For 2017, Kona has updated its full-suspension, cross-country Hei Hei with two 29er models in carbon: the DL and Race DL.
Kona increased bike stiffness and dropped the weight by giving the two-bike line full carbon frames weighing 1800 grams (just under 4 pounds). Kona’s own Fuse Independent Suspension—a design that eliminates a pivot at the chainstay seatstay—is now lighter and stiffer. The geometry continues to have a low-slung frame weight and good standover, highlighted by a rider fit that incorporates a short stem, long front center and compact rear triangle.
Both bikes feature Boost spacing and stealth dropper post routing. The Hei Hei Race DL was developed on World Cup XC courses. While the Hei Hei DL was built on the same carbon frame, it gets more travel up front (120 mm vs. 100 mm), a dropper post, chunkier tires and a more aggressive cockpit.
We have already been rolling on the Race DL for about a month and will bring you a full review in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Start by reading our initial impressions of the bike for more details (spoiler: we like it).
The Hei Hei DL is currently available in North America, while the Race DL will follow in August. Both models are currently available in the EU and UK.
Not to be outdone by big brother, Juliana announced an updated Joplin to coincide with the new Santa Cruz Tallboy (since they’re basically the same bike). The new Joplin shares a frame with the Tallboy, but comes with a lighter suspension tune designed to offer a plusher ride to lighter-weight riders. The suspension promises to be better over small bumps, resist bottoming out and offer a more consistent, smooth feel through the suspension’s travel.
Updates over the previous version include a lower standover height, slacker head angle, longer reach, shorter chainstays, shorter seat tube and steeper seat tube angle.
Travel gets bumped from 100 to 110 mm via the stiffer Fox 34 fork. Grippier Maxxis tires (29 x 2.3 or 27.5 x 2.8) and a dropper post round out the further trail-bike-ification of the Joplin. A women’s-specific saddle, smaller grips and an “ultraviolet” paint job are also included. Juliana specifically said it will not call the bike “Purple Rain.” Shame.
The frame retails for $2,899. Complete builds are as follows: SRAM XX1 ($7,799), SRAM XO1 ($6,499). Get down to your local Santa Cruz/Juliana dealer to check one out, as they should be available soon, if not right now.
Tester: Emily Walley | Height: 5’4” | Weight: 110 pounds | Insteam: 29.5”
Originally published in Issue #189
As women’s mountain bike options continue to evolve, it can be difficult to find the ideal bike for your skill level as well as your wallet. If you are a new rider, with undetermined commitment, the options seem expensive and few. Options for an intermediate to advanced rider are plentiful, but with so many variables—weight, versatility, travel, wheel size, cost and appearance—how do you choose?
These bikes from Juliana and Norco are similar at first glance, but almost $3,000 separates them.
The 130 mm Furtado and the 120 mm Fluid 7 Forma share their frames with the respective companies’ men’s (or, maybe more correctly, “gender neutral”) models, but are women’s bikes due to “female-friendly” components, such as thinner grips, women’s saddles and different color palettes. I’m often drawn to the gender-neutral frame aesthetics, but I appreciate that Juliana and Norco have opted for solid brights and minimal graphics. The Fluid Forma and Furtado, each provide a clean aesthetic and a feminine feel, without going overboard.
“Forma” is Norco’s designation for women’s-specific. The Fluid 7 Forma shares the frame and suspension design with Norco’s Fluid 7. The company’s Fluid line is available for the whole family, offering frames with 20, 24, 26 and 27.5 inch wheels. According to Norco’s marketing and communications supervisor, Sarah Moore, “The Fluid is intended for a rider who wants a capable trail bike, but has a limited budget. This could be the multi-sport athlete, or someone just getting into riding who isn’t ready to commit to a carbon bike.”
The Furtado shares the frame design with the Santa Cruz 5010 and is available in six builds. Juliana uses two different levels of carbon in its frames, a heavier C and a top-tier CC carbon. This allows the company to offer a less-expensive frame while adding a little over a half-pound of frame weight. (Read the full details of the Furtado’s 2016 redesign here.)
