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 The original has been superseded by a 27.5" with a geometry in line with current trends.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

Hairy, Feb 26 2015 04:13

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...

AND ..........

popcorn_skollie, Feb 26 2015 04:16

resized_all-the-things-meme-generator-se

Nick, Feb 26 2015 04:23

There's a little something coming out tomorrow but pictures (kind of) only next week. Iwan might have some teasers to share in the meantime...

Hairy, Feb 26 2015 04:23

.


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BogusOne, Feb 26 2015 04:27

resized_all-the-things-meme-generator-se

 

 

AND ..........

 

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Hairy, Feb 26 2015 04:35

There's a little something coming out tomorrow but pictures (kind of) only next week. Iwan might have some teasers to share in the meantime...

TOMORROW IS TOO FAR AWAY, can't we report him for slacking off on the job!

Nick, Feb 26 2015 04:43

You guys are a pushy bunch... I'll put it up this evening then.

Hairy, Feb 26 2015 04:44

You guys are a pushy bunch... I'll put it up this evening then.

no spelling or grammar mistakes ... irrespective of a shortened deadline ..... 

Hairy, Feb 26 2015 04:44

:P

Iwan Kemp, Feb 26 2015 05:23

Part 2 has gone live...

 

https://www.bikehub....-monkey-design/

Iwan Kemp, Feb 27 2015 08:53

There's a little something coming out tomorrow but pictures (kind of) only next week. Iwan might have some teasers to share in the meantime...

 

Instagram is all about teasers. The Hub is serious business!

Iwan Kemp, Feb 27 2015 08:54

Said with a pic:

 

mullet.png

Hairy, Feb 27 2015 10:52

Said with a pic:

 

mullet.png

Nice Selfie Iwan :P

Iwan Kemp, Feb 27 2015 11:01

Nice Selfie Iwan :P

 

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Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Feb 27 2015 11:07

This is his post-coffee look.