DREAMRIDE FULLY BIKES AND KITS
This is an ongoing test of the company's own Dreamride Fully by the company owner, Lee Bridgers, the person the bike was built for. Remember, the Fully is custom built for each client. Handling qualities defined here are specific to this particular version, though the solid platform and rear suspension does not change. The company owner's bike is suited to guiding in southeastern Utah. The geometry is a bit steeper than the norm--for intuitive handling in tight situations, across a variety of surfaces which include sand, slickrock, boulders and loose rock. The bottom bracket height is taller than the norm--for pedalling through and over obstacles. If you are looking for more refined handling qualties or you have unusual fit needs, the Fully is an easy choice for quality and individuality. Go to DREAMRIDE FULLY for more info on design options and parts combos.
To begin, I will give you as much history of this project as I can without boring those who know the story already. This website is a pretty private domain most of the time, but every now and then hits crop up from the usual mountain bike places, usually resulting from sick attention from the nose pickers who pass along industry gossip I share to those who try to do damage with it. Nose pickers might get us a lot of hits and calls from wankers, but they don't buy our bikes, so let's ignore them. This review is for the guy who keeps coming back year after year to see what I am doing with this hobby, which somehow became my profession. This review is for those who love mountain bike fantasy that can be reality. The bike, the Dreamride Fully, is the current top dog, tops in sales and tops in performance in every regard. It is a workhorse that looks like a princess.
The Dreamride Fully has been in development since 1996 when I somehow ended up coordinating dangerous mountain bike stunts for film, video and photography. In 1998 I hired Nathan Toone, 4-time Utah State Downhill Champion, to guide, teach and do stunts for the cameras. I watched as he practically invented the art of freeride. If you see the picture of him dropping the Mushroom for the first time in history, realize it took a week to build, test, rebuild, test, rebuild and finally test and jump the bike for that picture. The photo and stunt is now copied over and over in magazines performed by riders far less talented than Nate. State-of-the-art equipment is not only desired, but necessary in this job. Serious necessity caused me to actively work toward an efficient and rugged mountain bike. I would ride something else if it worked better. I don't have to compromise. The Fully is so good that it might not be a mountain bike. It's more of an ATB--all terrain bicycle. That has a nasty ring, doesn't it? But it gives a hint as to just how efficient a Fully is.
Let's call it a trailbike.
After testing just about every sane design and deciding on four bar linkage, I eventually chose Gibson Design Group (GDG) to build the Fully because of their amazing quality control and solid rear suspension design. GDG are fabricators of Ventana bikes and have designed and fabricated many of the best examples of mountain bike full suspension frames over the years. I say this straight up because there are those who understand that from the get-go the Fully is a step ahead. If you have read reviews and suspension evaluations posted on this website over the past few years, you know the evolution of the Fully. If you haven't been following our work, dig around on the site for what remains of the documentation. Much was removed after we were threatened by a company we worked with prior to Ventana. Suffice to say, past associations were failures. You can buy those failures if you want, or you can get the success, the Fully.
Our clients don't mind waiting to get a fast bike. It takes about four to eight weeks to get a Fully. Mine took about 5 weeks to get.
I've been riding and selling Ventanas long enough to understand Sherwood Gibson's philosophy of bicycle engineering pretty well. The Fully is a give and take project for both of us. Our marketing and design input have had an impact at Ventana. We like to see them healthy because we benefit from it, so we tell people about them. Other companies will not tell you where their bikes are made for any number of reasons, but I like to give credit where credit is due. The Dreamride Fully features the Ventana El Saltamontes and X-5 rear end. Both the El Salt and X-5 benefit from my ideas and input because I am constantly making Sherwood mess with the design for our clients, altering it for different uses. If something works great, it ends up on all the bikes--those with Ventana stickers and Dreamride stickers. Because we base our product on a rear end that Ventana and Moots employ (the only two lines we carry aside from our own), we have a wide selection of rockers and shocks to work with and very high quality sources for aluminum and titanium fabrication. The choice of rocker and shock, along with your body and trail particulars, are determining factors in the construction of a front triangle and parts kit.
The bike to be reviewed here is my personal Moab guide bike. Testing stages for its construction, chosen geometry and parts, have been performed over the past few years. Notes refering to testing that led to this particular configuration are scattered across this website, linked, unlinked, remaining or deleted because some company's lawyers noticed that we found flaws in designs and published the facts, the truth. My own bike is based on fiddling with a previous 6" travel El Saltamontes test and guide bike, I can tell you right now, this bike is very close to that Salt, but the refinements based on that bike have gotten me as close to perfection as I can get at this point in time. I cannot imagine a better bike for what I do in 2005.