There’s nearly a 2.5 pound difference between the C-level Furtado and the Fluid Forma, weighing in at 27.7 and 30.1 pounds, respectively. While the weight difference is significant, the Furtado and the Forma both have short, 16.7 inch chainstays giving them a lightness beyond hard numbers. It’s great to see an industry-wide push toward shorter chainstays as it makes lofting the front wheel much easier, particularly for shorter riders.
The Fluid Forma is equipped with a RockShox Recon Silver fork and RockShox Monarch RL shock, which both have two positions: open and lockout. Due to a very supportive platform I don’t feel the need to lock out the suspension while off-road. The Furtado has a RockShox Pike RC and a Fox Float shock. While I tend to keep the fork’s compression in the open position, I find myself switching the rear shock from descend to trail on lengthy flat sections and climbs.
The Furtado’s suspension has been tuned to provide a higher initial leverage ratio and a flatter curve overall. The plush initial stroke feels supple on smaller rocks and roots. Both the Fluid Forma and the Furtado have an up-over-the-pedals riding position and a firm pedaling platform that excels for climbing and powering through flat terrain.
The Fluid Forma’s low 22/36 gear ratio offers ample range for climbing steep ascents, but its climbing prowess in technical terrain is hindered by a lack of traction, mostly the fault of the tires. The small, closely spaced tread of the Forma’s WTB Bee Line tires makes them ideal for dry and hard-packed conditions. While they have a good rolling speed, they weren’t suited to the rooty, damp trail conditions I ride.
While the Furtado’s SRAM 10-42 tooth cassette doesn’t offer the range of the Fluid Forma, the 1×11 SRAM setup hits the sweet spot and simplifies shifting. If needed, the Race Face 32 tooth chainring can be swapped to meet the needs of your terrain. Gearing was rarely the limiting factor in my ability to clean climbs. Short of long, steep ascents gearing will likely not be an issue.
The Furtado’s Maxxis Minion DHR II front tire grabs anything in its path, be it wet, loose or otherwise, and the Maxxis Ardent rear has significantly more traction than the Bee Line tires for climbing. I love the downhills, and while I didn’t feel uncomfortable descending on the Fluid Forma, its lack of traction, steeper headtube angle and lack of a dropper post had me holding back.
On the flip side, the Furtado comes across as such a capable descender that it made me feel like a slouch. It wasn’t just traction that had me cheering when the Furtado pointed downhill. Slightly wider bars, 760 versus 740 mm, a slacker head tube angle, 67 versus 68.5 degrees, and 125 mm dropper post provided an increased sense of stability, capability and maneuverability.
Outright braking power comes into play here as well, as the Furtado’s Shimano SLX brakes with 180 mm rotors offer noticeably stronger stopping power than the Fluid Forma’s Shimano M-396 brakes with 160 mm rotors. I’ve grown to really appreciate the bike/body separation of riding with a dropper post. While there are no expectations of a dropper on a bike at the Fluid Forma’s price point, it’s great to see that Norco has added external routing to accommodate one.
The short chainstays on both bikes facilitate riding switchbacks. The short rear-center provides agility, while the long front-center provides stability. In turns, the Fluid Forma’s steeper headtube angle requires more of a steering motion versus the leaning motion required for the Furtado’s slacker front end.
Juliana designs bikes for female shredders and this shows through the company’s commitment to creating comparably spec’d bikes across the Santa Cruz and Juliana line. As a result, the Furtado is an unbelievably capable bike that inspired confidence. When you discover a bike with geometry to fit your riding style, everything falls into place. The Furtado made me want to ride harder and faster on every ride.
