The Privateer is billed as an enduro race bike, and under a strong, aggressive rider there's no doubt it could fill that role, although it can be a handful on slower, tighter sections of trail. There's an endless variety of enduro race courses out there, but many of them tend to have at least a few tighter, more awkward sections, which is where the 161 struggles a bit. To me, it felt more like a burly bike park bike, or something that could be used to access steep DH trails via pedal power when there's no shuttle truck or chairlift nearby.
The 161 does best on faster, wide-open tracks – it's more of a speed demon than a trail dancer – and when there's room to straighten it out and let off the brakes the stability at speed is very satisfying. However, despite having 161mm of travel, it's not the plushest ride out there. It takes the edge off big hits but doesn't mute them as much as I'd expected. The flip side to that is it's easy to tell what the back end is doing; there's no vague handling when plowing through rooty or rock-strewn sections of trail.
I experimented with different sag amounts and volume spacer configurations, and I found that 27% sag with two spacers gave me the best results. Running more sag had me sitting deeper in the stroke than I wanted, and one spacer had me going through the travel a little too easily. The stock Super Deluxe shock has a medium rebound / light compression tune, but I do wonder if going even lighter with the compression would help increase the level of small bump sensitivity. A coil shock could also help in this department, bumping up the level of grip available in slippery terrain.
I had the Guerilla Gravity Gnarvana on hand at the same time as the Privateer, and while the wheelbase lengths are within 5mm of each other, the Gnarvana was noticeably easier to manage, especially at slower speeds. The Gnarvana and its coil shock had a much plusher, ground-hugging feel, while the Privateer sat higher in its travel, and didn't track the ground as well. Looking a little closer at the numbers, the 161 is 20mm longer in reach, which could certainly have contributed to the feeling that I had to work harder to muscle it around. The 161 can feel like a handful at times if you didn't bring your A-game, while the Gnarvana was more forgiving on the days when I felt more like cruising rather than turning the dial up to 11.