Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Kona Process 153


Kona Process 153-1

Tester: Justin Steiner
Age: 33, Height: 5’7″, Weight: 165 lbs., Inseam: 31”
Bike price: $5,000
Sizes: M, (tested) L, XL

Kona first launched the Process lineup in 2013 for the 2014 model year. Since then, we’ve reviewed and revered both the 29 inch Process 111 (issue #178) and the 27.5 inch Process 134 (issue #184). Based on those positive experiences, I was stoked to see what the Process 153 has to offer.

Where the Process 111 and 134 target the trail category, the 153 presents a burlier option for riders on the enduro and all-mountain end of the spectrum. Suspension travel is 153 mm at the rear wheel, damped by a Monarch Plus RC3. A 160 mm RockShox Pike holds down the fort up front.

Kona Process 153-4

When the Process bikes were announced, they were on the bleeding edge of the longer, lower and slacker new-school geometry movement we’ve seen gain traction in the years since. As geometry trends progress, the once-extreme geometry of the Process bikes now largely represents the new normal. In no way is that a bad thing though, the market has largely just caught up to the Process bikes in the three years since their introduction. That said, Kona will be subtly revising the Process’ geometry for the 2017 model year.

In this day and age of making everything out of carbon fiber, the Process bikes represent a bit of an outlier in terms of their aluminum construction. Though this move doesn’t necessarily make for a terribly light bike, I’m always impressed by how well aluminum bikes, particularly those with aluminum rims, communicate what’s happening at the tires’ contact patches. I’m not 100 percent certain why that is, but here’s my theory: Without the inherent vibration damping qualities of carbon, the sensory connection simply feels more direct.

Kona Process 153-7

As you might expect, this DL model checks the proper boxes with solid parts spec all around. The SRAM X1/X01 drivetrain provides reliable locomotion and ample gearing range for most situations. In mountain country, I’d likely drop down from the 32-tooth chainring to a 30-tooth ‘ring to provide a slightly easier gearing range.

For years, Shimano brakes represented the gold standard in terms of reliable braking, but the latest generation XT and XTR brakes have been a little bit of a hiccup for the company. We have word that Shimano has recently fixed the issues once and for all, but the brakes on this bike exhibit the migrating engagement point that we’ve noted on a handful of brake sets. This, however, should not be an issue on future Process models.

The KS Lev Integra dropper post operated flawlessly through the test period, and I really dig the ergonomics of the company’s Southpaw remote. The other notable parts spec is WTB’s new Asym i35 rims front and rear. These wide (35 mm internal width) rims provided an awesomely stable platform for the 2.3 inch Minion DHF tires. The rim’s asymmetrical design also goes a long way toward equalizing spoke tension.

Kona Process 153-3

Speaking of wheels, it’s worth noting that the Process line was launched before 148 mm hub spacing was anything more than a twinkle in an engineer’s eye. So no 148 mm spacing or plus tire compatibility here.

The 153’s head tube angle clocks in at 66.5 degrees, the bottom bracket sits 13.4 inches off the deck and the wheelbase measures a rangy 45.7 inches, despite short 16.7 inch chainstays. The resulting 29 inch front center measurement provides a lot of stability at speed and in steep terrain. The steep-ish 74 degree seat tube angle and long top tube yield a 17.1 inch reach on my medium test bike, which provides a weight forward climbing position that helps to keep the front wheel down and tracking up hill.

Even though my maiden voyage aboard the Process occurred on unfamiliar trails, I was immediately comfortable on the bike, and it quickly encouraged exploring the limits. Like most bikes in this category, the Process is a very capable machine. The long front center provides stability that belies the 66.5 degree headtube angle, making it feel as though it were slacker, but without the slow-speed wheel fl op that comes along with slacker angles. The front end stability is nicely balanced by the responsiveness of the short chainstays, which whip nicely around corners and greatly ease lofting the front wheel.

