Real? Steel is real, yeah thats how the hashtag goes isn’t it? So here we go, right from the top #steelisreal
But in a world where carbon can be laid up to mimic just about any type of material is it (steel) any good? Is it worth the hassle? As I reckon that you average mountain biker has forgotten how harsh a hardtail MTB can really be? I’ve ridden some alloy suspension bikes that can be quite unforgiving, especially with the suspension set up badly, so god knows what your average alloy hardtail must feel like these days? (feel free to let us know) So with all that, is this the answer?
Fist up, thanks to Alan Finlay at Pipedream Cycles for hooking us up with the latest incarnation of their Enduro hardtail, the very pink “Moxie” Its long, slack and low, bloody low! Even in 29″ trim with 165mm cranks it still feels very close to mother earth. Although curiously, in both wheel sizes, I haven’t had a pedal or crank strike yet. Again, I reckon we’re all a bit used to the effect of preload and movement of the BB on suspension bikes that we just come to expect to clip the pedal now and again anyway?
So +1 already, it’s very predictable this thing, so much so that I nearly had a few “unplanned manoeuvres” due to the fact that I thought it wouldn’t be! Truth be told that this is the first hardtail that I’ve had that has felt specifically “designed” to be any kind of useful mountain bike. This is mainly because since I bought my Rocky Mountain Element in 1997, my main bikes have all been full suspension ones.
In fact I think I’ve had 2 or 3 hardtails in those 20 years and they were all before anyone was really tuning their geometry. At least to the point of real specifics and certainly not for aggressive trail riding.
I’m gonna go straight to climbing here. A few past reviews have suggested that a slightly sharper seat angle would make the Moxie climb a bit better and I’d tend to agree, but 76.5° isn’t exactly mega slack and I shoved my saddle forward 10mm and dipped the nose a wee bit, which makes some difference on climbs but isn’t ideal across the board. It’s the 470mm reach and 65.5° head angle on our “long” bike that creates the issue (not an issue) I can deal with it.
It’s not an issue because this bike was obviously designed for descending and general hooliganism, where so far it has excelled. All this with a 29″ wheel too! I’ve really done most of my riding on this bike with a 29″ carbon wheel and a 150mm fork (Fox 36 Factory) and less in the 27.5, but both wheel sizes have their benefits which I’ll save for another day.
The first ride on this was actually a 30km XC ride and to be honest, I loved every minute. Ok, you lose a wee bit of braking traction on the back end when it gets high-speed spicy, again I think we’re spoilt by suspension in this regard. But the long reach and slack head angle force traction on the front wheel and make you forget about the back end that will predictably follow. I’ve been able to lean on some serious front end braking on this bike too, helping with any speed scrubbing issues on the rear.
It’s super comfy too. 4130 chromoly, remember that? The tube-set with a super cult following from back in the day and particularly BMXers. A cold rolled steel-alloy that is super strong, takes a very positive weld and remains flexible to boot. Black magic if you ask me.
Anyway, I did notice that this bike has no gussets at the major tube junctions. Seems this is a bi-product of the guys choosing to go for a custom tube-set that can be drawn and welded to their specification. This means no strengthening needed, and no extra materials on these junctions also means a more lively, less “stiff” frame all round.
Where stiffness is needed though, around the BB. We see a change to some flat plates that wrap-around the BB very neatly indeed. The finish on the bike overall is fantastic and isn’t compromised ever where folk don’t usually look.
Let me just say that I’ve now tried this bike in 29″ with DT Swiss XMC1200 carbon 30mm rims (Minion DHF & High Roller 2) and some older DT Swiss E1900 25mm (same tyre combo) I have to say that I actually preferred the 29″ setup so far, but I’ve mostly been mincing around trail centres and doing long XC rides. To be honest, the Moxie excels at both.
The 29″ setup felt indestructible though. On steep terrain it was so surefooted that I actually forgot that I was on a hardtail. I would imagine its pretty hard to optimise a bike for 2 wheel sizes but so far it seems to be working? I also took the bike out with Std 27.5 wheels and felt it limited the bike. I didn’t like it. It felt skittish, rear grip felt like it was a problem all the time and I just felt like the back end wouldn’t follow the rear.
So, I’m hoping that the next experiment (30mm 27.5 rims with 2.8 tyres) will be the one. This should give closer to 29″ rolling size and but not push the limits of tyre clearance as the wheel will run through the frame slightly further back. I would honestly keep the 29″ setup, but the tyre width I’d like to run on the rear buzzes off the frame at the chain stay yoke more often than I’d like.
OK, not an in depth review, but a first impression. I’m gonna give it a shot in 27+ and get back to you as I honestly think that it’s gonna be the sweet spot. If I could just get a bit more space for the 29″ tyre I wanted, I’d have left the big wheels in though. But I guess I’ll know the score on all points if I try it.
So I’ll be back with that!