While I can’t resist being drawn to what Juliana offers the women’s market, I appreciate Norco’s approach. Opting to make an affordable and capable full-suspension bike is essential amongst the premium options. The Fluid Forma is a great stepping stone for the new rider looking for her first full-suspension bike. At a low price point of $1,775 you get an all-around trail bike and solid platform to build on. A few changes on this bike would provide significant improvement in capability and riding confidence. With tires appropriate for your riding style and trail conditions— the Fluid Forma’s rims are tubeless ready—and a dropper post, you’d still be under $2,500. The new rider would likely be happy riding this bike for years to come.
Both the Furtado and the Fluid 7 Forma facilitate growth with their respective riders. The Fluid Forma will help the beginner transition to harder trails, and the Furtado helps the intermediate and advanced rider discover her full potential.
- Price: $1,775
- Sizes: XS, S (tested), M
- Wheelbase: 43.3”
- Top Tube: 22.5”
- Head Angle: 68.5°
- Seat-Tube Angle: 74.5°
- Bottom Bracket: 13.1”
- Rear Center: 16.7”
- Weight: 30.1 lbs. w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)
- Price: $4,699
- Sizes: S (tested), M, L
- Wheelbase: 44”
- Top Tube: 22.7″
- Head Angle: 67°
- Seat-Tube Angle: 74°
- Bottom Bracket: 13.1”
- Rear Center: 16.7”
- Weight: 27.7 lbs. w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)
Tester: Mike Cushionbury | Height: 5’10” | Weight: 155 lbs. | Inseam: 32”
Bike sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL | Price: $7,460
Before Cannondale’s new 27.5 Habit had even been released, it gained considerable momentum and interest when WTB/Cannondale rider Jason Moeschler won the coveted “All-Mountain World Championships” in Downieville, California, thanks to a third place in the cross-country and winning the downhill—with a faster time than last year, when he was riding his longer-travel Jekyll.
In Cannondale’s line hierarchy, the 120 mm travel Habit sits between the cross-county-specific Scalpel and the “OverMountain” Trigger, putting it neatly inside the growing trail-bike market, which is often best described as long-travel cross-country. With its linkage suspension and flex seatstays, the Habit looks more Scalpel than Trigger.
Our tester, the Carbon 1, is second highest in the line, below the $12,250 Habit Black Inc. Unless you really want a Shimano Di2 drivetrain and special all-black frame and parts, it represents a much better value and is by all means a top-of-the-food-chain machine.
The 1’s carbon frame comes decked out with a SRAM XX1 rear derailleur mated to an X01 shifter, SRAM Guide RSC brakes and a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper seatpost. Cannondale, following a growing trend, has gone to in-house branded components and includes some nicely crafted carbon handlebars and a carbon wheelset. The high-end Cannondale HollowGram Si crank even has a Cannondale-branded narrow/wide chainring bolted on. All these bits did their designated jobs just fine. The wheels aren’t super light, coming in at a more trail-bike construction and weight with a 23 mm inner diameter, which is good for the bike’s intended usage.
The entire frame is built from Cannondale’s own BallisTec carbon with an injection-molded carbon shock link. The zero-pivot flex seatstays reduce weight compared to pivots and are claimed to provide greater lateral stiffness. Additionally, the swingarm rotates on oversized thru-axles. This combination results in a rear triangle that doesn’t twist or flex under the most extreme lateral loads.
True to its Downieville debut, the Habit is a speedy trail bike when it’s time to put the power to the pedals, helped of course by its low weight, RockShox XLoc Full Sprint lever—which simultaneously opens or locks out the Lefty 2.0 Carbon fork and RockShox Monarch DebonAir XX shock. While there is the suspension-lockout option, the tuning of the fork and the rear suspension’s leverage curve are designed to work well under pedaling power while in open mode.
The Lefty 2.0 has a new 50 mm offset, wider rebound-damping range from the XLR Isolated Damper, and a Trail+ tune, which has increased compression damping at the top of the stroke. Where previous Leftys sunk into their travel and felt immediately squishy, the 2.0 sits higher, resists brake dive and offers a small degree of firmness off the top while pedaling. It also has a sensitive blow-off valve that opens initial compression when a bump is hit.
