Shop Manager here at Tweed Valley Bikes, Neil is a man who wears many hats. Whether he’s tracking down new bikes for customers, turning spanners in the workshop or taking photos of the latest and greatest bikes and components to come through our doors, he always pays attention to the fine details.
It’s no surprise then, that his bike is no different. Careful part selection, painstaking setup and finely tuned his Megatower, decked out with parts from Burgtec, Maxxis, Reserve and Hope, is ready to tear down trails at the Golfie, many of which he built himself, yet can still perform when the trails tone down and carrying speed becomes more of a priority.
Doing double duty as Tweed Valley Bikes Shop Manager and Dirt School Coach, Neil is looking for versatility from his bike. It must be confidence inspiring and planted on steep and technical trails, but not sluggish and slow on more mellow terrain. To find out how he achieved this blend of attributes, we sat down with Neil to get his thoughts on the bike/parts selection process and learn a little more about what makes his bike tick.
TVB: Ok, let’s start with the basics. How tall are you and what size Megatower do you ride?
Neil: I’m 5,10 and ride a size Medium. I’m right in between sizes so I could also ride a Large but with the Megatower being a bit longer in wheelbase, I wanted to keep the bike easy to handle on our steeper and tighter local trails. It’s 455mm reach and 437mm chainstays, I feel like the shorter reach of the medium vs the large helps with both front wheel grip and when squeezing the bike through the technical stuff. Everywhere I’ve taken the bike so far it’s been great so I’m definitely happy on the medium!
TVB: What led you to choose the Megatower specifically?
Neil: I wanted a bike primarily for off-piste riding that I could take anywhere with my ability being the only limiting factor, but I also needed something that still feels good and works well in mellower terrain. I’ve ridden a few long travel bikes on different linkages that work amazingly well when it’s fast and chunky but feel bogged down on flatter trails. Compared to everything else in the category the Megatower is incredibly good when trying to carry speed or pump without giving up much at all in the rough stuff. It’s impressively well rounded for a big bike all in all. I’m a big 29er fan too, I’ve ridden and enjoyed MX wheeled bikes, but the climbing efficiency and rolling speed of the 29er is just too appealing to give up. The Santa Cruz frames are also super low maintenance and easy to work on which is a big appeal, more time riding and less on the stand is how bikes should be built.
TVB: Talk me through the thinking behind your build. This clearly isn’t a standard bike.
Neil: I like my bikes to just work with minimum fuss, so everything was picked simply to create a reliable, comfortable bike that works day in, day out, is easy to work on and always ready to go. Being smaller at 73kg, I also prefer a slightly less stiff setup than some so I’ll use alloy parts in most places just to keep a bit of give in the system.
TVB: I can see your handlebars are aluminium, what’s your cockpit setup?
Neil: My bars are Burgtec Ride Wide Enduro Alloy and are cut at 760mm. Slightly narrower bars are really growing on me and I might still take a tiny bit more off these, they just allow more range of motion for pushing down through drops in the steeper sections and it’s nice to have the pinkies a few more mm away from the trees.
I also have a Burgtec mk3 enduro stem at 50mm long. I learned on 50mm stems so I’m hardwired for those - I feel like they calm steering slightly and help to get weight onto the front tyre.
Grips are Burgtec Bartender Pro - all their shapes just seem to fit well for me, it’s a nice simple comfy cockpit all in all.
TVB: Continuing on the aluminium theme of your build, why did you go for the Reserve Alloy wheelset?
Neil: Being a relatively smaller person I definitely prefer the ride feel of the alloy wheel to the carbon options, they just take the edge off the bumps a little more for me and at my weight/speed there’s no drawback to the slightly less stiff setup. The DT Swiss hubs are super reliable as are J bend spokes, and having a lifetime warranty on the rim (which I’ve totally failed to ding so far) is a nice bonus just in case.
TVB: What tyres and pressures do you run?
Neil: Assegai Maxxgrip front and DHRII Maxterra rear. It’s a pretty widely used combo but for good reason. The Assegai just grips in a really predictable way in almost every condition except thick mud, and the DHR II is unbeatable as a rear tire for any riding where grip is a priority. Both in EXO+ at the moment, I like the faster rolling and lighter weight feel and they seem tough enough for me round here. I think I’d go Double Down for sure if I went on holiday somewhere faster and rockier though!
Tyre pressures are 18psi front and 22psi rear which I keep consistent throughout the year.
TVB: Hope brakes on stopping duties I see. Are they E4 or V4 and what pad compound are you using?
