Field Test: Contra MC - The Steel Steamroller

Aug 15, 2022 at 18:51
by Mike Kazimer  


PINKBIKE FIELD TEST

Contra MC



Words by Mike Kazimer; photography by Dave Trumpore


The Contra MC (MC stands for Magic Carpet) is the home brewed creation of Evan Turpen, a former pro downhill racer and mechanic who taught himself how to use engineering software in order to create bikes that matched his needs.

The MC is aimed at the enduro / gravity crowd, with 29” wheels and 164mm of rear travel paired with a 170mm fork. The frame is a sight to behold in person – it has sort of a steampunk vibe to it thanks to the skinny steel tubes paired with shiny machined aluminum links and a large idler pulley.

The MC's suspension design gives it an axle path that moves the wheel rearward 22mm over the course of the travel. The idler pulley wheel is fairly large, a conscious design decision that was done to help reduce the amount of drag in the system – with a larger pulley wheel the chain doesn't have to make as sharp of a bend on its way around. Seb Stott's First Look article does a great job explaining exactly how the dual-link suspension design works – you can check that out here.
Contra MC Details

• Travel: 164mm / 170mm fork
• Steel frame, aluminum links
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head angle: 63.5°
• Seat tube angle: 78°
• Reach: 480mm (L)
• Chainstay length: 438mm (L)
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL, XXL
• Weight: 37.25 lb / 16.9 kg
• Price: $4,500 USD (frame w/ EXT Storia shock) / Approx. $11,379 USD as tested.
contrabikes.com

For such a small company Evan has hit the ground running, and will be offering the MC in 6 sizes, from XS to XXL, with reach numbers ranging from 420 – 520mm in 20mm increments. The smaller two sizes get 27.5” rear wheels (the XS has 27.5” wheels front and rear), while all the rest run full 29” setups.


As far as geometry goes, our size large test bike had a head angle of 63.5-degrees, a seat tube angle of 78-degrees, and a 480mm reach. The chainstays measured 438mm, a number that varies depending on the frame size – they grow by 6mm as the sizes increase.

With a steel frame, a high-pivot suspension design that delivers 164mm of travel, and a build kit that's skewed towards the gravity-oriented end of the spectrum it's not entirely surprising that this ended up being the heaviest bike we had on test, tipping the scales at 37.2 pounds.

The Contra is only offered as a frame and shock only; the frame with an EXT Storia is priced at $4,500 USD. That's certainly on the higher end side of things, but keep in mind the frame is handmade in California.






Climbing

The Contra's weight can't be overlooked, but judging this steel machine by that one figure would be doing it a disservice. The actual pedaling performance was quite impressive – that big EXT coil shock stayed remarkably unfazed by weight shifts during climbs, with minimal bobbing even during out of the saddle effort.

The overall position is comfortable and upright, thanks to the steep 78-degree seat angle. I did end up going with a 40mm stem versus the 35mm stem it was supplied with, and while 5mm may not seem like much, that increase helped calm down the steering a touch while climbing and descending.

Compared to the other bikes on test, I'd put the Contra in the same realm as the Commencal Meta SX. Both have pedaling positions that work well for sitting and spinning up steep climbs, but neither one feels particularly energetic – they're calm cruisers through and through. The Contra did offer a little more traction than the Meta SX on rougher, chunkier climbs, likely due to a combination of the larger rear wheel, high pivot suspension design, and coil shock.

Compared to the Deviate Claymore, the other high pivot bike in this field test, the Contra has more subdued climbing manners. The Deviate's head angle is a bit steeper, and it weighs a couple pounds less than the MC, factors that make it a bit easier to handle on tighter, slower speed climbs.

As far as noise and drag from the idler goes, the MC remained refreshingly quiet despite being subjected to a whole bunch of mud and grit. High pivot bikes do require a more frequent application of chain lube – that's key to keeping any chain noise to a minimum.




Descending

The Contra possesses a sense of calm that brought to mind the way it feels to ride with a full-face helmet versus a half shell. With a half shell, the wind and trail noise are clear indicators of how fast you're going. With a full face, those indicators are muffled, making it easier to go even faster. That same sensation prevails with the Contra MC – it muffles the trail in such a way that letting off the brakes and plowing straight ahead usually seems like the best course of action. The EXT Storia coil shock has excellent bottom-out resistance, which made it easy to chuck the Contra MC into rough section of trail and trust that everything would be all right.
Timed Testing

Our timed lap started relatively flat with some pedally sections, then dropped into steeper, choppier terrain, with a series of stair-step drops, a few root doubles, and some fast corners. Don't forget that timing is just one of many ways to judge a bike, and fast doesn't always mean it's the best for everyone.

"I put down my fastest time on the Contra, with the Transition Patrol slotting into second place .9 seconds behind." - Mike Kazimer

I wasn't surprised to get my fastest timed lap on the Contra, and Matt Beer had the same experience. This is a bike that comes alive at higher speeds and on rougher trails, with loads of traction that keeps the rear wheel glued to the ground no matter how slimy the conditions are. That stuck-to-the-ground feeling doesn't mean it can't jump, though, it just means that it feels most at home on bigger hits rather than hopping and popping over little mid-trail hits. It would make a great park bike, especially for riders that like to mix it up, hitting chunky DH tracks one lap and floaty jump lines the next.

On slower speed, steep trails it remained manageable, although there were a few times I had the sensation that there was a slight disconnect between the handling at the front of the bike versus the back. It's hard to accurately put into words, but it was almost like it took longer for the rear end to respond to steering inputs. The rear wheel does get further away as the bike goes through its travel, although I haven't experienced anything quite like this on other high pivot bikes. I wouldn't necessarily call it negative trait, but it was different from what I'm used to.

