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Update 3/6/07
All attention to testing of Ventana designs was refocused on the DREAMRIDE FULLY in 2004 and again in 2005 with testing of 29er designs and components. The Fully project was completed in mid 2005 when the Fully frame was perfected, both in geometry, frame details and fabrication. Component choices have shifted slightly. The Fully, which began as the Dreamride Moment project in 2002, grew out of research with Ellsworth designs, then the Ventana La Bruja, X5 and El Saltamontes frames. Some of the testing info is below as part of our Salt testing. The El Salt is still the best production frame in its specific price category, but as a no-compromise frame we currently recommend the MOOTS CINCO as top 5" frame we offer to all but the largest riders. Go to MOOTS CINCO TESTING for an evaluation of the frame we currently place at the top of choices in this overall category or 4 to 5 inch travel suspension frames.

Update 11/1/05
New lower pricing on a VENTANA EL "SALT" OR "PEPPER"
Ventana El Saltmontes frames now come in BLACK or WHITE. The Salt is white. The Pepper is black. The price is better. $1725 for the black or white stock frame, with our usual free shipping in the 48 and a free silver or black headset. Deduct one hundred dollars on any listed price for complete bike or bike kit. We can make Salt and Pepper sparkle with matching components. Titanium and white is hot and stylish this year! Black is classic. But, spice it up with any Chris King color--yes, we have pink, green, gold, mango, pewter, red, navy, black and silver. Just imagine.

2006 El Saltmontes frame fabrication updates!
The 2006 El Saltamontes frame, aside from being offered in black or white for a lower cost (colors are still available at the old $1825 price), changes like so: Stainless steel screw-on Ventana head badge. Goodbye yin-yang brake guides. New cable guides are one ziptie fitting on the seatstay next to the tire and triple cable guides under the top tube. The only way to see the new guides has been on DREAMRIDE FULLY and MUTANT frames over the past year. On the Dreamride bikes we place the triple guides on top of the top tube and provide ziptie guides on either side of the seat tube gusset. The triple guides are elegant and clean, as you will see. Take a LOOK at examples of past and present cable guiding on the Dreamride Fully and Mutant. Remember, the El Saltamontes has those newer triple guides under the top tube.

This parts testing and review is still very much alive in research done for our Dreamride Fully and Mutant, variations of the El Salt four bar formula. We have a couple of El Salts around to understand current frame parts in order to morph them into our 6" bikes. As a result of our testing and development of the Dreamride Fully and Mutant, we want folks to know that the raves we give the 6" custom Salt in these logged tests, are now transfered to the Dreamride bikes. The El Salt frame is recommended for five inches of travel, not 6" at this point, simply because we have a better 6". Because our ideas drive changes to stock El Salt frames, you can generally find pictures of new upgrades on the last year's Fully. All info here, even that from years ago, remains relevent. The overall handling of the stock El Salt frame remains much the same with the gusset, rockers and rocker mount changes of 2005, and the cable routing and dropout changes for 2006. Sizes have changed in the number only, not in fit (consider them small, medium and large). The frames remain the same in top tube length and feel. At present, the gusset Ventana fabricated for our Dreamride Fully a while back is now on the Salt, making it much stiffer up front with more standover clearance. Other changes, such as cable guides on our Fully, showed up on 2006 models. Or course, you can get even newer ideas on the Dreamride Fully, right now.

Ventana El Saltamontes XDreamride Reviews from the past.
After the initial review below we purchased more El Saltamontes frames for the shop in order to customize a few to completely understand the frame and its possibilities. The first shop frame was ordered in the six inch travel version with a Romic rear shock, certainly appropriate for Moab terrain. It kept the 6" rocker and was used to test the XDreamTrail and XDreamRide groups. That test bike eventually evolved into the Dreamride Fully and Mutant bikes. The second El Saltamontes frame was spec'd with the 4" rocker and a Fox Float RL shock. The third with a five inch rocker and an assortment of shocks and forks. All these frames got a lot of parts thrown on and off of them.

Read through the logged reviews below to understand how we go about building each bike from a flexible formula of parts for each specific client, then follow links to other reviews to put a cap on an undertanding of the frame's possibilities and limitations. The review below was a first impression of the El Saltamontes frame, and how I go about selecting parts for each client. The power of this frame's immaculate construction and smart geometry is reflected in the fact that after building well over a dozen Dreamride Special Edition El Saltamontes bikes in early 2003, we dropped other bike lines we were carrying to focus on these beauties. Ventana El Saltamontes SuperEgo

The most inspiring aspect of the Ventana El Saltamontes frame has been its ability to change personalities, during or after the initial build. The Ventana El Saltamontes covers so many bases--well enough to blow every other bike in the trailbike and cross country class out of the water, and it inches into the light to medium freeride category, as well. In the four inch version, the Salt climbs on a par with the Truth, handles better due to tried and true, stable, old-school geometry (70 degree head angle and 17 inch chainstays) and has the most laterally rigid rear end of any four bar bike on the market. Most importantly, the Salt is reliable, resilient and long-lasting under hard use, much more so than any other aluminum frame we have tried. The Salt is WAY beautiful with truly handmade quality. It is a steal when you compare it to other sourced frames. The 6" Salt trailbike dressed in our XDreamTrail build was the best hardcore trail bike available until we mutated this frame to produce our DREAMRIDE FULLY AND MUTANT. Below is a history of how we grew to understand the Salt and what we needed from it.

