The Session

The DH Project

The Story

Originally the plan was to buy a new 2013 Trek Session 88 but unfortunately Trek was sold out of them by mid-March. So the next plan was to look for either a used 2012 Session 88 or look for a deal on a used/new frameset. After a long and exciting search we found a good deal on a 2012 Session 9.9 frameset thanks to A Culture of Speed. Besides, you can’t go wrong with carbon fiber. The frameset included a Fox DHX RC4 shock with a 450# spring. This will eventually need to be swapped out to a 400# spring to better suit rider weight. The Session 9.9 rear shocks all came with the Kashima coating, so that is nice to have as well.

So, let the build begin. Currently the plan is to have this built by the end of July ’13. We’ll see how that goes. The first two components are Saint Crankset and a cSixx chain guide/bash guard. We all know the Saints are built very well. They are not the lightest out there but they will withstand whatever you can throw at them. The Session uses an 83mm Bottom Bracket and we opted for the 165mm crank arm length with a 36T chain ring.

As for the chain guide, we wanted something good, strong and not as common. And again, you can’t go wrong with carbon fiber either. cSixx is out of South Africa and they make some excellent products. I couldn’t find much first hand experience with them but the few reviews I could find were all excellent. One Ghost Industries is the U.S. distributor and located out of Portland, OR. We originally ordered the wrong type (ISCG-05 instead of ISCG-03) but the customer service over there is above and beyond and they took care of us. Thanks guys!

I know this isn’t technically part of the bike itself but it deserves to be talked about. We just received a Kali Avatar full-face with their Freaky graphics. This isn’t their carbon version but it might as well be at 849g. This thing is LIGHT! One of the most important parts of a helmet is the fit, and everyone’s noggin is different. Luckily, it fits perfect. And again, the fact that it is so light.. just makes it that much more comfortable. They’ve put a lot of attention to detail in this, and it shows.

Next up is to install a headset. This caused a lot of confusion because we kept hearing different stories on whether the headset cups were pressed in or bonded to the frame since the Session 9.9 is carbon. Unfortunately, some were sure it was bonded, others were sure it was pressed in. It can only be one or the other though. We finally got some insight from a current Session 9.9 user that knew from experience that the headset cups were in fact pressed in. Which is great news since we had a Chris King headset awaiting install and wouldn’t work with the current cups since they are Cane Creek. The old cups came right out and the new CK went right in. There is no front fork yet so the remaining headset pieces are just sitting in place.

It’s July 10th and we are finally receiving more parts with more already ordered and currently in transit. First up we have a Shimano Ultegra C6700 11-25T cassette. Nothing special or out of the ordinary here but still a needed part. Stock gearing on the Session 9.9 has an 11-25T so we figured that’d be a good starting point. We feel this model is also a nice balance between strength and weight and will do its job just fine.

Next up we have Hope Floating rotors with red carriers. Now, these weren’t originally the plan for rotors, we wanted to go with the new Shimano RT-99 Ice Tech rotors with the cooling fins. However, they only make them in a centerlock mount and not the more common 6-bolt which made them not compatible with our hubs. We chose the Hope floating rotors partially based off of looks. In the mountain bike industry it has been said that the “floating” option isn’t noticeable. Whether or not they really are, only time will tell. But either way they are strong enough to do their job. For now we opted for a 203mm front and a 180/3mm rear which is the stock setup on a Session. After testing we will determine whether we want to bump up the rear to a 203mm as well, which would only require a simple spacer (and of course a new 203mm rotor).

Lastly for this update we have tires. It was an easy choice for us that we wanted to run Maxxis, which are pretty much a standard in DH tires. That’s not to discount other manufacturers, as there are others out there with great tires and great customer feedback, but sometimes you just stick with what you know. We will be starting out with a Dhf front and a High Roller II rear. There are a lot of great combo’s with Maxxis tires and personally we haven’t tried this exact match but are excited to see how they perform. We will be running the 26×2.5 2-ply DH casings with Super Tacky Compound on front and rear.

Other parts already ordered that haven’t arrived yet are the wheelset (being built), front fork, chain, stem, handlebar and grips. Getting closer and it will soon start to look like an actual bike.

We now have part of the front-end controls (handlebars/grips/stem). For grips we chose the Odi Ruffian grips; they are thin, have good grip and come in a variety of fun colors, perfect! Although, everybody is different in what they like. We chose the blue just to add a little offset to the black/white/red scheme that everything currently is.

The stem – A lot of direct mount stems out there and for the most part it seems like they all have good customer feedback. So, with that being said, we just picked a fairly light stem that we liked the looks of and ended up with the Answer DH direct mount stem. It’s light, strong and looks like it’ll stay nice and supportive to the beating it’s going to receive.