Kona Process 153-5

The Process’ suspension performance was impressive. The rear suspension is stable and well-damped under pedaling forces, but remains responsive to small bumps while pedaling. Pointed down hill that same sense of chassis stability remains, but small and large bumps are dispatched with equal aptitude.

As you’d expect from the folks at Kona, the Process also handles big hits without breaking a sweat. The spring rate ramps up nicely to fend off bottom out without the rider even noticing. The travel o-ring indicated that I had used full travel, but I never felt a noticeable bottom out.

Kona Process 153-2

Regardless of the type of trails I was riding, the Process felt balanced and composed in all situations, from fast and rowdy descents in Pisgah National Forest to smooth and flowing trails in central Michigan. It never felt like overkill on the trail or left me wanting more capability. Sure, it may be overkill for tame trails, but even in those settings, the Process encourages you to hit the optional lines. When the going gets rowdy, the Process 153 really shines.

All in all, the Process 153 offers an impressive balance of capability and versatility. Whether it is your only bike, or the enduro bike of your quiver, it makes a compelling case for itself.

Kona Process 153 Details

  • Reach: 17.1”
  • Stack: 23.5”
  • Top Tube: 23.7”
  • Head Tube: 66.5°
  • Seat Tube: 74°
  • BB Height: 13.4”
  • Chainstays: 16.7”
  • Wheelbase: 45.7”
  • Weight: 30.0 lbs. (with 29” wheels) w/o pedals
  • Specs based on size tested
  • More info: Kona Process lineup

 

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Review: Santa Cruz Hightower CC


Hightower-1

Tester: Eric McKeegan
Age: 42 Height: 5’11”, Weight: 160 lbs., Inseam: 32”
Price: $2,899 frame; complete bikes from $4,599; $6,499 (tested)
Sizes: M, L (tested), XL 
More info: Santa Cruz Bicycles

Photos: Gary Perkin

Santa Cruz was very late to the 29er ballgame, but came out swinging with the Tallboy. That was soon followed by the Tallboy LT, a longer travel 29er aimed at the growing big wheel trail bike market. The LT was well-liked but quickly became dated as 29er trail bike geometry evolved and was quietly discontinued by Santa Cruz.

The Hightower is the entirely new replacement for the retired LT, and as such, deserved a new name. Hightower refers not to the guy from the “Police Academy” movies, but to the Santa Cruz demo guy Eric Highlander. Honestly, either one would have worked for me.

Hightower-4

The Bike

Other than sharing the same rear travel, 135 mm, the Hightower is entirely new. Taking a page from the Nomad, Bronson and 5010, the Hightower is a thoroughly modern trail bike. There are huge changes from the LT with geometry, starting with a head angle almost 3 degrees slacker, a seat tube angle 1.5 degrees steeper, reach growing 1.5 inches, and chainstays three-quarters of an inch shorter. Even the bottom bracket drops a quarter inch.

Hightower-5

What makes it even more modern is a frame design that allows enough clearance for 29 or 27plus wheels. To keep geometry mostly consistent (two-tenths of a degree) between the wheel sizes, Santa Cruz provides a small flip-chip and a 10 mm longer travel fork to change the geometry when swapping in the slightly shorter 27plus wheels.

Hightower-3

Unfortunately, one of the stock Rock-Shox Pike’s few shortcomings is the need to swap air spring shafts to adjust travel, so the only easy way to make the swap are a pair of forks in 140 mm for 29 and 150 mm for 27plus. Easy for a spoiled magazine guy, but a serious expense when added to the cost of a second set of wheels/tires/rotors/cassette.

Much like the Nomad, there are no plans for a aluminum frame, but there are two levels of carbon frame, the CC which is about 230 grams lighter than the cheaper C version. Stiffness is equal between the two, but only the CC is available as a frame only.

Hightower-6

Also like the Nomad, you can forget the front derailleur. With the recent release of even wider range single-ring drivetrains this is less of a problem. I spent my time on a 1×11 with a 30 tooth ring and 10-42 cassette and just once in a while dreamed of those new 50 tooth cogs.

