Travis Engel’s Scott Ransom
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.