I have been on four rides with this bike so far. At first I installed a customized Manitou Supernova fork and tried to ride trails where I first put the original El Saltamontes bike to test with that same fork. On the third day I swapped the fork out to a 2004 Marzocchi Freeride SL, a rare bird I had set aside for this bike. On the third ride I pushed the bike a bit and carefully tuned it for weight balance. On the fourth ride it was adjusted and tight. Time to stop thinking and start enjoying.
We had Sherwood fabricate a nice seat tube gusset for Peter Leibrock's Fully at the end of last year. Sherwood liked the results so much that he incorporated it on the 2005 El Salt. The gusset stiffened up the front triangle, giving the bike an amazingly solid feel. This Fully is the most laterally rigid trail bike I have ridden aside from my personal Ventana La Brua freeride bike reviewed elsewhere on this site. My Fully is far more rigid than its 31.4 pound weight would imply.
The bike fits me like a glove, of course. I love steep geometry. This is the only Fully I have built that was spec'd with such steep angles at 6" of travel. I would not recommend such a short wheelbase or steep head angle to others, unless their trails were like the ones I ride. For me, the bike came out better than expected. I could never have guessed that the steep-ish head angle and high-ish bottom bracket would come together so well with the 6" Marzocchi fork and my chosen XTR 180mm cranks.
This is the first time I have put a bike together around the new Marzocchi 150mm geometry. The AM SL 150 is certainly the fork for straight up six inch travel. Every Fully built over the past year has had a Marzocchi Freeride SL 130mm or AM SL 130mm fork. Those bikes were designed for that specific fork height. From now on, 6" bikes are going to get a 150mm Marzocchi. I can design conversion kits for the Fully just as I do for the El Saltamontes, but there is so much travel adjustment on this bike that it may be unnecessary unless you are going for a weight reduction. My Fully has an adjustable rocker for 5 or 6 inches of rear wheel travel. I can adjust front travel from 130 to 150mm with a shock pump and lock it down on-the-fly to 75mm. My personal bike has a 20mm thru axle SL. It is a must for me because, as a guide, I am thinking about everyone else's bike on the trail. I need my bike to be rock solid without thinking about it. A 20mm front hub usually means more weight, but in this case I was able to get hold of a light 2004 Freeride SL fork that had the axle I wanted. The only trade-off is valving. 2005 AM SL fork valving is amazing--seemingly infinitely tunable and based on a simple, solid design. My 2004 rare bird fork has a lock down feature and five positions of valving of which I use three. My 2004 fork has a negative air chamber that adjusts ride height. The newer forks have a beefed up negative air chamber with a fancy sticker and a three letter designation that adjusts ride height (the same deal, just with marketing bullshit), plus external rebound and the same five position clicker that further tunes over-all ride quality but does not lock down. When air pressures are set correctly, these forks spoil you. They are solid and stiff and plush with nearly bottomless travel. Which, by the way, is exactly the way I would describe the Fully frame--a match made in heaven. Sure, there are other forks that feel as good at some point in their lives, but Marzocchi's feel good year-round and for years to come. Marzocchi's quality, incredible reliability and almost non-existent maintenance schedule is legendary. We test the forks we use and these are the tops. The Fully's construction stands up to that reputation, putting the cake firmly under the cherry.
There's more to come, but if you want to read the evolution of this bike's development from way back in 2002 and 2003, go to EL SALTAMONTES TESTING. The red bike in the original testing (my previous guide and scouting rig) has similar geometry and has a similar feel in most situations. Differences between this Fully and my original red custom Salt are: Fully has a much more solid all around feel, much more rigid due to gusseting we originated on Peter Leibrock's custom Fully in late 2004 in order to get more standover while increasing the travel. My Fully is a tad more stable at speed than the Salt was, though it retains the quickness that can bite you if you are used to a slack trail frame. I tried to keep the quickness by maintaining steepish frame angles, but I lengthened the wheelbase by about a half inch at full fork extension and raised the bottom bracket about a half inch to give me clearance for 180mm cranks. When the fork is lowered into its lockout position, the wheebase is tighter than the original red Salt ever was, making it even more agile on the road or when climbing tight singletrack.
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