Ventana El Saltamontes

Mark's bike:

In early 2003 I built a El Saltamontes bike for Mark Williams, who is a top dog at Innerscope handing Eminem, Marilyn Manson, No Doubt, Queens of the Stoneage, and my favorite band, Trail of Dead, among many other top acts in the country. Mark discovered REM and the Smashing Pumpkins. Mark is a favorite client, who trusted me "implicitly" to construct the perfect bike for his needs, taking full advantage of my knowledge of Moab trails by using me as his guide while in Moab. After he came to Moab for a day to test the bikes we had in our fleet, he suggested I build a Salt with him in mind. Mark did what a handful of vacation/bike purchase clients insist upon: Pimp out a Ventana El Saltamontes to suit my own personal tastes, break it in for him and correct any problems that might arise during the initial break-in period and ship it to his door when I just couldn't live without it. Ventana El Saltamontes


Ventana allows us to offer many options with the purchase of El Saltamontes frames, from paint to full custom manufacture. Stock frames come in three colors, a range of sizes, with a Fox Vanilla R as the stock shock. There are two more colors available at no extra charge and just about anything can happen in custom colors. Fox RL and Romic shocks are upgrades. The stock frame comes with four inches travel. The option for a longer rocker jumps the travel up to 6". There is also an adjustable rocker that gives you 3, 3.5, 4, or 5 inches of travel. The option for four bearing pivots is perhaps the most important of all the custom modifications. It turns what is already a stiff bike into something that is radically stiffer than any other four bar bike I have encountered. This advancement trickled down from the La Bruja frame. Since Ventana frames are made in-house, we have the option of creating a full custom frame from finish to geometry. THIS IS WHERE I HAVE A LOT OF FUN.

Since I was given the green light to proceed with a full custom bike, I considered Mark's needs and his desire for something that was cosmetically wild, deciding on the semi-custom orange paint, the extented travel rocker and four bearing pivots. I upgraded to a Romic coil shock and had the coils painted black (an option that is no longer available due to Romic warranty concerns). I decided on a SuperEgo build with wider rims and tires for more capability to handle higher speeds allowed by the long travel four bearing option.

Ventana El Saltamontes


The frame has all the legendary Ventana traits--fishscale welds, intricate and intensely designed yokes and junctions, and distinctive gussets and cosmetic flourishes throughout. The paint job is immaculate, deep--a wonder to behold in the light and shade. The stickers glow in the dark, by the way. Pivots are thoughtfully designed--impressive to look at. Overall, the frame reflects an attention to quality and detail that has all but vanished from our industry as designers and mainstream companies send construction duties abroad to cut costs. Sherwood Gibson loves to build bikes. As long as he loves his craft we will be here to sell his frames dressed in our tested kits and built with the same attention to detail and quality that Sherwood demonstrates in his welding, machining and finishes.

As you can see in the pictures, building the bike was a labor of love and a joy to watch progress. The color scheme was like eating cake (without the bloat) as I relished choosing each individual piece for the most stunning effect. I knew Mark was going to love this bike. The more attention to detail, the more he was going to enjoy the envy of other riders on the trail. A client like Mark, who allows the freedom to play with color, truly gets the best results. Folks with preconceptions get what they want, but sometimes that ties my hands--and eyes. Mark's trust allowed me to have fun, to love the process. When I am having fun, I really take my time, more time than I generally allow to build up a bike. When the client does not specify details, I will even swap parts after a bike is built, because some little detail echos a color theme. With this bike I chose the blue component theme to set off the orange of the frame, to make it even wilder. I used small red touches to keep the color combination from becoming too rich.

Ventana El Saltamontes Once the bike was built and pictures taken, I headed for my favorite testing area on and around the Moab Slickrock Trail. The first impression of the bike's overwhelming stiffness and pedaling efficiency was born out by the bike's performance on the paved climb on Sand Flats Road. If you are familiar with this nasty little climb that gains over 500 feet of elevation from downtown Moab, you will know that most people drive it to avoid the grunt. I was able to pedal the entire climb out of the saddle in the large chainring without bob or worry. The bike in this configuration feels like be a toned down version of the La Bruja. The bike's rear suspension action felt nearly identical. The big difference was the weight. The Salt zips when you are going up. The La Bruja plods uphill. The La Bruja is a bit taller up front, cramping the upper body when climbing out of the saddle. The Salt was comfortable and offered a lot of room in the cockpit.

