made me a more confident, faster rider up and down, and I liked that. I liked it very much.
The Stumpy confounded me. It rode really well—better than it should have, considering that the numbers made it look decidedly uncontemporary. I loved the 140-millimeter rear, and 150 front travel numbers, but the reach on a size large frame was an aggressively short 445 millimeters, while the seat tube, at 74.1 degrees, sat farther back than it did in 2014. But weirdly, it didn't feel particularly short, nor did I feel terribly perched off the back of the thing when climbing. It actually ripped hard enough to put it up on the list of new bikes I'd highly recommend. But I had already made my mind up.
What made me switch away from a bike I was sure of? The Italian EXT STORIA LOK shock. EXT isn't a household name, but considering the fact that EXT dampers have suspended eight world rally championship winners and the company's founder, Franco Fratton, has developed countless innovative suspension technologies since 1986, it's likely only a matter of time before it is. I put a STORIA on an Evil Wreckoning a few years ago, rode it for a few months before taking it off to test other shocks, and it's been sitting in a box ever since—until this spring, when I went looking for a temporary shock for another bike, and that old STORIA was the right length. That's when I was reminded just how mind-blowingly good it is.
It's so good that having the new version, the STORIA LOK, on this year's dream build became priority No.1. The Ripmo has a regressive leverage rate, which is really designed around the progressive nature of air shocks. I was told by Ibis that it'd work, but it's technically not ideal. I was heartbroken, and heavily wavering.
Then I saw this gorgeous bass-boat-purple Stumpy S-Works frame-only colorway, and my mind was made up—again. The bike's Horst-link suspension would be the perfect platform for the SOTRIA LOK, and now that Specialized finally dumped its proprietary shock mounts for regular eyelets and a standard 210×50 shock length, fitment would be much easier. Plus, that paint job—I mean, come on! Is that not one of the most dreamy frames you've ever laid eyes on‽
The only fork I've tried that can even come close to the sensitivity and control of the EXT shock is the Fox 36 Grip2, and I opted for the the tiny-bit-slipperier Kashima-coated Factory-level. For the headset, I wanted to run the new Chris King Dropset, but the company somehow decided to only produce one of the two common IS upper bearing sizes—the one Specialized doesn't use. Luckily, Cane Creek makes a 110-series headset that fits.
The gaudy-gold SRAM XX1 stuff had always been too much for me, but I knew it'd look damn good on this frame. The new Shimano XTR was my first choice, but wasn't available in time. At least I managed to get a pair of the new pedals. I have no idea if I'll like the new XTR drivetrain more than XX1, but I still wanted it, because XTR and dreamy custom builds went together for decades before SRAM antiquated the front derailleur. Then again, true innovation made that happen, and this bling-tastic XX1 Eagle group represents SRAM's hard-earned top spot on the mountain-bike-drivetrain podium.
I went for the insane, $1,000 Cane Creek eeWings titanium cranks because I haven't coveted a set of cranks this much since the original Sweet Wings came out in the 90s—and these new ones were designed by the same guy as the originals. They're claimed to be stronger and stiffer than any carbon crank on the market, and the 400-gram weight is within a few ziti noodles of high-end carbon arms. And, they're ti-fucking-tanium! The crank uses the SRAM direct-mount interface, which is convenient, because the X-Sync 2 Oval ring is my jam. It allows me to power up steep sections easier. I run the crank on a Chris King Threadfit 30 bottom bracket, because King makes the best bearings.
Also aiding in climbing and acceleration are the svelte ENVE M630 hoops, built to 28-hole White Industries XMR+ hubs with Sapim CX-Ray spokes in a 2-cross pattern. Proven Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT tires provide the traction, and Orange Seal keeps the air in.
Stopping this beautiful beast is a pair of dazzling Magura MT1893 brakes. These 125th-anniversary stoppers are a special version of the four-piston MT7 (1893 is the year Magura was founded). Why Magura? Because they've been making brakes for everything, practically forever. These are strong, but have tons of modulation—more than SRAM Codes, and with the HC3 lever blades, modulation is actually adjustable. The MT1893 brakes even ship with a bunch of plastic color rings that snap into the calipers, and there was a set of purple ones to match the frame.
If I'm going to have fancy composite brake levers, I might as well go with a bar from the future, too, which is why I chose the Syncros Hixon SL IC carbon one-piece bar/stem. I also went with ESI Chunky grips, and Cane Creek eeBarKeep bar plugs.
I still haven't found a better dropper than the 9point8 Fall Line. The lever is a Cane Creek DROPT, because I forgot to order the Magura mount kit for the 9point8 Digit remote. It's nice enough, but I do prefer the shape of the Digit, so I'll wind up ordering the proper mount for it.
Rounding out this remarkable build is our Bike mag 25th-anniversary WTB Volt Team saddle and a titanium King Cage. Oh, and I swapped all the steel bolts out for titanium ones, just to carry the magic metal theme as far as I could. Finally, I strung the shifting and dropper with Shimano SP41 housing and Polymer Coated Cables, because that shit matters.
How's it ride, you ask? You'll have to stay tuned here on bikemag.com to find out.