Dirt Rag reviews...
   Mi Vida Loca!! 26-inch wheel cruiser

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Thursday Bicycles Mi Vida Loca

Rider: Jay DeJesus
Height: 6' O'
Weight: 195lbs.
Inseam: 34"

Simply complicated:

Throughout the process of unpacking this bike and assembling it, to showing up with it at the BMX trails, those two words pop up every time I think about the Thursday Mi Vida Loca. If categorized, would this bike fall under singlespeed, MTB, BMX, cruiser, urban assault or racer-thrasher? Simply ripping across town while cranking power wheelies out of corners and blasting kicked-out air off lawns displays its BMX roots, while swooping carves through the Fairmont Park singletrack reminds me that any and all two-wheelers are versatile. On dirt or not, ripping around comers feels righteous. Stomp the gear with your whole body while climbing or spin it out like a monkey while sprinting-no gears and it's clear. Simply complicated indeed!

This bike taps into so many facets of my riding style and past that it boggles my mind, yet it produces the same old two-wheeled feeling; light sweat on the brow, a groove in the heart and the elation of flight. Whether carving grand lines back and forth across the road on the way to drop off the Studdifords' (of Two Fish Unlimited) kids at school, or descending the Manayunk Wall in the dark on the way to the bar after the Philly singlespeed rally, the feeling is the same... this bike defies classification!

What School?

The set-up of this bike was pure class. From the really old school Shimano high flange hubs, real SE Racing Landing Gear forks (design unchanged from the '70s, for good reason) to the current 180mm Profile tubular chromoly cranks, low-rise BMX bars and lightweight and fast rolling WTB tires and rims-this thing spans several genres of bike culture. The overall low-slung look of the frameset resembles the classic SE Racing OM Flyer (the original BMX race cruiser) with its lines, but with superb up-to-date geometry. A quick geometry eye-up with my brother's very original '70s OM Flyer frame confirms the obvious-this thing transcends roots so far back it's scary. Frame construction of the Mi Vida Loca is pretty clean and definitely race oriented: a big top tube and seat tube (both 1 1/4'), bigger down-tube (I 3/8'), all made of thin-walled Reynolds 525 chromoly, with beefy straight-gauge 4130 aircraft chromoly 3/4" seatstays and 7/8' chainstays that have nicely capped ends. The stays have minimal bends, and the chainstays feature a slight S-bend for crank clearance. Having such a short rear-end length coupled with large diameter chainstays can create clearance problems with both the rear tire and the front chainring. Jon Norstog (of Thursday Bicycles) attains chainring clearance by slicing out a portion of the drive side chainstay and capping the area with a piece of thin-wall plate-very tidy and effective, similar to a Brooklyn Machine Works' notched chainstay. As well, it features an American (BMX-sized) bottom bracket shell and an intelligently gusseted headtube for strength and rigidity-stiff, yet racer-light weight.

With the aforementioned tidy head tube gusset, a reinforced head cup area and minimalistic flair, the overall appearance is clean and sturdy. The sleek horizontal dropouts and light tubes really enhance the light and real deal steel feel (especially whipping the rear end around whilst airborne).

The smooth tube junctures might cause you to think that the frame is fillet brazed; it's actually oxyacetylene welded, a process that Norstog claims is stronger than brazing and possibly even TIG welding (though I never got to research the claim). He must be a good machinist-all the joints were clean and the alignment really good, all of which contributes to a sweet ride. Sadly, all of this handcrafted steel 'keep it real' passion of a steel frame builder and feedback from the ride seems to be somewhat lost in this day of CNC-aluminum-cookie-cutter mass-produced assemblies with flashy graphics. Anyone with an ounce of soul would run their fingers over the elegant Thursday tube junctures at the bottom bracket and simply smile. It is a precious thing to be able to create form like this by hand, and truly gratifying to create something as dynamic as enough BB flex to snap you out of a corner with a big fat grin, yet be stiff enough for incredible acceleration.

The cross-town line I have been riding has been the same since I was eight years old; tight alley corners, curb jumps, traffic sprints and the like. First impression-this thing accelerates like a 20' BMX bike. Secondly, with the short rear end, it corners like one, as well. Thirdly, with only one brake (rear) it stops like one, too (which is much unlike a regular mountain bike with TWO brakes, let alone discs).

To the jumps, and much further is revealed. The geometry is modern all the way. The longish front end makes for good power and acceleration. That, combined with a steep head angle, short rear and relatively low bottom bracket, creates a bike that can carve turns at speed with precision and not push the front end, given that you would ride it in an aggressive stance. The steering is really fast, with very little input required to change direction, especially with the Landing Gear fork. It nose-dives jumps and manuals really well (mainly due to my balance and phenomenal rear wheel control). Whipping through jump/turn combinations, you can feel dynamics of sweet steel. Damn, this bike is fun!

After ripping through the Fairmont Park singletrack during the 'Less Gears More Beers Single Speed Rally," I found myself in a simple parking lot with a little 10" transition in the comer. That's when it all came together for me. I would coast at the lip and wheelie-tum off of it, drift around and coast on the rear wheel while dangling way off the back of the bike in a controlled, 270 degree manual loop right out into the bustling Philadelphia street. Sweet!

So what? So, it accelerates like a top fuel dragster, jumps and carves so sweet and mild, is very light and nimble; race-light stout and race-bred fast. I rode it the most without a front brake; if you do, you'll begin to realize how dependent you are on the front brake. Throw on a short travel suspension fork if you don't fancy a rigid one, and you'll still carve the night crazy. It is at home on the mountain bike trails, BMX track, city streets, whatever. You will find yourself wanting to sprint on it, dive into comers, skid into the alleyways, and race everyone in sight. Its roots show through when you step on it, ride aggressively and throw it around. And isn't that the most fun?

Fine print

The Mi Vida Loca geometry is pure race: 72' head angle, 71' seat angle and a short 16" chainstay length. The Landing Gear Fork features only 1 1/2 inches of offset (modern day forks are more like 2 1/2) and they are, of course, of non-suspension specific height, which enhances the quick handling of the frame. Slap on a suspension fork (I would recommend a 80mm travel fork maximum) to slow it down a little and not beat you up so much in the rough.

Though still on a per-order basis, the frameset will run you $350. Builder Jon Norstog can build it custom depending on your weight, height and riding style. Jon is an accomplished BMX racer, ranked National #10 in his age group in ABA BMX racing. In his words, he 'designs to the function and the rider,' which is evident in the ride quality of the Mi Vida Loca. His passion bleeds through into his creation.

Dirt Rag no. 100