After years of fits and starts the final wall holding back the flood of 27.5 trail bikes broke, as more than a dozen manufacturers brought new or redesigned models to market. One was something of an unlikely source: Breezer. Yes, Joe Breeze was a key player in the birth of mountain biking but in the past decade his brand had been largely devoted to practical city bikes and some 29er hardtails.
So I wasn’t the only one surprised when Breezer skipped past short-travel XC bikes and went all-in with the unveiling of a 160mm, 27.5 bike aimed squarely at big-mountain and enduro riding. And what moniker would grace such a groundbreaking design for the brand? None other than Repack, named for the world’s first downhill race that plunged 1,300 feet down a dirt road in Fairfax, California, in the late 1970s.
Mountain bike technology has obviously changed quite a bit since those Repack races, and a bike deserving of such a label would surely be deserving of something cutting edge. Breezer partnered with the Sotto Group, the design firm that created the Yeti Switch Link design, among others. Dubbed Mlink, the new design, exclusive to Breezer, places the lower pivot in the middle of the chainstay, rather than near the front like most mini-link designs or at the rear like a Horst-link. While they have their advantages, a pivot near the rear prevents the swingarm from being built into a large, triangulated structure, while a mini link near the bottom bracket can sometimes be overwhelmed with the twisting forces of the large swingarm. According to Breezer, the “mid-link” creates two strong substructures with less flex. The large, sealed bearing in the pivot rotates only three degrees through the bike’s entire 160mm of travel, resulting in less bearing wear and stiction.
That takes care of the rear end of the Repack, but the front triangle is packing some interesting touches as well. Joe Breeze has been designing bikes since 1974, so he has some ideas about how he wants them to handle. Bigger wheels and higher axles keep the rider in a “valley of control” between them, but the longer wheelbase is a tradeoff. Breeze chose to keep the front and rear center as short as possible to keep the Repack agile.
The other key factor is the head tube angle. While many brands (and consumers) and pursuing ever-slacker geometry, Breezer has bucked the trend with a conservative 68-degree head tube angle, when when paired with the 160mm Fox Float 34 FIT CTD fork. The thinking is the “steeper” angle optimizes the bike’s trail for less lean for a given radius turn and keeps the front center from stretching too far.
The frame also features all the modern goodies like oversized aluminum axles and bearings, ISCG-05 tabs, post-mount brakes, tapered head tube, direct-mount front derailleur, and a BB92 press fit bottom bracket shell. The top-spec Team model pictured here retails for $4,399. Less expensive Pro and Expert models are also available.
Ok, so that’s the engineering behind the Repack, but how does it ride? Pretty much just as advertised. The Repack has incredible traction and a supple feel over small bumps, similar to a Horst-link. And when paired to the Fox Float Boost Valve rear shock, a simple flick of the CTD lever can tighten things up for a more aggressive ride. The steering is quick and agile, and while it might give up some stability at super-high speeds, it more than makes up for it with its ability to carve through the twisties.
I’ve been having a blast on the Repack so far and I’m really impressed with the Mlink design. Stay tuned for a long-term review as well as an interview with its creator, Joe Breeze, in a special commemorative 25th Anniversary issue of Dirt Rag in Issue #176.