First published in Singletrack Magazine issue 97
There’s no mistaking the distinctive looks of Mondraker’s Vantage – dubbed “the broken nose bike” during testing, you’ll either love it or hate it, and the same applies for the ride.
It’s a good value package; the DT wheelset has proved reasonably tough and tyre clearance at the rear is excellent. The build is well balanced, so feels light to heft, and there’s a degree of purpose to it that we liked.
Avid’s DB3 brakes are rather wooden in feel when compared to other brands, but function well enough; SRAM’s X9/7 drivetrain features the usual agriculturally clunky but accurate shifting, though we did suffer a few incidents of chain drop thanks to a maladjusted front mech. The X-Fusion Hilo seatpost was stiff and creaky out of the box, so was returned to X-Fusion importers Upgrade for repair. In the meantime we ran a Nukeproof replacement, which if nothing else proved that it’s perfectly possible to run an externally routed dropper on an internally routed frame with the aid of some zip ties and get excellent results.
With ‘just’ a Fox 32mm up front, it’s a little underforked and could easily carry off something burlier – while the fork’s overall performance is good, a stiffer fork might be a better match for the solid rear end. It’s also a little under-tyred given its rad aspirations; the Ardents are fast-rolling but for a bike of this nature we’d prefer something with a bit more bite, so we tried a WTB Vigilante/Trail Boss pairing with great success.
There’s no denying that Mondraker’s Forward Geometry takes a little getting used to. It demands a markedly different riding style to the other bikes in this test and most bikes on the market, and everyone who rode it enjoyed the steep learning curve (although perhaps not so much the inevitable gravel rash that came with it).
Careful attention to sizing is also important – our test bike actually turned out to be too long for one tester who’d normally ride a medium-sized frame. At the lower end of the bike’s size range, she couldn’t get enough weight over the front wheel to dissuade it from washing out on sharp turns. We’d definitely recommend you visit a dealer for a test ride before purchasing as you really won’t get the most out of this bike if you choose the wrong size.
Come up onto the front of the bike though, and work and push into the fork, and you will benefit from immense amounts of grip from the front wheel. It performs really well on technical climbs too, and it’s super easy to get the front end up and off the trail – one sharp pedal kick does the trick and even if a drop catches you unawares, the bike is responsive enough to quick inputs to adapt. More often than not, you’ll be able to ride it out.
Downhill in a straight line, the limit was us – there’s nothing holding the Vantage back except the bottle of the pilot and it’s easy to forget you’re on a hardtail until you land it off anything sizeable, at which point you’ll get a sharp reminder there’s no rear suspension (and/or a flat tyre). Beware the temptation to sit back and daydream on it, though – the weight shift towards the front means there’s much less on the rear, and we found that the back end can kick quite hard over drops as a result. It’s a bike to stay awake on, and it will punish you if you drift off.
In the words of one tester, the Vantage “sucks for long rides”, but we don’t think that’s what it’s for. Buy it as a play bike, buy it because you want to work on your skills, buy it to have shedloads of fun – because that is where it excels.
- Frame: Stealth Evo M-Lite alloy FG
- Fork: Fox Float 27.5 CTD Evolution 27.5 140mm
- Hubs: DT E1900 Spline
- Rims: DT E1900
- Chainset: FSA Comet 32/22T
- Front Mech: SRAM X5
- Rear Mech: SRAM X9
- Shifters: SRAM X7
- Brakes: Avid DB3 180mm
- Stem: OnOff Stoic FG 30mm
- Bars: Mondraker
- Grips: OnOff Locon
- Seatpost: X-Fusion Hilo ACE Strate Remote
- Saddle: Mondraker
- Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL
- Weight: 28.9lb without pedals
|Tested:||by Jenn for|