Construction and Features
Eminent Cycles’ latest carbon-framed 29er is the second trail bike from the Southern California brand. It’s called the Onset, and its bold, angular lines and four-bar AFS suspension are sure to inspire questions at trailheads.
Designer and founder Jeff Soncrant says the Onset benefits greatly from lessons learned after Eminent arrived on the scene with guns blazing and the equally wild looking 27.5-inch-wheel Haste a little more than a year ago. The Onset’s numbers are more aggressive, the suspension is more gravity friendly, and it's available in two wheel-travel options: 120 rear/130 front, or 140 rear/150 front. I chose the more aggressive, 140/150-millimeter build for this review.
· Purpose: All-mountain / trail
· Chassis: Carbon fiber, four-bar AFS suspension, 140mm or 120mm travel
· Wheel size: 29”
· Key numbers: 66°/66.8° head angle, 76°/75° Seat angle, 44mm fork offset, 407mm/467mm reach, 442mm chainstays.
· Features: ISCG 05 tabs, bottle mount, angular-contact pivot bearings
· Sizes: Small (reviewed), medium, Large
· Weight: 32.43 lbs (14.74kg) size small
· MSRP: $4,099 USD / $6,299 USD
· Contact: Eminent Cycles
Eminent’s Onset is intentionally designed to split the difference between long and slack and short and nimble. If it had a mission statement, it would be the bike you’d choose for big days at Moab or high alpine loops where you’d be facing everything from mind-numbing fire-road climbs to black-line descents. The suspension’s kinematics are weighted to enhance pedaling feel and efficiency, with anti-squat peaking a bit over 120-percent and a lot of mid-stroke support. Behind its flashy looks, the Onset has a ready for anything, “just ride yer’ bike” personality, very much like the Santa Cruz Blur LT.
“Flashy,” however, is part of the Eminent ethos. Jeff Soncrant wanted to offer riders an alternative to corporate-filtered big-brand bikes like Trek and Specialized, ones that felt decidedly different under saddle and damn sure to look the part.
Much of the Onset’s angular profile is a styling exercise, but science is also involved. Rectangular tubes in the main frame and rear suspension provide more lateral stiffness, and the head tube brace is an element that most mountain bikes could benefit from. The square “Sponge Bob” seat tube, however, seems like a candidate for PB’s annual “Copious use of carbon for no apparent reason” award.
Hidden inside the frame are bonded-in carbon tubes that guide hoses and housings to their destinations. Angular contact bearings handle lateral stress better than conventional ball bearings, so they are used at each suspension pivot. Eminent has upgraded its internal seatpost clamp wedges with grippers to solve an issue that surfaced with the Haste. A single water bottle mount is located inside the front triangle, while down low, a thick carbon bash guard protects the down tube, and ISCG 05 tabs are mated to an MRP top guide.
Eminent retains its external dropper post routing. I don’t like the look, but it works fine, and if KS stops production, the recently introduced ASX wireless Reverb from RockShox will no doubt inspire a number of copycat droppers, which may end the
cable routing debate entirely. My test bike was a size small and was shipped with a 125mm-stroke post. At my ride height (32” inseam), there was room for a 150mm dropper in the frame, which was an issue with the Haste, so Eminent has responded to that criticism as well.AFS Suspension
Fox is the suspension of choice for Eminent, and the most affordable Comp 140 model tested here is outfitted with a 150-millimeter-travel 36 Rhythm fork that has a 44-millimeter offset. The shock is a DPS EVOL in-line type. Both items have proven to be reliable performers and easy to tune.
Eminent’s “Active Floating System” is a true four-bar suspension design which inverts the current short-link, four-bar trend popularized by the dw link and VPP. Where short links are prone to dramatic (sometimes beneficial) rate changes, especially near the extremes of the suspension travel, the Onset’s longer links can provide a more gradual ramp-up of the shock’s spring and damping forces as the suspension compresses. AFS is a simple solution to create end-stroke firmness and mid-stroke support without the need for funky shock tunes or playing air-volume spacer Jenga.
The Onset’s shock is compressed between the upper link and the swingarm – a strategy that a number of suspension designers have employed to either alter the leverage rate, or more simply, to concentrate compression forces into an area that is already heavily reinforced (like swingarm yoke), thus saving the weight and complexity of an additional shock-mount location. That said, AFS requires a seat tube tunnel, much like Commencal’s original Meta trail bikes.
An aluminum extension helps span the distance between the swingarm and the upper shock mount. The extension incorporates a flip chip that Eminent uses to configure the Onset from 120 to 140-millimeters of rear-wheel travel, and also will be employed to future proof the suspension to adapt to a wider range of shocks. This test bike was the most affordable, “Comp” build, with a Fox Float DPX in-line damper. Reportedly, its AFS suspension can also be configured with a wide range of reservoir dampers and both air and coil-sprung shocks.
