Staff Rides: Mike Kazimer's Scott Ransom
Mike Kazimer's Scott Ransom
The new Scott Ransom was one of the standouts in the long-travel category during the Pinkbike Field Test, but I felt like there were a few tweaks and modifications that could make even better, at least for me. The end result of my tinkering isn't quite as out-there as Mike Levy's abomination, but it's also not quite as straightforward of a build as it might appear at first glance.
FrameIt was the overall chassis feel of the Ransom that persuaded me to spend more time on this carbon-framed big wheeler – it hits the sweet spot when it comes to balancing frame weight, stiffness, and the ability the smooth out unwanted trail chatter. I'd usually gravitate towards something with a little less travel to be my daily driver, but the Ransom carries that 170mm of travel very well. It's light and manageable enough that it's easy to justify taking it out for everything from long days with lots of pedaling to shuttle laps on DH trails. Of course, with a pile of parts that needed to be tested, and a distaste for overly-crowded handlebars, it wasn't long before the Ransom began to morph from its stock configuration into something a little different.
The first step was to de-clutter the Ransom's cockpit, but even before that, I swapped out the Hixon integrated bar / stem for a 780mm Race Face Next R handlebar and a 40mm stem. The Hixon is a well executed, lightweight component, but the roll of the bars wasn't quite where I wanted it to be, and the one-piece design meant there was no way to adjust that position.Next, I removed the TwinLoc remote entirely. I'm not opposed to the TwinLoc concept – it's a handlebar mounted lever that firms up the shock and fork to help the bike climb better, but I think there's a cleaner and simpler way to accomplish the same thing. A single button or lever that firms up just the rear suspension would be nice; there's really no need to involve the fork. Plus, the only Fox 36 that can be used with a remote has a FIT 4 damper, rather than the superior GRIP2 damper.
SuspensionI could have swapped out the 36's FIT4 damper for a GRIP 2 and called it good, but I decided to take a slightly more complicated route. After an extended late night workshop session, I ended up with a 170mm Foxzocchi. The uppers and the air spring are from a Marzocchi Z1, while the lowers and the GRIP2 damper came from a Fox 36. In theory, the fork should be a little stiffer thanks to the thicker stanchion tubes, although I can't say I noticed the difference. The colors do match the Ransom's frame nicely, though, and the ultra-adjustable GRIP2 damper is an upgrade over the stock fork. I have the fork set up with two volume spacers, and 72 psi. The high-speed compression and low-speed compression are almost all the way open, although I'll add a few clicks of each on more hardpacked trails. The tune on the Ransom's stock Fox Nude TR Evol shock is excellent, and the little lever that can be used to increase the amount of end-stroke ramp up is extra clever. However, once you take off the remote, the shock ends up in the fully open position with no easy way to adjust the amount of compression. The Ransom doesn't have a ton of anti-squat, which means it's fairly active in that setting.
Tires / Wheels
I've had mixed luck with carbon rims over the years, but I can also say the same thing about aluminum rims – some have been absolutely trouble free, while others have had very short lifespans. So far, the Roval Traverse carbon wheels fall into the former category. I reviewed them earlier this year, and they're still rolling right along without any issues. The 30mm internal width works well with the 2.4 – 2.5” tires that I prefer, and the DT 350 hubs are relatively quiet and require minimal maintenance.My favorite trails are steep and often slippery, which is why I prefer tires with plenty of tread and sticky rubber. At the moment, there's an unmarked EXO+ casing 2.5” Maxxis Assegai up front, inflated to 20 psi, and a 2.4” DHR II in the rear at 22 psi. I've also installed a Nukeproof ARD insert in that DHR II for a little extra tire and rim protection. The ARD strikes a nice middle ground between something like CushCore, which works well but can be a royal pain to install, and Huck Norris, which doesn't provide quite as much protection.
BrakesSRAM's Code RSC brakes have proved their worth over the last couple of years, and they've become my go-to option for a bike of this nature. I run metallic pads all year round – organic pads are borderline ineffective in wet conditions, and they're not nearly as resistant to fading during extended sections of braking.
DrivetrainI'd originally hoped to spend the winter testing Shimano's new XTR drivetrain, but production delays put a damper on that plan. That meant SRAM's X01 drivetrain remained in place, although I did spend time pedaling around on a set of carbon cranks from a different manufacturer that will be announced in the near future. Otherwise, there's not much to mention – the drivetrain has been completely trouble-free.
Contact PointsGrips, pedals, and saddles can make a big difference in how a bike feels, which is why I'm currently running some of my favorite products in those areas. DMR's Deathgrips are thin and comfortable, and the same can be said for the Prologo Dimension NDR saddle I'm running. There's one part of the saddle that could use some refinement, though; the hard plastic center portion at the back. If you're riding down something steep and stop suddenly there's a chance that part will contact your most sensitive bits. I don't typically wear a chamois either, which makes that situation even more painful. I've been risking it lately simply because of how comfortable the saddle is otherwise, but I might get creative with some mastic tape, or switch for a different saddle all together.That saddle is mounted to a 170mm Bontrager Line Elite Pro dropper post. Might as well keep the 170mm theme going, right? I like the shape of the remote lever, although the post doesn't go up or down quite as easily as a Fox Transfer post.I switch back and forth between flat and clipless pedals depending on my mood and what I have in for testing. I was wrapping up testing on the Anvl Tilt pedals when these photos were taken, and as you'll see in the video, I'm starting to put time in on the new Shimano XTR pedals.
How's It Ride?I'm not one to get too hung up on weight – you're not going to find me removing rotor bolts, or running silly slip-on grips to shed a few grams. All the same, if I had to choose between a 30-pound bike or a 33-pound bike, I'm going to pick the lighter one. That's part of the appeal of the Ransom – as it sits, it's only 30.2 pounds, which is extremely impressive considering that it has big wheels and 170mm of travel. Even with all that travel it doesn't feel like a singleminded downhill smasher – its handling is zippy enough that it's still engaging to ride on trails that are less-than-vertical, and that lighter weight makes it easy to whip around and navigate through the tight stuff. The geometry is modern without getting too wild, and the fit of the size large is close to perfect for my 5'11” height. As you'd expect, it's on the descents where the Ransom really shines. It has an uncanny ability to find traction in the nastiest, greasiest conditions, which is one of the reasons I've been spending so much time on it. The 64.5-degree head angle isn't DH-bike slack, but it also helps keep the front end from washing out on flatter turns, and I haven't encountered any situations out on the trail where I felt like something slacker would have made a drastic difference.The upper shock bolt likes to loosen up every once in a while, and the orange paint seems to chip easier than I'd like, but those are the only two issue I've run into over the last few months of riding.Overall, the Ransom is one very impressive ride, and while I'd love to see a TwinLoc-free, or maybe a TwinLoc light version hit the market, this modified trail monster will do the trick in the meantime.