I'd classify the Contra as the most gravity-oriented bike out of this bunch, followed closely by the Commencal Meta SX. They're long, slack machines that have a fiendish appetite for steep, rough trails, and can feel a little underwhelming on mellower terrain. That's different from the Fezzari La Sal Peak or the Santa Cruz Megatower, bikes that are lighter and livelier on a wider range of trails.

Would the Contra make a good enduro race bike? That depends. I can see it doing well somewhere like Whistler, where the stages are rough and on the steeper side, without too many really tight turns. It's less well suited to tighter, more awkward tracks, where its weight and ground-hugging nature would make it more of a handful.

Over the course of the test period we did notice a few paint scuffs showing up where the cranks get close to the chainstays. As mentioned, it was muddy most of the time we were on the bike, but no matter what the crankarm to chainstay clearance is pretty tight – it'd be nice if there was a little more room to keep dings and chips from appearing. According to Evan Turpen, production frames will be powdercoated, which should greatly improve the paint durability, and a change has been made to the chainstays to allow for a tighter radius bend, increasing tire, heel, and chainring clearance.




Pros

+ Smooth, bottomless suspension feel in rough terrain
+ Quiet, especially for a bike with an idler pulley
+ Mutes terrain and vibrations very, very well

Cons

- On the heavier side of the spectrum
- Not much clearance between crank and chainstay, although this should be improved on final production versions




The 2022 Enduro Bike Field Test is presented by Rapha, POC, and Continental. Thanks for keeping us dressed, safe, and rolling rubber side down.





270 Comments

  • 289 3
 discount code at time of purchase is: up up down down left right left right b a start.....
  • 78 13
 Generation Z will never understand this...
  • 34 2
 @MindPatterns: 100%, never......that code has been stuck in my head for the last 35+ years
  • 4 0
 @RadBartTaylor: When did you enter that was it right after the start screen? I used to have a shirt with the symbols for this code.
  • 5 21
flag cmi85 (Aug 31, 2022 at 9:44) (Below Threshold)
 @RadBartTaylor: is it mortal Kombat? Or Doom?
  • 92 1
 @cmi85, whoosh... It's Contra, the best video game ever.
  • 21 0
 Does this bike also give me 30 lives? I could do with it.
  • 5 3
 @mikekazimer: dang....I'm 38yo, perhaps Nintendo was a bit before my time I guess. I just remember that Game Genie cheat thing. I've never even heard of Contra. I thought Zelda was best video game ever?!?

Regardless, never played either,so ....
  • 23 0
 @cmi85: Contra was indeed the best game ever.... Zelda was also radical, but nothing was more fun that mowing down alien scum with a buddy during a 2 player Contra session.
  • 6 12
flag mildsauce91 (Aug 31, 2022 at 10:11) (Below Threshold)
 @cmi85: Zelda is indeed the best game ever
  • 4 1
 @MindPatterns: nah they'll just simply ask Contra for a free bike in return for some "sicccc tiktok" content lol
  • 2 1
 @mikekazimer: I think it worked on 'Life-force as well.
  • 3 0
 select
  • 4 0
 @Vudu74: all of those old Konami games as I recall
  • 2 0
 @stewwyatt: the 'select' was to change from one to two players....
  • 2 0
 @jaytdubs: best ever, getting the power up weapons, fighting your buddies over who got the power ups....good times.....simple times!
  • 1 0
 @McMurray: I think it was before the start up screen, before you had the option to select 1 vs 2 players....it was kind of hit or miss but it's been a good 25 years since I've tried...
  • 11 3
 @mikekazimer: you mis-spelled N64 Goldeneye.
  • 1 1
 @mikekazimer: Meh. However it did lead to Metal Slug, the best video game series ever.
  • 22 0
 @cmi85: Original PC Doom:

IDDQD -- Invulnerability
IDBEHOLDI -- Temporary invisibility
IDBEHOLDR -- Temporary radiation suit
IDBEHOLDS -- Temporary berserk
IDBEHOLDA -- Temporary automap
IDBEHOLDV -- Temporary invulnerability
IDBEHOLDL -- Temporary light
IDKFA -- Full health, ammo, weapons, armor and keys
IDFA -- Full health, ammo, weapons, and armor
IDDT -- Change map detail
IDCHOPPERS -- Gain chainsaw
IDCLEVxx -- Warp to level 'xx' where xx is 01 to 19
IDMYPOS -- Displays your position and bearing
IDMUSxx -- Music select. 'xx' is the level who's song you want.
IDSPISPOPD -- Walk through walls!
IDCLIP -- Walk through walls
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: This bike certainly seems to be a cheat code on the trail too
  • 4 0
 @Chuckolicious: classic!

I played the heck out of Wolfenstein then Doom but ended up wasting way too much time multi-playing Duke Nukem...
  • 3 0
 @RadBartTaylor: Multiplayer Duke Nukem, using the DWANGO service. Doom and Quake too. And Hexen!
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: No shot you picked Contra over Excite Bike.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: how is the contra vs deviate vs kavenz and ESP it vs the dreadnaught. Seems like the most specialist downhill. Of the kavenz, dreadnaught and deviate, what's your pick for a PNW daily driver?
  • 2 2
 @mikekazimer: I mean- Altered Beast was pretty top notch also...
  • 3 3
 @cmi85: don't worry, you're right about Zelda
  • 9 0
 @MindPatterns: My Gen Z kid understands this because I am an excellent parent.
  • 3 0
 I hate that I can't change my accidental downvote to an upvote
  • 3 0
 @mikekazimer: Its a Konami code. It worked on more than one Konami NES game. It also worked on Ikari Warriors, Gradius, Life Force.
  • 1 0
 @Chuckolicious: did you have that memorized?
  • 8 0
 You guys are nerds, I used to play Leisure Suit Larry on my dad's computer.
  • 1 0
 @wburnes: Heh... a long long time ago...
  • 1 0
 @Tmackstab: I had that 5.25 inch floppy in a box until a few years ago.
  • 4 0
 @Chuckolicious: so many suitable jokes from this....
  • 1 0
 @Tmackstab: “suit..”
  • 1 0
 @Chuckolicious: they just keep coming! Oh was that another one just now?!
  • 2 0
 @RadBartTaylor: I'm going to rip off your head and $#!^ down your neck! played that game probably everday for a summer making levels and setting up LANs at my friends.

