This is a story about my first 2 years of mountain biking and the bike that I did it on The frame: NS Bikes Surge 2 (2013) Intended use: Dirt Jump, Trail, Freeride Size reviewed: Large Webpage: NS Surge 2 2013 http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-idUSbWUNTZU/VQ_TfS-sL9I/AAAAAAAAAkQ/VOoxhAvPRP4/s1600/surge%2Bblack.jpgimage from nsbikes.com The Surge is billed as a hardtail frame for 'all round' aggressive riding, and it was for this reason I was bullied into interested to buy this frame as my first proper mountain bike. Having bought and returned two bikes before trying this frame, I was determined to get it right this time. Coming from a background of BMX racing, BMX car park loitering, and BMX related hospital visits, I knew I wanted something aggressive. Having watched countless Youtube videos of men speeding recklessly into mounds of dirt shaped as strange waves, then flying into the air and wiggling their bodies, I knew I wanted part of the action. However, I also wanted to be able to ride with friends along more flat ground, through forests, grassland, and the occasional suburb or prison ground golf course. After buying the frame I tried to find deals on parts, and I ended up having a bit of a cross country build around the frame. It felt a bit like taking a tattooed and pierced punk only to comb their hair and put them in pleasant work attire. I probably got some strange looks from both the XC race snakes and DJ dudes. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-RNzJXz_u3cs/VQ_Vx4KNryI/AAAAAAAAAkc/2J2hwXqmy_4/s1600/surge%2Bbuild.jpgI promise I adjusted the seat angle later, and shortened the brake cables Here are some build highlights: RockShox Recon gold TK 120mm fork with remote lockoutShimano SLX 2x10 drivetrainSLX brakesa road saddle40mm NS stemMavic EN 521 rims Bling looking Hope hub up front Cheap SLX hub on the back. So quite a mixed bag, but then the Surge 2 is a bit of a confused beast. It is built from butted 4130 cromoly, with frame tubes that are bigger than some of the those found on cross country aluminium bikes. It takes forks between 120 and 160mm, yet making proper use of 160mm on a hardtail might break your ankles or give you knee problems. However, it can only take a fork with a straight steerer tube, and the 27.2mm seat post diameter means most dropper posts are a no go. It has a 67 degree head angle when a 140mm fork is fitted and can apparently take up to a 2.6” wide rear tyre. The 610mm effective top tube of the large size is longer than what would be found on nearly all DJ bikes. Then they put on horizontally sliding rear dropouts for single speed DJ or masochistic types. Thankfully a rear derailer can also be fitted. All of this means, at least on paper, it could be a hardtail that is all things to all men (and women), or it could mean it is not really suitable for any of the intended uses. So how is it in reality? Well, a bit of both. A Smooth Start http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-mjpqi_2ITQ8/VQ_X7Cpga8I/AAAAAAAAAko/pvV_dXLb520/s1600/surge%2Bdj%2Bsequence.jpg I started off riding the PWC cycle park and the Braamfontein spruit. I could begin by riding the roads from Morningside with my seat up and fork locked out. I would unlock my fork when getting onto the spruit heading south, then put down my seat and hit the scout hall dirt jumps trying to wiggle. I would then go on to do a 30km or so loop, past the vagrants and poo contaminated streams, eventually getting to Emmerentia dam before turning around. And it did all of this pretty well. Even though the top of the seat tube was low for a large frame, it was almost fully usable. That meant I could have relatively long seat post fully down when needed, and still have it available for pedaling. I took off the remote lockout pretty quickly because I didn't use it that much and my new DJ friends were commenting on my messy cables. At least the frame had no bottle cage mounts for me to embarrass myself with. The long wheelbase, by DJ standards, probably helped me have more stability and confidence when learning how to tackle the jumps, but I feel it also hindered me once I had become comfortable in the air and was trying to do the all important wiggling and twisting so important to the DJ scene. Rough Rider I think the issues started when my ambitions extended to more rough and technical trails. Groenkloof and Thaba trails were a nice taste of this, but I wanted more. I watched videos of men slithering around steep trails, flinging dirt into camera lenses, smashing their wheels over large rocks, twisting their hips and bikes in the air. I needed some of that action. It wasn't long before I was driving out to Hakahana trails for some Enduro action. Except it was actually an 'Enduro scouting day', which meant shuttling and hiking up massive hills and riding down the rough trails to give advice on what would be good for Enduro. I had no clue about anything Enduro, except that I had the wrong bike. My bike looked puny and out of place next to some of the machines with around 140mm travel both front and rear. My lack of dropper post especially stood out. At least by then I had switched to 1x10 gearing and had a 203mm front brake disc, so I displayed a sliver of Enduro-ness. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-5b8hxFhy7Vk/VQ_23ONBRfI/AAAAAAAAAk4/8McMa8nLbd8/s1600/enduro%2Bscouting.jpgimage taken from thehubsa.co.za user Nofearnofun Out on the trail the bike felt out of place too. My back tyre would bounce off all the rocks. Cornering or braking turn out to be quite difficult when there is a game of ping pong happening between your legs. It wasn't long before I suffered a puncture. After some help from some friendly riders, I was back to bouncing. Until I had another puncture. I later had a massive headache and my breakfast decided to evacuate out my mouth, but I can't blame that on the bike. Thank you to the two girls who spiked my hydration pack with electrolytes and fed me tablets. You are the best! I later entered the Mankele Avalanche, with some stronger tyres. It went a lot better, as you can see in the video below
The moderately rocky trails featuring some climbing and rock gardens seemed to suit the bike (and me) much better. I got a blood nose but managed not to throw up. I was glad that I wasn't on a more focused DJ bike, the extra length and slacker head angle surely helped me to avoid faceplanting. I did struggle to turn the bike when needed though, with the front wheel at times sliding out, requiring me to rapidly deploy the appropriate foot to stop me flopping over. It might have been the gap in the tread of the Maxxis Minion DHF tyre that requires full commitment, or my generally rubbish cornering technique, but having ridden some other bikes I can't help but think some of the fault lies in the bikes geometry. Getting a Pump On http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-TnrSRQj7MiI/VRAy7F2KDTI/AAAAAAAAAlI/UKSlxeHg6Is/s1600/pump%2Btrack.png Before the next Enduro event I was given a used dual suspension frame (thanks Dan!).The Surge was back to being used for smooth trails, jumping, and it proved to be useful on a pump track. However, after sampling a friend's Nukeproof Snap, a focussed 4-cross bike, I have learned that the Surge is not that brilliant for these uses either. It's longer wheelbase means that the Surge is more sluggish and slow to turn compared to the Snap. While that provides more stability, it also means less fun. The Snap is just so much easier to jump and pick up speed on a pump track. The Surge also doesn't seem to manual as easily as you would expect a DJ bike to. Verdict The NS Surge is a good choice if you want an aggressive hardtail but don't know exactly what kind of riding you want to injure yourself doing, or just want to end yourself on a variety of not too rough terrain and disciplines. If you can be specific enough to know you want to dirt jump and shred a pump track, or want to avoid having intimate knowledge of every rock on your next enduro stage, then you are best looking elsewhere. That being said, I won't be putting it on the classifieds anytime soon. The Surge still occupies a special place in my memory for the fun times I've had on it. I still have scars from the times that didn't go so well, but they are a reminder that I always got back up, and that I should really get on a medical aid.
Copyright David Messem 2015