On November 10th 2008, I got a email from John Castellano to say that my bike ' Hudson ' was en-route to me in Canada. The time frame that I was waiting prior to this email was approx 3 months. I mention this mainly because of the issues around time lines you sometimes get with small builders. John gave me a realistic time frame and finished a few weeks early. Having come off a Gary Fisher Superfly I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with John going over measurements and what I was looking for in my bike. I wanted the quick handling racy feel that the Superfly had but with a bit more comfort for the long hours in the saddle. John had already outlined what he was going to build and chose the ti tubes specifically for my weight and ride characteristics. 5 days later UPS dropped the frame off just in time for a loooong cold Canadian winter.
Over the next few months I was relegated to riding the rollers and heading outside when the snow held so the first real ride would be in April in Asheville North Carolina. My bike was built up with a xtr drive train, a Fox F-29 G2 80mm fork, Mavic Crossmax 29 and a Thompson cockpit. In the material I got with the bike John had suggested what stem length, crank length, bar width, seat offset etc. I go with and with the exception of the crank length I went with his suggestions. The bike felt great right off the get go and it took almost no time at all to love the ride.
This was my first time on a soft tail so I was not sure what to expect with that but Kris had a Moots YBB and loved it ( he's since replaced it with the 29" version ) With just under 2" of travel it is perfect for what I was trying to achieve. The flat plate chain stays are almost ( side ) flex free and the suspension feels active all the time. Under the boot are 2 separate CDE elastomers with grease ports for lubing ( Jonnisnot Syringe was included ) and under the ti shock body there is a sag adjuster to adjust the pre-load. A Shimano bb tool or a 19 mm socket can be used for this.
John suggests after a few rides that you adjust the sag as the CDE's will start breaking in. I set the sag to .5" and it felt great. The elastomers typically last a year and can be replaced with different supply spring rates. Lubing the CDE's is supposed to happen every 20 hours or so of riding although the rubber boot does a great job of keeping mud and dirt out and off of the shock. What I love about this design is the no fuss set it and forget it. No pivots to loosen up, no pivots squeaking, bushing slop etc.
Another good feature with the chainstays is the tire clearance. On a recent trip to Colorado these easily fit the Kenda Nevegal 29 x 2.2's I ran with room to spare. We will come back to Colorado in part 2 of this review.
Meanwhile back in Ontario this bike really shines. Smooth fast tight single track and this bike feels like it is a slot car. The fit is perfect and it climbs like a goat. The small amount of travel really lets the back wheel hook up on the steep ups. I have been able to put almost 2000 km on this bike so far this year and the bike has been to North Carolina, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Fruita, North Dakota and all over southern Ontario so it has seen pretty much every possible kind of terrain one would throw at a mountain bike. Lots of parts have changed since the first build. Some for preference, some for necessity. My Mavic Crossmax 29'er rear hub blew up on me and the scoring inside the cassette body left us scratching our heads. These have been replaced with a set of Industry Nine's on Stan's Z 355's. I will post the outcome of this once they return from Mavic's warranty department.
The Avid Juicy Ultimates that came over from the Superfly have also been upgraded to the Hope Tech x2's. The Avids were good but after you got past the set up ' quirks ' with the Hope's. WOW! In the part 2 of this I will spend a bit of time on what makes this bike truly stand out, the workmanship. Steve Potts of WTB fame is the welder and John Castellano who originally did these bikes for Ibis ( silk ti & bow ti ) and has this baby patented really are masters of their craft and all you need to do is look at the frame for reminders of this fact. I made reference to the name of this bike as Hudson earlier in this article. John does not put serial numbers on his frames. So you get to name the bike and Potts engraves it under the bb shell. Hudson takes the name from my riding buddy who passed away with canine cancer back in 08'. It's only fitting that this grey ghost bear the name of the O.G.