Two weeks on Captain America

I took Captain America, my experimental Stumpjump HT EVO-R, to California for two weeks of riding and teaching. The early reviews are in.

I am used to a slacker head angle, but this one is working.


Captain America

Build an all-around hardtail for trail/clinic/pump/jump/DS/4X/BMX/tomfoolery.

Captain America takes an XC-race-ready Stumpjumper M5 HT frame and builds it like a DJ bike. Highlights:

– Fox 831 fork

– Sun Charger Pro wheels

– Hayes Stroker brakes

– Answer ProTAPER 780 DH bars

– Answer ROVE AM 70 mm stem

– Answer ROVE FR pedals

– Gamut P20 chain guide with 33t Race Ring

– X-Fusio Hilo 100 seat post.


When I built this guy I was out of trusty Eskar tires. I slapped on a set of original issue 2.0 Fast Traks (the old high-knob ones, not the new low-knob ones). Fast Traks are light and quick, so a good choice right?

Wrong. I forgot how much those tires suck for aggressive riding. The tires roll well and corner predictably, but the side knobs are poorly supported. At best they squirm. At worst they tear off. I have no faith in them, and that held me back. (Funny: I raced DS and 4X on these for a couple seasons with no complaints. Back then I didn’t know about the braaap.)

BTW: The new Fast Trak LKs solve this problem. They give you all the rolling speed with none of the knob-tearing squirmage.

I have some new Renegades to try. This should be interesting.

Pump track

Captain America gets it done!

I rode him at the SoCal high school pump track and the Fox Racing Shox pump track. I like his lightness and stiffness. I’m aware of his steepness, but it isn’t hurting me. I can totally work with his longness.

The Fox 831 fork is, indeed, the right tool for the job. I love how that thing holds firm, even in the high-G berms, yet you can blow through the valving when you make a mistake.

A bunch of people rode Captain America, and many of them compared him back-to-back with the Mighty P.3. Newbie and casual pump trackers were split on which bike they preferred. Expert pump trackers clearly prefer a DJ bike.

At the Fox track I did a few laps on Scott Papola’s Evil DJ hardtail, and … well … that thing felt pretty right for the task.

But: Captain America was getting the job done at least as well as his pilot. I think he’ll rock harder with a shorter stem.

Captain America is whippy enough to do this sort of thing.

I was worried about getting the seat low enough, but the seat has not been in my way.

Video: Jim Norman, Scott Papola and I ride the Fox Racing Shox pump track.


Captain America knows all about longitudinal balance.

All I need for teaching is something simple, reliable and sweet looking.

Check, check and check.

Actually, demonstrating kung fu on a hardtail with flats increases my street cred. And: The bike is light, quick and super responsive. Fun.

Up trail

The climb was tight, bright and right. The bike is light, and it makes the most of your might.

I did notice those pesky bumps, though. When I traded with Jim Norman’s Ibis Mojo HD, I wondered whether suspension made the moderately choppy climb easier. Naw …

Down trail

Norman took me down one of Santa Cruz’s steeper downhill tracks. That was an unfair test, but I can say this:

I reduced the 831’s low speed compression, and the fork felt plenty plush. Certainly plush enough for a light hardtail. The faster I rode the fork, the better it felt. At some point it’s better to plane across the bumps than to bash into them. I used almost full travel without noticeable violence — always a good sign. BTW: I weigh 175 pounds and am running 100 psi.

The flatter sections were super fun. The turny sections were snappy like braaap, braaap, braaap! The steep sections were frankly a bit sketchy. I rode everything with no trouble — even “The Chute” (cue dramatic music) — but the steep geometry felt … uh … inappropriate. I can adapt to the 70-degree head angle, but I’d feel more at home with 68 or so.

Excuses: My hands were blistered from the SoCal pump track build. Captain America had no business riding this trail.

Here I am riding a moderately choppy section. I hold on just fine, but you can see I don’t trust the corner.

Doctor Jim Norman pins the same section on his Ibis Mojo HD. From the log to the turn, he’s a full second faster.