The Ride

My first rides on this bike were in Chile for a dry run of the Rally of Aysen Patagonia. Santa Cruz invited a group of international bike media-types to see what was up with the Rally and to launch the Hightower.

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

We covered a lot of varied riding, in fact, probably the most diverse terrain and conditions I’ve ever experienced during a media event. From steep and loose natural trails to long grinds on the dirt roads so prevalent in southern Chile, the Hightower showed itself to be immensely capable. The third generation VPP mini-link suspension is nothing short of refined. Seated pedalling is without a hint of bob, and it was only on the smoothest of trails or under the most spazmatic of pedaling efforts that I wanted to dial in any platform on the rear shock.

On the other end of things, the 135 mm of travel has the magical combination of bottomless travel and wallow-free feel. Compared to some of its direct competitors like the Trek Remedy 29 or Specialized Stumpy 29, the Hightower isn’t quite as plush feeling, but that is a trade-off I’m more than willing to make for suspension that rarely needs a platform and communicates the trail so well to the rider without feeling harsh.

Aysen, Patagonia, Hightower, 29er, SCB,

The up-to-date geometry only felt out of place in the slowest and tightest of terrain, where the front wheel could take some effort to keep it pointed where I wanted. Anything above walking speed isn’t an issue.

I experimented with the 29er wheels with the bike in the 27plus setting, and found the higher BB and slightly steeper angles to be very usable on local trails, and maybe even more fun. It also reduced pedal strikes, which happen with some regularity with the bottom bracket at standard height. In fact, in every single other situation, the Hightower felt very much in control and on top of things. Think James Bond with wheels and a carbon frame, and you might be getting close the personality of this bike.

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 22 January during the fourth day of the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

While I think wheel size choice is going to come down to a combination of rider skill/style and local terrain, I preferred this bike as a 29er. It was awesome as a plus bike, but I was very much into the way this bike ate up miles as a 29er, rolling along like a cross-country race bike (with 850 gram aggressive tires), but attacking descents like a Nomad’s older and more mature brother. Interestingly enough, the 27plus configuration is slightly lighter than the 29er with similar parts, and there is no price difference between the 29er and 27plus options.

This bike is going to make a lot of riders happy. As is often the case with high performance bikes, that performance doesn’t come cheap. I have to give a lot of credit to Santa Cruz for parts spec; even on the “entry-level” bike, all the parts are shreddable right out of the box. Really, the build kits on all the Hightowers are stellar, from the 150 mm Reverb to the single chainring SRAM drivetrains and tubeless tires, this stuff just works with little fanfare and no complaint. There is an ENVE wheel upgrade for $2,000. Personally, I’d save that cash, buy the 27plus bike with the 150 mm fork and a set of 29er wheels.

Hightower-2

The Lowdown

I wouldn’t be afraid of taking this bike anywhere. B.C. Bike Race with some extra days afterwards to ride more trails in Squamish and Whistler? Yes! Fart around on the local trails with your crew? YES!

A day at the bike park? YES!

Pisgah? All day, every day, YES!

To put it simply, this is one of the best mountain bikes I’ve ever ridden. It just does it all, does it well, and keeps doing it with a minimum of fuss. Santa Cruz has a whole stable of very good trail bikes, but the Hightower might be the one horse for almost any course.

Details

27plus/29 wheels

  • Reach: 17.6/17.7”
  • Stack: 24.2/24.1”
  • Top Tube: 24.2/24.1”
  • Head Tube: 66.8/67°
  • Seat Tube: 74.1/74.3°
  • BB Height: 13.2/13.3”
  • Chainstays: 17.1/17.1”
  • Weight: 27.3 lbs. (with 29” wheels) w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)

 

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Review: Advocate Cycles Hayduke


Hayduke-1

Tester: Adam Newman
Age: 35, Height: 6’2”, Weight: 180 lbs., Inseam: 34”
Price: $750 (frame). Complete bikes from $2,699
Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
More info: Advocate Cycles

The Hayduke is named for the infamous anti-hero of “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” Edward Abbey’s 1975 cult classic novel of radical environmentalism (and sabotage) in the wild American West. George Hayduke was a master of crippling the heavy equipment that built roads and dams on land he considered sacred, but he had no qualms about tossing an endless stream of empty beer cans out the window of his dusty Jeep.

