By Karl Rosengarth
Photos by Adam Newman and Justin Steiner
Foundry Cycles is the newest brand living under the Quality Bicycle Products (QBP) umbrella. QBP is the Minnesota-based bicycle and parts purveyor that also offers the well-known Salsa and Surly brands, among others. Foundry "Foreman" Jason Grantz recently stopped by Dirt Rag HQ and gave us the Foundry backstory. He also dropped off a sample of the Router, their first mountain bike offering, which I had the opportunity to test ride over the course of four days. Dirt Rag is the first media outlet to swing a leg over this bad boy.
But before I get to the riding, allow me to set the stage. Grantz told me that the idea behind Foundry Cycles is to offer high-quality, dependable bikes that resonate with the no-nonsense mindset that folks from the Rust Belt are know for. Hence the Foundry moniker.
Foundry is not shooting for rock bottom pricing, because that would require cutting corners on frame manufacturing, and/or substituting cheaper components. Conversely, their philosophy is to offer a solid, reliable bike that’s outfitted with top-notch components. They aim to appeal to the consumer that views a bike as a long-term investment. Somebody who understands that the best value is not always the product with the lowest price tag.
I’ll have to admit that launching such a brand with a carbon fiber lineup (consisting of a carbon fiber 29er hardtail, cyclocross and road bike) had me scratching my head at first. However, Grantz informed me that aluminum mountain bikes are in the works for the 2013 model year, including an interesting-sounding full-suspension design that I’m not allowed to tell you any more about.
Plus, Foundry sweated the details on the carbon fiber frames to assure that the product lives up to the brand’s hard-working ethos. Foundry hired a third-party quality-control lab to work with their carbon fiber sub-contractor and assure that everything is tight and right. In addition to destructive testing sample frames from each manufacturing batch, the QC lab audits the manufacturing process, including the raw materials supply chain.
The bottom line is that Foundry stands behind their carbon frames with a 10-year warranty. Generally speaking, manufacturing defects show up a lot sooner than 10 years, so that should give customers peace of mind. Foundry also offer a "30 percent off retail" crash replacement policy for and non-warranty failures caused by extraordinary trauma. You know, ’cause shit happens.
About the bike
So thats the Foundry story. Let’s talk about the bike now. The Router is a 29er carbon-fiber hardtail that was designed to be stiff and fast, with racy handling and just a hint of rear-end compliance. The Router sports steep (racy) 72/74 degree head/seat angles. The 439mm chainstays are about as short as you’ll find on most 29ers these days. There are several visual clues to the emphasis on frame stiffness: tapered head tube, large bottom bracket yoke with BB30, angular tubeset and chainstays (non-circular cross-sections).
Available in S, M (tested) L and XL sizes, the claimed frame weight is a feathery 937 grams (medium). The Router comes in three versions, all of them dressed in the same understated black/grey. The $4,999 B1 sports an SRAM XX kit, the $3,500 B2 (tested) comes outfitted with a 2×10 SRAM X9 kit, and the $2,900 B3 rocks X7 goodies.
My medium B2 sample weighed in at 24.4 lbs (without pedals). In addition to the full X9 treatment, the build kit included a 100mm RockShox Reba RLT 29 with 15mm thru-axle, NoTubes Arch rims laced to X9 hubs, a Cane Creek 40-series headset, and Continental X-King 2.2" tires. Solid, name-brand components all around, with no sneaky substitutions.
I had the chance to rock four rides atop the Router before we had to part ways. On my first ride I dialed in the shock and swapped a few stem spacers to get into a happy place. At that point I felt very comfortable on the bike. The Router was one of those bikes that I immediately felt synced-up with.
Right off the bat I noticed the Router’s quick handling, which was expected considering the bike’s 72 degree head tube angle. The bike was totally flickable through the tight, technical trails that I rode. In the close quarters, the Router mimicked 26er handling. The handling is very well suited for singletracky woods riding found in the my region of the US (Western Pennsylvania). To be sure, a quick bike like the Router will demand your full attention at all times. The sports-car handling is not suited for those who prefer to daydream while tooling along the trails.
I was a bit surprised at the confidence that Router inspired when carving higher-speed sweepers. Yeah, it felt quick, but never crossed the line into twitchy territory. Not that Pittsburgh’s rolling terrain provides the open, fast and steep riding that folks out west (in serious mountains) encounter. I typically prefer slacker angles for what I’d call "western" conditions. Grantz pointed out that the press fit headest on the Router will accept a Cane Creek AngleSet, which would give the rider the ability to tweak the head angle and slacken the bike, if and when desired.
As advertised, the Router proved to have a very stiff chassis. Stomp on the pedals and it’s go time! Even at 100 percent effort—climbing out of the saddle, honking on the bars, and mashing the pedals—I couldn’t feel any frame flex. I never felt the frame twisting around during hard cornering. The rear end felt very stiff both laterally and vertically. I couldn’t feel any appreciable vertical compliance—whatever’s present is very minimal.
All in all, I had a great time on the Router. This is a sporty bike that begs to be ridden hard. If you’re a racer, or somebody that prefers bikes on snappy side, then I think you’ll appreciate the Router’s handling and flex-free frame. Router framesets should be available in January 2012, with complete bikes on dealer floors sometime in March.
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