Soncrant wanted the new 29er to climb and pedal with class-leading efficiency and firmness. He began
The extension does not require a special shock.
with anti-squat values near 130-percent, but test mules revealed that was overkill. Reportedly, the Onset peaks at 120-percent which, in conjunction with the suspension’s ample mid-stroke support, puts the new 29er squarely in the hunt without shackling the bike’s uncanny ability to track the ground. More on that later.Geometry
Hard to believe that it took 30 years to figure it out, but mountain bikes climb better with steeper seat tubes than the road and balloon tire bikes they sprouted from. The Haste missed the mark with its old-school, 73-degree angle, but Eminent gave the Onset a respectable 76-degree seat tube (75.5 on the 140mm version), which perfectly suits its aggressive, all-purpose mission statement. Same for its head angles, which are stated at 66-degrees for the 140mm and 66.8 for the short-travel model.
Like many contemporary frames, the Onset’s actual seat tube angle is decidedly slacker than its stated angle, which is calculated where the saddle hovers at an average ride height (some bike designers calculate effective ST angles level with stack height). I have a 32-inch inseam, which works out to a ride height of 28.375 inches from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the saddle at the center of the seat post. The measured effective seat tube angle was 76 degrees.
Reaches are ample but stop short of the numbers vanguard builders are touting. Small sized 140 models get a 407-millimeter reach, the size medium a 432-millimeter reach, and the size large sits at 458-millimeters. Reach grows 9-millimeters for all sizes of the 120 model.
Rounding out the Onset’s sensibly modern geometry are its low enough, 330-millimeter bottom bracket height and not too short, 440-millimeter chainstays.Key Components
Eminent chose Shimano as its drivetrain supplier, which bucks the SRAM trend of late. Our Comp 140 uses 11-speed SLX components, including its crankset, which sports a 30-tooth chainring, backed by an MRP top guide. Wheels are well spec’ed with 30-millimeter-wide DT/Swiss M1900 rims and capped by Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR tires. Brakes are 4-piston Magura MT Sports and, as mentioned, the 125-millimeter dropper post (150 is noted in the specs) is a KS LEV with external cable routing. Nice to see ProTaper handlebars at this level, and a comfortable WTB Volt saddle.See all the component specs for the Onset 120 and 140 here.
I found the Onset’s suspension surprisingly easy to set up. I used 30-percent for the shock sag, with the rebound seven clicks out from closed, then set the fork at Fox’s starting-point recommendations, both of which worked out well from the get-go. I cut the 810-millimeter ProTaper bars to 780 and set the tire pressures to 28 rear and 25 front. That's where I left the settings for the duration of the review.
I usually ride medium-sized frames, so I had some trepidation about Eminent’s insistence that I should be riding a size small Onset. To be honest, the wheelbase and reach still feel a little cramped, which is normal for me, as my proportions fall between most small and medium-sized trail bikes.
The standout impression of the Onset was how supple and planted the rear suspension feels. It tracks the ground so well that I automatically reached for the low-speed compression lever as I approached the first serious climb – assuming that the tail end of the bike would soon be wallowing with every pedal stroke. I need not have worried.
When the Haste debuted, Eminent’s PR touted that its AFS rear suspension was capable of remaining glued to the trail, while delivering ultra-efficient pedaling. It was a solid performing suspension under power, but not THAT good. By contrast, the Onset’s pedaling and suspension dynamics actually manage to deliver on those promises. Leave the suspension wide open and you’ll discover that the Onset is an excellent climber in or out of the saddle. As supple as the rear suspension feels, there was no perception that its action hindered my power output – a wonderful combination of abundant traction and pedaling support that made tricky climbs seem easy.
I am still experimenting with the Onset’s cornering. The rear suspension creates such a gentle release when the rear tire breaks traction that it took a while to get a feel for the boundaries. It seems to corner best when you push the tires into the apex and get the job done quickly rather than scribing a smooth arc. Either way, it’s proving to be far more trustworthy in the turns than I expected from the most compact of the three size options.
I was curious about the Onset’s floating rear brake. Normally, a designer would need to either isolate braking torque to the short link that contains the rear axle, or transfer the force through a separate link to the front triangle. In the case of the Onset AFS suspension, the brake caliper pivots concentrically around the rear axle, and braking torque is fed into the lower link through a sliding pivot.
It’s an alternative solution that, apparently, does a good job. Braking while descending tricky chutes or while trail braking into rough corners does not unsettle the suspension, nor affect the ride height of the chassis noticeably.
At speed, the Onset stays quiet. It doesn’t feel “poppy,” if you are searching for a cliché, but it is nimble enough to play off features and it jumps straight and true. The steering feels light and direct across the range, fast or slow. I aced a few skinnies that have recently tossed me into the weeds, and it gets around tight switchbacks quite well – especially for a big-wheel bike.