Hungry Monkey Part 1: The elusive long travel steel hardtail

I've been toying with the idea of a long travel, steel hardtail mountain bike for quite some time. Somehow I've always ended up heading in a different direction but not this time.
It all began with the On One 456 and the excellent reviews it received in U.K. magazines. The fire was further fuelled by the Ti model that was let lose on trails in 2008. It seemed like the perfect blend of trail ripper and friendly climber. The 456 has since been updated to the Evo 456 and has further evolved thanks to the addition of a carbon model and a bump in wheel size to 27.5"
One On 456 Evo2.jpg
One On 456 Evo2. // Photo Credit: http://www.planet-x-...oo456evo2x9.htm

Transition joined the growing long travel hardtail crowd with it's TransAM - also to rave reviews. Made from 4130 Chromoly, they proved reliable and fun out on the trails. The original has been superseded by a 27.5" with a geometry in line with current trends. Unfortunately, that was long before Transition had an official distributor in South Africa, so I decided to give it a miss.

Transition TransAM 26.jpg
Transition TransAM. // Photo Credit: http://www.transitio...s_TransAM26.cfm

When news broke of a slack, long and low 27.5" Stanton I was ready to swipe. With a static head angle of 64 degrees on a 140mm fork, I was very keen to feel the handling of a hardtail with those numbers. Unfortunately there were some manufacturing delays and once again my card made it safely back to the warm confines of my wallet.

Stanton Switchback.jpg
Stanton Switchback. // Photo Credit: http://www.stantonbi...tent/switchback

As these things go, I was looking at the Production Privee Shan at the same as I was considering the Stanton Switchback. Many an evening was spent on Google studying the options, builds, ride videos and reviews. What almost convinced was the 917's Gulf Oil Racing Colors, but again it wasn't to be and the idea gave way to a steel hardtail of another kind - the rigid single speed Momsen ST-R29.

Production Privee Shan.jpg
Production Privee Shan. // Photo Credit: http://www.productio...?ItmID=15079439

Once I had scratched the long standing single speed itch, the illusive long travel chapter was opened again. Since I first started looking a number of other interesting bikes and bike designs had been launched.

The BTR Fabrications Ranger which, in it's own right, is a bit of a Frankenbike - long, low and very slack frame designed around a 120mm fork. A head angle of 64 degrees on a 120mm fork is almost unheard of and slacker than that is something of fantasies. Trust two friends from Oxford, UK to slap a 64 degree head angle, usually reserved for downhill bikes, on a short travel hardtail.

Unfortunately once it's asking price in British pounds was converted to ZAR, it proved a bit too expensive of an experiment.

btr fabrications ranger geometry 2014 large.jpg
BTR Fabrications Ranger geometry. // Photo Credit: http://www.btr-fabri...roducts/ranger/

Towards the end of last year, I was looking at another build project to replace my beloved Ibis Mojo HDR and was interested in a couple options. Ibis was about to release the new Mojo HD3, Yeti launched their SB6C and SB5C with it's Switch Infinity link, Giant rocked the establishment by announcing the new trail-crunching Reign, and Pyga was building a bigger and bigger following with the Pascoe catching my eye.

While looking at geometries and exploring some ideas in line with Mondraker's Forward Geometry, I started toying with the idea of getting a bike one size up from the one size up that I was already riding with the help of a super short stem. At 179cm, I've always been between sizes on most bikes, but opted to go with a medium based on the thinking back then. This changed in 2010 when I realized that most medium bikes are just too cramped when running a shorter stem. I wasn't planning on going back to a long(er) stem so decided to rather size up. I haven't looked back since.

I figured as long as the bike's stand over was sufficient and the seat tube short enough to run a 125mm dropper post, I would be able to make the rest work through clever component choices. A big risk, but one worth trying in my opinion.

I somehow found myself considering dual suspension bikes between 130 and 140mm of travel and a head angle between 68 and 66 degrees. Three possible options made that cut and their XL bikes would work on the fitment side. They were the Santa Cruz 5010, Giant Trance 27.5 and Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt.

Then I visited the Africa Cycle Fair. There were all kinds of bikes that would make many a heart race. I got to ride a few of these and enjoyed most of them, but only one really got my attention on the short, flat course around the fair. The Mercer Bikes Hungry Monkey. I had been eyeing it on the Mercer Bikes stand but nothing could prepare me for the way that first pedal stroke felt.

Mercer Hungry Monkey.jpg
Dave Mercer's Hungry Monkey as ridden at the Africa Cycle Fair.

Admittedly the build kit (which included the super plush Rock Shox Pike) helped, but it didn't take much to realize that the frame is something special. By the time I got off the bike my mind was already made up and an order was placed with the man himself and in doing so the Mercer Bikes Hungry Monkey project build was born.




40 Comments

(Deon), Feb 17 2015 07:20

"and once again my card made it safely back to the warm confounds of my wallet."

