Cove's STD is a multi-functional, freeride-oriented bike with an emphasis on getting gnarly. While not intended as a quiver-killer, the STD blurs the line between downhill and trail bike, and is a steed to consider for riders looking for a highly maneuverable big bike, park bike, or whose off-road missions include pedal-powered access to the nastiest of descents. This is the ride review follow up to the 2012 STD Preview
, where you will find bike specifications and details.What's in a name?
Sticking with Cove's 'sex sells' nomenclature, STD stands for Skinnies, Trannies, and Drops. The original STD excels on all of those things, for sure, but the 2012 re-design kicks it up a notch beyond freeride. While many riders could feel overwhelmed swimming in a physically numbing overload of suspension aboard a standard DH bike, the STD meets the demands of downhill with a capable 7.75" travel and a geometry reflective of it's bigger brother, the Shocker. Revisions found in the 2012 iteration of the STD are a lower ride height (due to lower BB height combined with more sag from more suspension travel) and slacker head angle.Quality Build:
Cove's Canadian-made, robust frames hold a high attention to detail, with Easton tubing, oversized aluminum pivot axles, Maxle rear axle, and replaceable dropouts to name a few. It was a mild concern that under stress to the rear derailleur, the beefy, machined dropout hanger would be very expensive to replace once bent or broken. It probably is, but after one hard crash that left the XT 10-speed derailleur at 90 degrees, it was a surprise to find the hanger perfectly intact. Instead, the steel plate at the top of the derailleur had bent. After a few minutes, it was revived when it was bent back into position trailside, where it remains fully functional to this day. Bike industry take note, we would much rather have an expensive hanger like this that doesn't easily bend than those cheap, disposable hangers. Also note that Cove's chainguide mount solution is simply perfect. The Maxle rear axle never creaked or came loose like had been experienced with other Maxle bikes. Matter of fact, after months of torture, not a single bolt had loosened on the frame. Bearing covers on the lower linkage help to keep the muck out of the crucial suspension points. It would be nice to have these available for the top bearings as well, and they would be extra trick available in ano colors to match my gold scheme. That's right, green for the money, gold for the honeys.
The STD features a 1.5 headtube and is specced with a 180mm single crown fork, giving the bike a roomy cockpit. A taper-steerer on the fork provides enough stiffness to inspire confidence on the sketchiest of lines, but those wishing to alleviate the bike from uphill duty for use as a shuttle or park bike may want to consider the additional stiffness that a dual-crown fork provides. Immediately apparent on the STD is the very balanced feel of the front and rear suspension while utilizing a 180mm single crown fork.Handling & Fit:
Due to the incredibly technical nature of the infamous North Shore trails, Cove's bikes are a bit on the small side to allow for maximum maneuverability. Surprisingly, even with a 50mm stem on the size Large STD for my 6'2" height, the cockpit never felt cramped while climbing. The STD is not a lean back and hold on sled. STD riders will need to get low with an aggressive approach on the descents in order to take advantage of the bike's attack-position geometry. From there, a rider is able to appreciate the bike's relatively neutral handling characteristics that allow it to readily adapt between slow-tech shore-style rock cruxes and pinner race-style descents with huge airs. The bike really shines when it comes to precise movements like getting the front end up in a pinch while negotiating technical lines. Here's a sample of some classic North Shore gnar the STD was designed for:
It almost seems as if the "S" in STD has been changed from "Skinnies" to "Steeps" with the updated geometry. With skinnies on the verge of extinction, it doesn't seem like such a terrible transition for most riders. The bike is slightly floppier at slow speeds than it's predecessor, but it's a trait we would gladly forego in order to bump the shred-o-meter to 11 in a greater variety of terrain. On the steeps, the STD is stable and confident, true-tracking, and nimble. When the terrain turns ugly, the 7.75" travel dual-link rear suspension goes largely unnoticed, working independently underneath as it eats up chunder without ever deflecting from it's intended path. Some riders will complain about the more-than-reasonable frame weight for such a capable big-hit bike, while others will appreciate the solid feel of a sturdily planted chassis on repetitive square-edged hits and harsh landings. The bottom bracket rides at an optimal location above the pedal-strike zone, yet still sits low enough to dig deep in the corners and effectively plow rough terrain. Cornering is intuitive on this bike, and pushing into the corners through the pedals accelerates the flow, even in the rough stuff.
It's ironic that a bike that stays connected to the ground so well feels effortless in the air. When it comes time to leave the ground, the STD feels like an extra appendage, floating along in space underfoot, easily repositioned with the flick of the wrist. You could say that Trannies are the STD's middle name, since flying and returning to earth is the most comfortable part of riding this bike. Elka Stage 5:
Cove specs the STD with an Elka Stage 5 rear shock in 8.75" x 2.75", which is built to the same spring and hardware fitment specifications as you would find on a Fox shock. The key benefit to the Stage 5 is a two-stage rebound circuit, which allows a rider to have a faster rebound off the top of the stroke to maintain traction over roots and washboard sections of trail, while a progressively slower rebound deep into the stroke works to soak up the big hits without catapulting a rider over the bars. A single rebound knob controls the entire range of rebound, but the shock would be substantially more tunable with an independently adjustable threshold between beginning and ending stroke rebound. For this reason, we found the Elka to be best suited for a DH race environment. For a freeride application, general pedaling is fine and the shock excels at cushioning drops. However, the rebound feels a bit unpredictable when preloading the suspension on new-school technical jump lines. Also, the shock's air-assist reservoir is set from the factory with 150psi of nitrogen, which is non-adjustable. While this setting suits the majority of riders, I found that as a 200 lb rider I would be able to run a softer spring if I was able to increase the bottom-out resistance via air pressure and air volume. This would give the bike a more progressive suspension feel and allow for better initial stroke small bump compliance. Also, minus a point for the distracting slurping sound of the Elka in it's ending stroke rebound. Pedaling:
While most riders aren't going to be climbing an 8" travel, 38 lb bike to the top of a 2,000' mountain, there are some out there who consider that to be a warm-up lap. A true freeride bike has the capability to access any terrain, which includes climbing to the top in an efficient manner. When it comes to pedaling a big bike, Cove's dual-link suspension is very impressive. While climbing, every pedal stroke pushes the rear tire into the ground for more traction. The geometry of the STD is such that with the seatpost at full extension, the rider is placed relatively neutral over the bottom bracket. This allows for a semi-aggressive position while climbing that renders the slack front end manageable for most any climb. The STD's seat tube has a partial bend about halfway into it, but it was still enough to allow for full leg extension on the climb and more than enough drop for the descent. Although our test bike specs a 30.0 seat tube, the newest frames off the shelf will spec a 30.9mm seatpost for those interested in running a dropper-style post. PB's Take:
Cove's STD blurs the line between downhill and freeride, offering exceptional performance within each genre of mountain biking. While more playful and versatile than a full-blown DH sled, the STD doesn't hold back in hard-charging downhill and big-air performance. It even exceeds in pedal-ability considering it's classification as a big bike, and a long seat tube with front derailleur compatibility is a huge selling point for those looking to get off the grid. This is definitely a big bike though, so aggressive trailbike buyers beware. Geometry is best suited for experienced riders and works well in areas where technical maneuverability outweighs all-out speed. Rear shock setup could take some extra attention for some users, while for typically technical shore-style shuck and jiving, DH applications, and lighter riders, Elka's Stage 5 seems the obvious choice. Three sizes and a variety of colors and decal options round out the options, but Canadian-made quality comes at a price. For what the STD is designed to do, it is very difficult to fault. -BW
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For more info, visit www.covebike.com