Before I start I have to explain my bias so that you do not feel cheated in any way. Antidote offered me their fantastic frame at half of the price in exchange for promotion of their brand. The matter of a fact is that Antidote bikes is a company that I can stand behind like no other. You must take my word for it. They are a local business to me, I used to live a one and a half hour drive from the factory, so I am putting the money into the local economy. The designers Pawel and Jurek (George) design frames and components for various brands since a long time, so they know what they are doing. Finally the bike rides like a dream and looks absolutely astonishing. If S-Works Enduro and Nomad CC are super bikes, the Carbon Jack is a hyper bike without a tiniest doubt. SETUP:
Frame: Antidote Carbon Jack - Large
Shock: Cane Creek Double Barell Coil CS with S-A-R spring 475lbs
Fork: Rockshox Lyrik RCT3 2016, 160mm for local trails, 180 for the bike park
Brakes: Sram Guide RS
Rotors: XTR Ice tech 160 - local/ 200 bikepark
Wheels: DT Swiss 350 36poe straightpull/ DT comp/ DT EX471
Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5" EXO maxxgrip, Minion SS 2.3" EXO dual compound with Huck Norris
Crankset: Hope with spiderless chainring 36t (a bit meh)
Derailleur: XTR 11sp
Shifter: XTR 11sp
Cassette: XT M8000 (sucks)
Chainguide: MRP taco
Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb 125/420
Bars: Renthal LiteBar 740mm
Stem: Holzfeller 40mm
Pedals: Time Atac MX4BIKE REVIEWS SUCK
They do. I still read them, because I like someone to tell a story about one of these machines. Most bikes these days are great, the average level of suspension went up by a fair amount and it is very hard to really complain about something without coming out as someone with first world problems. In 2008 I bought my first super mountain bike: Santa Cruz Nomad. These were the times when chosing a mountain bike with more than 120mm of travel was a Russian roulette. Nomad, SX Trail, Reign X were great rarities, while bikes like Canyon Torque were utter pieces of handling rubbish with terrible suspension. Modern Canyon Strive is comparable with the best. YT Capra demolishes most of the field at a price that probably makes product managers at Trek or Specialized take sleeping pills. So I will try to describe what makes Antidote Carbon Jack outstanding and why it puts a smile on my face despite having ridden a couple of other great bikes and being perfectly satisfied with them.
As I said earlier, I owned a Nomad for some great deal of time. Then due to hormonal imbalance and feeling bored with life, I decided to buy a short travel bike. Yes indeed, I am an elitist pseudo intellectual prick of a hipster - I owned an Enduro bike become Enduro was cool and I managed to buy and sell a 5" bike before they got so cool. Just like I did 3 years ago, today many people buy 5-inchers thinking that they pedal better and provide more feedback than six-sinchers. I had that thought that is almost a cliche these days: 6" bike is too big for me. The trouble is that just like me 3 years ago, many people spend their honeymoon with the rig, and then they slowly but surely equip their 5" bike with exact same components that they had on their 6" bikes (or they would have if they bought a 6" bike right away). That is: Big fork and fat knobby tyres. In this way, pedalling efficiency and feedback go straight out of the window and they are left with suspension travel and quality that can't really cope with the geometry and setup, as soon as thing get hairy. So why are these 6 inches of travel so... unwanted? Why are people more excited about the Evil Following than the Wreckoning? My answer: Enduro Racing. Their favorite kind of riding just got serious and... mainstream. Ugh...
You can read and hear it so often that 6" bikes descend almost as good as DH bikes few years ago that we forget how well these bikes can climb. One thing went under the radar. Rear shocks got muuuch better in last two years, and that changes everything. My Antidote is a monster of a climber. It climbs better than my previous bike, the Blur TRc - one of the main protoplasts of modern 5-inchers. Even though I Pushed the crappy CTD shock, Blur was blowing through travel when pumping and was harsh on square edged hits. For example I was collapsing after 5 laps on the local pumptrack. Now Antidote with Cane Creek DB coil CS allows me to do 10 laps and some more. While bike like Specialized Epic climbs like a mountain goat, Carbon Jack climbs like a bear and the 5" fan club insinuates that such thing could at best be a sloth. Bears do catch goats and deer sometimes... I ride mostly with climb switch off can sprint or pump better than on Blur. Rear wheel sticks to the ground at the same time providing fantastic platform for pedalling. If I turn the climb switch on, the suspension barely moves and bobbing can be felt mostly from the fork. I am happy to climb standing on our local steep and rough climbs. Long wheel base and slack head angle are surprisingly not a problem, I negotiate lines through rocks and roots with more precision than on any bike I have ever ridden and sometimes my trails demand precision to an inch. What about tight turns on uphills? Well a bit of trials skills like balancing and hopping fixes the thing, bikes don't turn themselves don't they? It's not a shame to help it with... skill... instead of... getting a PhD in geometry chart analytics. A good example of how great suspension feels is climbing on sets of rock steps and large roots which is very common in my area. Such terrain feature requires working the whole body along with doing rather hard pedal stomps, preferably on harder gear. CJ does not compress too much under such feat and allows for good pedal kick in the crucial part of getting over an obstacle. For me a good climbing bike is the one that keeps my feet on the pedals from bottom to the top, and that is hard enough to do on my local trails. But for speed sensitive folks I did beat a great deal of XC racing mcahines on physically demanding trails on Strava. In fact there are very few KOMs on trails around here that aren't made by guys on bikes with 140mm of travel and more... screw the shimstack mate, pedal damn it!