played the hell out of contra and castlevania, got-em on retropi emulated for my boys.
  • 2 0
 @csvetich: ""It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I'm all out of gum"
  • 2 4
 @mikekazimer: really?! Surprised you didn’t pick the clear winner of best video game of all time is any gran turismo.
  • 1 0
 When I was a just a little kid I used to hop in my big bros bed on weekend mornings and play contra and double dragon all morning long. One of those crappy really old small tiny lil weird TV's back then. Good memories. Oh and don't forget tecmo bowl and Metroid too
  • 1 0
 @Yody: metroid was sooo weird, music creeped me out but but what a cool game.
  • 1 0
 @Tmackstab: same, on an Olivetti M24 - the only display color was orange. The woman in the hot tub at the end was amazing....
  • 1 0
 @Chuckolicious: aw man, Hexen was great. Damn im old Big Grin
  • 2 0
 @ACIDGiant: Big Grin And hey Budapest represent! My mom's from there and half my family is there. Own the best Cukrászda in town, IMO.
  • 1 0
 @Anthonyork: Sounds like a cracker of a test....and run them against the Specialized Enduro as the control bike. Internet could explode..
  • 2 0
 @MindPatterns: I'm on the border between millennial and gen Z, but rest assured pretty much any dedicated nerd knows the OG Konami Code
  • 1 0
 @Chuckolicious: which one?
  • 1 0
 @ACIDGiant: Jezsek Cukrászda, Népszínház utca 53., Budapest, Hungary
  • 2 0
 Steel frame, coil shock, solid build and still lighter than a Norco Range. Nice work.
  • 1 0
 Dude
  • 68 8
 This bike is so steampunk I friggin love it.
  • 33 1
 It comes complete with leather pilot helmet and copper sunglasses
  • 1 0
 Damn, I came to post the same. 2nd place might as well be last.
  • 3 5
 @pakleni: They should hook up a vape port so it can make faux steam somewhere.
  • 1 0
 This is a really steampunk acoustic bike. We're using these terms ironically, right?
  • 2 0
 @AndrewFleming: if u ain’t first ur last ;
Big Grin
  • 9 1
 Needs a Brooks saddle and leather grips
  • 3 0
 @teelicht: Haha! Yes!!!
  • 2 1
 @pakleni: and Jodhpurs
  • 48 1
 Does not look like a trek session
  • 33 0
 toss a shotgun rider on the top tube and some mini crank arms on the idler for a new take on tandems
  • 36 4
 Makes you wonder how much faster and better the other bikes would be on an EXT coil setup.
  • 4 0
 Its might not be worth it for most riders when price is considered, but man its head and shoulders better than any other shock I've ridden.
  • 23 0
 @hamncheez: here in Canada, DHX2 is 920$ w/o spring. EXT 1350$ with 2 springs and custom tune. Basically the same price with a tune for you and your bike, it's a no brainer for me.
  • 4 0
 @souknaysh: Good point!

I replaced my cane creek coil IL (the shock with no piggyback for weight savings) with a Storia. For a 215x63mm size, the EXT Storia is 70 grams lighter!
  • 2 1
 Came here to say this, but couldn't figure out a way to make it polite like you did
  • 3 1
 The LaSal Peak can be specd with an EXT setup front and rear. I'm surprised there was no mention of this option in the review.
  • 4 0
 I’ve PB’d quite a few trails since putting an EXT on my Slayer. And I’m getting older and fatter so I’m thinking the shock has a lot to do with it.
  • 3 0
 Running a Storia on my Raaw Madonna. It definitely made a very good bike even better. Recommend to anyone, if you've got the pennies to spend.
  • 1 1
 @hamncheez: have you checked how much is the shock unit Vs the spring?
Those cute little ext springs are soooo light.
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: ya that's where the weight savings comes from. But EXT USA will send you two coils when you buy one new.
  • 3 0
 @raawbikerider: The Storia made a noticeable difference to my Druid.
  • 24 1
 I used to do weekly rides with Evan, and he was always noodling and adjusting and dialing things in to squeeze just a little bit more out of his bike. This MC might look like some steam punk corntraption but this is what you end up with when you design for every last detail and get everything you want. And it really seems to work. Great job Evan, and major props!!
  • 22 1
 Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start
  • 21 4
 beat you to it (old guy) Smile
  • 11 0
 @RadBartTaylor: lol, that's what I get for drooling over the images instead of going straight to comments
  • 17 1
 Awesome bike! Congrats to Evan for making this happen. Not an easy thing to do.

