Alchemy recommends that riders begin with the rear suspension set at the ubiquitous, 30-percent sag. I was reluctant to follow their advice because I'd be sacrificing a significant portion of the Arktos' 120 millimeters of positive rear-wheel travel. My concerns, however, were unjustified. I would soon learn that the Arktos' Sine suspension kinematics create more than enough mid-stroke support to maximize the effectiveness of its remaining 84 millimeters of compression.
Armed with that knowledge, I set the Fox 36 fork a little stiffer than my norm to strike a balance. Starting with 20-percent sag, I settled on five clicks out on the high-speed rebound and eight clicks out on the low-speed. Compression settings ended up at eight out on the high-speed and ten clicks out on the low-speed dial. Shock settings were eight clicks out on the low speed rebound and three clicks out on the high speed compression. I used the middle position of the DPX2 shock's low-speed compression lever for pedaling paved climbs and left it open for everything else. Climbing and acceleration:
Given Colorado's abundant opportunities for extended climbs and the bike's short-travel mission statement, I anticipated the Arktos 29 would feel energetic under power at the expense of some small-bump harshness. Not so. Alchemy's take on an efficient climber is to trade some of the perceived efficiency that comes from a busload of anti-squat and an overly firm feel at the pedals for better square-edge and small-bump suspension performance. Climbing and pedalling efficiency is multiplied by the Arktos' ability to maintain momentum over terrain that defeats old-school stiffer-is-better suspension designs. I didn't always feel like I was covering more ground, but I was faster everywhere pedaling was involved.Fun factor:
"Playful" is commonly used to describe the essence of short-travel trail bikes. Cornering, jumping, making shapes - any move that requires intuition and timing seems easier - and there's a reason for that. Minimize the suspension travel and you also minimize the variables that come with big travel bikes, like unplanned weight transfer and steering angles that are all over the map, depending upon which end of the bike is extended or compressed. Minimalist trail bikes like the Arktos 29 reap the benefits of big wheels and gravity-tuned geometry, while their limited wheel travel provides more consistent handling. Geometry is rock stable through the turns and there's less squish to push through when you need to load up the bike for a jump.
Bottom line is the Arktos 29 ST, with its planted suspension and balanced numbers, feels like an intuitive extension of its pilot - a joy to ride anywhere it's fast, technical and twisty. Technical riding:
Rear-wheel drifts are in vogue, and there's much confidence in the notion that your bike's tail end will break free well before the front tire loses grip. Ask the Arktos and it will comply, but left to its own desires, it will tenaciously hold its line through the turns, and when it does break traction, both wheels will drift about the same. You won't look as stylish, but you'll carry more speed and you'll have an easier time setting up for the next bend.
Point the Arktos 29 toward danger and it probably won't get you in trouble - even when you run out of suspension. Fox's 140-millimeter 36 fork never ceases to impress, and the Arktos' Sine rear suspension follows suit with a level of grip and control that defies the reality of its puny rear-wheel travel. Both O-rings and the Stan's sealant bleeding from the Maxxis EXO tire casings indicated that I was asking for more suspension than Alchemy provided, but the Arktos remained composed in spite of it all.
Invinceable? Yes, you can brake late, leap over rock gardens, take the bold lines down rock faces and carve inside lines around cobbled corners - but push past the Arktos' suspension and your limitations will soon depend upon your skillset. Alchemy makes a more capable enduro version of this machine for the rest of us. Suspension action:
Alchemy's claims about its Sine suspension were justified by the Arktos 29's performance. Sine's reversing leverage rates may or may not have played a commanding role in this equation, given the small range of motion that those elements have to impose their will upon the Fox DPX 2 damper, but there can be no doubt that the Arktos 29 pedals well, remains composed in its mid-stroke and provides an uncanny degree of smoothness over a wide range of speed and trail conditions. I'll attribute some of that composure to the Fox 36 fork, which matches the beauty of Sine's mid-stroke performance, but provides much more of it.