Like George, the bike from the new brand Advocate Cycles has something of a split personality itself, in that customers can configure it with 29 inch wheels or 27plus. Thanks to its replaceable dropout design, it can also fit standard 142 mm thru-axle hubs or 148 mm Boost hubs. There’s even a singlespeed option with either hub spacing. Each is an entirely separate design, however, so the geared dropouts can’t be called into singlespeed mode the way some rocker or sliding dropouts can.

The steel frame is fairly straightforward in its construction, with Reynolds 725 tubing joining a 44 mm headtube, a BB92 bottom bracket shell and internal dropper post routing. One downside to the Hayduke is its weight— a full 7 pounds for the size large frame we tested. As pictured it spun the scale past the 32 pound mark.

Hayduke-5

The Hayduke has no trouble holding its own against other trail hardtails on the market these days. While I would normally go straight for an XL, I was actually glad I ended up on a large. The reach is still plenty long enough to keep the front wheel far out front, where I like it, while the slightly smaller stature helped it feel more responsive than it might have with a longer wheelbase. Because my saddle was also extended higher, and thus farther back, it also moved my weight slightly rearward, and helped make lifting the front end effortless. The 16.9 inch chainstays didn’t hurt either.

Just like Hayduke’s Jeep, this bike can tackle a little bit of everything— trail or no trail—and help you escape over the next mountain pass. It works well for a mix of uses beyond traditional mountain biking, veering into bikepacking and light-duty fat biking on sand or snow.

Hayduke-6

The extra weight will always be a drawback for 27plus compared to a standard 29-inch platform, and almost all of that weight is rotating mass in the wheels and tires. I think it does hold the Hayduke back if your goal is to go top speed all the time, but the versatility earned by those big tires more than makes up for it. The fore-aft traction is downright remarkable, and despite the weight I found it to be very capable on low-speed, techy climbs. The plus platform floats over holes that would typically catch your tire and kill your momentum or buck your behind off the saddle. The added surface area on the ground improves braking, but it’s not true that the big tires act as a suspension— this is still a hardtail through and through.

The truly unique thing about the brand, and thus its name, is that Advocate Cycles has pledged to donate 100 percent of its profits back to bicycle advocacy. Incorporated in Minnesota as a Specific Benefit Corporation, it has a legally binding social purpose in addition to its business ventures, and customers can give input on which of the organizations they would like to support. So far Advocate Cycles has partnered with IMBA, PeopleForBikes, the Adventure Cycling Association, Bicycles for Humanity and NICA.

Advocate Cycles are available through your local bike shop, but if you can’t find one in your area, give them a call and they will get you set up.

The build you see here isn’t a stock setup, but rather a mix of new and existing components as part of our Project 27plus test. Read our introduction to the bike here.

Hayduke-2

Wheels

Thanks to its own in-house design and manufacturing in North Carolina, Industry Nine was one of the first brands out of the gate with Boost compatible hubs. Its Torch Classic hubs use traditional J-bend spokes and spin on a six-pawl driver with 120 points of engagement. Do a little math and you’ll see that’s a nearly instantaneous three degrees of engagement.

The hubs are laced to WTB’s Scraper rims, the first “plus” rim designed for a 2.8 to 3 inch tire, with all the advantages of the TCS tubeless system. It’s a double-wall rim with a massive 45 mm internal width to help spread the plus tires out wide. For this project I’ve been running the WTB Bridgers.

Hayduke-4

Brakes

Hayes started with a clean-slate design for the Radar brakes, moving away from DOT fluid to a more user-friendly mineral oil fluid it calls Venom. They have a long lever arm that has plenty of room for two-finger braking, but can also be adjusted fore and aft for perfect single-finger fit.