@mikekazimer Can you please photograph these bikes with the dropper at full extension or full compression? Running the post at half mast looks like it was taken off a cross country bike!
  • 19 0
 I don't care what the words say, I want one.
  • 13 2
 That idler pulley has 24t, which is more than the 22t idler currently on the Supre Drive. That big tooth count is great for reducing drag. The bummer is the lower chain guide pulley as an added source of drag, making for a total of three pulleys on the lower section of chain, whereas the Supre Drive has only two pulleys on the lower section of chain. But overall, this is a very cool high pivot bike.
  • 1 0
 Any reason nobody makes larger lower chain guide pulleys? Ground clearance I guess?
  • 3 0
 Cedric, I would buy the shit out of a Contra MC with Supre Drive.
  • 5 2
 Lower pulley isn't under much tension, it won't affect the chain too much. Smaller tooth count is OK here.
  • 3 4
 @bicyclelifestyle: it's not about tension. Larger pulleys means that the chain links don't have to rotate around their pins as much, which results in lower drag and longer chain life. With lower drag, companies that make over size pulleys can say that you'll save x-amount of Watts over a smaller pulley. Tension only keeps the chain on the pulley or sprocket. Too much tension also leads to more drag. So you could have an oversize pulley but have too much tension in the derailleur spring (a derailleur being a grandiose chain tensioner) and end up with a Watt loss, plus more chain wear as the links are stretched.
  • 1 0
 I believe the lower pulley is necessary here, as the upper pulley is so far forwards - there's minimal chain wrap on the chainring without it, which would at best lead to rapid wear, and at worst, dropped chains. It should also give the mech clutch an easier life, as it's closer to the (virtual) pivot point, so the lower span doesn't grow so much under compression. I'm actually quite surprised not all high pivot bikes have idlers for these reasons. Would be an interesting experiment to take the idler off this, fit a short chain and see if the magic carpet ride is still there
  • 13 2
 Frame may seem expensive but it also comes with one of the best shocks on the market. A Yeti SB165 frame is $5000, made in china, and you'll probably have to warranty the frame after a few months of proper riding.
  • 5 1
 the float x2 as well lol
  • 5 13
flag wyorider (Aug 31, 2022 at 13:13) (Below Threshold)
 Made in Viet Nam. And Yetis are faaaaast. And fairly light.
  • 3 2
 @wyorider: made where?
  • 4 1
 I love hating on yetis but their new frames are dead nuts reliable.
  • 13 1
 Super cool bike. Crazy this is cheaper than a megatower (accounting for shock) and it’s hand made in Cali
  • 9 0
 Very cool.

I spy the new low-profile carbon rims from We Are One... @mikekazimer et al, any idea at this point how these contribute to ride quality? They're approaching a 3zero moto-like cross section.
  • 1 0
 also noticed these, they must be close to release
  • 11 1
 Somehow with all the chaos going on in the suspension design, this frame still looks amazingly clean.
  • 14 3
 steel is real
  • 21 1
 Real expensive
  • 10 6
 @littleskull99: and Real heavy
  • 5 1
 Steel is just a material. I’ve owned some nice steel bikes, and aluminum bikes, and carbon bikes, and one Melin ti hardtail.

I’ve also owned a couple of steel bikes that were pretty meh despite good tubing.

So if steel rocks your boat, have at it, but it’s not magical.
  • 2 0
 I like steel and I like the look of this thing. Seems like it's screaming out for a dual crown fork though.
  • 5 1
 @bman33: 1lb of steel weighs the same as 1lb of any other material...
  • 2 0
 @bman33: My carbon fibre enduro bike is exactly the same weight!
  • 8 2
 Love that the little guy built a faster bike than the big multi million/billion dollar soulless corporations

And I can attest, steel is real. Riding a Ferrum 170mm currently (Handmade US made steel frame as well) and there is certainly something about the material. Kudos for the little guys getting it right and making killer stuff at home.
  • 11 3
 Very cool bike. But, $11k as tested? Ouch...
  • 31 2
 I mean it's a small company who's clearly put in a ton of engineering/design effort, its steel + high pivot (craft beer effect), with high end parts/suspension, I don't think the price should come as a surprise.
  • 30 0
 @jarrett-lindal-media: Exactly - what's amazing to me is that some people pay that for a Trek/Specialized/Giant/Scott
  • 49 0
 Even though that’s an insane amount of money, I’d have a much easier time giving $11k to a boutique frame maker in the US for a unique bike with unique parts than having $11k stolen from me by PON Holdings for a vanilla flavored bike off an assembly line in Taiwan.
  • 6 11
flag 8a71b4 (Aug 31, 2022 at 10:12) (Below Threshold)
 @jarrett-lindal-media: Look at Cotic or Pipedream. 6k gives you a top of the line Rocket Max or TFM. $11k, for a frame made of steel is ridiculous. Steel is easier to manufacture and cheaper compared to aluminum or carbon, so prices should be lower, with the expected penalty of weight.
  • 22 1
 @8a71b4, you're forgetting to factor in the cost of machining the linkage for this bike - there's a lot more going on than a simple single pivot. Also, that $11k price tag is with very high end components, like an XTR drivetrain, carbon wheels, EXT suspension.
  • 5 26
flag wyorider (Aug 31, 2022 at 10:45) (Below Threshold)
 @mikekazimer: the hardware for this bike was machined incorrectly and poorly welded at the 11th hour. I get it's an early run frame, but at this price the welds and paint had better be Dario Pegoretti good.
  • 6 10
flag like2pedal (Aug 31, 2022 at 11:48) (Below Threshold)
 So I can buy this thing or I can buy
(1) Specialized Stumpjumper Expert $6,200
and
(1) Specialized Enduro Comp $5,400

understood.
  • 20 1
 $11k to this company > $11k for a generic, boring SC
  • 16 3
 @like2pedal: You can go to Walmart and buy 20 full suspension mountain bikes. What's stopping you?
  • 3 3
 @8a71b4: Cotic you mean the TaiwUK brand ? It's easy to drive the price down when outsourcing (some of) your manufacturing in countries that don't pay people a decent living wage.
  • 7 18
flag wyorider (Aug 31, 2022 at 13:05) (Below Threshold)
 Did any of you fanbois look at the weld quality in the i to article for this field test?!

I’m all for boutique builders, but part of what you’re paying for is better work. Unlike a brazed or lugged (or carbon) frame, a welded frame shows how well it’s made. Good welds look like a stack of coins from the outside, no burn through inside the tubes.

If you’re gonna charge this kind of money, you’ve gotta bring the a-game on welds and paint.
  • 3 1
 @haen: He doesnt have 11k
  • 52 0
 @wyorider: You mentioned this in the intro to the Field Test Review article. I think my response to your comment in that last article was fairly reasonable, but maybe you didn't see it?

I've copied and pasted it here for you!

