We’ve managed to drag Dave away from the Vantage long enough to get his thoughts on how it’s riding.
If you’ve been following this you’ll know I’ve been keen to revisit the type of bike we used to ride in Calderdale ‘back in the day’, before we all get sidetracked by full suspension; i.e. burly long travel hardtails that’ll winch up climbs to mainly focus on the, ideally steep and technical, return to the valley floor. Back then we rode a mixture of dual slalom or dirt jump orientated frames, built up with 140mm forks, and a one by nine gear set up with varying levels of (dis)comfort and (in)efficiency. Ah the good old days.
So it only seemed right to try and recreate that. To track down an affordable frame, strap on a load of suitable parts, and slither through the winter in some sort of hark back to the golden age of trail plotting, gnar hunting, Calderdale Collective, style riding that happened when a group of mates with a similar, and shared, mindset met up regularly to plunder the valley for all the best trails hidden within it.
They say there’s no going back, but I was keen to prove that particular saying wrong.
With that in mind a Mondraker Vantage RR frameset was acquired from the lovely folks at Silverfish. I’d finally succumbed to the constant drip, drip, drip of forward geometry propaganda and enthusiasm constantly fed by Matt when out riding at weekends. On paper the bike frame looks good, long, low and slack’ish with a 140mm fork. It’s aimed as an enduro, and all mountain focussed, all rounder and while that ticked a lot of boxes for what I wanted from a bike, I was interested to see how that apparent contradiction worked out in real life. At 5’9″ I opted for a medium, despite Matt’s recommendation to go large.
Immediately ignoring the bike designer’s original intentions, I strapped in a 160mm fork. It’s what we’ve always done, gone one louder in the fork dep’t, in a rider knows best kind of way, and I didn’t see why that should change now. This has resulted in altering the bike’s geometry to give a more suitable 66ºish head angle, still in keeping with the ‘enduro’ focus, and doesn’t seem to have had any negative effect on climbing efficiency. In keeping with early Calderdale traditions I’ve built it up one-by too, this time embracing modern cassettes and going the full 10-42 XX1 route for a bit of extra help on long days out. With a set of fairly burly wheels, suitable tubeless rubber, a dropper and carbon bar set up it weighs in at a very acceptable 26lbs.
Early impressions are that this is one very capable bike. It’s happy to spin away on extended XC loops, especially given its ballpark hardtail weight despite a pretty burly build, and it’ll happily do it all day long. But XC loops are a bit of wasted ride time for what really is a bit of a hooligan, it’s when the going gets a bit more rowdy that the Vantage really comes into its own. With a fairly slack headangle and that lovely long wheelbase it feels suitably at home on steep and technical trails, I’ve found myself throwing it down everything in the valley safe in the knowledge that the bike is firmly in home territory. Despite the appearance of a stiff frame that’s going to give you a bit of a workout in rock gardens, I think the increased length actually smooths out the feedback a bit giving the impression of a soft tail, it’s definitely an advantage compared to some other frames I’ve ridden.
The Renthal DH bars have remained uncut. initially they felt wide and I had concerns about fitting between trees on a couple of trails, but I’m happy to get a wiggle on where needed to fit through gaps for the added benefit of a bit more stability on fast techy descents.
Similarly I’m not likely to swap out the Maxxis Minion DHF up front anytime soon, the Vantage RR definitely demands a nice and serious bit of rubber to match the aggressive ride style the bike encourages.
With an admittedly top shelf selection on the gearing of a mainly SRAM XX1 1×11 drivetrain, the Vantage has proved itself to be a very comfortable climber too. It’s proved to be a pleasure to spin up climbs on; very neutral. The B Labs oval chainring has been interesting to try out, there’s a lot of hysteria about oval rings at the moment all harking back to Biopace, but modern oval rings have definitely got it right. With a 32t up front it’s really noticeable how smooth and circular pedalling feels, especially as the gradient gets steeper. Normally I’d opt for a 3ot ring on a 650b bike, I prefer to spin up climbs especially on long hauls, but I’ve been happy with the 32t on the Vantage.
The only change to my original spec has been to swap out the Manitou Mattocs for a set of 160mm RST Rogues which dropped in the office for testing. This gave me the opportunity to life the stem and bars 1cm for a bit more comfort on longer rides.
|Price:||£399 frame only|
|Tested:||by Dave for|