Update March 5, 2005: It is time to add an update to information on the El Saltamontes frame and the builds we put on it. We now offer the Fully, a bike based on the El Salt and because it is a full custom, can sometimes steal from as much about the Salt as needed, and therefore more than closely resemble it, . . . the Saltamontes has benefited from our testing and preferences. The El Salt now has our "Leibrock gusset" at the seat tube junction to lower standover and give the triangle a more solid feel. This gusset began as a cusom alteration for one of clients. It worked so well that I told Ventana I would be using it on all frames in the future. Sherwood then built a tool to be able to produce the gusset consistently. Obviously Sherwood liked the gusset, too, so it is now stock on the bulk of El Saltamontes sizings. The good news for us is that we don't have to pay extra for the gusset anymore. The bad news is that the El Saltamontes gets a tad heavier for folks who don't even care for the gusset. Another change on the El Salt for this year is a thicker seat tube butting. We sold quite a few longer travel Salts over the past three years and have seen a couple of breakages at that junction due to heat treating problems. Thicker gusseting not only means the frame is stronger, it translates to a stiffer, faster frame. The weight is low, so it feels great when the bike is rolling. The heat treating problems have driven Ventana to invest in their own heat treating equipment.
The 2005 El Saltamontes rear end geometry has been changed somewhat over the 2004 set up. The big new wrinkle is the ability of the frame to accept piggyback shocks. It is a wrinkle that sent ripples into rear end performance. "Fatter" "fancier" rear shocks meant the rocker arm assembly had to be all but scrapped for a longer front leverage to add room against the seat tube to accommodate the new doodads. The bottom bracket machining was altered. The shock body is raised up the downtube to find a spot to allow for the doodads. This, in turn, moves the position of the wheel in relationship to the front triangle. It moves everything around, changing the performance of a bike. The rear end reacts differently to pedaling and brake forces (compared to the 2004 rocker arm config)---more evident when you increase the travel to six inches. A slight pedal kickback as the bike returns from full compression is inherent to this design and is still there, only noticed in very technical situations by riders who pedal on return of compression forces to gain a bit of power---whoopteedoos, bike surfing, downhill racing. The bike is now a bit more pedal efficient, especially in the big chainring, and it is less prone to brake squat--probably because of the longer more parallel rockers. However, it will brake dive, which the 2004 would not do because of its tendancy to squat, countering inertia on a descent. It only dives when you don't pay attention to it, though. Once you are too far forward on a descent and it happens, you won't be doing that again. Really, the only person who is going to get into trouble with it never moves from the saddle and is as stiff as a board over the bike. I find myself paying a bit more attention to braking on descents, knowing that there is a more delicate balance to this new version, but now that I know, the bike feels rock solid with balanced braking power on descents.
The geometry, at a glance, has not changed, though stock size designations seem to point upwards. They are not larger. The gusset just allowed for a longer seat tube. Since the performance of the rear end has changed a bit and the frame is now stronger and a bit heavier, the overall feel has changed. To me, the Saltamontes is not a four inch bike at this point. It is too heavy for XC racing. If you are racing, call us for a race version of the Dreamride Fully or the Moots Cinco. I now recommend a Fully in four, where before I would have recommended a Salt. Where, if the client's needs were for a five inch frame that was sturdy and worthy of tight, technical trails, I would have recommend a Fully last year. Now, I recommend a Salt with a slight modification to five inch rockers, if the stock sizing is good for the buyer. The Fully is still champ at 6" and for anyone with special needs or the desire for a perfect fit, but the Salt is a Moab-certified bike at five inches of travel, for sure. The new rear end really allows you to put some fine new expensive shocks on it, too.
That said, the DREAMRIDE FULLY gives anyone the option to choose the original configuration where the shock it tucked neatly against the seat tube, or this new version with the newer 5-6, 5 or 4 inch rockers and the new shocks.
The most important thing to say at this point is that the El Saltamontes frame can be modified into the best five inch travel All Mountain bike you can buy. We haven't sold a four inch travel El Salt bike in a couple of years, because I talk everyone into the quad bearings and five inch rocker. A review of the 5" bike is linke up below.
