13 March 2014

Monkey Ride: Neil's Oxide Battleaxe All-Mountain Bike


Neil has been searching for the holy grail of long travel full suspension mountain bikes for quite a while. He has had a number of frames over the years that have worked fairly well, but they all had one or more key issues that he hoped to resolve. Most mainstream suspension frames are essentially the same design with different branding and slightly different aesthetics. They are also designed without any consideration towards use of the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14.

Neil was looking for a frame that was at least designed with the SPEEDHUB in mind and ideally was optimized for this internal gear hub. Since nothing in the mainstream was meeting this criteria, he had been looking for a custom frame builder who could work with some of his ideas for the perfect Rohloff setup. Unfortunately, most of the details that he wanted to try were too different from what other builders were doing already for them to want to take on the project.



Then, last year at NAHBS, Neil bumped into Alan Klarc, a longtime shop-owner customer of ours and Rohloff SPEEDHUB fan. He was showing a prototype of a downhill frame he had built under his new frame brand, Oxide Cycles. The frame was set up single speed and used two chains and a pair of idler sprockets that spun around a high forward pivot with separate tensioning mechanisms for each chain. This arrangement gave the bike a nice rearward wheel path through the initial part of the travel without the large amount of chain growth that would result from connecting a single chain between the chainring and rear sprocket. The tensioned chain and lack of chain growth also meant there would be no chain bounce noise or derailment.

This setup promised to offer an ideal setup for use with a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14. Neil asked about making a 150-160mm travel version of this bike for aggressive trail riding, and Alan said he had started working on something, but it wasn't quite ready. Fast forward ten months and the first Battleaxe off the assembly line showed up at our door.



Oxide’s Battleaxe is a 160mm travel frame designed for aggressive trail riding including drops, rock gardens, jumps, and high speed stutter bumps that you would normally find in all-mountain style riding. This one has 29" wheels, but 27.5"/650B wheels are also an option. It is one of relatively few full suspension bikes made of steel, and is designed to be strong enough to handle the abuse of riding rough trails with a little chassis flex to keep the wheels from chattering through bumpy corners.



Like the downhill frame that was shown at NAHBS 2013 (named the Valkyrie), the Battleaxe also uses a single pivot suspension design with a fairly high downtube-mounted main pivot. A pair of idler sprockets attached to the main pivot function as a jackshaft to redirect the chain force. A short chain runs from the chainwheel on the crank to the outer idler sprocket, and a second, longer, chain runs from the inner idler sprocket to the sprocket on the hub. The first chain is tensioned by an eccentric bottom bracket and the second chain is tensioned by sliding dropouts. No additional chain tensioner is needed, as is the case when using the SPEEDHUB on more convention frames.



Aside from the unique aesthetic of the suspension and drive train setup, Oxide's signature dual top tubes help the frame stand out as does the matte black paint job from Spectrum Powder Works that matches the Rock Shox Pike suspension fork. The grey Oxide logo on the down tube is bead blasted steel showing through clear coat with some white highlights for the Battleaxe and "Cycles" logos. Screw-on cable guides along the down tube and swingarm provide clean cable routing, and an exit hole in the seat tube allows use of a stealth dropper post. A razor-blade shaped headbadge gives a finishing touch.

Neil’s wheels consist of a Rohloff SPEEDHUB in the rear and a Chris King ISO disc hub up front, both laced into Sun Ringle MTX 33 rims. Neil tends to be very hard on rims and has a rim graveyard in our workshop full of 29er rims with broken and dented sidewalls. The Sun Ringle MTX33 rims have held up fairly well for him, although he has even detroyed a few of these. These wheels are one of the strongest All Mountain builds we offer and are well suited for the type of riding that this bike is intended for.



The Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 is also well suited for all-mountain style riding which can be especially hard on derailleurs. Rough trails can often cause a rear derailleur to shift inadvertently as the derailleur bounces around. These trails are also prone to rocks and sticks getting kicked up that can bend or break derailleurs. Since all of the shifting components of the SPEEDHUB are housed inside the the hubshell, it handles rough trails with ease. The hub also has the advantage of being able to shift into any gear at any time, even while stopped, and as fast as the shifter can be moved. This is particularly useful when transitioning from a high speed pedaling descent to a steep climb and need to downshift many gears rapidly.  It also offers the advantage of being able to separate braking, shifting, and cornering when tackling switchbacks with large braking bumps.



On the front end of the bike, Neil installed his Rockshox Pike fork, which has became an immediate favorite.  It has proven to be very smooth and compliant over big and small bumps over the past 8 moths of use. A Chris King inset headset provides smooth steering, and a Thomson stem holds the fork and handlebars in place. Neil is using Salsa’s 17-degree sweep Bend 2 handlebar because he prefers bars with more backsweep than most. Magura’s powerful MT4 brakes and ESI foam grips complete the setup on the handlebars.

So far, Neil thinks the Oxide Battleaxe is looking very promising on its first rides through the local trails in Northern California. The lack of chain noise was a welcome addition that was easy to get used to. Likewise, the lack of the chain bouncing off the sprockets or getting jammed in a chain guide makes for more enjoyable rides. Climbing feels smooth an efficient, and descending is plush.

Neil is looking forward to taking this bike on trails in California, Oregon, Utah, and Colorado over the coming months. Stay tuned for a full report once Neil has ridden the bike extensively to find out if it is indeed the holy grail. If you’re looking for an aggressive mountain bike of your own, contact us to see what type of Rohloff-specific build we can put together for you.  If you want to test ride a Battleaxe, we will have medium, large, and XL demos available later this spring.

Build Details:

• Frame: Oxide Cycles Battleaxe
• Fork: Rockshox Pike
• Headset: Chris King Inset
• Stem: Thomson Elite X4
• Handlebar: Salsa Bend 2
• Shifter: Rohloff
• Grips: ESI Foam
• Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb Stealth
• Saddle: WTB Devo
• Front Hub: Chris King ISO Disc
• Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
• Spokes: Sapim Race
• Nipples: Sapim Brass
• Rims: Sun Ringle MTX 29
• Tires: WTB Dissent 2.5
• Cranks: Middleburn X-Type
• Pedals: Shimano M636 SPD
• Bottom Bracket: Race Face
• Chain ring: Middleburn Direct Mount
• Rear Sprocket: Rohloff
• Idler Sprockets: Surly fixed gear cogs
• Chain: Wipperman 9SB
• Brakes & Levers: Magura MT4
• Rotors: Magura Storm


3 comments:

  1. Do you guys have a weight on this bike? It looks fantastic!

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  2. I haven't weighed the bike yet, but I'm guessing it's in the 37lb range based on frame weight and past builds. The frame was 8.5lbs without shock (size L from Oxide corresponds to most companies XL) and wheels and tires are super heavy because I tend to destroy these things. A more typical build would probably be in the 33-34lb range.

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  3. This bike looks amazing. I really appreciate the incredible craftsmanship and unique design.

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