Ben started seriously mountain biking a year ago. He had an entry level 29er and in just over a month he had beat the crap out of it. His home trails in the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area are loose, techy, and not really that easy to ride on. He started riding three to four times a week and got better and better. Unfortunately, that entry level 29er just wasn’t cutting it on his trails and on some of the stuff he wanted to ride.
He knew he needed something more.

I started researching bikes, and found this new breed of “aggressive hardtails.” I thought that kind of bike would suit my riding perfectly. I ride a lot of desert backcountry, and I need something that I can beat without any loss of reliability. An expensive full squish bike seemed like too much hassle and after demoing some I found I liked climbing on a hardtail better.

I heard about the Honzo ST frame through the all-knowing interwebs, and reached out to The Path bike shop in Tustin, CA. They had a frame available in my size, and I took it. I had never built a bike before, but I like putting things together and “DIYing.” The parts stashing began. I started buying the bike bit by bit. Finally, last March I finally put it together in my living room and with a quick trip to my LBS I was able to get it tuned up and ready to ride pretty quickly. The first ride I took it out, I crashed it and scratched the frame up pretty badly, even putting a couple of small dents in the drive side chainstay, but the bike was still fine. Riding didn’t stop there over the next several months I put 2,000 miles on the bike, and climbed 300,000 ft.

I’m still new to the sport. I ride a lot – almost too much, but I’ve raced the bike already in some endurance type races. My riding is for the most part trail/cross country. I don’t care for hucking off of big rocks, jumps and bike parks. Since my other passion is photography I like long rides with my camera, big climbs, and slow tech stuff. This bike is perfect for my kind of riding, and my build has evolved over the past year to suit my riding as I grow and get better.

A lot has changed on the bike since my initial build. I have dialed it down to just what I like. I started with a WTB i29 29er wheelset and then recently I had a 27.5+ wheelset built for it by Wayne over at SpeedGear bike in Wausau, WI. 27.5+ is absolutely where this bike needed to be for me. Out here in the desert, the terrain is loose and rocky. The big tires give loads of traction, roll fast (I know right!) and give you predictable cornering through some sketchy track. The added suppleness makes this bike feel like a full suspension bike. I love big tires and I cannot lie.

Although it’s subject to change at any time the build currently includes:
Wheelset: 27.5 Stans Barron MKIII rims laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs with the 54t star ratchet upgrade.
Fork: Fox Factory 34 140mm 
Drivetrain: Standard, but reliable Shimano XT M8000 with one up 32t oval chainring and 11-46t cassette (I’m on my fourth chainring, sixth chain, third cassette, and second derailleur…)
Brakes: Shimano XT M8000 & 160mm Rotors
Tires: Maxxis Rekon+ 27.5+ 2.8 Skinwalls
Dropper Post: STG Tellis Dropper with WTB Volt saddle
Cockpit: Raceface Aeffect 35mm Stem with Turbine R 10mm rise 760mm bars and Ergon GA3 grips.

Things I might change:

Now that I have more cushion in the tires I think I’m going to change the air spring on the fork and drop it down to 120mm which would be better suited for some of the races I have coming up. I plan on bumping the rotors up to 180, and I might move the bike over to Sram Eagle in the near future because I have been falling in love with Sram on my gravel bike. 

I plan on taking this bike to the Whiskey 50 and doing the full 50 Proof race on it in April. I’ll be doing some local races in Big Bear Lake this year as well as possibly doing the Downieville Classic all mountain on it. My Honzo ST gets better as I get better. My bike is no show bike – It is ridden hundreds of miles of backcountry trails every month, and it is a reliable and ever so enjoyable steed.