PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Words by Mike Kazimer, photography by Tom Richards
The new Propain Spindrift has a whopping 180mm of front and rear travel, and the German company says can be used for everything from flow trails to bike park laps. The 29” version is reviewed here, but it's also available with 27.5” or mixed wheel configurations.
The Spindrift's new looks are striking – it stands out from the crowd of Horst Link clones, with a dual link suspension design that's called PRO10. The new configuration of that system positions the shock in front of the seat tube, where two counter-rotating links compress it from both sides as the bike goes through its travel.
Along with the updated suspension layout, the Spindrift's internal cable routing has been refined, and the brake and derailleur housing now run inside the frame, rather than underneath the bottom bracket shell.
• Travel: 180mm rear / 180mm front
• Wheel size: 29" (27.5" and mixed options available)
• Head angle: 64.5°
• Seat tube angle: 78°
• Reach: 475mm (lrg)
• Chainstay length: 445mm
• Sizes: M, L (tested), XL
• Weight: 33 lb / 15 kg
• Price: $8,599 USD
There's chainslap and downtube protection in the right places, plenty of room for a water bottle inside the front triangle, and SRAM's Universal Derailleur Hanger to make a replacement easier to find if necessary.
It'd be easy to expect some radical geometry numbers to go along all that travel, but Propain exercised some restraint, and didn't go too crazy with the Spindrift's numbers. With a 180mm fork the head tube angle sits at 64.5 degrees, the seat tube angle is 78-degrees, and the reach on a size large is 475mm. Those numbers are paired with 445mm chainstays on the 29” version, and 435mm on the 27.5”.
This bike has Propain's “Highend” build kit, which is a pretty self-explanatory name. That gets you a Fox 38 fork and DHX2 coil shock, SRAM's wireless, electronic AXS drivetrain, Magura MT7 brakes, and Crankbrothers Synthesis carbon wheels. The final US price is still up in the air, but according to Propain it's expected to be somewhere around $8599.
All of those niceties put the total weight at 33 lb.Climbing
A 180mm freeride bike typically gets cut a little slack in the climbing department. After all, you're probably not looking at a bike like this for long cross-country rides. The thing is, the Spindrift climbs very well – so well, in fact, that I didn't ever need to use the climb switch on that coil shock. This was my first experience with the PRO10 dual-link suspension design, and I came away impressed. Mike Levy's results in the efficiency test backed up what I felt on the trail, with the Propain putting down the second fastest time out of this group of five long travel machines.
Along with being an efficient pedaling bike, there was an unexpected lightness to the Spindrift's handling, which made it much more versatile than I'd anticipated. The overall length and head angle aren't extreme, which helps keep it manageable at slower speeds. Combine that with a nice and steep seat tube angle and you have a bike that's well suited for grinding out the miles on the way to a rowdy descent.
Now, the Spindrift still doesn't have the same snappy handling that a shorter travel bike can bring table, but it does hide that 180mm of travel very, very well on the climbs, and it's a bike I'd happily grab for a big day of technical adventuring. Its closest contemporary on the climbs was the 27.5” wheeled bike we can't talk about yet, and the Rocky Mountain Altitude. The Altitude is a slightly more active climber, and I was more likely to use the climb switch on the bike, but otherwise both bikes have a level of maneuverability that's not all that common in this travel bracket.
The Spindrift's easygoing nature remains on the descents, where it has an energetic, relatively playful feel, a stark contrast to the brutish nature of the Norco Shore.
Riders looking for the absolute longest and slackest bike they can get their hands on may want to look elsewhere, but I think for the vast majority of riders and riding locales the Spindrift strikes a nice balance. It'll go fast when you want it to, and the coil shock provides a smooth, bump-gobbling ride, with good acceleration for those sprints out of corners. There's also enough support to prevent harsh bottom outs on bigger hits, and for keeping the bike from getting bogged down in all that travel.
That supportive suspension also helps the Spindrift maintain speed through rollers and berms, and to pop off the lips of jumps. Super short chainstays often get cited as being necessary for a playful bike, but Propain's balanced geometry on the Spindrift seems to have imbued it with a similar level of peppiness.
The 445mm chainstay / 475mm reach ratio felt very well balanced - there was no need to fight the bike to get it do do what I wanted. Interestingly, the Rocky Mountain Altitude's chainstay / reach numbers are very similar, and I had the same thoughts about its handling.
There was great traction for dealing with loose conditions, no matter whether that was slippery, marbley dust, or slimy mud. I did find myself wishing for a longer dropper post on really steep trails – the 150mm post on our test bike wasn't enough on those descents where you want the post as far out of the way as possible. On that same topic, I do wish the seat tube length was a little shorter to ensure that riders of all heights could run the maximum amount of dropper travel possible.
How does it compare to the Slash and the Altitude, the most enduro oriented bikes in this bunch? Quite well, and even though it's billed as a freeride bike it could shine on the right course – the Whistler stop of the EWS comes to mind – since it has the quickness and responsiveness that you want between the tape. Overall, the Spindrift has more than enough travel to deal with the roughest terrain around without becoming unmanageable on slightly less wild trails, traits that make it well suited for all sorts of big-mountain adventures.