"Hey Guys! Evan from Contra Bikes here...Yes I completely agree that downtube weld isn't pretty. The bike that Pinkbike rode (what you see pictured) was the second prototype of the newest design. They needed the bike earlier than expected for this review, so this was the most recent bike I could provide them. Those plates were laser cut slightly oversized, then mitered on a manual mill by me. By trying to miter it to fit the tube, I made the ends where it met the tube quite thin and the fit wasn't perfect which made the plate really tough to weld. The production frames have a precise laser cut plate that doesn't require mitering. There is a nice consistent pocket for the weld to sit in and this will make it much easier to get a clean/straight consistent weld. Lesson learned!

As for the paint finish, this color shifting wet paint job, although beautiful, is not at all durable. The local powder coaters were moving locations when this bike needed a paint job so I went with wet paint on this bike from a local frame painter. The production frames are all powder coated, which provides a way more durable finish."
  • 6 35
flag wyorider (Aug 31, 2022 at 14:24) (Below Threshold)
 @EvanTurpen: the bike is cool. The bike is fast. But this one is a bit unfinished.

So I dig the bike, but don’t dig the fanbois drooling over this frame. It’s somewhere between a test mule and a production bike. Props for getting it tacked together for a test at the 11th hour, but it ain’t pretty.

At this price, the production ones had better have Brent Steelman level welds and Spectrum quality powder coating.

Seems like a lot of PB readers are like G Body fans. If it looks cool from far away-unwarranted lust.
  • 3 1
 @Balgaroth: which factory that cotic use don't pay a living wage?

In 2011 I visited a factory in Taiwan who still employed every single weldor they'd ever employed. Not because they were some sort of dead end, but because they knew that welding was the most important process to get right and paid accordingly for skilled workers. The company was about 30y old at the time, if memory serves.
  • 16 2
 @wyorider: I have a general rule to not down vote people on here because it's usually overdone by the mob's capriciousness. But you deserve it. It seems you want a handmade in North America frame for the same price as a mass production Taiwan frame from a direct to consumer brand?

Punch yourself in the junk and take a lap!
  • 8 4
 @wyorider: Go start a Made in the USA bike company and build a better bike then? As someone that would rather buy a custom home over a track home, and will pay for the handbuilt quality which can naturally comes with some quirks and unevenness, that is absolutely acceptable to me. It is handmade. In the USA. With absolutely excellent design. Worth every penny.

Go have fun on your chinese mail order bike. Which is absolutely OK too.
  • 4 3
 @wyorider: FYI, this isn’t how you get a weld inspection job…
  • 6 2
 @bicyclelifestyle: you realise that almost all bikes are handmade, right? Quirks and unevenness are not a sign of quality.

Evan has explained the deal with this particular frame and that it's not up to production standard. I fully believe him even though this doesn't look good. And hope that if any production frames are delivered with workmanship like this, the customer will refuse to accept it.
  • 4 4
 @bicyclelifestyle: "hand-built quality" and "quirks and unevenness" are one and the same in Yankland are they? That's not much of a sales pitch for American made gear.
  • 2 0
 @Tambo: I see what you mean, probably not the right expression. What I mean is that no matter how well they pay their employees it will still be way below what you'd have to pay an equally qualified welder/machinist/whatever here in our countries.
  • 3 0
 @Balgaroth: Yes indeed. Everything is cheap in Taiwan, and cheaper still in Vietnam etc. And in general they're damn good at making stuff.
  • 4 0
 @Tambo: funny how so many people still carry the stereotype that everything coming from Asia is rubbish. It is if you ask them to make rubbish for the absolute cheapest cost to maximize your margin. If you ask them to do quality products they can as much as anyone else no discussion. Seeing how the Chinese space program is developing this is good proof they can do proper precise stuff.
  • 9 1
 37.25lbs is heavy, but not that far out of range for a steel framed bike.
  • 9 0
 Lighter than my Al bike.....
  • 3 1
 @maestroman21: What the hell do you have for components on an aluminum bike that makes it heavier than this one? You talking about a DH bike?
  • 2 1
 @bman33: My Canfield Jedi is 35lbs. A DH is lighter.
  • 1 1
 @MTBfloat: The new 29 Jedi? Damn, that is light. I haven't even weighed mine yet but I know it has to be more than that. I love the bike and don't really care though. Ignorance is bliss. . .
  • 4 0
 @MTBfloat: My TR 11 is approx 36. Also lighter. I just can't imagine lugging a near 40lbs trail bike around
  • 2 0
 @bman33: Banshee Rune v3 with a Z1 air, bomber CR coil, EX511 wheels, and DH casing tires. Doesn't take much it seems.
  • 2 0
 @bman33: I regularly do 1000m-3000m climbs on it. Sounds worse than it is. It's just a bit slower than my 30lb hard tail.
  • 4 0
 @maestroman21: yep. My 38 lb XXL spire is perfectly pleasant on big days, and I also have a 30ish lb hardtail. Comfortable riding position and decent pedal platform are the important ingredients.
  • 2 0
 @maestroman21: lighter than my carbon bike.
  • 1 0
 Weighs the same as my carbon bike
  • 2 3
 It’s absurdly heavy. DH bikes are lighter
  • 1 0
 @notsosikmik: mine is a 2013 with air suspension front and rear which was unheard of at that time for the Jedi.
  • 2 0
 @toast2266: crazy isnt it. Give it a couple years and we will be part of the 40lb club. Havent been there since 2005.
  • 6 0
 Whenever you @mikekazimer ride or mention a high pivot bike I wonder how it compares to the Kavenz VHP16 since you liked it a lot.
  • 15 0
 The Contra is slacker and longer than the Kavenz, and that difference is noticeable. Both bikes have plenty of stability, but the Contra does feel like it wants to plow even more than the Kavenz. The Kavenz's shorter wheelbase makes it a little easier to maneuver when things get really tight - it has the upper hand on that type of terrain.

