A (long) 140mm travel all-mountain 29er with a bang for your buck parts spec for £1799 asking price? Wow. But (as a topless American man) once said to me – is it all sizzle and no steak?
The Sting is an aluminium copy of the carbon Stereo sharing the same suspension kinematics and similar geometry, but a slightly taller headtube. Lengths and angles on my 20″ test bike worked out at 68deg head angle and steep 74.5deg seat angle, shorter than most (for the given size) with a 599mm top tube, 452mm chainstays, and 38mm bottom bracket drop.
Feasting my peepers on the bike before me I was happy to see that it is low slung and has a purposeful looking triple butted 7005 aluminium frame, through axles front and rear and tapered steerer 34mm diameter stanchion Fox Float fork – yummy! The graphic on the top tube says ALL MOUNTAIN CONFIGURATION which is at odds with the 100mm long stem and 720mm narrow bars (as fitted to the 20″ frame size). These parts were promptly removed and replaced with a 50mm stem and 800mm wide handlebar for more control and fun.
Slowing down is taken care of by the excellent budget performer Shimano Deore brakes, and grippy rubber is supplied by Schwalbe in the form of no compromise, all singing and dancing, 2.35″ Hans Dampf EVO TLR snakeskin trailstar compound front, and pacestar compound rear tyres. I experienced great shifting function and reliability courtesy of a full Shimano drivetrain from the Deore, SLX and XT parts bins.
However for an all mountain bike the drivetrain is an unusual combination, and has no provision for chain retention. The chainset is a Deore triple, the rear derailleur is an XT sans clutch mechanism and ISCG mounts are lacking from the frame. The 40t big ring became a bashring and the chain fell off when riding rough terrain. To remedy this I removed these parts and fitted a bashring and clutch rear derailleur; I didn’t miss the 40t big ring. The 22t inner, 30t middle and 11-36t cassette provided enough range for pedalling up, down and along. It’s worth mentioning that the carbon Stereo 140 HPC Pro 29 is equipped with a double crankset and clutch rear derailleur as standard.
The frame features external routing guides on the non-driveside of the top tube for dropper seatpost and one set of water bottle mounts on the downtube, and a Syntace x12 rear through axle requires 5mm allen key for removal – which does not protrude from the frame, and is thus nicely out of the way.
The top tube is shorter than other bikes of this nature and size by at least an inch, and when riding I felt that a little more reach would be a good thing but this could be difficult to do by sizing up due to standover. The cockpit is compact and unfortunately standover isn’t generous – I am 6ft 1″ with a 34″ inside leg riding the 20″ frame size.
With both shocks in trail setting, and setup at 25% sag in the rear and 20% in the fork, the bike moves well and responds to rider input, feeling taut and exhibiting a playful nature. With braking and accelerating forces having minimal effect on the bump response of the rear suspension, the Sting moves along well for a big bike; it accelerates nicely and (typical of 29ers) it carries speed well.
Going up is as good as going up always is! The riding position is compact and upright, there are sit and spin/take it easy gear options to choose from and the Efficient Trail Control rear suspension does feel efficient! The big wheels and easy to pedal nature of the bike reward climbing efforts on both smooth and rougher climbs alike. With each pedal stroke, either sat down and spinning, or standing for harder efforts the bike is propelled forward and obstacles can be rolled over without the need to squirm and adjust yourself over the bike.
Going down and around the Sting feels stable thanks to the low bb and it feels good to corner, moving easily with lots of grip and a good working edge to the tyres, it’s fun to see where the limits of traction are. This is one of the best qualities of the Sting and I actively seeked out corners of all types here, there and everywhere and rode them as fast as I could and then tried to ride them faster!
The 68deg head angle is a happy medium giving a nice mix of steering response and stability downhill. With the saddle dropped and standing on the pedals there is the feeling of having too much weight forwards, this is because of the short toptube and as such I felt the need to shift back a little in steeper faster terrain. I feel that a little more reach would be a good thing and add to the stable feeling, giving the chassis a more balanced feel and give the rider more confidence to ride harder over rough ground.
With the recommended 25% sag and the CTD lever in descent setting the rear shock struggles to support the rider on bigger faster impacts and uses up travel quickly. I left the shock in the trail setting and pumped more air in to give less sag. While this resulted in less sensitivity on smaller impacts, and didn’t allow the rear wheel to track the ground as well, the easy bottom-out was resisted and I was happy with the trade off.
It was difficult to get a good balance from the suspension. The rear travel behaviour is linear with little progression. When worked hard and subjected to bigger and faster impacts the travel is given up easily. It would be interesting to experiment with shock volume in a quest for increased ramp up as the suspension moves through its travel. As it is it is I found it too soft for bigger impacts so ran less than 20% sag for a firmer ride and although this was not as supple on smaller bumps it was much preferred.
Overall: The Sting just keeps on keeping on thanks to the momentum retaining qualities of the 140mm travel/29er wheel combo. With a setup firmer than recommended there is less propensity for the bike to pitch and wallow, but I’d have liked to see a little more room in the cockpit and perhaps a 2x rather than a 3x drivetrain for this ‘All Mountain’ machine.
|Tested:||by James for Six months|