Descending surprised me as well. Not much, since most of these bikes have geometries challenging downhill machines from 2010, but still. I did spend more time than usual on setting up the suspension. Piotrek Kania at BFG Suspension helped me with setting up the shock and CCDB is not something you can get right in a matter of few clicks on a parking lot and then two runs in the park. I went for coil because that was something I had great experience with, has longer service intervals and I knew that CCDB Airs had issues with swelling cans. We all probably heard of exploding Fox Floats X2, so while air shocks are getting there, they are not quite there. One day George from Antidote called me, gasping for air in excitement, saying that he just tried the CJ with Extreme Suspension Storia, saying that it's beyond anything he has ever experienced, and he obviously experienced a lot. So maybe air shocks will never really get there? At least if you forget the reading on the kitchen scale, which seem to inspire more people than the reading on the clock, or on smile meter. The fork was a bitch to setup, mainly because my previous fork, 2011 Fox 36 RC2 Van was one of the best of all times, so I tried to get the Lyrik as close to 36 as possible. It never happened but I got it close enough. maybe the latest air spring upgrade for lyrik from Vorsprung will improve things a bit. It took me about 20 rides in total to feel happy with the setup and the result was worth it.
The first time I noticed the downhill prowess of the Carbon Jack - CCDBcoil combo was on a trail I often use to access the vast network of trails in Delsjön area around Gothenburg. There's a drop there, from the fireroad into a tight singletrack with trees growing close to each other on both sides. I expected a usual speed wobble after the G-out, but CJ just glued to the ground, remaining perfectly straight sending me along the path as it should. Previously I used to deal with bikes getting unsettled, doing my best to stay away from the trees. CJ just goes ahead. Then in the rock gardens, Antidote just plows through stuff as expected, but at the same time it is ready and happy to pop from one rock over another at any time. No other bike has ever shown such composure to me. Composure is the best word to describe the geometry and suspension of this bike and the toughest of situations like a G-out or big rock that my eyes missed, is where the bike shines and always has my back. For comparison last summer I rode a very similar bike, the NS Snabb. Fantastic bike with great geometry that I felt right at home with. But suspension just doesn't have this depth of plushness and support, doesn't keep the whole bike as composed when forcing it into the ground and corners. Straight line capability of CJ is amazing indeed, but it allows me to change lines through stuff without much hassle, a thing I cannot say about a bike like Cannondale Jekyll which I personally found rather dull in that department. I haven't tried it yet in the bike park, where I'd increase the fork travel to 180mm, change tyres to Maxxis Double Down casing and turn it into mini DH sled.
There are very few bikes that I rode that came close to my CJ, I think the one that gets closest was perfectly setup Stumpjumper Evo 29. The thing that suits me better with smaller wheels is that the bike feels a bit more poppy and eager to jump over stuff, while bulldozing capability of Stumpy 29 just leaves me hungry for more rocks to eat rather than jump over. In terms of descending CJ is a slightly better version of Kona Process 167, which I absolutely love.
Well yes, a few. Cable routing is a bit of a pain, I look with envy at the execution of that matter on my friends Trek Remedy 2017. BB92 makes it a tough choice for crankset, because lately we got a few really nice cranksets with 30mm axles, and then the bearing balls get really small, which means they have to be exchanged more often. All in all BB92 allows you to install vast majority of cranksets available on the market which cannot be said about other pressfit shells. Then one has to be careful with choosing the dropper post, because the seat tube bottom ends rather high so being 178cm tall, I cannot fit a stealth dropper longer than 380mm and regular one longer than 420mm. But that is dictated by the layout of the suspension so well... it's all compromises. On another hand, many bikes these days have interrupted seat tubes so maybe dropper makers could make cable pull mechanisms on a hinge, or Rockshox could make a banjo connector at the bottom of the Reverb.
SO WHAT'S SO BLOODY GREAT ABOUT ANTIDOTE CARBON JACK
It is the best I have ever ridden, it makes me smile everytime I think of it, it makes me feel so god damn fortunate to have it. The looks are important here, the bike stands out. I have never before been told by a random passing rider that I have a great bike and it happened twice - as Swedes say: "Fett hoj!". Bikes from Antidote are up there with other McLarens and Koenigseggs of the bike world like UNNO, Robot bike co, or Nicolai Geometron. They are special, nobody can deny that. I actually caught myself laughing to myself after meeting two dudes on shiny Bronsons CC - "pfff poor f*ckers!" I mean it's special... so special... so precious. It's a kind of a frame that you unpack and wonder: should I really ride it? Maybe I should hang it on the wall and just look at it... I must admit that I absolutely love the carbon finish, I like when metal looks like metal and carbon looks like carbon. Too many high end carbon frames look like cheap plastic. CJ may not be the coolest 5" trail bike, but it rides up at least as well and always has your back when things go not as planned. And that error margin is perfect for me, a guy with office job full of responsibilities and a father with two small kids.
Now... From more pragmatic things, Anti has lifetime warranty and repair any damage to the frame at low cost, if it is evident that you were not really Just Riding Along. Antidote can also refresh your frame if it got too many scratches. They work closely with BFG Suspension company which works mostly with moto and automotive suspension (including multi 4-wheeler champion and Dakar contender) and can help you setting up a more exotic shock like Öhlins or EXT. BFG will also happily tune your fork.
If you want to know (even) more about the bike, please free to contact me via PM or firstname.lastname@example.org or write to email@example.com.
I wish to give Oscar thanks to:
Antidote bikes for the frame
Jon Lindgren @theangrybikemechanic at Trek Factory Store Gothenburg for help with building it (and every other god damn bike I owned in last 8 years)
BFG Suspension for helping me setup the bike
Also indirectly but greatly:
Ryan Leech and Lee McCormack for teaching me how to use the bike.
My dear wife Joanna for giving me opportunity to use it and taking care of our two little monsters so that I can ride it with peace of mind, for never making me feel that I should rather stay home or take it easy with taking risks while riding.
Arguably yours Wacek Kipszak WAKi