If you’re a Brit or just prefer moto style, you can easily flip them upside-down and run them backwards. At the other end of the line, the calipers use Hayes’ Crosshair design that lets you micro-adjust their placement on the post mounts for drag-free operation.

Built for an entry-to-mid-level market, they have linear braking power but lack the sheer stopping force of some of the competition. Aside from a little squeal in the wet they performed great throughout the test, and sometimes reliability is more important than outright performance.

Hayduke-3

Cockpit

With such a big front wheel to wrangle I grabbed a pair of Easton’s Haven carbon handlebars with a 35 mm clamp and a manageable 750 mm width. Combined with the big tires the carbon bars absorbed any sort of hard knock or buzz traveling to my hands. With nine degrees of sweep and a modest 20 mm rise they felt great right away.

At the ends are the Primergo Jet ergonomic cork grips from Herrman’s. Though they are designed for city bike users, I found their modest size to be comfortable without being hard to handle when I’m constantly adjusting my position. They have a single locking bolt and offer plenty of grip in the wet.

Suspension

Up front is the new Manitou Magnum, designed specifically for “plus” bikes; it’s available in both 27plus and 29plus versions, and this is the Pro version with adjustable high and low speed compression as well as rebound and bottom-out. Watch for an in-depth review in an upcoming issue.

Details

  • Reach: 18.0”
  • Stack: 24.7”
  • Top Tube: 24.8”
  • Head Tube: 68.5º
  • Seat Tube: 73º
  • BB height: 12.4”
  • Chainstays: 16.9”
  • Wheelbase: 44.9”
  • Weight: 32.2 lbs. w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)

 

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Review: Charge Cooker 4


Choice-Cuts-620x

This is our third annual roundup of trail bikes that aren’t priced to the stratosphere. We could call them affordable, budget, real-world, blue-collar or college-fund-friendly, but someone would take offense at our assumption of disposable income level. It doesn’t really matter though. These are great bikes for the price, and we’ll leave it up to you about what to spend. Each bike was hand picked, not just for its price, but its components, geometry and modern features. From Issue #189.

Get an overview of all of the bikes in this test, here, and keep an eye out for full reviews of each.

Charge Cooker-2

Tester: Jon Pratt
Age: 45, Height: 5’10.5”, Weight: 190 lbs. Inseam: 31” 
Price: $2,400
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large (tested)

One could argue that the Cooker 4 from Charge Bikes is possibly the most mundane, simple bike in our bike roundup, and I don’t say that in a negative tone. I dig simplicity. Designed around the increasingly popular 27plus wheel size, the Cooker is your basic aluminum hardtail. Not meant to be a hot rod hardtail, but more of the cross-country/adventure bike that can handle most scenarios.

Charge Cooker-4

Look past the larger tires and you find most of the regular bits you would expect. There is a solid 100 mm travel Rock Shox Reba fork to keep the trail chatter to a minimum, a smooth 1×11 SRAM GX drivetrain to keep you moving and powerful Shimano SLX brakes to stop you from running over your buddy at the bottom of the hill. Everything here seems right as rain, but there’s a cloud with that silver lining.

Before I delve into some of my ride impressions, there are a few things I need to get off my chest about the Cooker. In the ever-expanding landscape of plus sized bikes, I find it puzzling that Charge hung their hat on the old 135 mm QR rear spacing. Without the extra clearance afforded by Boost 148, you won’t be able to just grab any old 27plus tire off the shelf and expect it to fit. While the Cooker ships with an adequate 2.8 inch WTB Trailblazer, several newer 3 inch tires I tried would not work without some amount of rub on the chainstays, especially when the stays flexed during pedaling and cornering. This is an oversight that could possibly limit the future upgradeability of the Cooker.

Charge Cooker-3

Even more puzzling to me is that the bike comes with a 110 Boost RockShox Reba. I guess it’s OK to go big in the front, but there’s no junk happening in this trunk. And let’s not get me started on that 27.2 mm seatpost. Whew, that was painful, but now it’s over—on to the riding bits.

