Charlie lives in Chattanooga, TN and works as a cartographer for a local university, where he gets to aide in conservation and trail planning projects using his skills as geographer and map maker. He moved here eight years ago to work for the National Park Service and fell in love with the mountains, canyons, and trails that surround this city; as well as the tight-knit outdoor sports community. 

This build all started with a used set of Hope Tech 3 V4 brakes and a Sram XO1 11 speed drive train that had been burning a hole in my parts bin for the past nine months. Like many people, I started riding mountain bikes years ago on a hardtail and after riding and occasionally racing squishy enduro bikes for the last few years, I was itching to get back to my roots. I’ve long lusted over the steel Honzos for as long as I can remember, so I set out to build one on a budget that would suit my riding style and trails for the southeast US. I ordered the frame from my neighborhood Kona dealer, Suck Creek Cycles and started raiding friends parts bins and looking for deals online in places like eBay. 

The build below reflects what I need and want out of a hardtail. Many people outside of the southeast that haven’t ridden here don’t realize just how demanding and varied the riding is in southern Appalachia. I live in Chattanooga, TN which is on the western flank of the Appalachian Mountains. Our trails are tight, technical, and often steep with lots of rock tech and roots to contend with. It’s not uncommon to climb/descend 3000+ feet in a two and half hour ride with a variety of trail features. I wanted to build this hardtail to be able to ride pretty much anything. 

I plan on racing it in some enduros and some vision quest endurance events such as PMBAR. The main goal was to build it so that I wouldn’t have to make many (if any) future upgrades using parts that are functional and not flashy without breaking the bank. Steel was the only option for a Honzo in my opinion. I love the suppleness and rugged good looks that it provides. I set out to build my interpretation of a shredder’s hardtail that could be ridden nearly anywhere and here’s how it turned out.

All the green ascents were a complete coincidence but compliment the gray frame nicely. I couldn’t be more stoked with how the build turned out and even more so with how it rides. The Honzo ST has been blowing my mind with its capabilities on both the ups and downs on both flow trails and rock tech alike. I feel bad for my full suspension bike, as it hasn’t received much love since the Honzo entered the gear shed. I look forward to years of thrashing on this bike. 

  • Fork: Fox Rhythm 130mm. (I love the grip damper that Fox designed and scored this new-never used on eBay for $350, I initially wanted a Fox 34 140mm, but the price was right and I’m actually thinking 130mm is about perfect.)
  • Cockpit: Handlebar: Chromag OSX Fubar 780mm wide with a Chromag 40mm Ranger Stem. I used a 31.8mm clamp because I want the bars to flex, offering a little more suppleness on rough terrain. 
  • Headset: Cane Creek Hellbender 70. Nuff said. 
  • Dropper Post: One Up V2 150mm with a Chromag Trail Master LT saddle. (A steel bike requires a leather saddle, gotta keep it classy.)
  • Drive train: 11 speed full Sram XO1 shifter, derailleur, and cassette. (Used and shifts like new.)
  • Crankset: Race Face Turbine with race face cinch bottom bracket.
  • Brakes: Hope Tech 3 V4. Insane stopping power and modulation. 
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss Spline 1900. (Bought these from a friend for $100 and will replace them with a set of I9s in time, but this wheelset is bomber.)
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT upfront and a Minion DHF 2.3 out back. I went with this combo for maximum traction for technical riding.