It took me a little more time to find an air pressure I was happy with compared to previous generations, but once I did, the new tune felt noticeably better than its most recent predecessor, a fork that was already one of my favorites.
And forget any preconceived notions about flex—Lefty is about the stiffest fork on the market, with its dual clamps, massive stanchion overlap and a 15 mm to 25 mm tapered axle. It’s also one of the lightest forks made.
The rear-suspension leverage ratio is designed to be comfy off the top for small impact sensitivity, especially while climbing, to keep the rear wheel glued to the ground. It then becomes more progressive at the sag point to reduce pedal bobbing. All this is important for a trail bike, whose rider is likely to want to ride it mostly in the unlocked position for the best possible traction in all conditions. But, if need be, with the push of a hydraulic button, both can be locked out for maximum efficiency on smoother surfaces.
Shoot the Habit downhill and it immediately feels quick and springy. The low bottom bracket, short chainstays, 68-degree head angle and stiff frame and fork allow you to push the Habit harder than you’d expect from a bike with just 120 mm of travel. A long top tube matched to a 60 mm stem feels just right for long saddle days that require some pedal finesse as well as competent gravity chops.
While it’s not necessarily a dedicated enduro bike or all-mountain crusher, it can be ridden very aggressively, especially at high speeds where your wheels are a little closer to the ground rather than when monster hucking. The Habit isn’t full cross-country race like the Scalpel but it can do the job with comparably plusher suspension, nor is it a full Enduro World Series race machine like the Trigger but on smoother, more pedaling courses it can deliver a win.
This profile plants it firmly between the two—capable and broad in scope for riders who identify with both disciplines. When it comes to the new breed of highly efficient trail bikes that can climb as well as descend without trading ability at one for the other, the Habit’s geometry, aided by incredible stiffness and solid suspension performance, puts it on the shortlist of bikes you should check out.
- Wheelbase: 47.7″
- Top Tube: 23.4″
- Head Angle: 68°
- Seat-Tube Angle: 74º
- Bottom Bracket: 13.1″
- Rear Center: 17″
- Weight: 24.5 lbs. w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)
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.
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).
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.
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)
Updated March 1 with information from the bike’s official launch at Frostbike 2016.
Heller Bikes, the carbon-only mountain bike brand from Quality Bicycle Products (also the parent of Surly and Salsa, among others), announced its presence at Interbike in 2015 when it dropped a fat bike on us. Heller has now added to its quiver by releasing the “Shagamaw” into the wild: a 27plus/29er carbon hardtail that can take up to a 130 mm fork. With Boost spacing, the bike can also accept 29-inch wheels with tires up to 2.5 inches wide. Frame details include internal cable routing, room for a dropper post and Shimano Di2 compatibility.
A Shagamaw is half grizzly bear, half moose. Heller Brand Manager Bobby Dahlberg said to expect more mythical creatures coming soon from the brand. The idea behind Heller is to give local bike shops a way to diversify their options and better relate to their local markets. Dahlberg said that Hellers—hung with good forks and basic components—are great out of the box but worthy of future upgrades, when and if you can swing it.
The top-end build (white frame) includes a RockShox Yari 130 mm fork, SRAM GX1 rear derailleur, TRP Slate 4 brakes, Trans-X dropper post, Formula hubs, WTB Scraper tubeless-ready rims and WTB Bridger 27.5 x 3.0 tubeless ready tires. All of that rings in at 29 pounds and a price of $2,600.
The entry-level build (blue frame) features Manitou’s new Machete 130 mm fork and a Deore rear derailleur paired with a Microshift 10 speed cassette. Bits and pieces are from FSA and Kalloy. Brakes and levers are Tektro M285 hydraulic discs. Rims are tubeless-ready WTB Scrapers with Formula hubs and WTB Bridger 27.5 x 3.0 wire bead tires. A complete bike weighs 30 pounds and retails for $2,000.
