2012 El Mariachi
Bay Area riding consists of diverse terrain and numerous different parks and trail systems, many of which can be connected by equally interesting back roads. Although there is not a singular bike that is best-suited for it all, I’ve been scheming about building one nonetheless that would fill the gap between my 5” all mountain trail bike and cyclocross bike. The more researched I did, the more I kept coming back to the same result: the 2012 ElMariachi. This steel 29er was designed for long days in the saddle and was recently updated to include swinging rear dropouts for single-speed duty, a tapered head tube, and a lowered top tube. Built up rigid with bombproof and light components, it would be more than capable of long training rides, exploring new areas, and testing the waters of endurance and adventure racing events.
The guys at Endless Cycles were invaluable in putting together a custom build package that would be wellsuited for the job at hand:
Frame: 2012 El Mariachi, Large, Steel Slate Blue
Fork: Whiskey Parts #7 Matte Finish
Crankset: Shimano XT Hollowtech 2×10 (28×40)
BB: Shimano XT
Brakes: XT ICE 185F/160R
Rotors: XT ICE RT-86 185F/160R
Cassette: XT 11-36 10-spd
Derlr (F): XT Traditional 28.3 Multi-pull
Derlr (R): XT Shadow Black
Handlebar: Easton EC90 CF Low-Rise
Grips: Ergon GS1 Large
Headset: Chris King Tapered – Black
Pedals: Time ATAC XS
Saddle: Fizik Allante Gamma
Seatpost: Thomson Elite Layback Black
Stem: Thomson Elite 90mm, 10 deg
Hub (F): King ISO 9mm Standard QR Black
Hub (R): King ISO 10mm Standard QR Black
Rim (F): Stans Arch 29” Black 32
Rim (R): Stans Arch 29” Black 32
Tire (F): Maxxis Ardent 2.4 tubeless
Tire (R): WTB Bronson 2.3 tubeless
Spokes: DT Comp Blk w/Blk Nipples
Skewers: Salsa SS Black
After over 300 miles on the bike, I can say that the El Mariachi is an excellent tool to get a particular job done: long days in the saddle, hammering out lots of miles of trail and having a damn good time while doing it. Single track and fire road alike, this bike eats up the terrain. The ride is smooth and there is spring in the frame when you want it. When you drop a few gears to stand and mash on the pedals, power transfer is direct, allowing you to keep the momentum rolling in the 29” wheels. The 28×40 with 11-36 cassette is more than enough gear range, most of the time. Long sustained climbs towards the end of a big day can make one wish for a triple, especially in places like Mt Diablo, but as long as you’re willing to suffer from time to time, the 28×36 gets you up. Having the 40t front ring allows for big gear climbing through moderate terrain when you’re in the groove. And if I spin out the 40×11, I’m usually okay with that amount of speed. Only occasionally have I desired a bigger gear and that was while pedaling downhill on pavement.
The Whiskey #7 fork makes the front end light and extremely precise. It allows you to make a direct connection to the trail in front of you and hold the line you tell it. The advantages of the rigid front really shine when climbing – you can stand up and direct your power right through the front end to the rear wheel. Letting it out downhill through rocky terrain can get a little sketchy and I find that my vision gets overly blurry before I lose any
confidence in the front end.
The custom wheels (King+Arches) built by Endless Cycles are flawless. They ride great and have held their true and tension thus far despite the beating I have given them. The King’s precise engagement contributes to direct power engagement to the wheel and the legendary buzzing of the pawls makes you smile from ear to ear, yet isn’t so loud as to disturb the wildlife.
The XT drivetrain is crisp and exact, albeit a little noisy at times. The XT Ice-Tech brakes are predictable and have great power and modulation. They are definitely an improvement over previous generations of XT hydraulics. At times however, the combination of the vibrational flex of the carbon fork and the big 180mm rotor can cause the front brake to be a bit grabby going down through rock gardens and really loose fire roads, if you’re not feathering it.
So far I’m happy with the 2.4 Maxxis Ardent (F) and 2.3 WTB Bronson (R) tires. This was a recommended tire combo by Endless Cycles and after we debated going with a more wet-specific combo, I’m more than happy I stuck with this set-up especially given the unusually dry winter we’ve had. For racing I would likely mount something a bit lighter and faster, but for everyday riding and training, I’m happy with the grip and rolling resistance as they are.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the 2012 El Mariachi and don’t have a single complaint about the bike. If anything, it would be nice to shed a little weight, but at 25 lbs I’m happy. Getting the bike to go on a diet at this point would be extremely pricey. With bikes, the more you pay the less you get, and at a certain point the cost benefit is just not there, especially given the duty this bike was designed for. Although I have other bikes in the stable that I still ride depending on the trails (and so they don’t feel too left out), my El Mariachi is my go-to rig for most of my rides, be it for training or all day Saturday epics.
– Jesse M