I have been riding full suspension bikes for 10 years. I have seen all the designs come and go and the problems adherent to the designs. I’ve always been a fan of linkage bikes; they all seem to have more quality travel. When I decided on a new bike for 2003 a few things were needed. It had to be beefy, have plenty of travel, sport a good linkage design and have the ability to run a front dérailleur. There aren’t a lot of choices when trying to build a bike with these specific requirements.
While at Interbike 2002, I was stacked with appointments so I didn’t get to spend time looking for my new bike. Afterwards, I went through all the catalogs and noticed the Balfa 2Step DH. It was beefy, had a well-designed linkage and it could run a front derailleur. Since Balfa is a small company with limited demo bikes, I had to order the frame blind. I couldn’t really make out much of the details of the bike in the pic, but immediately made the decision to pull the trigger on the frame—going out on a limb yet trusting my instincts. After 2.5 months of waiting, it finally showed up.
The Buildkit on My Balfa 2Step DH
I started getting really nervous when I opened the box. The bike looked sweet overall, but on the scale it was a full pound over claimed weight. It was also claimed that it could run a front derailleur, but when installing mine it hit the chain stay with a top swing and the linkage with a traditional, which then forced me to run a single chainring up front. (I have since realized it’s a better set up for the bike anyway.) The cockpit was very short with the post slammed (as is typical for most Balfa framesets). Mainly because of the seat angle being so slack, but it does keep the saddle out of the way for the steep stuff. Wheelie riding on the saddle is difficult, but the seat angle forces you to learn coaster wheelies while standing.
- 2003 Balfa 2Step DH frame with 8” of travel
- Manitou X-Vert Carbon DH with 7.5” of travel
- Titec Bezerker bar and stem
- Hayes Brakes
- Race Face DH crank
- Evil Guide
- WTB Rocket V saddle
- SRAM 9.0SL Shifter and Rear Derailleur
- Hand built 36h Atomic Trail pimp rims laced to DT Hugi DH hubs
- Intense Sticky Rubber tires
- Fully Built it came in at a stout 43lbs.
Balfa 2Step DH Review
This is really where the business is. First off is the parking lot test with smooth cement with one 3-step drop. Parking lots are the worst testers for full suspension bikes, but there is one thing you can recognize very quickly–pedaling efficiency is easily detected when sprinting and sitting. If pedaling efficiency is important to you, than your going to be stoked on the 2 Step DH. It pedals better than some of the shorter travel bikes. It has instant power transfer especially considering the amount of travel. The frame came stock with Fox’s new coil over shock with the Curnett valving, so that likely helps out in the pedaling department. The squish test yielded the “bottomless” travel feel with a smooth linear rate.
On the trail the bike just kept getting better as I get used to the weight and ride characteristics. The fist test was down at the local doubles. There are a few 30 footers and some nice rhythm sections. There were no surprises, it didn’t dive and the lower center of gravity burned up the berms. I was a little skeptical of the low BB height and thought I would pop my pedal on a rock, but so far it’s only hugged the terrain that much better. Jumping is great as long as you are hauling ass. Trying to get the bike off the ground at low speeds will require a lot of energy input since the travel soaks up the majority of the kick. This is pretty common with most DH bikes.
Singletrack is my favorite riding terrain. Some big travel bikes aren’t designed to be fast singletrack bikes. The long wheelbases are excellent for the high speeds, but don’t allow for the quick handling needed for the skinnies and the single track. Once again going in with the worst possible thoughts, that it would be sluggish and slow turning, it handled it all with ease. It wasn’t that I noticed a major difference, it was more that my riding buddies were having to ride harder to keep up, and made a point of telling me at the end of the run that I seemed already tuned to the bike. This was all within the first week.
The Bottom Line on the Balfa 2Step DH
I would have to say that anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to ride the Balfa 2 Step DH, or hasn’t put it in as option for there next big travel bike is really missing out. I have found the bike to perform beyond my expectations and my love for the bike has already surpassed any previous bikes. It handles excellent, and the construction is strong enough for the Hulk. Overall I give the bike 2 thumbs up.
Well in most cases I’m already in search for next year’s bike. In the industry you need something new every year. I don’t think I could possibly build something that would be as tuned to me as the Balfa is right now. I considered the 2004 version, but after thinking it over decided that I don’t want to go through the process only to find out that it doesn’t suit me the same. All in all I straight love this bike.
— Zach Moore, Co-founder WrenchScience.com