The Shagamaw should be available at your local bike shop in late April. You may also order just the frame in black. More info: hellerbikes.com
For a while there, the patient was touch-and-go. Assets were on the operating table. Little passion was moving through its blood. After its sale to BST Nano Carbon in late 2014, Ellsworth looked like it might not pull through. The 2015 lineup wasn’t released at all.
“We weren’t dead,” joked company founder Tony Ellsworth. “We were fermenting.”
Then, as it has done many times before, Ellsworth came roaring back to life—just in time for its 25th anniversary—with a new owner supplying much-needed capital and Tony Ellsworth still at the helm. Despite not having bikes in dealer showrooms, the team never stopped engineering, and for 2016 it has an all-new lineup with clean-slate designs built around its classic Instant Center Tracking linkage system.
A four-bar design, ICT is similar to the Horst-link design used by many brands, but it keeps the virtual pivot point in line with the chain forces, thus preventing drivetrain input to affect the suspension. Because of this, Ellsworth says, it runs a much softer tune on its Fox shocks, allowing the suspension to remain much more active during pedaling or braking.
The centerpiece of the new lineup is the Epiphany. Combining the traits of several previous models, the 2016 version is available in two frame materials and three wheel sizes. The 27.5 versions have 140 mm travel and are built for 150 mm forks, while the 27plus (pictured) and 29er versions have 120 mm of travel and 130 mm forks. To further differentiate the attitude, the aluminum bikes have a much slacker head tube angle for a more gravity-oriented ride.
All the bikes use identical ICT systems with smaller rockers that Ellsworth admits were slimmed down based on customer feedback that the massive rocker links of the past looked outdated. All the models also use a 148×12 Boost rear axle with hex-shaped ends that lock into the frame to prevent twisting. Making everything as stiff as possible can only improve the performance of the suspension, Ellsworth says.
Each of the Epiphany models will be available in a frame-only or in six spec levels, starting at $3,895 for the aluminum 27.5 and 29-inch models and $3,995 for the 27plus.
The new lineup also includes the Moment and Dare, which share a frame but are built into either 160 mm all-mountain bikes in the case of the former, or 200 mm downhill bikes for the latter. That same frame can also be set to 180 mm for freeride or bike park use. Switching travel isn’t as simple as flipping a shock mount chip though, so don’t plan to do it trail-side.
Other new models include a carbon hardtail Enlightenment in both 27.5 and 29er flavors, and the Buddha fat bike.
While the bikes aren’t entirely made in America, Ellsworth says it still prides itself on having one of the highest percentage of American-made content in its bikes in the industry. The carbon frames are made overseas but the aluminum frames as well as the rocker links and chainstays are made in the U.S.
Tester: Mike Cushionbury | Age: 45 | Height: 5’10″ | Weight: 155 lbs. | Inseam: 32”
Trek discontinued its 26-inch-wheeled Top Fuel cross-country line a few years back in favor of the successful Gary Fisher 29er Superfly FS. Now, as the Superfly grows long in the tooth, the Top Fuel is reborn for 2016. And it’s as modern and high-tech as a cross-country bike can be.
The frame is entirely carbon and, like the longer-travel Fuel EX, the 100 mm travel Top Fuel uses an EVO rocker link and Full Floater suspension design, which attaches the shock to two moving points. It also has Active Braking Pivot and the geometry-adjusting Mino Link. This changes head-tube angle by half a degree and raises or lowers the bottom bracket by 8 mm, going from a 70-degree head angle and 12.9- inch bottom bracket in low to 70.9 degrees and 13.4 inches in high. This brings the short-stravel bike in line with the technology Trek has been using for its long-travel bikes, raising the expectations of what a cross country bike is capable of.
The Top Fuel has Boost 148/110 hub spacing, Smart Wheel Size and Control Freak cable management. Boost, which was developed in part by Trek last year for its trail and all-mountain bikes, creates a stronger 29er wheel and frame. Boost also provides more tire clearance and gives Trek the opportunity to shorten the chainstays by 17 mm compared to the Superfly. With 148—which is as wide as you can go without affecting Q factor—width and bottom-bracket junction stiffness is maximized without making the bike wider at the cranks. By going 110 on the fork, the front end is equal to the rear in terms of strength, stability and the ability to run a bigger tire.