CLICK HERE FOR 2004 SALTAMONTES XDREAM MAX TESTING AND DEVELOPMENT
CLICK HERE FOR 2004 5" TRAVEL SUPEREGO TESTING
CLICK HERE FOR 2005 6" TRAVEL DREAMRIDE FULLY TESTING
Update December 15, 2003: The picture above does not represent the 2004 version of Dreamride's XDreamride or XDreamTrail builds at this time. The bike pictured is a Dreamride test bike as of July 2003. It was set up like this for most of the season. In this form the bike was tested during 1700 hard off-road miles on extreme rocky terrain in Moab, and similarly brutal locations in New Mexico and Arizona. The 2004 round of new product from parts manufacturers came along and we tried them out on test bikes during November and December. If you use the red bike pictured here as a comparison, we ended up replacing the fork, drivetrain, shifting system, brakes, and tires. The Manitou Sherman is currently offered as an option, not our first choice.
The change in focus to Ventana in 2003 was due almost completely to the red Salt pictured above. There were other issues, for certain, but just a few rides on this specific El Saltamontes really made the picture rosy, indeed. At this time the Dreamride Fully dominates long travel categories that utilize the XDreamRide and XDreamTrail black diamond trailbike parts, due to the fact that these are full custom frames for each client build for us by Ventana, based mostly on the El Saltamontes platform with a few cusom twists. The red Salt pictured was the inspiration to offer the Fully, along with research done over the past five years. When it comes to value, however, our custom El Saltamontes bikes rule long travel cross country to black diamond trail categories, hands down. While La Bruja versions are without equal in the hands of a very strong rider, the Salt draws a sane crowd of folks who know what is going on, who ride ON the trails, instead of flying OVER them. The Fully and the Salt are obviously THE four bar trail bike frames of the moment for us. We have to stay on the cutting edge. If you are a past client and think we have abandoned you, we haven't. We just have to follow the state-of-the-art. We moved on to a better product.
Dreamride purchased the red Salt frame in March of 2003, installed a custom rocker and shock combo and began testing the XDreamTrail build--stout wheels with solid axles and DH rims, the Mantiou Supernova pictured, 2002 XTR shifting parts, and a Race Face Next crank and ISIS Signature XS BB, and very sticky custom Motoraptor 2.4 DH tires with thick sidewalls and climbing shoe rubber (we bought half of the company's stock in this tire and only have a few left). The Salt frame is extremely tight, so, I chose components to capitalized on the lateral stiffiness, sturdy enough for higher speeds made possible by such a solid platform. In July parts for the 2004 XDreamRide and XDreamTrail custom builds were chosen, then during December the entire kit, along with our complete line-up of parts kits, was completely upgraded. The final parts deviate quite a bit from the bike in the picture. It is not to say that the red bike at the top of the page is not a fantastic machine, perfect for a moment in time. It certainly was, but the state-of-the-art is a moving target. Moving very fast for us this past year! Testing on bikes in the general fleet revealed new and superior components and parts combinations that worked as well or better, were more reliable and much more easily serviced than previous parts kits. Handling remains the same, though in the newer versions, the bike is far more capable of changing modes.
The Mantiou Sherman Firefly had serious valving problems from the get-go and oil leaks that keep us from offering it as a stock item. We will stick with the Marzocchi Freeride QR-20 or Z-150 for the foreseeable future due to superior performance from a less complex system with its inherent reliability and maintenance free performance. However, if you like the Sherman's looks, the resulting bottom bracket and head angle and the relative light weight for such a capable fork, it is there as an option for a slightly higher price. Remember that the Firefly option comes with the caveat that the owner understand problems with the fork will be dealt with by sending the fork back to us and we then ship it to Answer for repair (I don't work on stuff that doesn't work because of some problem I did not cause), and any shipping/handling charges for repairs of Manitou products at the factory must be borne by the client, if not carried by Answer themselves.
