PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
6 Downcountry Bikes Battle the Hardest Impossible Climb Yet
Like hot gravy on cheese curds, Quebec's mud and roots can be incredibly slippery.
I thought the trail builders were pulling my leg when they led us to the bottom of a singletrack descent at the Empire 47 trail center, which was the location of our Impossible Climb for the Quebec Downcountry Field Test. They had to be joking. What did they think I was made of? There was absolutely no way to go up this wall of roots and rock.
The wall in front of me was actually a descending trail that the crew had closed for the morning and hinted that it had been climbed by savvy locals before. After scoping some possible lines and checking to see if it was even close to possible, we set up a few course markers and lined up the bikes. As usual, all of the tires were set to the same pressures and the bikes were tuned to my liking. Soft dirt from the previous night’s thunderstorm meant we had a serious challenge in front of us.
First to call was the Lapierre XRM 8.9. We discussed how low and short the bike was in the review, but this is where the stiff pedalling platform and geometry that catered to uphill climbing would shine the brightest. That combo would certainly help, but couldn’t deliver enough traction or balance on the ultra slick and steep wall of wet roots.
Starting out with a handicap due to the broken integrated seatpost, the BMC Fourstroke 01 LT ONE didn’t stand a chance on this day. A lower-than-optimal seat height meant that the same power was getting to the rear wheel and my weight was hanging too far off the back. However, the firm pedalling platform did give a helping hand. With a functional seatpost, the Fourstroke proved to be a proficient climber in our testing, before the mishap, and was otherwise a solid contender on the Impossible Climb.
So far, we were 0 for two. The little Ibis Exie, with just 100mm of travel, had a big task ahead of itself. But, there’s more to a bike than just the pure amount of travel. Those two little links form the DW-link suspension that tapped into an efficient, yet superior movement to put down power and provide traction. The riding position was on the forward side, but nothing crazy like the Lapierre. I can’t say it was a huge surprise, but the Exie managed to claim the highest mark.
What about the rest of the fleet? The RSD, Evil, and Allied were all victims of the elements. As the challenge went on, the main line deteriorated. We made some modifications to the track and allowed for a couple of attempts. That RSD was noticeably calmer with its long wheelbase and extra travel, however the weight was noticeable, even on a short climb like this. The Following’s short chainstays meant that we loved popping around on the trail while descending, however, when you add in a slack seat tube angle, it was clear that climbing was not its forte.
Our favorite downcountry bike in the test, the Allied BC40 sure was light, had all the right geometry and pedalled very well, but it couldn’t produce quite the same level of grip in those deteriorating conditions and beat the Exie’s climbing capabilities. That’s just how the Impossible Climb goes sometimes!