Travis En­gel’s Scott Ran­som

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I make a lot of ro­mance analo­gies when talk­ing about my fa­vorite bikes. The Evil Fol­low­ing was a beau­ti­ful stranger. The Kona Process was a one-night stand. But the bike you see here is a home­wrecker. It’s the brides­maid I met just be­fore I left the bride stand­ing at the al­tar.

I was al­ready en­gaged with an Or­bea Ral­lon. One was ac­tu­ally ready to be cus­tom-painted and air-freighted to me from Spain. And we prob­a­bly would have been very happy to­gether. But then, at Bi­ble Sum­mer Camp, I rode the Scott Ran­som.

I’ve known for a while this bike was just my type. Long-travel 29ers have been beck­on­ing since the Wreck­on­ing. My back­yard is per­fect for these body-friendly, trail-an­gry crea­tures. But such big bikes some­times pose a threat to my wan­der­lust and to my BMX-in­spired rid­ing style. I didn’t want to go any squishier than 150. Luck­ily, the Ran­som has some tricks up its 165-mil­lime­ter sleeve.

The Fox Nude shock doesn’t have the ad­vanced damp­ing of an X2 or Su­per Deluxe, but it also doesn’t have that dainty feel when an un­der­gunned shock is on a trig­ger-happy bike. For some­thing with­out fine-tun­able com­pres­sion damp­ing, that’s quite a feat. But it doesn’t help me chan­nel my in­ner Clint Reynolds (Google him). For the trails that tempt me with berms and lips both nat­u­ral and un­nat­u­ral, Scott in­tro­duced Ramp Con­trol. The lit­tle black switch shuts off part of the Fox Nude’s ex­tra air vol­ume, in­stantly mak­ing it slightly more pro­gres­sive. It’s why the Ran­som has a place on my tail­gate whether I’m go­ing out for a park lap, a lunch loop or a back­coun­try epic.

Speak­ing of lit­tle black switches and back­coun­try epics, there’s no bet­ter home for Scott’s Twin­loc than on the Ran­som. All that travel turns from as­set to li­a­bil­ity and back again count­less times over a seven-hour day. Even if the

Ran­som had a seat an­gle steeper than 75 de­grees—so far the only thing I find the frame want­ing—it would still sink when the up­hill turned steep and would bob when my pedal stroke turned ugly. Trac­tion Con­trol mode steep­ens and stiff­ens the bike just enough to stay poised and ac­tive through the rough. And Lock­out mode lets me fo­cus on the pod­casts I lis­ten to in­stead of the end­less fire roads I seek the end of.

But Twin­loc isn’t per­fect. I re­moved the re­mote Fit4 damper and dropped in a Grip2 in­stead. Rider weight shifts off the fork on climbs any­way. Grip2 al­lowed the Ran­som’s front end to keep up with its rear. It also cleaned up the cock­pit a bit, though I think clean cock­pits are over­rated. That’s why I re­placed the be­low-bar Twin­loc lever with one above the bar. It al­lowed me to put my Wolf Tooth drop­per lever right where it be­longed: next to my thumb.

I con­nected that lever to a re­li­able and ser­vice­able 200-mil­lime­ter 9point8 Fall Line. My last one com­pletely spoiled me. Now, 170-mil­lime­ter drop­pers feel a lit­tle tight in the crotch. And I went for re­li­a­bil­ity and ser­vice­abil­ity in the wheels as well. I’m a Chris King loy­al­ist af­ter the hubs on my tri­als bike lasted for 20 years with only two re­builds. I laced them with DT Com­pe­ti­tion spokes into 32-hole al­loy Stan’s Sen­try rims. Not just for their im­pact strength, but for the bet­ter trail feel of their wide, flat pro­file. I could have saved a pound with nearly any car­bon op­tion and some lighter hubs, but that’s not what this bike was about.

The 2.6-inch Min­ion DHF tires don’t have a light touch any­way. They’re as much to thank for the Ran­som’s rowdy ride as its ag­gres­sive an­gles, travel and wheel­base. I of­ten dip my front tire pres­sure be­low 20 PSI, and it’s still safe at any speed. Any speed. They’re nearly as pre­cise as 2.4s when I find enough trac­tion to rail a berm or enough con­fi­dence to land a trail gap. And they’re nearly as tena­cious as 2.8s dur­ing a care­ful crawl down a fall line. There’s re­ally no science be­hind that. Just arith­metic.

Reel­ing in all that trac­tion are some Hayes Do­min­ion brakes. These were a leap of faith be­cause I’d only felt them on a show­room floor. But they felt good. They’ve got the light touch of cross-coun­try XTR levers and the mod­u­la­tion of SRAM Codes. The power band ramps up late, and I haven’t yet found the end of them. They’re a pain to bleed, they’re not light, and I have no idea what to ex­pect a year or two in the fu­ture, but who does?

The X01 driv­e­train is an X01 driv­e­train. You can not go wrong. The En­duro BB92-to-30-mil­lime­ter bot­tom bracket will ac­tu­ally last. Can’t go wrong there ei­ther. The Wolf Tooth El­lip­ti­cal ring is just mod­estly el­lip­ti­cal. All very safe choices. The Er­gon GA2 Fat grips feel good in my hands, the 31.8x800-mil­lime­ter Enve bars feel good in my grips, and the 35-mil­lime­ter Easton stem feels good above the fork’s short off­set. I ac­tu­ally swapped the cock­pit di­rectly off my last dream build. We’d been through a lot to­gether.

Some­day I’ll say the same about the Cane Creek eeWings cranks. Maybe decades from now. The spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor to the eeWings, the Sweet Wings, came out around the time I found moun­tain bik­ing. They started my love af­fair with ex­otic cranks. Next came Cook Brothers, then Coda Magic, then Car­ramba, then Race Face North Shores, none of which did I ever own. Then sud­denly, Shi­mano’s M960s set a stan­dard that no true out­sider could top. My con­nec­tion with the eeWings is deeper than with any­thing else fas­tened to my dream build. And it’s not lost on me that they are what car­ries the power from my body to my bike. More than any­thing else I’ve ever owned or rid­den, this build is an ex­ten­sion of what moun­tain bik­ing rep­re­sents for me.

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