Because there was adequate space in the fork, I was able to swap the less-than-ideal-in-wet-and-loose-conditions Trailblazer for a 3 inch WTB Trail Boss. With the new rubber crisply leading the way, the bike felt lively but direct. This was especially noticeable during some long, bermy sections where the low-pressure Trail Boss really allowed me to pick my line and stick to it, while the back of the bike followed a bit of its own path but maintained an essence of control. Always fun roosting those turns!

Charge Cooker-5

Even with the moderately steep 70 degree head tube angle, the Cooker was surprisingly capable on the more technical sections of trails. The larger tire diameter and low pressure had a lot to do with the bike’s ability to absorb repeated impacts and maintain control. Areas where I’ve taken similarly designed cross-country bikes and wished for a better rig, didn’t feel so out of bounds on the Cooker.

After a few outings the more-upright-than-I’m-used-to cockpit felt a little less foreign to me, and the bike started to grow on me. That upright posture, headtube angle and stiff rear end made climbing a breeze. The front of the bike didn’t wander around in the least, and the transfer of power to the rear wheel was as perfect as one would expect on a hardtail. The gravity-assisted treks back down the hills weren’t too shabby either. The Reba married to the big rubber gave me the confidence to plow through some ugly lines at pretty decent speeds.

Charge Cooker-1

The Cooker is definitely set up to tackle most things you’ll run into on your next adventure. To wrap it all up—I have a hard time coming to terms with this bike. It was fun to ride and was a good match for most of what Charge designed it for, but its long-term usefulness is limited due to tire clearance issues.

If you are looking for a cross-country oriented hardtail and wanted to try the plus sized thing, this could be a decent choice. Anyone who is well-versed in modern trail bike geometry is going to have bit of a tough go loving this one. I’ve been told there are some additions to the Cooker lineup coming in 2017, perhaps we’ll see a more trail-oriented hardtail in the future.

Pluses

  • Hardtail simplicity
  • No crazy paint or stickers
  • Big tires and wide rims

Minuses

  • 135 mm rear spacing
  • No dropper post
  • More slack would be more better

Details

  • Wheelbase: 44.9”
  • Top Tube: 24.5”
  • Head Angle: 70°
  • Seat-Tube Angle: 73.5°
  • Bottom Bracket: 12.4”
  • Rear Center: 17.1”
  • Weight: 29 lbs. w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)

 

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Review: Devinci Hendrix RS


Choice-Cuts-620x

This is our third annual roundup of trail bikes that aren’t priced to the stratosphere. We could call them affordable, budget, real-world, blue-collar or college-fund-friendly, but someone would take offense at our assumption of disposable income level. It doesn’t really matter though. These are great bikes for the price, and we’ll leave it up to you about what to spend. Each bike was hand picked, not just for its price, but its components, geometry and modern features. From Issue #189.

Get an overview of all of the bikes in this test, here, and keep an eye out for full reviews of each.


Devinci Hendrix RS-2

Tester: Stephen Haynes
Age: 38, Height: 5’11”, Weight: 200 lbs., Inseam: 30”
Price: $2,999
Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL

From our neighbors to the north comes the Devinci Hendrix, an aluminum trail bike that’s been specifically designed around the 27plus platform. The good folks at Devinci wanted to make an all-around trail bike for the budding enthusiast that would offer a good amount of travel, well-appointed components and lots of traction in a reasonably priced package. Did they succeed? Let’s find out.

The long and low geometry of the Hendrix makes for fun descending, and the Split Pivot suspension system is what makes it pedal and brake so consistently. Honestly. I don’t really understand much of the suspension linkage stuff and am happy to continue thinking it’s endowed with some sort of magic.

Devinci Hendrix RS-5

There is also an Axis & FRG (I’m pretty sure that stands for Fucking Really Great) adjustable linkage, which allows for both HI and LO settings so you can rake out the front end even more. Canadians are brilliant. Probably because they don’t spend all their time obsessing about guns.