The Kavenz sits a little closer to the all-round (but gravity-oriented) category, and the Contra is all about finding the roughest, fastest trails around.
  • 1 1
 @mikekazimer: since the Kavenz is less of a handfull with shorter stays, wheelbase and a little steeper, would it be your high pivot bike of choice for a full EWS season?
  • 2 3
 No top 10 in men's EWS have chainstays longer than 440mm and most are 435-437mm. Are the long stays just for comfort for average Joe even if they make the bike more work in the tighter stuff.
  • 3 1
 @LDG: meanwhile I'm building a bike with 460mm chainstays.
  • 1 1
 @Notmeatall: good for you! At 178cm that would be boring to ride with my riding style.
  • 2 9
flag sanchofula (Aug 31, 2022 at 18:51) (Below Threshold)
 @LDG: … and the public continues to insist that long chain stays are better.

What really gets me scratching the ole Mellon is how a high pivot with a lengthening chainstay is gonna be @the thing”.

Maybe the high pivot designers could start with a shorter chainstay? You take a high pivot with a 441mm chainstay, then sit on the bike, with sag it immediately grows to ~450.

This ^ is crazy sauce
  • 10 0
 @nurseben, have you ridden a bike with longer chainstays? There's a point of diminishing returns on either end of the length spectrum, but longer chainstays do make sense in a lot of cases, especially for taller riders.
  • 7 1
 So @mikekazimer and @mattbeer is the Contra the new king of high pivots in-terms of all out speed? How would you say this stacks up to the bike of the year the Range?
  • 7 0
 Its nice to see bikes like this get reviewed, wish these guys a ton of succcess, its a beautiful machine.
  • 6 1
 Con: CRAZY expensive......i get it, boutique etc etc. Still crazy expensive.
  • 9 0
 I'd rather buy this than a megatower.
  • 9 0
 @fiekaodclked: Fine, still crazy expensive. As are megatowers...con for both of em
  • 1 0
 @fiekaodclked: I’d rather buy the Deviate
  • 4 0
 What I want to know is that those look like the unreleased updated WAO rims, when are they being released? And how do they ride?
  • 4 0
 Kinda reminds me of some of the old Brooklyn Machine Works frames. I like it. Not sure it's for me but I am very happy it exists.
  • 3 0
 Timing is probably about as terrible as possible given the ongoing bike industry crash, and I'm more of a fan of simpler suspension designs, but I hope this succeeds. The world doesn't need more Sessions. -Walt
  • 3 2
 Heavy, but can climb. Seems like a good dedicated enduro race rig. Squarely falls into the "good 8th or 9th" bike category rather than a daily driver.

I can't help wondering if it would get more versatile with an aluminum frame-maybe take a pound or 4 out.
  • 3 1
 aluminum would likely take a lot of the "grounded" feel out of the bike that they liked so much. Steel is great at absorbing small vibrations
  • 2 1
 Aluminium main triangle only. Let the rear be steel please.
  • 6 5
 @SATN-XC:

a few degree temperature change, .25 psi difference in the tire pressure are all bigger differences than material choice on a bike with 165mm of travel running rowdy tires (other than weight).

Steel can kind of make a difference on a roadbike when you're sitting at 120psi, but now days with most riders running tubeless at far lower pressures, even that difference is gone.

Pretty much the main benefit of steel is that its cheap and pretty easy to work with. Which appears not to have happened here.

Or more realistically, inflation has hit hard and running a small botique frame building company in America profitably enough to keep the lights on makes bikes more expensive than we like.
  • 3 0
 @William42: good points! my only real experiences with steel frames were in the early 00's...particularly with Ibis mojo hardtails...tires were much narrower then and at much higher PSI's.

with regard to the pricing here...I cannot bash the price, guy needs to make a living and its gorgeous. Its like a super car for the bike world....Intended customer is not someone needing a bike...its someone wanting this specific bike to add to their collection.
  • 3 1
 @William42: Yeah, even on a road bike things like tire volume/pressure and angle/length of exposed seatpost have more impact on ride feel than frame material. The material isn't *completely* unimportant, but almost all the frame characteristics come from the tubing cross section and truss structure. Tires, wheels, seatposts, etc will typically all deflect more than chainstays/seatstays for the same input force.

Steel also isn't inherently good at damping/attenuating vibrations like people always seem to claim... we make tuning forks and springs out of it... it rings. If steel frames feel softer / more compliant, it's usually because it's just a flexier, heavier frame.... which also happens to be what people are looking for when they seek out a steel bike. So it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing going on.

As far as price... $4500 for boutique frame + EXT shock isn't the most insane thing I've ever heard in the bike world, and you could certainly build it up for less than $11k. Not for me but obviously some people will be super stoked on it.
  • 2 0
 @bkm303: agreed. This review seems super positive for people looking at enduro bikes for rowdy trails, I hope Evan sells every frame he makes. I'd also love to see a carbon version that weighs 4 lbs less or an aluminum version that weighs 2lbs less. Hope he can pull this off, because the bike itself looks cool as f*ck from a design and performance standpoint.
  • 2 1
 @William42: frame construction (materials, shapes, etc) has a different effect on feel and handling than tyre pressures, suspension design, shock settings etc.

Bikes move in complex 3D ways and are subjected to complex loads and pass complex forces to the much heavier rider.

It’s easy for armchair engineers to make sweeping statements but as someone on the receiving end of similar (not) wisdom in another field, I can tell you that your over-simplication is just that.
  • 6 0
 @wyorider Evan mentioned he couldn’t get the strength high enough with aluminum without actually making the bike heavier. Certain designs work better with high strength materials.
  • 2 0
 @threehats: shape / truss structure is WAY more important than material though (although some materials give you more shape options). And in pretty much any 3D loading scenario you can come up with, wheels, tires, and suspension are doing orders of magnitude more deflecting than frame members.