On to the handlebars…was pretty stoked to open the box on this guy. The Enve DH Carbon bar, what a beautiful bar, so stiff and light, really can’t wait to use it. First we need to thank Zen Cyclery on going above and beyond to get this for us. Those guys are great and definitely took care of us. BTW, good luck finding this bar right now, seems like they are sold out Everywhere for the foreseeable future. This bar is 800mm wide with markings on each end to cut it down evenly. We aren’t sure what width we will end up with but for now it is uncut until we do some experimenting. Hopefully the fork will be here any day now and we can start putting things together more.

I can’t believe how close this is becoming to completion. The wheelset has arrived and looks amazing. I can’t thank the guys at Obsession Bikes enough, especially Lou! Located in North Vancouver, BC, they definitely went out of their way to take care of us up here in AK. Mavic EX823 rims on Chris King hubs (the new 157×12) laced with DT Comp spokes, and of course Maxxis tires…we know this set is going to be bomber. We’ve chosen to run this as a tubeless setup, added some Stan’s sealant and air using a compressor and everything seated nicely.

Pedals from Canfield Brothers just showed up. We ended up with the Crampon Ultimates (non-magnesium) version in Red, these are super thin and have good width to them. Haven’t ever tried them yet but have heard a lot of great things about them. We’ll put them to the test soon.

Our last piece has finally arrive, the 2014 Fox 40 Float 26 FIT RC2 fork. We were very patient and waited months for this, as it was on backorder for quite some time. We couldn’t thank Goldstream Sports enough for all their help getting this to us. Now that it was finally here, we cut the steerer tube to the height we needed, cut the hydraulic brake hoses to clean up the slack as well as the shifter cable/housing, bled the brakes, cut the seatpost, and finally we have a complete bike.

The fork alone is over a pound lighter than “last years” 2013 fork and now uses an air spring vice a coil spring. We’ll still need to do some testing and dial in the suspension but for now, the bike is officially 100% complete!

Thanks to everyone that helped with this project, the season is unfortunately coming to an end but there is still time. Besides, there is always next year!

[Final Completion 9/13/2013]




Trek Session 9.9 Carbon - Large

Front Suspension

Fox 40 Float FIT RC2 w/ Kashima

Rear Suspension

Fox DHX RC4 w/ Kashima



Mavic EX823, Chris King Hubs


Maxxis Minions, DHF & High Roller II



Shimano Saint M820

Rear Derailleur

Shimano Saint Shadow M820


Shimano Saint M825 36T, 165mm arms


Shimano Ultegra 6700 11-25T





Deity Pinner


Thomson Masterpiece


ENVE DH Carbon bars - 800mm


Answer DH Direct Mount


Chris King tapered - Red


Shimano Saint M820

Brake Rotors

Hope Floating Rotors w/ Red carrier, 203mm

Chain Guide

cSixx 175gh

A clean cockpit is always a plus and the custom length brake lines really clean it up. 

ENVE | ODI | Fox | Answer | Shimano

cSixx makes the best bash rings out there in our opinion! And of course it's Kevlar reinforced Carbon Fiber.

cSixx | KMC | Shimano | Canfield

Trek Session 9.9 Carbon Fiber frame and linkage supported by a Fox DHX rear shock.

It's obvious this frame will take a beating.

Shimano close range cassette, we went for the 11-25T which will be sufficient for our DH needs.

We aren't pedaling up anything with this bike that's for sure.

Fox DHX RC4 rear shock

We settled on a 400# spring for our rider weights. Now we're excited to dial it in.

Hope Floating 203mm rotors are the rotors of choice on all our builds. They just work well, look great and come in all sizes and fun colors.

Kali Avatar helmet - "Freaky" Graphics

Ok we know this isn't a part of the bike but Kali did such a great job with this we had to show it. It's not carbon but lighter than most carbon helmets out there!!!

Carbon Fiber 1-piece EVO link

This solid piece of carbon is very well made, the fit is perfect.

Our complete custom wheelset ready to take a beating.

Maxxis | Mavic | Chris King | Hope | Shimano

Chris King tapered headset in Red.

As with all King headsets and what they are known for, this will outlast the bike and then some. Ready for smoothness for years to come.

Trek Session 9.9 - Complete Build

It was definitely a fun build, we didn't cut any corners and had a good balance of strength over weight but still came in around 32 lbs and we are very pleased with that!

Back pic of the gearing, it won't stay this clean for long...or actually ever.

Everything is shifting perfect, fast and smooth and we love the sound of the CK hubs.

HooDoo Cup