Behind the Build: Matthew Slaven’s Custom Devinci Django 29er
evoCollective athlete Matthew Slaven recently spent some time ripping through trails near Sedona, AZ on his custom Devinci Django 29er. He took some time to write a guest post that takes us through the build setup and the ride to induce a little envy.
I’ve ridden pretty much every kind of bike in Sedona over the last 10 years. From 180mm travel bikes to small travel bikes to hardtails, the wheels on a 29er seem to roll over all the rocks and the weird little crevasses and stuff that are in the rocks the best. It’s easier to do the climbs as it kind of smooths out the trail. It’s really rough out here, so if you’re riding days on end your body gets pretty beat up!
Frame & Handlebars
Being 6’1, I ride an XL frame. I’m running an 800mm wide bar (Race Face SixC) on a 40mm stem, which is pretty standard for me. I like to keep this setup consistent no matter what bike I ride. I’ve got Sensus grips – I cut the flange off of them. They have lock-on grips that are flangeless now, but they don’t have them with this grip configuration. So I cut the flanges off so I could get to my brakes and my dropper.
I run a 150mm Fox 36 for the added stiffness over a 32 or a 34. I don’t mind too much about added weight because there is a certain point where it doesn’t feel flexy and noodley. I tend to set my bikes up more for descending than climbing. It’s still light enough that it climbs great but I’d rather have the added stiffness. It’s got the RC2 Damper and a couple custom mods on the fork with a negative air chamber. They have increased that a little bit so it is more supple off the top, then I run 2-3 tokens so it ramps up. Pressure-wise, I run the fork fairly stiff at about 90-95 PSI. The spacer between the fork and frame is the same that I ran on my Django 27.5 for Trans-Cascadia. It gives you an additional .5 degree slacker headtube angle. Stock, this bike is set up with a 130mm fork I believe, and is a 68 degree headtube angle. With this 150mm fork and the headset spacer it is probably now around 66.5 degrees. I also run 27.5 offset on my fork, that tucks the wheel in a bit more so at lower speeds I don’t get that flop that you could get on a 29er or a bike that’s too slack. I really enjoy the slackness of a bike built for higher speeds, but at lower speeds sometimes they can get a bit cumbersome so that’s why I run that shorter offset on this bike.
The latest craze is baby coils. I really like the feel of coil – it’s super consistent. We’re always changing altitude and temperature from ride to ride. When you ride a 3000 ft climb your suspension feels totally different at the top, same with your tires. So with a coil, once you get it set up it will feel the same no matter you’re riding, whatever temperature, whatever elevation. I also like suppleness off the top you get with the coil that you can’t get with an air. I’ve got this new Fox X2 shock. It’s got this compression switch on it so I can basically lock out the shock when I’m doing some big road climb. It’s got high and low speed compression and rebound so it’s really, really tuneable. Just looking at it, it’s bad ass!
Wheels & Tires
I went with Industry Nine hubs and Ibis rims, same thing I ran on my 27.5. I like the wide rims so I use the 35mm internal. You can run a little bit lower pressure with bigger tires and the I-9 hubs have been real bomber. I like the sound of the freewheel – it sounds like a BMX bike. The hubs, frame and fork are all boost spacing for the added stiffness on the bigger wheels.
Before I came down here, I was set up for back home in Oregon so made a couple small changes. I’m running Maxxis Minion DHFs front and rear, 2.5” 3C EXO up front and then in the rear the 2.3” version. Back home I’d run something a little faster rolling like an Aggressor in a Double Down casing just because you’re going so much faster when you hit stuff. A quick change of tires is gonna be my set up for everywhere.
I don’t want to change my riding style for the bigger wheels. I still want to have the same braking points that I have on my 27.5 bike. I found that with the bigger wheels they have a little bit more inertia behind them. They’re a little bit harder to slow down so I beefed up my front rotor to a 200mm and run a 180mm rotor on the back. On a 27.5 setup I just run 180s front and rear, or maybe a 160 in the back. I was finding that I had to slow down earlier with the big wheels than I would normally so I had to change the way I would ride. I threw some bigger rotors on now it seems fine, I don’t notice it at all.
I run 170 cranks on all of my bikes. I run basically, 40% sag on my shock and the bottom bracket is pretty low on these bikes so I found I needed to shorten my crank a little bit. Even though I run a bigger fork and a spacer, the bottom bracket is in about the same place it would be without raising my front end like I did. For a tall person it was kind of unheard of and I found out that I didn’t really notice anything negative; I actually quite liked having a little shorter crank and more clearance just to pedal over stuff. Ideally early in the season I maybe run a 32t or something like that but I just went ahead and put a 34t on for Sedona because the climbs aren’t that long or sustained. You kind of want to be in your hardest gear to get up and over some of the moves and just charge it! Rather than sit and spin and grind up something, you kind of attack the features a bit more so a bigger chainring comes in handy.
My Fox Transfer post has been super reliable. I’ve got an ANVL saddle that I run that on all of my bikes. My buddy designed it for his butt but we may just have similar butts!
Mallet Es are my favorite pedals. When stuff gets hairy and your foot’s not clipped in you can still ride pretty aggressively and confidently. Not feel like ‘Oh no, my foot is out, I’m going to die!” is a good thing! They’re not that heavy and I really like the float in there for cornering. You can really put some body English on the bike and can tell when your foot is going to come out and when it’s not.
So, how does it ride?
This is the same rear end as the Devinci Troy. It’s stiff! You get into a corner and you just stomp it. It’s lighter than a Troy, I can pretty much ride it on anything I ride my Troy. I set them up basically the same and this one is about two pounds lighter. I’ve been on 29ers since the beginning of all this and I never found a 29er I jived with. My old bikes rode okay but they were heavy. They weighed more than my 27.5 big bike travel bike so I couldn’t justify it.
It’ been cool getting into some of these smaller travel bikes and being really stoked on them. It’s new for me. It doesn’t feel like a 29er – I mean I guess it does feel like a 29er in a good way. I watch people struggle to climb all the rough stuff, I just kind of cruise up it on this. The traction is there and the tires are not getting hung up. This bike still jibs around. It’s been good in all the tight turns. It’s definitely the best bike I’ve had for Sedona, for sure. My body is tired and needs a break from late nights and all the margaritas, but it’s not physically beat down like it normally is on a trip like this. I’ll drink to that!