It is with a deep, deep breath and a long exhale that I begin this piece. Why — why the drama? Because I am all too aware of the snickering, viral ‘you-gotta-see-this’ sharing and shitposting that every picture and attendant verbiage I’m about to share will cause. Like moths to a lamp, or at least beetles to dung, Slingshots have always been a lightning rod for a certain kind of person.
And the main thing you need to know about that person — the dung beetle in this story? They’ve probably never seen a Slingshot in person, and have almost certainly never ridden one. And therein lies the problem: Because they actually ride like pretty much every other hardtail of their era: Short, steep, and sorta whippy.
My Slingshot history began in 1988 when I saw my first one. As a certified bike geek how do you ever forget that moment?! I didn’t, and haven’t. The bike in question was one of the original twin-top-tube versions, painted in a not-for-me hue of purple, but utterly irrestible hanging in the window of that shop in East Lansing. I lusted after one but on a college kid budget it was utterly unobtanium.
I had to wait until ’93 to get my first. Actually might have been ’94? Whichever it was, Slingshot made me an offer to join their factory race team that was about the same as every other offer I got that year: Pathetic. But ultra-endurance racing was a long way from being a thing as yet, and the fact that they made an offer at all was encouraging. Given that all the offers were similar, it was an easy choice to go with the frame that I’d coveted for years.
I raced it for at least a season, maybe even two. I know I did a handful of 12 hour races (Ithaca, Pando, Big Bear?) and at least three 24’s (Afton, Canaan, Moab?) as well as an 8 hour race in Cali the week before the then-unknown Creampuff. I was never fast enough to be competitive over a mere 100 miles, but the ‘puff was memorable in that I tore my derailleur off about 10 miles in (while avoiding a roadie that went out hard and then ran out of talent where the trail turned techy) spent about 10 minutes turning the bike into an ad-hoc singlespeed, and then finished the race.
Because those original ‘shots were 26″, rim-brake-only, and with 1″ headtubes, I wasn’t super interested in hanging onto mine once I’d moved on to full suspension and 29″ wheels. Vintage bikes are neat to look at but I don’t enjoy riding them. I came into this frame in 2014, while searching for something ‘interesting’ to use as a commuter/bike path rig. It didn’t really matter what the frame was — I reasoned — so when I found this one on eBay for a song I bit. It’s had a handful of different build iterations but once we left Colorado it didn’t really get used. I sat on it for a year, and even tried to sell it, but ultimately two things kept that from happening. Primarily that the bike I was going to replace it with — a Trek Stache — was suddenly impossible to find. And secondarily because Meriwether agreed to take on the project you’re seeing the end results of within this post.
Meriwether worked his magic in chopping the head tube completely off and replacing it with a tapered version that’s slacker than the original. So now I can run a modern thru-axle fork, and I also no longer have toe overlap. And, um, yeah — slack HTA’s are nice. He also removed the chainstays, seatstays, and BB. The new rear end is 12 x 157 and 83mm BSA, and can fit either 29 x 2.8″ or 27.5 x 3.8″. Whit Johnson of Meriwether scalloped the back of the seat tube (holy hole saw, Batman!) to better tuck the wheel, and then welded a sleeve into the top of the 31.6mm I.D. tube so that I could fit a 30.9mm dropper. I recognize the irony/horror/indignation that many of you are stamping your feet about when looking at the wireless post, but I couldn’t think of a better way to achieve stealth routing with no downtube through which to do it. And for those who would suggest a Hite-Rite or QR collar as “solutions”? No.
I have yet to see a need for e-shifting but I bonded with this e-dropper immediately. We’ll see how long it lasts.
The frame finish is Cerakote. New concept to me. I came *this close* to choosing a shade called “flat earther” simply because it seemed to fit the je ne sais quoi of these chassis’ — and those who love to denigrate them. But ended up choosing something with a forgettable name that tickled my palette a bit better.
All of the pics thus far show it with 29 x 2.8″ rubber. Not super certain which wheelset will get used the most. Our local trails are sometimes mellow and duff covered, but more often they are steep, loose, and rough animaltrack. Pics with the B Fat setup far below.
For those that are new around here, building custom wheels is what I do. Need some? Start here.
The tread on these Teravails is great as a rear but maybe not super awesome as a front. If my primary concern is corner exit speed I should probably opt for a different bike altogether.
The fork is a Fox 34 that is known within certain circles as The Unicorn for its ability to swallow tall and fat tires. Air spring feels fine on this one but the Grip damper leaves a lot to be desired. I’ll fiddle incrementally with it until it fades into the background. Open to suggestions: Primary gripe is that it feels way too harsh on top, even filtered through a 3.8″ tire at 8psi.
I assembled it with simple, sensible components that I know and trust. 20-degree swept bars, twist shifting, powerful brakes with carbon levers so they’re not cold even when the temps are. And stupid friendly gearing: 24 x 52t low. Our current local favorite trail climbs 4600′ in the first 12 miles. Judge me all you want, but I will show zero empathy when you show up with an ego-ring up front and then walk more than you ride. I’ll actually revel in your suffering –especially if you’re in Sidi’s — and then I’ll remind you about your poor life decisions forever after.
Shown here with the bigger meats. They are emphatically heavier, and slower, and more comfortable to ride. Every tire is a compromise: the trick is knowing when to use which.
Whit had an old rack that he chopped up and repurposed to fit this chassis. This will likely become my go-to bikepacking rig.
As for the ride quality?
It rides like a bike. It’s not especially stiff, nor is it lively, nor would I call it ‘dead.’ About the only thing of note is that — when honking out of the saddle on something *really* steep — I can feel a teeny, tiny bit of weirdness somewhere in there. Lock the fork out and then resume honking and 90% of that weirdness goes away. Maybe even 95%.
People have loved to slag on these frames since before the baby Jesus was around. I don’t get it — or feel it — whatever ‘it’ is.
Future changes? I’ll probably stretch the 110mm fork to 120mm, to further slacken the HTA and raise the BB, as well as to be able to lose a few HS spacers.
I’ll likely also replace the blue placeholder stem with something blacker. For now it at least puts the bars in the right place.
So there you have it: More than you ever needed to know about a weird project that no one else ever asked for. I’m stoked to own and ride it, and eternally grateful to Whit for saying “Sure!” when almost anyone else wouldn’t have dignified the question with a response.
This post first appeared at Mike Curiak’s blog. Need some wheels built? He’s your man. Get him at LaceMine29.