Yes, we have had problems with Manitou forks over the years, and they don't seem to treat us as well as the Italians do when it comes to pricing and service. To people who don't ride Marzocchi, simple or complex problems with their forks may seen normal, but we have NEVER had problems with Zokes. We are used to not having fork situations arise, and our clients know that the tad of extra weight means internals are made of metal, not plastic, and the system is as complex as it needs to be to WORK. Not more so. Complex valving systems might have a nice marketing slogan, but for most applications they are way over-engineered. If you don't want downtime, get the Zoke. If you want the lighter weight and the specific geometry settings, the Sherman is more than a decent choice at a higher price---and you get the chance to know the people at Manitou, when you send the fork back to Answer to get it to work right.
The GEAX Sturdy tires are great for certain kinds of riding, but did not pass the sidehill testing on slickrock. The profile is too square and the transition too abrupt. The sidewalls are thin. They are light for a wide tire, and wider than implied by the 2.25 label, but the thin sidewall makes for a tire that is easily torn or popped. The width is good in sand, they roll fast over rough terrain and they grip very well, but they didn't pass the test. I would rather sacrifice some weight and/or rolling resistance for a rounder profile and more reliability.
We became FSA, Magura and Thomson distributors in 2003, all for good reason. I use an assortment of parts from three different Magura brake sets to build a single set for the XDreamTrail. Chris King hubs cannot be beat, but I beef them up for the XDreamTrail kit. WTB responded to rider input and made the 2.4 Motoraptor tires in a softer rubber compound and light sidewall for 2004, so the tires are lighter, while retaining most of the tackiness of the climbing shoe rubber that was on our test tires. We are using a choice of Mavic rims and offer a tubeless rim this year, not because we like tubeless, but because we like this specifci rim. We still put tubes in wheels, but you can always go over to tubeless if you want to.
The most stunning aspects of our long travel Salts and Fullies (Dreamride's own custom Ventana made frames) along with looks, are their solid high-speed performance for such light rigs. The solid suspension feel, lateral rigidity at every junction, and very unique geometry, put these bikes in a class all their own. I read the magazines and laugh. They really don't know and will never understand. Why? Because they are focused on ad money and circulation, not mountain biking. Ventana does not advertise, so giving the El Saltamontes its due is not profitable for them. Only MBA has rightly put the Salt at the top of the long travel category on a regular basis, but not as regular as they should.
The steep head angle that can be attained by manipulating the El Saltamontes into a longer travel bike (unsagged; 72 degrees with the Supernova---70.5 with the Sherman) by comparison to other long travel trail bikes, combined with the BB height (almost 15" with the Sherman), wheelbase and top tube length, creates remarkable XC handling in just about every situation Moab has to offer. Long travel sag allows the rider to change geometry on the fly with simple body weight shifts. Keep the weight way back on descents--even further back when you hit a ledge. Move forward and the bike quickens rapidly. You cannot sleep on it, but it is stable when you are thinking. The XDT and XDR bikes are certainly the best slickrock bikes in our arsenal.
FYI: If you get a Saltmontes frame in any configuration, you can always switch it over to longer or shorter travel with investment in a conversion kit. After riding both these versions of the Salt, I can truly recommend having an extra rocker and fork lying around, for when you want to do a Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. I will build up the complete change-over kit, if requested. Our EL SALTAMONTES CONVERTIBLE is really two bikes based on a single frame.
After building many sweet XC bikes from the Salt platform, we now keep one in the shop, a SuperEgo with air springs and quad bearings--very precise in the handling department, capable of railing hard turns without flex, yet light enough to climb in the La Sal mountains. I recommend the quad bearing upgrade to anyone buying this already stiff frame. Further testing confirmed that the Salt not only eats up the long travel trail bike category, it dominates the four inch trail bike category as well, especially over the roughest terrain. While quad bearings add weight (frame weight is a tad over 6 pounds), the frame is certainly much stiffer, more rugged and dependable that any other four inch travel frame I have encountered. The total bike weight of the final 2004 SuperEgo build complete with steel spindled Time ATAC pedals comes to just a hair over 26 pounds. Not bad. Remove the quads and add XDreamMax parts touches (stem, post, saddle, ti skewers, etc) and the weight drops to below 25, on a par with our full titanium Moots Smoothie Max, our current best selling short travel suspension bike.