Someone told you something about another field, so it's complex and we're wrong? Ok...
  • 2 1
 @William42: yet steel full suspension MTBs usually feel more damped in their ride character. I own one and have demoed several others. How many have you ridden?
  • 6 3
 @chakaping:

That's not true according to science and replicable testing. I believe that you feel a difference. But material choice itself has a negligible effect on ride characteristics compared to any number of other measurable things ranging from tire choice and suspension, to things like frame design. You'll get a bigger change in handling characteristics by changing the joining at your HT than you would from steel vs not steel.

Look, I get it. I've owned a bunch of steel frames, road and mountain. I've also owned aluminum, ti, and carbon.

And this "steel rides this way and aluminum rides this way and carbon rides this other way" is just made up shit by marketing wankers and people trying to justify their purchasing decisions. Your bike rides a certain way because whoever designed it decided they wanted to make the joins a certain way so that the bike would ride the way it does. Not because it's made out of a certain material.

Stop trusting the marketers and start trusting the engineers when they tell you that. The engineers aren't out to get you.
  • 2 1
 @threehats: what? You literally just agreed with me by listing even more reasons that the idea that "steel rides one way and other materials ride another" is mistaken, and then said I was wrong because I'm an oversimplifying armchair engineer...

Make up your mind.
  • 2 1
 @William42: I was quite clear. It’s folly to make sweeping statements that frame behaviour is insignificant vs other factors - this is obvious because it’s possible to make a frame that is too flexible, and stiffness exists along a continuum.

You can’t compare like with like because no-one uses steel tubes in the same wall thicknesses and diameters as al alloy tubes - and for good reason. And steels do not behave like aluminiums regarding fatigue. You can’t separate frame design and material choice because the former can’t be done without fixing the latter.
  • 3 1
 @William42: i do think there's some validity in saying steel allows for design characteristics that aren't typically seen in alu & carbon applications. i'm thinking specifically of the skinny tubed swingarms of a couple bikes i've been on (xprezo & starling) that were decidedly more laterally "compliant" (sounds better than flexy) than any contemporary alu or carbon bikes i've ridden, which imparted discernable handling differences (subjectively beneficial). i imagine if you build an alu rear that soft, longevity would be compromised. Though commencal are dabbling with adjustable swingarm braces, so may be viable? of course, longevity on wc race bikes isn't much of a consideration, sooo...

engineered / adjustable lateral compliance is an interesting topic, speaking of which.
  • 1 1
 @xy9ine: you may be onto something there. I should have known better than to argue with one of the "steel frames can't feel different because science" brigade.

I had a eureka moment last year when I was riding my (laterally stiff) Orange full sus on very twisty, greasy trails and going really well. Then I noticed the pivot axle had loosened off, allowing the rear to flex a bit in the corners.

I've now sold that frame and replaced it with a Starling. Funnily enough I did a blog about it called "the velvet steamroller" a while ago, mirroring the title of this piece.
  • 1 0
 "On slower speed, steep trails it remained manageable, although there were a few times I had the sensation that there was a slight disconnect between the handling at the front of the bike versus the back. It's hard to accurately put into words, but it was almost like it took longer for the rear end to respond to steering inputs. The rear wheel does get further away as the bike goes through its travel, although I haven't experienced anything quite like this on other high pivot bikes. I wouldn't necessarily call it negative trait, but it was different from what I'm used to."

It took longer for the rear end to respond to steering inputs? Can you describe specifically what was happening on the bike to make it feel this way,? Something to do with the suspension? Or the rear axle path? Seems like it's implying the handling is slow, but it's not?
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer could this be due to flexing chain/seat stays? I notice a similar feeling going between carbon enduro wheels and aluminum XC wheels
  • 4 0
 @kazimer so fastest is bestest, right?
  • 42 0
 It's definitely not the worstest.
  • 5 0
 Can't touch this
  • 5 1
 Bring on the Dangerholm build!!
  • 4 12
flag wyorider (Aug 31, 2022 at 13:21) (Below Threshold)
 Show bikes. The equivalent of SEMA cars that don’t run windshield wipers.

Dangerholm builds always look great, at the expense of all other performance metrics.
  • 4 0
 Is it better than the Specialized Enduro going down?
  • 3 0
 I always wish they would compare the stand-out bikes from one year's models to standouts from previous years. The Specialized Enduro and Raaw Madonna V2 come to mind as bikes I'd want compared to this.
  • 4 1
 @pgomez: I wanna know how this compares to the Norco Range which was about the same weight iirc, two ways to skin the same cat?
  • 4 0
 Mike L: "What didn't you like?"
Mike K: "That's a hard one..."
  • 5 2
 I would rather lose a few pounds and ride this awesome bike than complain about the weight and ride anything else...
  • 3 3
 Would love to see a move back to steel sprockets. Aluminum wear surfaces on chain drive components are frankly very embarrassing.

Bike companies: We love sustainability. (We know you are susceptible to justifying lavishness if its greenwashed enough.)
Also bike companies: Make everything wear out in a season and require replacement.

