The morning after the spectacular sight of a World Cup downhill mountain bike race being won on a bike sans chain, Spanish brand Mondraker pulled the covers off of its brand new Dune Carbon while under the suitably futuristic looking pod-style team pits used to cocoon Danny Hart and Emmeline Ragot during race weekends. Three models will be available, priced from £4699 up to £6599 (USD pricing not available) for the high-end Dune XR that's equipped with a FOX 36 Float FIT Kashima 170mm fork and Float X2 Factory Kashima shock, SRAM Guide brakes, Mavic Crossmax XL wheels and SRAM's X01 1x11 drivetrain, all of which adds up to a complete weight of 12.9kg (28.4lb). Surprisingly, the mid-range Dune Carbon RR is actually the lightest in the lineup at 12.6kg (27.78lb).Frame Design and Stealth Carbon
The headline for the new Dune Carbon is a frame that is said to be 540 grams lighter than the previous aluminium version, with a claimed frame weight of 2,460g (5.4lbs) without the shock. Mondraker also says that the lightest complete bike build will come in at a respectable for its travel 12.6kg (27.78lbs).
The new Dune is carbon from front to back, with carbon fiber used for the front triangle, swing arm, and even the rocker linkage. Along with the change of material, Mondraker has optimized the Zero Suspension for single ring drivetrains, increased the size of the pivot bearings, routed the cable and hoses internally, and included smart details like a carbon fiber chain guard.
Their divisive Forward Geometry remains, along with the 10, 20 and 30mm stems, but the new frame now offers the ability to adjust the length of the chain stays between 430 and 440mm, and adjustable head angle by plus or minus a single degree.
Dune Carbon Details
• Intended use: all-mountain / enduro
• Wheel size: 27.5''
• Rear wheel travel: 160mm
• Frame material: carbon fiber
• Adjustable head angle: +/- 1 degree
• Adjustable chain stay: 430 - 440mm
• Carbon fiber chain guard
• Internal cable routing
• Forward Geometry, 30mm stem (10 and 20mm optional)
• Frame weight: 5.4 lbs w/o shock
• Sizes: S, M, L and XL sizes
• Pricing from £4699 - £6599
In an extremely crowded 160mm marketplace, Mondraker has managed to make a name for itself by thinking outside the box when it comes to frame angles and lengths. Its Forward Geometry was a radical departure from the norm when it first arrived, but other manufacturers have slowly been catching up, although none have taken things to the extremes that Mondraker have. The Dune is a core model in the company’s range and is targeted at the increasingly popular enduro sector, and it has also been through several iterations over the years, most recently jumping up to 27.5'' wheels in 2014.
The Dune is the latest bike in the Mondraker lineup to get their Stealth carbon makeover. The Foxy went carbon in 2014
, and earlier this year the Summum Carbon downhill bike was released, meaning that the new Dune frame wasn't exactly unexpected. It’s clear from speaking to Mondraker that enduro racing has pushed the development of the new Dune Carbon. Not only has making it out of carbon fiber shed a chunk of weight, but they have worked on the stiffness of the frame to find the optimum balance of performance: Mondraker revealed it performed blind tests using Dune frames made up of different carbon fiber layups to asses the variations in performance, handling and responsiveness.
“The Dune Carbon distinguishes itself with the best lightness and efficient qualities of the Foxy Carbon while inheriting the best strengths of Summum Carbon: a structurally very robust frameset suited to the rigours of enduro racing
,” says Mondraker in its official blurb.
In making the Dune from carbon fiber, the frame weight has been drastically reduced, with the claimed 540 gram saving over the aluminium version not to be sniffed at if weight is on your agenda. It’s a sizeable decrease in heft that will certainly help ensure the new Dune Carbon appeals to weight conscious enduro racers and more casual riders out there.
Weight and stiffness aside, the company has worked hard to develop a visual identity for the new bike that sets it apart from its rivals. There’s a clear common design language flowing into the new Dune Carbon from the Summum and Foxy, but Mondraker’s industrial designer set himself the task of designing a bike that looks fast. In my books, it’s a success; it’s a handsome bike.
The split top tube creates what Mondraker calls a ‘window’ behind the tapered head tube, and it is the most distinctive aspect of the new frame design. The top tube is wide and flat and is very sloping, providing plenty of standover clearance. The attention to detail and packaging is impressive too - the gear, brake and dropper lines are routed internally, there’s armour cladding on the down tube, further protective material on the chain stays around the chain rings to both protect the carbon and dampen the noise, and a neat carbon fiber chain guard.
They've also incorporated a mudguard into the upright struts that connect the rear triangle which should afford some protection for the rear shock from wheel spray. It’s a simple thing that's held in place with zip-ties, so it's easily removable if you live somewhere drier than the UK, where you’d probably just leave it in place as it adds next to no weight to the frame.
