By Joshua Stamper. Photos by Extreme Photography Unlimited.
If your abhor mountain bikes with garish logos and loud colors, the stealthy good looks of the carbon fiber 29er Broadaxe from Foundry Cycles comes as a breath of fresh air. But don’t let the plain matte look fool you — there is much performance underneath its understated exterior.
This test bike came equipped with a capable SRAM X9/XO 2×10 drivetrain and sports all the new, whiz-bang features like 142mm rear thru-axle, PF92 bottom bracket, internal cable routing, tapered steerer, 15mm front thru-axle, and the new SRAM Type-2 XO rear derailleur with a clutch that virtually eliminated chain slap. All that technology is going to set you back about $3,750.
At 5’ 10” I usually fall into the medium frame size territory, but end up running up about 350mm of seat post due to my long legs. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have gotten a large frame and run a slightly shorter stem. Why? Only the Large and X-Large Broadaxe frames have 2 water bottle mounts. The Medium and Small frame sizes only got one due to a compact front triangle and a slightly bent seat tube.
The Broadaxe geometry is in line with most similarly spec’ed 29er hardtails. With a 71.5-degree headtube this bike has snappy handling that, once mastered, will have you looking down trail before you are even out of the corner. However, the downside of the snappy handling was the increased incidence of pedal strike as I uncovered the bike’s subtle handling over our first 200 miles together.
I found the new iteration of the Rock Shox SID fork to be a good fit for this bike, and really liked the simplicity of the new Solo Air spring. I was a little skeptical about what the addition of a 12mm rear thru-axle could add to a hardtail. Cue the music; I am a believer. The rear thru-axle really ties the rear end together, and feels so precise as you lean the bike over to carry speed through the corners.
Carbon fiber hardtails are too often slapped with the “cross-country race” label, and while the Broadaxe is most certainly a race-worthy bike, it is not prone to some of the shortcomings that plague everyday use of “race bikes”.
I appreciated the balance that was struck between the pursuit of stiffness/efficiency and a ride that did not leave me feeling beat up. I have found it to be very capable in local XC races, and was fresh enough to go back out for the 7th lap at the end of a 6-hour race (after a beer hand up and a pickle).