 

You know that this [slip] makes more sense than if you had to use the word more fitting for the sentence, i.e. confines?.

 

"Confounds" describes perfectly your card's constant confusion.. but seemingly this time it got a chance to step out onto the field!

 

Home run? Let me guess, part 2..

Iwan Kemp, Feb 17 2015 08:11

"and once again my card made it safely back to the warm confounds of my wallet."

 

You know that this [slip] makes more sense than if you had to use the word more fitting for the sentence, i.e. confines?.

 

"Confounds" describes perfectly your card's constant confusion.. but seemingly this time it got a chance to step out onto the field!

 

Home run? Let me guess, part 2..

 

 

"Confounds" is exactly what and where it is.

(Deon), Feb 17 2015 08:34

george-calombaris-420-420x0.jpg

rock, Feb 17 2015 08:36

edit.

Iwan Kemp, Feb 17 2015 09:34

george-calombaris-420-420x0.jpg

 

That face says it all...

Hairy, Feb 17 2015 10:21

Lot's of PITCHA's, but they are all irrelevant ...... .this whole part 1 and 2 and 3 and who know how many, is rather unbecoming of a gentleman. Instant gratification is where it is at, so part 2 is hopefully just a click of your mouse away.

(Deon), Feb 17 2015 10:26

Lot's of PITCHA's, but they are all irrelevant ...... .this whole part 1 and 2 and 3 and who know how many, is rather unbecoming of a gentleman. Instant gratification is where it is at, so part 2 is hopefully just a click of your mouse away.

Yeah, c'mon, you've had since 6:02 to write part 2.. 

 

"Are we there yet?"

juan pelota, Feb 17 2015 10:52

mmmm, hungry for a hungry monkey

 

:wub:  :wub:  :wub:

SAGecko, Feb 17 2015 11:30

mmmm, hungry for a hungry monkey

 

:wub:  :wub:  :wub:

 

Read this before I clicked on the link........  :eek:

 

Glad I clicked on the link  :D

Iwan Kemp, Feb 17 2015 11:51

Lot's of PITCHA's, but they are all irrelevant ...... .this whole part 1 and 2 and 3 and who know how many, is rather unbecoming of a gentleman. Instant gratification is where it is at, so part 2 is hopefully just a click of your mouse away.

Yeah, c'mon, you've had since 6:02 to write part 2.. 

 

"Are we there yet?"

 

The run up to this build has been the longest in my mtb'ing history, but it will be well worth the wait!

 

But alas, there will be a little bit of waiting involved as there's still some magic happening behind the scenes as I type...

SAGecko, Feb 17 2015 11:57

But alas, there will be a little bit of waiting involved as there's still some magic happening behind the scenes as I type...

 

Well stop doing that and get on with it  :devil:  :D

Hairy, Feb 17 2015 01:30

The run up to this build has been the longest in my mtb'ing history, but it will be well worth the wait!

 

But alas, there will be a little bit of waiting involved as there's still some magic happening behind the scenes as I type...

pics of the magic or it never happened ......

Iwan Kemp, Feb 17 2015 01:40

pics of the magic or it never happened ......

 

There'll be more pics than what The Hub's servers can handle!

rock, Feb 17 2015 03:30

Bogus painting it right? 

Iwan Kemp, Feb 17 2015 03:38

Bogus painting it right? 

 

Yip. I gave him some design / look ideas and have left him be. I'll only know what it's going to look like when I collect it.  :eek:

rock, Feb 17 2015 03:44

Yip. I gave him some design / look ideas and have left him be. I'll only know what it's going to look like when I collect it.  :eek:

 

Brave, did you unfollow him on instagram? 

Iwan Kemp, Feb 17 2015 03:56

Brave, did you unfollow him on instagram? 

 

If by unfollow you mean "stalk" then, yes. He's been slow with the posting of the pics that are relevant to me, though. Only two so far and one of them was very early in and the other was a pic of the bit I know anyway! 

Hairy, Feb 18 2015 04:34

had a look .... going to be nice :)

Iwan Kemp, Feb 18 2015 04:40

Nice?! 

popcorn_skollie, Feb 18 2015 04:42

he sounds worried

Hairy, Feb 18 2015 04:47

Nice?! 

vn1.jpg

(Deon), Feb 18 2015 10:49

vn1.jpg

Iwan Kemp, Feb 19 2015 08:33

 

Come now, there's enough space for another very. 

Iwan Kemp, Feb 25 2015 08:59

Just received word that my frame is ready for collection. Unpacked the build kit (it has become a weekly occurrence!) last night to make sure it's all there, ready waiting for action.

 

Fair to say I'm a little excited about this one...

popcorn_skollie, Feb 25 2015 09:33

Just received word that my frame is ready for collection. Unpacked the build kit (it has become a weekly occurrence!) last night to make sure it's all there, ready waiting for action.

 

Fair to say I'm a little excited about this one...

3rwesl.gif