Trek believes that for cross-country applications a 29er wheel is absolutely the fastest, so you won’t be seeing multiple options; it’s 29 only, save for the 15.5-inch frame. Smart Wheel Sizing dictates that for this small of a frame, 27.5 is the answer to keep the bike fitting correctly, lower the front end and achieve no wheel/toe overlap. Frame sizes 17.5 inches and larger utilize 29-inch wheels.
Believe it or not, with all the various drivetrain, suspension and dropper-post options, there are 54 different ways to route cables, according to Trek. To make sure any and all work, Trek developed a very flexible system called Control Freak cable management that works with any combination of cables and electronic wires, including internally routed dropper posts. There are also small guides along the down tube and top tube to cleanly run your rear brake or dropper post externally if you choose.
Interestingly, Trek didn’t include a specific bottom-bracket or seat-tube internal option for a Shimano Di2 electronic battery; it’s meant to run sidesaddle to the water-bottle cage or for you to use a cable cinch in the down tube, meaning you’d have to take the fork out of the head tube and then lower the battery into the down tube from there. Also, the bottom bracket access port for internal cable installation is on the small side compared to other brands, making access a bit more challenging.
At a price of nine grand, the line-leading Top Fuel 9.9 SL has a complete package of top-shelf parts, albeit some surprising yet sound choices that stray from what you might expect. Shifting is handled by
the flawless Shimano XTR cable system, yet rather than a traditional Shimano double ring, the 9.9 SL goes 1×11 with Race Face’s ultralight Next carbon crank and direct-mount 32T chainring. And while accessories like the handlebar, seatpost, stem and saddle are all feathery Bontrager XXX carbon fiber, Trek felt that stiff, yet light, DT Swiss XMC 1200 carbon wheels were the best choice to match up with its Boost spacing. Suspension is controlled by a RockShox RS-1 Solo Air fork and Monarch XX shock with an XLoc Full Sprint hydraulic remote lockout that controls both the shock and fork.
All this adds up to a 29er full-suspension race bike that weighs less than 22 pounds. Trek claims a 17.5 inch frame with shock and all hardware weighs only 4.3 pounds.
I kept the bike at the lower geometry setting to get the slackest head angle possible, in line with what most modern-day cross-country bikes are using. This, along with the added efficiency and stability
from the wider Boost spacing, makes the Top Fuel an extremely capable cross-country racer as well as an exceptional do-it-all endurance machine within the realm of 100 mm travel. It’s fast, it’s light and it handles like a dream.
Besides handling and climbing prowess, the wider stance, along with the EVO rocker link and Full Floater suspension, makes you forget, more often than not, that it has only 100 mm of travel. Oddly, within the first week of riding, the RockShox Full Sprint hydraulic remote button fell off, nullifying the ability to lock out the rear shock (the fork lockout remained operational), and I never missed it. Trek’s suspension design produced efficient pedaling even on the smoothest of climbs. If given an option, I’d easily choose a manual lockout for the shock rather than the hydraulic combination controlling both the shock and fork, since I didn’t necessarily need one for the shock.
Another surprise? While the stock Bontrager XR1 Team Issue tires looked questionable for rough, rocky conditions, set up tubeless they performed exceptionally well, providing great traction in all conditions (I could successfully run less than 20 psi when it was wet and slick). They have also proven to be very durable.
With Boost spacing, a PF92 bottom bracket and hydraulic linked suspension, there’s very little part swapping to be had with the Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SL. When you consider the quality of all those parts, there’s nothing I’d change besides having the option for a manual-lockout shock.
The Top Fuel is one of the most high-tech, potent and fun short travel 29ers I’ve ever ridden; it’s also one of the lightest. It’s a full-on racer as well as a full-on fun-to-ride bike. There is one other thing I’d change, though: adding my own dropper seatpost. This little addition would help make the Top Fuel an even more aggressively awesome bike on the descents.