I put a Marzocchi Freeride SL on this bike, an air shock. I usually shy away from air as a spring, but the SL is not your usual air fork. It is a true freeride toy, and a half pound lighter than its brother, the stock Freeride. I took a pump with me and did the necessary changes in pressure to balance front with rear. I put 40 pounds in the positive spring, 150 in the negative, as per the suggestions in the manual. After a bit of time on the bike, I decided to call Marzocchi to tell them to ditch the manual. It is more confusing than helpful for the average consumer. I let some pressure out of the positive spring (to 35), and a bit more in the negative (around 175), the fork felt balanced with the rear. I found that a softer setting would work for the fork, which is good news for those of you who want a plush front end. I can see air in my future, especially for trail bike use. This is a great fork. Marzocchi does it again. Ventana El Saltamontes SuperEgo

On the trail, the bike handled the huge g-out that I speak of in the first part of the LA BRUJA TEST, without complaint. The Salt proved so fast that I was out of the first section of trail in my best time ever. The bike was comfortable, climbed and descended without complaint, and had sufficient bottom bracket clearance to allow pedaling over huge rocks. A winner. Not just a winner, but a champ.


PEDALING: If you have been reading reviews of other bikes I have written in the past, you will know that I am a real stickler when it comes to pedaling efficiency. When travel gets above three or four inches, it becomes an issue that cannot be ignored. There is a hill on the course that I use to test this trait and, frankly, the Salt kicked its ass harder than any other bike, no matter the travel or the design. The hill is short, steep and made up of broken jagged sandstone with a bit of loose rubble in the cracks and on the surface. It has a short run up that allows for sufficient momentum to be created to get you up the hill with relatively little pedaling on the jagged surface. There are two ways to ride it. One is to go slow. The Salt's rigid rear allows you to stand and punch the pedals with only a slight feeling of "tuck" or "squat" as the bike accelerates upward. The other trick is to gain speed, shift UP and accelerate hard as the bike hits the bumpy face and starts to go up. Most suspension bikes, when faced with huge bumps in he high speed climb mode, will twist laterally, throwing the chain off of the rear cog, skipping or ghost shifting. Going slow, some bikes will spit out rocks and loose traction in the gaps. It was here, in both situations, that the Salt showed the advantages of extreme attention to lateral rigidity in frame construction. The four bearing pivots on the seat tube and bottom bracket make this frame feel like a VERY stiff hardtail LATERALLY, while the suspension eats the bumps. I could feel it most in my calfs and ankles. A flexy bike will under acceleration over rough stuff, but the Salt's pedals remained in perfect alignment, 90 degrees from the seat tube. This allowed me to pedal HARD up this hill without nary a whisper of complaint from the rear end. No jumping of cogs, no wobble, just pure acceleration over choppy rock. The effect in the saddle was not as plush as other bikes I have tested, but the bike still grabbed the uneven surface.

"Putting a pivot on the chainstays effects shifting and cornering performance, so I choose to sacrifice a bit of pedaling efficiency for better cornering," Sherwood Gibson says. "I just cannot accept flex at the rear axle pivot, so I put the pivot above the rear axle on the seatstays and did some manipulation of the rocker geometry. There is a lot going on in our four bar design. A lot of people get away with marketing slogans, but since we do no advertising, our bikes HAVE to be the best."

I understand Sherwood. The Salt is not as "plush" as Horst Link designs, but it outperforms them. If you are worried about sit-down comfort over those small bumps, a Horst LInk bike will transmit less vibration to the saddle, BUT, if you are worried about blowing a hard turn next to a bunch of jagged rocks and want to be able to pedal HARD over very rough terrain, then the Salt is far and above the best choice.

BRAKING: The Salt's rockers are designed to eliminate dive or "brake jacking." The bike remains level when weight is balanced or slightly forward. It squats just a tad when you put your weight back, but this works to your advantage, creating a slacker, more stable handling head angle under hard braking. Braking hard over rough stuff is especially enhanced during turns. The bike is easy to change directions at any point due to the instant response of the rigid rear end. There is no handling sacrifice for rear end flex over repeated bumps. It stops reliably without hopping around or "skipping" over obstacles. The rear end is not negatively effected by braking forces to any degree.


As anyone can plainly see, this bike frame and parts kit is perhaps the most stunning bike in the trail bike category. I am placing it above all other bikes we offer in almost every aspect of its construction and performance. Distinct cosmetic touches on the frame--the machined Ventana logos, the wrap around gusseting, the creative maching of yokes and pivot assemblies--all add up to state the commitment any smart buyer has to the tradition American handmade quality and design. The Ventana El Saltamontes has found a home in Moab.

After riding Mark's bike for a day, I re-tightened the pivot bolts (most had loosened), replaced the rear pads (I got fluid on them when I bled them initially--being too anxious to ride the thing to remove the pads during bleeding--my mistake), re-bled the brakes (did it right this time), packed the bike neatly in its case and shipped the bike. When it arrived in Los Angeles, Mark called and I walked him through putting it back together again. Mark noticed a bit of scarring on the bottom of the fork leg. I used the picture (I ALWAYS TAKE PICTURES OF EACH BIKE) to see it was most likely caused by the bottom of the seatpost coming through the protective foam wrap. It was a minor problem, acceptable to Mark, but I now wrap both fork legs with plumbing tubular insulation when packing a Saltamontes in this configuration.


Ventana El Saltamontes


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