Parts notes

Stumpjumper M5 HT frame: Light and, I think, stiff. The head angle is steeper than I’m used to, but the bike feels quick. When I find tires and turns I trust, I’ll see how stiff this frame is.

Fox 831 fork: Incredible. Easily adjustable for pump track or choppy trail.

X-Fusion Hilo 100 seat post: So far so good. Easy operation. Not worrying about it, which is good. I’m liking the 100 mm of adjustment. The Hilo 125 will be even better. I will try the remote kit. Note: I found a bit of squish at the top, but that went away after a few up/down cycles.

Answer bar, stem and wheels: Light enough and very stiff. I have utmost confidence in them.

Answer ROVE FR pedals: They feel great underfoot. Stable and sticky. I am not thinking about them, which is what you want.

Gamut P20 chain guide: Bombproof as always.

Overall, every part of the bike feels good and works great. The only exception is those tires. And I’ll try a shorter stem.

So far

Captain America might not be as ideal for pump track as a dedicated pump track bike. He’s definitely not as ideal on rough trail as an all-mountain bike. But he’s a cool dude, and he gets it done in both situations. He rocks the clinics.

A gun and a knife: The Ibis Mojo HD and Captain America are both capable weapons, but for different fights.


Switch to a 50 mm stem. Put on some trustworthy tires. Ride local trails and dirt jumps. Race indoor BMX up in Greeley.

File a report.


— Lee

Captain America history:

Experiment: Stumpjumper HT EVO-R

Captain America

Know more. Have more fun!

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8 replies
  1. max says:

    That bike looks like fun.
    Speaking of putting together a bike….I currently am running a 50mm stem with a 30″ wide flat bar. My question is if a put a 20mm riser bar on but maintain the same bar height is there going to be any difference in terms of fit, ride, etc…I remember reading on your site something about if you go with a short stem you want a higher rise bar?

  2. WAKi says:

    It is pretty interesting how much variety there is in handlebar “geometry” these days and how easily it is to do wrong by judging by looks. I used to run 740 1″ rise bars in my AM bike, then bought 750 flatbars for my CX commuter to “show fixies how it’s done 😉 – wanted to check them in my AM/trail bike first, but I was affraid that with such low bars my levers will hit the frames top tube (a thing often overlooked by those who go for new-school looks ;)). And guess what… my grips ended up slightly higher than with those riser bars!

    BTW Great too see you rocking on this bike! I ride a coke can XC bike of my wife sometimes on the dirt jumps and I also did some lil’hucking on local trails. It holds up! Getting on a hardtail always feels good, just to get this fullie stiffness out of my legs.

  3. fred p says:

    last year i picked up a trans AM for the same reasons you built up the captain. it’s taken some time to find my “hardtail legs” but it’s been worth it, the more you ride it the better you/it feel(s). then when you get back on the big gun and start tossing it around like a lil’ knife it’ll really put a smile on your face.
    if you still got your 20 for the PTs then all is right in the world.

  4. leelikesbikes says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’m stoked to rediscover riding a hardtail on trail.

    The Transition TransAM looks great for this sort of riding.

    Yeah man, I still have the Intense 20 for pump tracks. From a pure rippage standpoint, the 20 is hard to beat. That’s why the UCI has banned them from international pump track competition. Kidding (for now).

  5. Peter Hales says:

    Hi Lee,
    Looking pretty sweet. I was looking at the Cane Creek website last night and they have an adjustable angle headset. Might help down hill.

    Love the book but I have to stop telling my riding buddies about it, I am loosing my edge!


  6. leelikesbikes says:


    That is some clever thinking.

    As low as that bike is, I think I don’t want to raise the bars any higher (its actually pretty tall compared to a dedicated 4X/DJ bike like a p). As a matter of fact, I just put on the 50mm stem, and I *lowered* the bars for tomorrow’s indoor BMX race.

    I’m shooting for that optimal full-extension fit as seen in Pro BMX Skills. That’s how I like my trail bikes to fit too, and I find my bars getting lower and lower.

    There are plenty of headset spacers. We’ll see where they end up tomorrow.

    If I can lengthen the fork and keep the bars low enough, that might be the hot tip.

    Rip it over there in Australia!

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