S&M’s Challenger

Snap November, 1998

New & Improved For 1999

Text: Marty Wendt
Photos: Keith Mulligan

Presenting the New Challenger
When S&M set out to build a new race bike, they did it right. The 1999 Challenger is completely redesigned from the ground up. The two main people responsible for the design are S&M Bikes owner, Chris Moeller, and S&M Bikes AA Pro, Timmy Strelecki. Two guys who can dice in the pro class and bust out at the trails. With Sheep Hills practically in S&M’s back yard, it was where they tested their prototypes, and where we tested the production model.

Built Tough
At $399 for the frame and fork, this bike is not cheap. It’s part of a small, but growing breed of frames that is designed not primarily for racing or jumping, but rather as a dual-sport machine. The Challenger was designed to hold its own in all dirt applications, and it does. Our test bike came with Pitchforks because the new Challenger forks were not ready yet, however the only difference between the two is a thinner steer tube and different dropouts on the Challenger fork.

Would You Like To Super-Size That?
There are two sizes available, XL and XXL, which weigh in at 4.95 lb. (XL) and 5.05 lb. (XXL), The Challenger is not heavy for what it is designed to do.

Prototyping
The Challenger spent around seven months in the development stages, and while S&M was itching to release this bike, they wanted it done right. It’s a good sign when companies are willing to put time and effort into the design of a bike.

How It Rode
Despite the fact that Josh spent an awful lot of time sampling dirt when we started the test, you can see by the photos that he eventually got into it pretty well. He got through rhythm sections with huge superman seat-grabs, went big over a hip transfer, and could put the power on without unwanted flex. Josh is used to a fairly heavy jumping bike, so the Challenger felt a little too light for him at first. Remember that our test bike did not have Challenger bars and forks, but rather the heavier Slam bars and Pitchforks. You can expect an even lighter package if you choose to set one of these up with Challenger parts. Remember that while the Challenger isn’t the lightest among race bikes, it’s very reasonable for a dual-sport.

Final Thoughts
If you are looking for a trail-tough bike that’s light enough for competitive racing, this may be your ride. While $399 is not cheap, it is what good quality frames cost these days. The ’99 Challenger looks to be built with legendary S&M quality, and should take you to tracks and trails well into the next millennium.

Timmy Strelecki On The New Challenger

We caught up with S&M AA Pro Timmy Strelecki to get some feedback on the ’99 Challenger. Here’s what he had to say:

How much input did you have in the design of the new Challenger?
When I first got on S&M, Chris (Moeller) gave me a Holmes to ride. I rode that for a while and then we started talking about what we wanted to do (for a re-designed Challenger),¿I told him that I liked the geometry of the Holmes. Chris would come up with some ideas, and I would say, “Yeah, that sounds good,” so we came out with two or three (prototypes) before the final design. He wanted me to ride them for a while so I could tell him if there were any things I didn’t like, or if there was anything that needed to be changed. It was pretty much a partnership.
Was the bike redesigned from the ground up?
Yeah, it’s totally different. This one is a lot stronger than the old Challenger. We put a wishbone on the bottom (sort of like the Next Generation wishbone), gave it some new dropouts, and capped the ends of the rear triangle tubes. We wanted it to be a smooth looking, clean bike¿nothing crazy. Now-a-days, simple is thhe way to go. The rear end is all .035″ tubing, the front end is .049″. It will be available in XL, which is what I ride, and XXL. You’ll also be able to get it with 990’s or cantilevers. I probably had a dozen people asking me if it was going to be available with 990’s, so I ran it by Chris and he was down for it. This bike is sturdy enough to where you can ride it at the trails, race it, or do whatever you want on it.
What are your three favorite things about the frame?

I really like the wishbone on the bottom. It’s a different look, and it’s really stiff. The frame looks really good too, and most importantly, it rides good. I’ve never had a problem with it¿it rides incredible.
So you’re happy with the way the bike turned out?
Oh, I love it! I couldn’t be more satisfied. Even just knowing that I had input into the frame, it makes it even more special. I’m totally psyched to be associated with Chris and with S&M. It’s a good team. And you know Chris, he’s never made anything that’s bad. All his parts, all his accessories and frames¿they’re all great. I think people will like it because it is a plain and simple chromoly bike. There is nothing crazy about it, and I think simple (but functional) sells.

1999 S&M Challenger XL
Price, Specs & Info:

Frame & Fork Price: $399
Handlebar Price: $60
Stem Price: $60
Pedal Price: $30
Frame Material: American 4130 chromoly
Fork Material: American 4130 chromoly
Finishes Available (Frame): Chrome, or powdercoated white, yellow, black
Finishes Available (Fork): Chrome
Frame Weight: 5 lb.
Fork Weight: 2 lb. 7 oz.
Head Tube Length: 4″
Head Tube Angle: 73.5°
Seat Tube Angle: 71°
Seat Tube Inside Diameter: 25.4mm
Seat Tube Outside Diameter: 28.6mm
Steerer Tube Size: 1-1/8″
Top Tube Length: 21″
Top Tube Outer Diameter: 1-3/8″
Down Tube Outer Diameter: 1-1/2″
Fork Leg Outer Diameter: 1-1/4″
Bottom Bracket Height: 12″
Chainstay Length: 15-3/8″
Chainstay Outer Diameter: 7/8″
Wheelbase: 37-1/2″-39-1/4″
Warranty: One year limited warranty against manufacturing defects.
For More Info Contact: S&M Bikes, Inc., 1300 S. Lyon Street, Santa Ana, CA 92705. Phone: (714) 835-3400. Fax: (714) 835-5020