I started with the Gambler in the low / progressive setting, which delivers the most amount of beginning stroke suppleness in order to maximize traction in steeper, loose terrain. That setting worked as advertised, and on more natural tracks the fact that it took barely any effort to initiate the rear travel helped keep the back end stuck to the ground. Add in the tenacious grip of the Maxxis Assegai tires and you've got traction for days.
The downside to all the suppleness became apparent when I headed to the Whistler Bike Park. In that setting, where the speeds were higher and the trails weren't quite as steep or rugged as the natural tracks I'd been on previously, I found myself sitting a little deeper in the travel than I wanted, and there wasn't quite the level of support I was looking for on jump- and berm-filled trails. Out came the wrench, and within a few minutes I'd swapped the shock to the linear / low position. That setting created a more supportive beginning and mid-stroke, and felt much more appropriate for the bike park, while still retaining enough ramp-up to avoid any harsh bottom outs.
The Gambler is an incredibly neutral feeling bike – it's free of any unwanted surprises, and no matter the terrain, whether it was extra-chunky and blown out, or fast and smooth, the handling remained consistent. Grab a handful of brake in the steeps and the rear end will still keep sucking up those bumps; compared to the Kona Operator I'd been on previously it was a bit surprising how unaffected the rear suspension was. I personally prefer a little more anti-rise than what the Gambler delivers; I'm willing to trade some plushness for geometry preservation, but it didn't take long to adapt to the Gambler's handling. The 450mm chainstay length felt well-matched to the 460mm reach number, which meant that I never switched to the shorter setting, but the option is there for riders who want to experiment a little.
The Gambler never felt delicate or too floaty for me despite its impressively light 34.5-pound weight. It has the solidity you'd expect from a DH bike, without a hint of sluggishness when it comes time to get airborne or lift up and over a section of chunky trail. The “weight doesn't matter” motto gets tossed around all the time, but there's something to be said about starting with a lighter chassis rather than spending time and money further down the road trying to knock off a few grams. That lighter weight also means it's easier to add things like tire inserts or aluminum parts without worrying about the number on the scale climbing too high.