You?ve heard the buzz about Maverick American, the Colorado think tank. Its a design firm headed by the man who founded RockShox and forever altered the course of mountain bike development. Well, after severing ties with his fork company, Paul Turner found himself with a lot of spare time on his hands–much of which, was spent riding mountain bikes. After owning a fairly wide selection of dual-suspension designs, Paul figured that he could do one better.
What lofty goals would the sports most notable suspension designer set for his own personal ride? Turner wanted the holy grail of monkey motion. His bike had to be simple to maintain, easy to handle, lightweight, durable and well-suited for epic trail rides. Its suspension had to be supple-riding, active under braking, lightweight, and most important of all: it would not bob under power. After much thought and some consultations with some of his ex-RockShox buddies, Paul developed the Monolink ML-7. Turner then founded Maverick American–a small prototype shop that would produce the chassis in limited numbers, and continue to develop new concepts within, and outside the bicycle industry.
A NEW SUSPENSION CHASSIS IS BORN
Mavericks Monolink M-7 cuts a profile similar to most modern diamond-framed hardtails with two glaring exceptions: a bowed seat tube and its telescopic strut. The frame is constructed of custom-butted and shaped, Easton-made 6061-alloy tubing by Klein in Washington State. Its root beer-color is anodized to the aluminum after it has been bead-blasted. The matte finish is very sexy, as are its perfectly executed welds.
The M-7 chassis weighs 5.7 pounds in the medium size and complete bikes are a bit more than 26 pounds. That is right on the money for a durable trailbike. The suspension delivers four inches of travel on both ends, and the fork is included with the Maverick kit. The following is a breakdown of the M-7 chassis key features:
Integrated shock: Fox racing makes the M-7s shock which is bolted in two places to form the forward member of its triangulated swingarm. Because the shock is integrated into the rear frame, it is called a strut. Inside the Fox strut is a conventional hydraulic damper and coil spring arrangement. There is an external rebound clicker on the left side with six positions. A Schreader air valve on the shock eliminates the need to replace or preload the coil spring to accommodate heavier riders or different riding styles. The air helper spring is an intelligent way to fine tune the strut.
One link does everything: The heart of Turners new suspension is called the Monolink. This hollow piece of magnesium houses the bottom bracket and connects the front section of the frame to the lower end of the swingarm, The Monolink acts like an upside-down swing link. The casting pivots on sealed ball bearings and incorporates a mount for Shimano’s E-type front derailleur and a trick-looking cable guide.
Bowed seat tube: Maverick bends the M-7s seat tube to make room for the Fox strut, and to angle the seat post so it will lengthen the bikes effective top tube measurement as the saddle is raised. The upper strut pivots on a beautiful cast-aluminum boss welded behind the seat tube.
No cantilevers here: There are provisions for disc brakes only on the M-7–on the left side of its rear triangle and up front on its RockShox Psylo fork. Our test bike used Hayes hydraulic stoppers.
Custom valving: The 100mm-stroke Psylo fork has a Paul Turner designed damper valve that increases the low-speed compression forces to prevent it from bobbing under hard pedaling–and to prevent it from diving when the front brake is applied. The M-7s extensive owners manual notes that the Mavericks suspension is targeted towards experienced trail riders and is supposed to feel firm.
Sag-o-meter: A measured amount of rear suspension sag is recommended by Maverick to insure that the suspension will remain steady under power. Although the owner’s manual encourages you to experiment with suspension settings, a gauge is included to help you set the sag accurately.
HOW OUR M-7 WAS EQUIPPED
The Monolink M-7 is available in kit form from Maverick American. The Kit includes the revalved, 2002 RockShox Psylo fork; a Cane Creek integrated headset; Shimano’s E-type front derailleur; and a goodie bag with an owners manual signed by Paul Turner, a shock pump, the sag gauge, spare decals, a cool aluminum seat post quick release clamp, some Maverick-label socks and beanie, and a certificate of authenticity. The rest is up to you.
Our M-7 was built up in a conservative fashion. Its drivetrain and transmission was all Shimano XTR. Its wheels used IRC backcountry knobbies (2.1-inch) and Mavic 519 rims on Hugi disc brake hubs. The brakes were Hayes latest lightweight hydraulic discs with composite lever blades. The roomy cockpit had a Thomson seat post; a comfortable Bassano Baxter saddle; and an Easton Ea70 stem (10-degree/110mm), and Monkey Lite CT-2 composite riser handlebar.