The plus-sized tires allow for a more forgiving ride and give the rider more confidence when moving through dicey terrain. The Maxxis Chronicles mated to V2 Comp’s Wide DB rims (both of which are tubeless ready) make for a seriously generous footprint, and while I’d like to say this combination performed flawlessly across the board, I can’t.

Devinci Hendrix RS-1

Moving through serious rocks and roots at speed is where the 27plus x 3 inch Chronicles are most at home. Hell, pedaling up, over and through anything in dry to semi-moist conditions is pretty well received. The one problem is in mud and wet in general. I went down a few times after packing the treads up with mud. It seems counterintuitive to have a largish tire go out from underneath you on something relatively benign, but I think the large surface area starts to fl oat, rather than bite, in those instances, causing the slip ’n slide to happen with greater effect. Swapping for a more aggressively treaded tire will manage the problem and not diminish the returns from the rest of the bike.

The Hendrix employs a 1×11 drivetrain comprised of a 30 tooth ring on a Race Face Aeffect SL crankset and a 10-42 SRAM cassette, making most everything manageable, even for me. Oh, and the 780 mm V2 Pro Riserbar lends a hand in the leverage department, just make sure you’re on the clock when negotiating chutes or forests with tightly packed trees. Or wear gauntlets.

Devinci Hendrix RS-4

Once you crest the hill, or mountain, or street or whatever and decide you are, in fact, NOT going to vomit, you can bask in the gloriously unchained glow that is pointing the Hendrix downhill. Like other plus-size rides I’ve had the pleasure of throwing a leg over, the Hendrix loves this part. Like a brisket hound at a BBQ, the bike shrugs off roots, rocks and other trail detritus like so much cornbread and coleslaw, intent only on the shortest line between two points.

The bike’s long and low stance, wide bars, 110 mm Rock Shox Monarch R rear shock and 120 mm RockShox Reba, in collaboration with the aforementioned fast rolling wheels, feel like an unfair advantage in the “eating up terrain” department. The Devinci Hendrix is a great bike and a worthy investment, hands down. It’s fun as hell and would be a terrific first “real” bike for the novice looking to take the next step toward full-on aficionado.

Devinci Hendrix RS-3

Pluses

  • Frame and fork are compatible with 29 inch wheels
  • Well-appointed components
  • Wide rims support the wide tires

Minuses

  • No dropper post (Would kick it up over $3k, and is an easy addition)
  • Only one color choice (I’m an art dork)
  • Maxxis Chronicles aren’t a great all-around tire

Details

  • Wheelbase: 46.2/46.1”
  • Top Tube: 23.7/23.6”
  • Head Angle: 67.3/67.7°
  • Seat-Tube Angle: 74.8/75.2°
  • Bottom Bracket: 12.8/13.1”
  • Rear Center: 17.1/17”
  • Weight: 32.0lbs. w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)

 

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Review: Polygon Collosus N8


Polygon-1

Tester: Justin Steiner | Height: 5’7” | Weight: 165 lbs. | Insteam: 31”

Bike sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL | Price: $4,899

Polygon is a name much more well known outside the United States. Unless you follow World Cup DH racing, where you’ve surely seen Tracey and Mick Hannah rocking Polygon’s Collosus DHX race bike, you might not be terribly familiar with the brand. Polygon is working to increase awareness now that they’re distributing bikes consumer direct within the United States.

The Collosus N-series bikes target all-mountain and enduro riders with a carbon frame and swingarm providing 160 mm of rear travel paired with a 160 mm-travel fork. Polygon’s FS3 suspension system is a dual-link design that mounts the Fox Float X shock in a floating fashion between the upper and lower linkages.

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The 2015 model year N8 being reviewed here retails for $4,899 plus shipping while the 2016 model will retail for $4,699. At this asking price you get a nice parts package that includes a Shimano XT 2×10 drivetrain and brakes (XT 1×11 drivetrain for 2016), Spank Oozy 27.5-inch wheels and a Fox 34 TALAS with CTD remote (Fox 36 TALAS for 2016).

