PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
2020 Mondraker F-Podium DC
So much potential, but the details hold it back on the descents.
Words by Sarah Moore, Photography by Trevor Lyden
When Mondraker printed "downcountry" on the 'DC' model of their F-Podium XC machine, we knew that it had caught on as a subcategory. Or maybe that means it's jumped the shark? Regardless, the DC version of Mondraker's World Cup-level F-Podium gets a longer travel fork, wider tires, and a dropper post.
Prices for the two DC models are $6,000 (F-Podium DC R) and $8,400 USD (as tested). The regular F-Podium XC race model ranges from $5,500 USD to $14,000 USD, but doesn't have that sweet 'downcountry' sticker. Our test rig came with a 120mm Fox 34 Float FIT4 Step-Cast Factory fork, Fox Float Factory rear shock, Shimano XTR brakes, a Shimano XTR drivetrain, and DT-Swiss XR1501 Spline One 29 aluminum wheels.
F-Podium DC Details
Intended use: Downcountry
Wheel size: 29''
Frame construction: Carbon fiber
Head angle: 66.8°
Chainstay length: 432 mm
Reach: 450 mm (size Medium)
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Weight: 26.4lbs / 11.97 kg (as pictured)
Price: $8,400 USD
More info: www.mondraker.com
Mondraker helped popularize the long, slack and low geometry with its bigger travel models, and the striking F-Podium DC incorporates the latest iteration of their Forward Geometry. That means a 450mm reach on a size medium, a 50mm stem, and a 44mm offset fork.
The F-Podium uses the Spanish brand's Zero Suspension system, a dual-link design with a carbon fibre rocker driving the shock through a tunnel in the seat tube, and an aluminum lower link rotating just behind the bottom bracket.
Frame details include full internal cable routing, a rubber frame protector on the chainstay and down tube, space for a bottle cage on the down tube with a choice of two positions, a threaded bottom bracket, and Boost spacing. As with most new bikes these days, it doesn't accept a front derailleur. Climbing
The climbing position on the Mondraker F-Podium DC is dialed. The combination of the 75.1° seat tube angle and the 450mm reach keep you centered over the bike, and the front wheel stays nicely planted on the ground. It’s also really light, and it feels like it on the trail. The F-Podium DC was just 26.4lb, without pedals, which was 300g heavier than the Trek Top Fuel, but two pounds lighter than the Juliana, and three pounds lighter than the Guerilla Gravity.
While we relished the low weight on the climbs, we found the suspension to be somewhat harsh, even for just 100mm. Mondraker's Zero design is extremely efficient, but the shock's stock compression tune is heavy-handed, which negatively impacts the traction on rougher climbs. It also ramps up too quickly, which led to James and I running the pressures much lower than what Mondraker recommends.
One minor gripe was that the stem has a -5° drop. Combined with a trimmed down steerer tube, we found the bar/stem position to be too low even for our XC-ish intentions. It was in a better position for climbing after we flipped it, but visually the stem clearly isn’t meant to be run that way.Descending
A roomy 450mm reach (size M) combined with a neutral 66.8-degree head tube angle on the F-Podium suggested that it should be a relatively good descender, and for the most part, that’s how the handling felt on the trail. It's easy to navigate through corners and it's stable at speed.
But while the geometry is dialed, the suspension felt unbalanced. There was nothing wrong with the 120mm travel Fox 34, but paired with the rear suspension that ramped up early and aggressively, it sometimes felt like the bike was steeper than it needed to be, pitching us forward. Speaking of that ramp-up, even though we were already running the rear shock with a lot less air and more sag than we were supposed to, neither of us used more than about 80-percent of the available travel, either on the test loop or on any of the longer rides we did. The suspension kinematic has too much rise, and the compression tune on the rear shock is too heavy. Most riders would benefit from yanking out some volume spacers to help make the suspension a little more linear.
Given how efficiently their Zero system suspension works already, in our opinion it doesn't make sense to have a dual remote lockout on this bike. On top of that, the default position on their lockout is locked, and we both locked out the suspension accidentally more than once while descending. Not good. And don't get me started on the dropper post... It returns slowly and with so much friction that it struggles to fully extend.
This platform is clearly an impressive one, but with some key component missteps, it’s not quite there. It's an incredibly efficient bike with progressive geometry and would be right at home on a one-day marathon race or an aggressive XC track, but some spec changes are in order before it's truly worthy of the “downcountry” sticker on the frame.