HOW THE MAVERICK RIDES Smooth is the word that comes to mind when you first pedal the Maverick across a stretch of uneven dirt. It rides silently and purposefully and it performs this feat at virtually any speed. The rear suspension feels too soft in the parking lot, but once underway, you wont even know its there. The rear suspension remains supple at any speed, and the stable-handling frame compliments this trait. You sit down and steer through the woods, and save your powers of concentration for truly technical sections.
For better or worse, the stiffer-than-normal valving of its RockShox Psylo fork creates some negative cornering traits in exchange for bob-free performance. Unless you take care to weight the front end, it will constantly hunt for traction instead of holding a line around flat fireroad corners. Because the tail end of the bike follows the front wheel very precisely, any foolishness caused by the indecisive front wheel will be mimicked by the rear tire. The solution is to keep your body forward on the M-7 and corner with a considerable amount of conviction. Once learned, this technique makes the Maverick very trustworthy through the turns.
While ascending, or anytime you accelerate the Maverick, you are greeted by a firm-feeling, flex-free chassis that delivers on Paul Turners no-bob boasts. Because the cranks are attached to the Monolink, part of your weight is uncoupled from the rear suspension when you rise out of the saddle for an attack. This, and the fact that the rear suspension lengthens as it compresses over a bump, eliminates any tendency for the rear end to settle when you mash on the the pedals.
Maverick designed the M-7 to be the consummate trailbike. Its relaxed geometry and four inches of suspension means that you wont get that feeling of instant acceleration with every touch of the pedals that racer boys crave. Instead, the Maverick accelerates smoothly, its tires hook up on almost any surface, and you get an efficient transfer of power through the entire chassis. You may not win your next cross-country race aboard the M-7, but youll finish your next epic with power to spare.
Where the M-7 really gives its best effort is when you are descending rocky singletrack trails with a decent head of steam. Here, the constant-wheelbase function of the Monolink suspension, its disc brakes, and forgiving frame angles work together to eliminate much of the steering input and minor judgments that most mountain bikes require. You just point the Maverick toward some distant point and bunk, bunk, bunk, down the rough stuff until the next corner arrives. The fork, which feels over damped in compression at low speeds, sucks up huge hits easily when pressed at a slightly higher pace. The rear suspension is most impressive. We never felt it run out of travel and it was able to soften the widest range of bashes and braking ripples of any design we?ve ridden in recent memory.
WHAT DIDN?T STRIKE OUR FANCY
The first negative experience with the M-7 ended up as a positive one: the lower Monolink bearings developed an excessive amount of play after only a few hours of riding. A thorough check revealed that the pivots threaded adjustment had loosened. It was easily tightened from the left side with a 15mm pedal wrench and the same eight-millimeter Allen key that fits the Shimano crank arm bolt.
The second problem that arose was never fixed correctly. The E-type Shimano front derailleur is held in position by a flexible carbon fiber plate that is fixed by the bottom bracket flange and a single screw that fits into a boss on the Monolink, The Monolinks threads stripped out and left us with a wobbly derailleur within two hours riding time. Drilling it out and replacing the threaded part with a bolt and nut secured the derailleur, but the boss itself was not aligned properly with the crankset. As a result, the tail of the XTR derailleur’s cage angled inwards and thus, never delivered the pro-level performance that we have come to expect from the best front changer ever made.
MBA?S LAST WORD ABOUT THE M-7
Maverick American’s literature touts that the M-7 has old-school geometry. No better phrase could describe the way this dual-suspension trailbike handles. It takes some getting used to to wring out the best aspects of its performance, but once you make friends with it, you?ll find it tough to beat. It cruises through the woods like it was born there, and gives you the confidence to ride sections when your inner voice strongly recommends walking. Its a chassis that is made to last a lifetime, and its suspension components are made by a couple of companies that should be around at least that long. The M-7 is produced in a limited quantity. If this seems like your next riding partner, give Maverick a buzz and get on the program before they sell out.
MAVERICK M-7 BY THE NUMBERS WHAT YOU GET FOR $3589
FRAME KIT: Includes M-7 chassis; integrated Cane Creek headset; 2002 RockShox Psylo fork with M-bits damping; Shimano E-type XTR derailleur and QR seat clamp.
REAR SUSPENSION: Monolink semi-active suspension; Fox coil/hydraulic strut with six-position rebound clicker and air-assist spring (four-inch rear wheel travel).
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