It took me a little while to warm up to the Collosus. Mostly due to the laid-back 72-degree seat tube angle that yields a more rearward weight bias and behind-the-pedals riding position compared to new-school offerings like Kona’s Process line and Santa Cruz’s recent releases. Once acclimated, things began to fall into place.

While certainly not steep, the Collosus’ 66.3-degree headtube angle is on the steeper end for a bike in this category. Those angles combined with a 23.2-inch top tube on a medium result in a front center over an inch shorter than a Nomad. Another big influence on feel and handling is the bike’s tall 14.2-inch bottom bracket, which is approaching a full inch taller than the Nomad and a whopping 1.5 inches taller than the Guerrilla Gravity Megatrail I was also riding at the time (in gravity mode).

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Combined with the short-ish 17-inch chainstays, the Polygon is quicker and more neutral in its handling than many of the other bikes in this category. On non-aggressive trail rides, this neutral handling was a boon. In the bike park, it felt lively and snappy, but the tall bottom bracket hindered cornering. At race-pace during a particularly gnarly enduro, I could envision yearning for more stability.

With the rear suspension set to 30 percent sag, the Collosus offered supple small-bump compliance. On trail rides, I often ran the bike in the shock’s Trail mode to provide additional mid-stroke support. In Descend mode it often ventured further into the mid-stroke a bit more than I prefer. In stock form the rear suspension felt a little too linear in some big-hit situations. Hard-charging and heavier riders may want to experiment with adding an air volume spacer to the Float X.

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One letdown to an otherwise solid package is the previous generation Fox 34 fork. Its damping and stiffness were simply not able to keep pace. For me, the bike really came alive after swapping in SR Suntour’s redesigned Durolux fork. The Fox 36 fork spec’d on the 2016 model will be a big improvement.

A second issue involves the rear swingarm, which doesn’t offer a ton of tire clearance and isn’t the stiffest I’ve ridden. Where does the Collosus fit in the market? There’s a lot of competition at this price point. If you’re a fan of bikes with long front centers and up-over-the-pedals-riding positions, the Collosus is not for you.

Ultimately, I feel this bike is best suited for folks looking for a long-travel bike that offers quicker handling and more rearward weight bias. If you’re the type of rider that likes big travel, but not necessarily longand- low shred sleds, the Collosus is right up your alley.

  • Wheelbase: 44.9″
  • Top Tube: 23.2″
  • Head Angle: 66.3°
  • Seat-Tube Angle: 72º
  • Bottom Bracket: 14.2″
  • Rear Center: 17″
  • Weight: 30.2 lbs. w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)

 

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First Impression: Charge Bikes Cooker 4


Ed’s Note: This bike is part of our annual, sub-$3,000 bike test where the Dirt Rag staff spends significant time aboard less-expensive but fully capable offerings that we’d seriously consider buying ourselves. The final review will be out early 2016 in issue #189. Subscribe today so you don’t miss it!


Price: $2,400

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Charge Bikes’ Cooker 4 is a 27.5plus entry in our sub-$3,000 bike group test. The Cooker features an all-aluminum frame, a RockShox Reba RL Boost fork, 1×11 SRAM GX drivetrain, a 725 mm RaceFace Evolve handlebar, Shimano SLX brakes and WTB 2.8″ Trailblazer tires riding on 40 mm wide rims.

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The chainstays provide just enough clearance for the 2.8-inch WTB Trailblazers, and I’m wondering how much more rubber can fit in there. 40 mm rims provide a nice wide platform so that the tires don’t look out of place or too round, and I haven’t had any problems since I set them up tubeless.

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Because it was designed in Great Britain, I felt is was appropriate to take the bike out and give it a good mud bath. Like peanut butter and jelly, some things are just meant to go together.

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So far the Cooker has been a worthy companion. The combination of the Reba and large tires make line choices through roots and rocks a bit less important, and the bike seems to roll nicely through most conditions and trail surfaces. I haven’t perceived much of a weight penalty from the extra rubber, and the geometry feels spot on. I’m looking forward to getting a good bit more time with my new buddy so I can bring you a complete review, out in January.

 

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