Neil: I’ve been on Hope brakes for years now. I especially like the ability to control the power and be able to slow down without skidding when I want to. A wide range of lever adjustment means you can dial the bite point in to wherever you like them and they last very well between bleeds.
I’ve gone with the E4 caliper, these give me plenty of power and the new Tech 4 lever ramps up that power enormously compared to the previous version, but still gives that same modulation and control that Hope brakes are known for. The reliability takes a bit of beating too, my old Hope brake set outlasted three bikes so we’ll see how these ones go! 200mm rotors seem plenty for me at my size, I don’t struggle for heat or power. I’m using the green Racing Organic compound pad at the moment which is great, although I think I’ll try the Red All Condition pad next, just out of curiosity.
TVB: How about your drivetrain? Again, not a stock groupset here!
Neil: I’m using a SRAM X01 rear derailleur and 10-52t cassette with a 30t Burgtec chainring. The Hope cranks are just great, simple and totally bulletproof - being silver they hide the wear too. 165mm long.
For pedals I’m using Burgtec Penthouse mk5. They just work, super durable, great grip and easy to rebuild. Not much to say other than that.
TVB: Ok, now into the nitty gritty, let’s talk suspension. Talk me through the setup for your fork and shock.
Neil: I have a Rockshox Zeb Charger 3 up front which I’m running at 47.5psi with no tokens. There’s loads of progression in the fork so I seem to be able to get away with slightly lower than recommended air pressure while still having enough support to have no bottom out issues. I’ve left High and Low speed compression both fully open and run my Rebound on the slower side at 5 clicks from open.
It’s a Factory Fox Float X2 out back which I have pumped up to 165psi which gives me 21mm seated sag. I’m using a bit more damping here just to hold the bike up through deep compressions which allows me to run a slightly lower air pressure, keeping the bike tracking over the high frequency trail chatter we have here.
Similar to the fork I have my rebound on the slightly slower side, just to keep a stable base underneath me.
TVB: Last but not least; in-frame storage is all the rage at the moment, riders can carry whatever they deem “essential” inside their frame, freeing up space in their pack or letting them ditch a pack altogether. What do you carry in your Glovebox?
Neil: Personally, I’d rather carry emergency spares in my bike and stuff my pockets full of snacks than have a frame full of food but have to carry a pack with a puncture repair kit inside, so I carry a spare tube, tyre lever, C02 canister and inflator and a small multi-tool inside my Glovebox. That stuff lives inside my bike pretty much all the time and I can forget about it until I need it. If I forgot about that spare energy gel I left inside my frame I might not be so happy to see it when I remember it!
Balancing all out enduro capability with liveliness and agility on mellower terrain is no easy feat. Neil has carefully selected every part on his build, the sum of which is a robust and reliable bike that excels on the technical and steep terrain so prevalent here in the Tweed Valley, but that is no slouch on the mellower trail centre trails around Glentress.
Neil’s full build details below:
Frame: Santa Cruz Megatower CC, Medium, Translucent Blue
Fork: Rockshox Zeb Ultimate, 170mm, Charger 3
Shock: Fox Float X2 Factory, 230x62.5mm
Wheelset: Reserve 30|HD Alloy, DT Swiss 350 hubs, XD driver, 6 bolt
Tyres: Front: Maxxis Assegai, 29 x 2.5WT, EXO+, MaxxGrip, 18psi
Rear: Maxxis DHRII, 29 x 2.4WT, EXO+, MaxxTerra, 22psi
Brakes: Hope Tech 4 E4, 200mm floating rotors, Green Hope resin pads
Cassette: SRAM X01 Eagle, 10-52t
Rear derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle
Shifter: SRAM X01 Eagle
Cranks: Hope EVO, 165mm
Pedals: Burgtec Penthouse mk5
Chainring: Burgtec, 30t
Handlebar: Burgtec Ride Wide alloy, 760mm, 30mm rise, 35mm clamp
Stem: Burgtec mk3 Enduro, 50mm reach, 35mm clamp
Grips: Burgtec Bartender Pro
Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb, 175mm drop, 31.6mm
Saddle: Burgtec The Cloud
Mudguard: Mudhugger EVO Bolt-on Long
Shock: 165psi (21mm sag)
LSC: 3 clicks from full open
HSC: 2 clicks from open
LSR: 5 clicks from open
HSR: 7 clicks from open
Fork: 47.5psi, 0 tokens
LSC: 0 clicks (fully open)
HSC: 0 clicks (fully open)
Rebound: 5 clicks from open
If seeing Neil’s Megatower has got you wanting one of your own, drop by our shop in Innerleithen to hear about our range of available bikes, or even book a test ride on one of our demo Megatowers.
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