By Lee Klevens
Redline has been in the bicycle business since 1974. The company started out fulfilling the needs of BMX riders who needed lighter, stronger parts. The company has grown and expanded over the years, they now produce cyclocross, urban and a line of singlespeed and geared hardtail mountain bikes. The Redline D 680 is new for 2011. It is Redline’s flagship XC model. As such, it was designed with the performance XC rider in mind.
At the heart of the D 680 is a lightweight R6 aluminum alloy frame. The R6 alloy is a proprietary tubing which has properties that make it both lighter and stronger than a comparable 6061 alloy. I found the D 680 to be very light and responsive. The 71º head angle, 73.3º seat angle, and a tight-ish wheelbase of 1098mm made it very maneuverable. The rear end is pretty tight with 445mm chainstays, yet there seems to be plenty of mud clearance at the forged chainstay yoke, with a 2.1” tire.
Mated to the D 680’s frame is one of my favortite XC forks, the Fox FIT RLC, with 100mm of smooth travel. A nice up-spec on the fork is the 15mm through-axle. I find 29” wheels to have more of a flexing effect on a suspension forks due to their increased leverage on the axle, and the 15mm thru-axle goes a long way in counteracting this flex. Other notable additions to the frame are some nice light wheels with WTB Laser Disc rims built around SRAM’s cartridge bearing X9 hubs, a pair of Avid Elixir hydraulic brakes, and a SRAM 2×10 X9/X0 drive train. These quality parts add to the D 680’s “Please ride me fast!” factor.
The D 680 not only looks fast; it rides fast. The lightweight package makes it easy to flick about and change lines when needed. At speed it was easy to hop over and avoid ruts, or to hop out of the unavoidable ruts, without losing any momentum. I would call the ride neutral, as it handled technical sections well, yet still felt fine while going fast. Getting up and over obstacles was easy for me on the D 680. The rear end never had the feeling like it was anchored to the ground like some heavier 29ers I’ve ridden. This nimble feeling definitely helped to make riding technical features and twisty singletrack much easier, and kept the handling feeling responsive.
At first, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the 2×10 drivetrain. However, after some time using it, I found that it worked quite well. In fact, I found I would ride the D 680 sort of like my single speed, and charge the hills at the bottom, but would use the gears as the hill continued because they were there. By working the front derailleur more so than on a triple, and by keeping my momentum up, I could just let those big wheels roll right on over most of the obstacles in my path. The Fox fork with its 15mm axle truly complimented this style of riding. It inspired loads of confidence when pointing the front end down the trail or when pushing hard through a turn.
The 690m-wide Ritchey handlebars gave me plenty of leverage to control the front end while the fork provided plenty of positive steering feedback. I never experienced any “This bike is too light for me!” wimpy feeling from the bike. I wish that I could exclaim the same confidence about the Kenda Small Block Eight tires. On hardpack, the low rolling resistance was greatly appreciated, and traction was generally more than I had first expected. Predictably, problems arose when the trails turned a bit sloppy. There were quite a few times in which I found myself losing it and suddenly shooting off the trail, leaving my riding/life partner ahead of me wondering where the hell I went to. Swapping out to some more aggressive tires definitely helped to keep me on track when the trails were soft.
I believe Redline did a good job in putting together a nice package with the D 680. It should easily satisfy the needs of a person looking for a quality bike to ride cross country trails on, as well as those who wish to go faster and hit some races and possibly do some endurance events. The D 680 is nicely spec’d and ready to go fast. There were very few items that I was not completely satisfied with on the D 680. It is also noteworthy to report that during my test I encountered quite a few people asking how I liked the D 680. As it turns out, they were current Redline owners, or were previous owners lamenting the fact that they sold off a Redline in the past. If the D 680 is not in your budget, the $1780 D 660 shares the same lightweight frame with more value-oriented components.
Country of origin: Taiwan
Sizes available: 15”, 17”, 19”(tested), 21”
This review originally appeared in Issue #156. You can order a copy of this issue and other back issues in our online store, or order a subscription today and you’ll get all our reviews as soon as they are published.