For those who are wondering, steel production emits 2 tons of CO2 per ton of steel, aluminum is nearly 12 tons of CO2 per ton of aluminum. Its not about saving the planet (also, from what in EXACT terms), its about making money.
  • 8 0
 What are the numbers for recycled steel vs aluminum? About 3/4 of aluminum ever mined is still in use and it takes about 5% of the energy to recycle aluminum than refine bauxite ore.
  • 3 0
 I can't wrap my head around spending that much money on a mountain bike. It is a cool bike though.
  • 1 0
 What was the test track? If it was DB or DD it would be a pretty representative of both tight and twisty and chunk and flowy. I feel like if its fastest on that trail, it would be fastest on most things.
  • 2 0
 If DB is Dad Bod, I love that trail.
  • 3 0
 @MorganBH, timed testing took place on Oriental Express.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Interesting, that's much more of a trail-bike trail in my opinion. Surprised the high pivot bruiser took the win. Must corner pretty darn well.
  • 1 0
 @norcalbike: Dad Bod is great, but I was referring to Double Black to Double Down, which would be very Enduroy in my opinion and is where all of the test videos come from.
  • 2 0
 Really expensive, really heavy, rides good... can't help thinking I'd prefer a bike that's less expensive, less heavy, that also rides good.
  • 6 3
 carbon is so done for me I am an aluminium, ti and steel kind of guy.
  • 2 0
 So, the name checks out, it is indeed a magic carpet,

well, it actually does what says on the tin right?!
  • 2 0
 Not sure if that is really "oilslick" paint, but it looks great regardless of if the oilslick trend is done or not...
  • 3 0
 Pick a contra and be a dict about it
  • 3 0
 Doesn't look like my Steamroller, but nice one
  • 3 1
 On frame-only bikes, who outfits the bike for testing, the manufacturer or Pink Bike?
  • 2 0
 It depends, but in this case it was Contra.
  • 1 1
 @mikekazimer: might be a subject to spend a few minutes on in a future podcast @mikelevy
  • 3 0
 Expect to see this in season 2 of Arcane.
  • 2 0
 that was a good show
  • 3 0
 Steampunk or Rube Goldberg?
  • 2 2
 Agreed... just way more complicated than it needs to be. There are always a million ways to do something, but simplest is usually best.
  • 2 0
 @Baller7756: I am a firm believer that it is more the rider than the bike but World Cup DH is overwhelmingly being dominated by bikes with increasingly complicated linkage systems. When is the last time you saw an Orange on the podium?
  • 2 1
 @notsosikmik: Fair enough... perhaps the sweet spot is somewhere between simplistic and complex. The Trek Session comes to mind... if we must keep it to DH.
  • 2 1
 @notsosikmik: I think there are tracks where an Orange could be right up there, but they obviously don't have the budget to compete in terms of racers.
  • 3 1
 A whopping 3.6lbs difference over the lightest bike in the test.... so heavy lol
  • 2 0
 Fork stanchions nearly as large as the downtube... that's not an aesthetic you often see Wink
  • 3 0
 I need to see a squish video of how this beautiful contraption works
  • 1 0
 I'm thinking a better name for the bike would be "Rube Goldberg Edition". BTW. I reme.ber a time when 24t was the climbing ring on my 2x10
  • 2 0
 I've been stoked by this project since the initial press release, he's got my deposit for a frame, can't wait!
  • 2 0
 It's sexy. It's very sexy!
  • 2 0
 I have MT5 brakes and I have no idea what these guys are talking about.
  • 2 0
 True. Mine never rubbed
  • 2 0
 They are talking about pads rubbing rotors, cause Magura brakes run pads very close to the rotors. I cannot imagine using those brakes, every time I am on a ride with a dude running Magura, I hear the rotors rubbing, it would drive me crazy.
  • 10 0
 The MT5's have a lot more pad clearance at the expense of braking power. My experience with MT5's vs. MT7's is that the 7's have the best performance and power, but are nearly impossible to set up drag free because the pads are so close to the rotors.

Hot tip: Run the MT5 HC brakes with aluminum clamps (instead of the plastic ones that come stock) for a stiffer lever feel, then combine these with 220 rotors and you have a really powerful brake. It's a lot easier to set up drag free while still having that nice Magura feel. That's what I am running on my personal bike.
  • 1 0
 @EvanTurpen: I've got the 2-finger lever blades with my MT5s. I didn't know the regular lever blades sucked.
  • 1 0
 It's a bit of a concern on the MT7's...
That said, once set up, for me they have worked flawlessly and I don't notice/hear rubbing.
  • 1 0
 @EvanTurpen: 2nd the aluminum clamps. Also more durable. Broke off the plastic ones pretty easily after a crash. Also looking to get the Oaks Components Root levers (www.oakcomponents.de/products/root-lever-raw) to dial in the "free stroke" on the MT5s without having to deal with the pad rub of MT7s.
  • 1 0
 @m4k1: Mine never rubbed. They just leaked from the master cylinder, all 3 sets did the same thing
  • 1 0
 @CM999: from where the hose goes in?
  • 1 0
 So on the plus side, it's a quiet MC. On the downside, it's a heavy MC. Got it.
  • 2 0
 Seems we’re saving the best for last…
  • 1 1
 huh whats going on the middle of that bike....i am in the camp of simplicity and then form/function. i hope you all get my simplistic reply.
  • 2 1
 2023 CRF450RWE BASE MSRP: $9,599 ~ and spend the other $2+ K on a destination ~ BRAP
  • 2 2
 Came here for the Konami code and wasn't disappointed. Those who know, know...

◀️▶️◀️▶️️️start
  • 7 1
 Edit* stupid PB and not letting emoji stickers happen... It's 2022 my dudes.
  • 1 1
 @mikekazimer: do you think this is a good example of a bike to size down on for the sake of riding Enduro?
  • 2 0
 No, I don't think there's a need to size down on this. Evan has 6 sizes available with 20mm changes in reach between each, so riders should be able to buy the bike that fits them best. For me and my 5'11" height the size large felt great; sizing down would have likely resulted in a bike that felt cramped when climbing.
  • 1 0
 What's up with those wheels though?
  • 2 0
 Newest We Are One wheels, not out just yet tho
  • 2 0
 NIce ride...digging it
  • 1 0
 Any idea when these will start shipping?
  • 3 0
 Right now things are looking like 2 to 2.5 months from now for the frames to start shipping.
  • 1 0
 Please test the REEB SST next for short travel bikes!
  • 1 1
 they say heavier as a bad thing
  • 1 3
 In 2012 lol says who? your word means nothing! Mediocre? UCI DH podiums beg to differ.
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