- Wheelbase: 43.7″, 53.6
- Top Tube: 23.8″
- Head Angle: 70°, 70.9°
- Seat-Tube Angle: 74º, 74.9
- Bottom Bracket: 12.9″, 13.4″
- Rear Center: 17″
- Weight: 21.3 lbs. w/o pedals
- Price: $9,000
- Sizes: 15.5″, 17.5″ (tested), 18.5″, 19.5″, 21.5″ (specs based on size tested)
- Online: trekbikes.com
Tester: Jon Pratt | Age: 45 | Height: 5’11” | Weight: 195 lbs. | Inseam: 31”
The Canfield EPO is a sexy carbon 29er hardtail born from the gravity-loving minds at Canfield Brothers. Its very name is meant to take a jab at the carbon hardtail 29er racing crowd. This is by no means a bike meant for your next cross-country race, but could be ridden in one if you really wanted to.
The EPO is Canfield Brothers’ first carbon bike, its lightest bike to date, and follows in the footsteps of the venerable low and slack Yelli Screamy. Designed for the rider who wants an aggressive 29 inch trail bike, without a weight penalty or loss of pedalling efficiency.
The EPO has a 66.8 degree head angle with a 140 mm fork, 67.9 degrees with a 120 mm, and 16.3 inch chainstays. The EPO also features a rear 142 mm x 12 mm Maxle, ISCG 05 tabs, brake mounts on the inside of the rear triangle, threaded bottom bracket and the ability to install a direct mount front derailleur if you want to run more than a single chainring.
Canfield Brothers doesn’t sell the EPO as a complete bike, so you get to pick and choose the components you most want. We built up the 3.2 pound frame with a full XTR kit, a sick Atomik wheelset, Fox dropper post and fork, and a Grid handlebar and stem from Gravity Components. Canfield does offer some components like wheels and forks at a package discount when purchasing directly from its online store.
So, I’ll cut right to the chase. This is an incredibly fun, capable hardtail that I would have no problem making part of my collection. Not only is it nice to look at, it just feels like it wants to be ridden hard. I like taking each new bike I review on the same loop in my local park to get a feel for how it compares to all the previous bikes I’ve ridden. Immediately I could tell Canfield had something special here.
Hardtails are inherently animated on rough trail, but the EPO felt a bit more stable than I had expected. The 74.5 degree effective seat tube angle, matched to a slack head angle centered my weight nicely up and over the pedals. It kept me feeling connected to the bike and trail, allowing me to really push the bike hard while maintaining control through everything from berms, to rocks, to climbs.
Fit is somewhat subjective, but for me the EPO was spot-on. There’s that fine line where a slack bike, great at descending, really gives up the ghost on climbs. A wandering front end can put a quick damper on my day. The EPO walked that line well. I never felt like it was out of its element. Let’s not forget those short chainstays. Getting this bike up and over logs, roots and rocks on trail was a piece of cake!
This was hands-down the most fun I have had on a hardtail to date. Truly a bike that just wants to be ridden hard.
The Canfield Brothers brand has always had mystique to it, with some very loyal followers. Besides a few rides here and there, this was my first chance to spend a good deal of time on one of its bikes. I now get it. And according to Canfield, the EPO allowed the company to experiment with molds, layups and other aspects of working with carbon to lay the groundwork for future projects.
After spending time on the EPO, “future projects” makes my mouth water. If you are like me, and have been looking for a hardtail that handles pretty much everything you can throw at it, I suggest you hunt down an EPO and take it for a spin. Frames, available as medium and large only, are black with red, white or blue accents and lettering.
- Wheelbase: 46.4″
- Top Tube: 24.8″
- Head Angle: 66.8°
- Seat-Tube Angle: 74.5º
- Bottom Bracket: 12.6″
- Rear Center: 16.3″
- Weight: 26.4 lbs. w/o pedals
- Price: $1,499 (frame only)
- More info: canfieldbrothers.com