The frame is clearly a complex piece of carbon fiber fabrication, but, as impressive as its exterior appearance is, it’s on the inside that its manufacturing qualities are best exposed. Mondraker’s Stealth Carbon technology uses a Vacuum Compression Process that removes any potential air bubbles between layers and is said to produce a very clean and smooth internal surface, which was well demonstrated with a sliced in half frame that Mondraker showed us. They have also used 3K carbon fiber to reinforce key areas of the frame that are subject to high stress loads.
As well as developing the new carbon frame, Mondraker has taken this opportunity to develop a new lower linkage, complete with collet-axle pivots and bolts that use expander cone washers, and they reckon that the update will improve reliability. Large bearings are also present at all the pivot locations, and are similar the ones used on the Summum Carbon.Forward Geometry, Added Adjustability
Mondraker’s radical Forward Geometry has earned them many plaudits and fans over the years, as well as dividing a few opinions. The essential idea behind it is to combine a longer front-centre with a very short stem in order to move the rider back relative to the fork axle but preserve the handling. It was pretty radical stuff when it first arrived, and it still is even though a slew of bike manufacturers have closed the gap somewhat. Mondraker specs the bikes with a 30mm stem, but 10 and 20mm options are also available.
For 2016 the new Dune now offers adjustable geometry. Mondraker has added an adjustable headset top cap that can slacken or steepen the head angle +1°/-1° from the stock 66° on the Dune XR - the Dune RR/R models have a half degree steeper head angle on account of the 10mm shorter travel fork that's fitted. Mondraker was keen to point out that it reckons 66° is the optimum setting for its Forward Geometry, but it’s nice to have the option to change it. As well as the adjustable head angle, the chain stay length can be modified from 430 to 440mm. Long wheelbases have been a key aspect of the Mondraker Forward Geometry, and the size large Dune has a default wheelbase of 1,243mm.
The Zero Suspension system has been used by Mondraker for many years now. It’s a patented design which works by sandwiching the rear shock between the upper and lower linkage, and the company claims that this reduces stress loads on the frame, so subsequently it can be made lighter as it doesn’t need as much reinforcing material. It's also used to provide the desired suspension performance and handling characteristic that Mondraker is looking for. Ride Impressions
Dry and fast conditions for the Leogang World Cup gave way overnight to heavy persistent rain and low cloud cover for the Mondraker launch, but being a Brit I’m well used to a bit of mud so got stuck in. With a chairlift, free pass and challenging downhill track at our disposal, we spent the day putting the new Dune Carbon through its paces. I was paired up with a large sized Dune Carbon RR, which is the £5599 mid-range model that's specced with a FOX 36 Float fork with 160mm of travel and Float X Factory shock, a set of DT Swiss' E1700 Spline wheels with Maxxis High Roller II tires, a SRAM X01 drivetrain and a Reverb dropper post.
It always takes a few rides to get used to a new bike, but with the 30mm stock stem and default geometry settings and a middle of the road suspension tune, the Dune Carbon felt good from the start. It took a few runs to get the Fox fork really dialled in but I was surprised with just how intuitive the Dune felt over multiple runs, and didn’t really require a massive adjustment of my riding style to squeeze the best out of it. It’s a naturally very fast and stable bike and that handling characteristic definitely helps when you’re riding unfamiliar trails in slippery conditions.
Dropping into the first section of trail, all rocky and rooty and twisting up, over and around dips and crests and diving erratically through the trees, it’s immediately clear that the Dune has a great tendency to quickly pick up velocity in slow to medium speed sections. Through the tighter turns it expresses a good deal of nimbleness and agility, handy when picking a line through a spiky rock garden you’ve seen for the first time while peering through rain with mud splattered glasses on. The low weight is discernible in the way the Dune Carbon accelerates, and it picks up speed between obstacles with startling pace.
While the top section of the trail was contained within the woods and provided multiple slippery rock gardens, rooty step-downs, drops, and boardwalks, the middle section squirted you out into a stunning series of bermed switchbacks cut deep into the grassy mountainside. With a good view of the trail ahead not obscured by trees, it was a good chance to let the brakes off and allow the Dune Carbon to get going fast.
Lining up for the turns it's evident that the long wheelbase provides a great deal of stability. It’s very planted, with the suspension keeping the bike settled over the loose rock. The steering feels neutral and surprisingly light when loading up the front end into the berms. I didn’t find that I had to make any radical adjustments to my riding style, but the Dune Carbon does appear to appreciate a bit more weight over the front end to push the front tire in and help initiate the turn.
This is the bit where I should be writing about the Dune Carbon’s climbing prowess, but I’ll confess that I made good use of the nearby chairlift and the free pass, so this box is pretty empty. I was too busy making use of the free lift and getting as many downhill runs logged as possible. A full review will give us more of an insight it its all-round capabilities.
Based on first impressions it’s clear Mondraker has produced a highly capable, fast and stable bike. The enduro category is a hotly contested one right now, but in the Dune Carbon’s corner is the competitive weight, smart design with clever details, and adjustable geometry that means it will appeal to those who like to tune their bikes. First impressions show a lot of promise in the new Dune Carbon, and we can’t wait for an extended ride on it.