As with the longer travel version, the XC version SuperEgo Salt is truly laterally rigid. At first I used a set of SuperEgo wheels lying around the shop, a pair that utilized Supercomp DT disc specific triple butted spokes. My first impression was that the tight rear with the quad bearings pointed to flex in the wheelset. On just about every other frame I have ever put these wheels on, overall frame flex gobbled up flex in the wheels. With the stiff Salt, the wheels seemed too flexy right off the bat, so I slapped on a set with 14/15 gauge spokes and wider Mavic cross mountain rims and wow: tight and right, suitable for wider tires. This added a bit more weight (up to 27 pounds with wider tires), but for Moab terrain, it turns this little rocket into a bike perfect for the Slickrock Bike Trail or any of the trails where climbing becomes much more of a chore. When I take it into the mountains, the lighter wheelset are fine, especially desirable on the climbs. For most riders flex in the wheels is not a serious issue, but when on the big rocks in Moab, I must opt for more meat, especially to balance the outstanding lateral rigidity of the Saltamontes frame. Please understand that the terrain I test these bikes on is pretty rough. It is not like this everywhere.
I managed to keep the Max formula secret by not putting a Max bike in our shop, but now that we are moving into our new shop and Dreamride House facilities, we put everything up front. To maintain company secrets I will not reveal some parts and modifications here, but will offer justifications as to why we choose the parts we do. We have had problems with almost all of the ISIS bottom brackets, as well as 2003 XTR bottom brackets. ISIS drive is just not worth the time to understand what the letters stand for. The proof is that CHRIS KING seems to have dropped their ISIS drive project because the overall design is flawed. Too much axle, not enough bearing--engineering for people who ride their bikes off of the garage. The manufacturers of ISIS drive BB's are now pushing frame builders to produce a larger bottom bracket shell to accommodate an ISIS drive BB that has bearings large enough to last more than a few months. I have put two bottom brackets into the red Salt. Meanwhile Shimano is working out the bugs in their XTR BB and this will probably kill the idea of a larger BB shell in the long run. Outboard bearings are a better idea than asking every manufacturer to redesign their frames to accommodate the new BB, built by the same people who desgined the ISIS drive, that sucks.
BUT, I found a smart fix for the Max build. I am happy to announce that those who own Max bikes are not going to have bottom bracket worries. The new formula means a smoother operating system that does not drag and is easily maintained. It is lighter than the new XTR setup, not quite as stiff as 2003 XTR, but definitely stiff enough, and a lot better looking and more compatible with a range of shifting components. We are DONE with late model Shimano derailleurs, and now only offer older versions or the SRAM twisters or thumb/trigger shifters. There were a couple of adjustments I have to make to allow for compact drive chainrings on the new combo, but the entire system works fine, despite the mix of componentry.
XDreamMax bikes are not for Moab, at least not for repeated Moab rides by local riders, but I find myself riding my Moots Smoothie Max a lot on rides that leave directly from town. It works well, and it is such a joy to climb. The Max bikes are for climbing technical mountain singletrack, twisting around roots and rocks, zipping between trees and fast fire road descents. Moab is a diversion, really. The Max testing, though expensive, was easily pulled together, mostly due to the fact that the basic parts list borrows from the testing for the SuperEgo group. The Max is similar except for crankset, bottom bracket, stem, post, bar, saddle and shock. Originally, the Max had a lot of titanium bolt stuff going on. I couldn't help it, but later, when I came to my senses, I saved the buyer $500 by not adding custom titanium bolt kits that only took scant onces off of the overall build. I can add the ti bolt kits for the craziest wheenies, though. Just so you know, I went for the ti bolts for my personal rig.
Below is the new conversion kit for those who want the best of ALL worlds with their current El Saltamontes frame. Go to EL SALTAMONTES CONVERTABLE KIT for details.