|Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
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I’m a Brooklyn Machine Works junkie. Since 2000 I’ve owned some type of Brooklyn, be it the TMX or the Big Link. You can see me in countless photos and in videos loving life aboard my trusty BMW. The Race Link is my latest and greatest, a frame that has evolved into a masterpiece.
It seems the BMW Hype has died down a bit. A few years back, BMW built big, heavy steel machines that cost an arm and a leg. These beasts would simply mow down nasty terrain. Moto inspired suspension links, a double chain, jack shaft system and floating disc brake, took the bicycle industry by surprise. Appealing as this very functional technology may seem, the bikes were not race friendly. Brooklyn had something to prove with the Race Link. The new kid on the block is far cry from the old BMW’s. The Race can be built in the 46lb range.
Brooklyn Machine Works takes pride in what they build. Each frame is hand made with 4130 steel, with meticulous care. The frame kit includes custom profile cranks (reverse arms, 170mm), a floating disc brake arm and an integrated chain guide. Brooklyn builds their frames and suspension links around a custom tuned Avalanche DHS remote rear shock. Other brand shocks are not recommended. Unlike most race frames, expect more than one season from the Race Link and Avy rear shock.
At first I was weary of the 67 degree head angle. I felt it was too steep and would cause the bike to handle poorly. I was very wrong. The Race Link is stable and the head angle is much appreciated through tight flat turns. Brooklyn lengthens the wheel base to counter the steeper than usual head angle. The bike is long; it hardly fit in my pickup bed. A long wheel base is amazing on the trail, but makes manuals a chore. The bike is not easy to wheelie. BMW offers three drop outs to choose from. I opted for the longer wheel base version. You can order others that will shorten the wheel base a bit.
My bottom bracket measured in at 14 5/8 high with a Boxxer Tall crown. This is a nice safe height and inspires confidence through rock gardens, (a welcome relief after riding bikes with 13.5” high B.B.’s). I only grazed one pedal on a rock at Diablo Freeride Park. I rotated my cranks on the eccentric B.B. shell in the forwards position. This seemed a better position then stock. The Profile chain ring is a mile off the ground thanks to the Jack Shaft system. No need for a bash guard. You’re a lame-o if you hit it.
All this B.S. aside, how does it ride? Fast! It’s actually the fastest bike I have ridden! The Jack Shaft totally eliminates pedal induced feed back. No bike will ever pedal as well as the Race Link! The bike does not deflect. It rides straight through anything. I feel a slacker, lower design would handle better through high speed, and super steep trails. BMW has solutions for riders like me. Links can be swapped, just as Moto X riders do to change geometry. The stock geometry is perfect for ninety percent of East Coast Trails.
Any negatives? Not for myself, but the bike will not fit tall riders. The Race Link frame is sized on the small side. You’re in luck if you’re 5’5”- 5’11”. Anyone taller will have issues. BMW should offer a larger size for taller riders. Shimano fans will have to glue a heavy piece of rubber to the up side of the rear derailleur. Shimano’s bang the under side of the swing arm, Srams are OK. The noise is obnoxious and a shame since the bike will ride in total silence with the problem solved. The suggested retail for a frame with a steel spindle and spring is $3600.00. This may seem expensive, but the frame comes with high end, choice components in kit form. Aligning chain lines and setting up chain guides is the most difficult technical job when building a DH rig. Brooklyn frames come preset for you. This should cut down on the cost for labor. I built my bike including the rear wheel in a half hour! Buy a spare set of Profile reverse crank arms. And keep an eye on the rear hub 12mm axel nut. With no pinch bolts, the axel bolt comes loose in one day.
The first (getting extremely played out) question people ask me is “how much does it weigh?” They assume anything plastered with Brooklyn stickers is a tank. The Race link is a new breed of Brooklyn, very different than the “Super Trucker”. This frame has evolved with the times and is easy to maneuver and bring up to speed. Most importantly, it’s a ton of fun to ride. Maybe “ton” was the wrong word to use? The BMW stereotype for building indestructible beasts may hurt sales for the Race Link. The guys who build these bikes are faced with a dilemma. This is their only full suspension bike available as of now. This bike is not built for flat bottom landings. Maniacs in the park, keep your eyes peeled for the new “Hit Man”.
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