A lot of us have built our own bikes, but what if they sky was the limit? Imagine you had access to every swanky part on the market and were planning to build a halo bike of your own. A while ago, we received a note from Jason over at FairWheel Bikes who had done just that. As purveyors of the exceptionally light, and pricey, Jason had a world of exotic parts within his grasp and it shows in the final build. The result? A 17.59 pound, geared New Ultimate Big Warp 29er with a Lefty. Yikes.
As luck would have it, I happened to be the only writer available who could fit the wonder bike, so Jason packed up his freshly built personal bike that he hadn’t even ridden yet, and sent it off to the Mid West for some Bikerumor Testing. I wish I could say I have quite a bit of experience with bikes of this caliber, but as Jason himself pointed out, typically project bikes such as this are fairly inaccessible except to the owners of course. However, since Jason had built the Big Warp for himself he offered it up for us to get a taste of what a boutique build is like.
Curious how you build a sub 18 pound 29er that is daily driver compatible? Check it out after the break.
New Ultimate has been putting out a catalog of lightweight parts recently, and the Big Warp carbon 29er is one of their newer frames. The hardtail is built from super high modulus carbon fiber with a 1.5 – 1 1/8 tapered head tube, and PressFit30 bottom bracket.
While the shift cabling is internally routed through the frame, brake routing remains external allowing for brake installation or removal without necessary bleeding.
As this frame is geared towards the anorexic side, a 135mm standard QR dropout is employed. With a claimed weight of 1100g, the Big Warp isn’t the lightest, but as demonstrated it can be built up quite light. Given that fact that Lefty forks have a very high stiffness to weight ratio, a carbon Lefty was a good choice to ensure the bike is as rideable as it is light.
As one of two pairs of the Kill Hill version of Brake Force Ones that have been imported to the US, we were very excited to try out the brakes. As you might have read, Brake Force One created a hydraulic disc brake with a closed hydraulic system, i.e. no expansion reservoir. With a claimed weight of 181g per brake, the Kill Hill Tune version of Brake Force One works out to be about 24 g lighter than the standard version.
The brakes claim easier one finger operation that most brakes, all with less weight and a bigger air gap around the rotor. The bigger air gap is supposed to prevent noise from rotors rubbing on pads, and is also the reason there is no need for an expansion reservoir – as the fluid heats up and expands it simply pushes the pads closer to the rotor. Theoretically this should cause the lever stroke to decrease so it will be interesting to see how these perform out on the trail. In order to keep things as light as possible or maybe just out of convenience (and probably save a little $$), Jason went with Ashima AirRotors rather than the stock BFO Rotors.
Initial brake feel on the Kill Hill BFOs is well, odd. Marc has a set of the standard BFOs on review and had some serious bubbles in the line that required re-bleeding so it’s possible that the same thing is affecting the brakes on this bike – we’ll have to do some investigating and get back.
While the drive train on the Big Warp is a marvel of engineering, the end result begs the questions of is a drive train a good place to cut weight? The only thing standard about the drive train is an XTR M980 shifter set and derailleurs, everything else has been replaced by obscenely light, chiseled parts worthy of a museum. Going with the carbon heavy theme of the bike, a full carbon THM Clavicula crank was spec’ed along with KCNC’s alloy CobWeb chain rings in a 2X (28-36t) configuration. The Clavicula cranks certainly qualify for full carbon with the spider, and even the spindle manufactured from the stuff which allows for a total system weight of 472g! That includes the chainrings, chain ring bolts, hardware, and it even includes a BB bearing that I didn’t want to remove from the spindle. Compare that to around 700g for an XTR FC-M985 and you can start to see how the complete bike is so light.
Out back, the chain wraps itself around KCNC’s whopper of a titanium cassette. Even with a huge 38t cog, the newer reinforced version (on right in above photos) of the cassette tips the scales at 185g. The original prototype (pictured on left) versions of KCNC’s mega cassette weighed even less, at 157g, but they suffered from durability issues. KCNC quickly put out a revision that beefed up each gear which is hard to miss in the second photo, which added almost 30g in the process – though it’s 30g you’ll be happy to have when your cassette is still in working order during and after a ride. The construction of the carrier changed slightly as well with the gold aluminum now only supporting 7 gears instead of 8, which means an extra cog that is loose, since the 11 and 12t cogs are machined from one piece of Ti.
Finally, the drive train is completed with a KMC X10SL DLC black 10 speed chain and Alligator Ilink cable housing.
When it comes to a bespoke build like this, off the shelf wheels simply won’t do. Which is why a custom set of hoops were laced up with Enve carbon XC rims mated to a 32 hole Tune Kong rear hub and a 32 hole Tune Cannonball Lefty front hub. Now, seeing as how this was a show bike, spokes were carefully chosen with each wheel featuring 28 bladed black spokes while two pairs of horizontally opposed stringers are white in each wheel.
Short of stripping the wheels of their rubber and gears, I can tell you that, yes, they are quite light. Add in the Vredestein tubeless Black Panther and Spotted Cat tubeless ready tires (630, and 580g respectively) and you end up with some very lively wheels. Just for reference, the complete rear wheel – with tire, sealant, cassete, rotor, skewer and all hardware tips the scales at 1660g. Realistically, you could transform just about any 29er with a set of comparable wheels.
The cockpit of the bike is set up not necessarily for the ultimate build, but for it to fit me as close as possible. Jason was insistent on getting precise measurements so that when the bike arrived it would fit straight out of the box. I was very impressed with just how close the fit was – a skill he’s undoubtedly picked up over the years working with finicky pros to dial in their fit.
Even though some of the parts may have been just “lying around” the shop, the Big Warp still had an impressive set of controls that were mostly carbon. Up front sits an Enve carbon Sweep flat bar clamped in place by a KCNC Arrow stem which is the only non-carbon, 7050 aluminum part in the mix (don’t worry, the bolts are Ti). In order to keep my butt in place, a ridiculous 95g Tune Speed Needle saddle is perched atop a New Ultimate Evo carbon post. Supposedly, the Evo post’s tapered, reinforced UD carbon makes for a lighter post than previous New Ultimate carbon posts, without reducing strength.
With each part alone worthy of it’s own post, the finished product is definitely not something you’d see out on the trail every day. I have yet to have someone pick up the bike and not be astounded by the result – but, what does that mean for the ride? Light weight is great, but at what cost? When it comes to that, we aim to find out. Keep tuned for a full review in the future.