PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
2020 POLE STAMINA 140 EN
The Fastest Trail Bike*
Words by Mike Levy, Photography by Trevor Lyden
The Pole Stamina 140 EN was always going to be the most interesting bike at the Field Test. There are no bolts or welds on the frame—instead, two halves are machined from 7075 T6 aluminum before being glued together. Yes, glued together. It's a downsized version of their Stamina 180 that's intended for trail bike duty.
The EN model reviewed here goes for $6,940 USD as pictured, one step down from the Gucci LE spec, and Pole also offers a few different frame/shock configurations as well. Our test rig gets a 150mm Pike Ultimate, but you can go up to 160mm up front, while a four-way adjustable Cane Creek DBair IL shock looks after the 140mm of rear-wheel travel.
Stamina 140 EN Details
Wheel size: 29"
Frame construction: Machined, glued 7075 T6 aluminum
Head angle: 64-degrees
Chainstay length: 450mm
Reach: 470mm (med)
Sizes: Sm, med (tested), lrg, xl
Weight: 30.6 lbs / 13.9 kg (as pictured)
Price: $6,940 USD
More info: www.polebicycles.com
While the Norco, Orbea, and Intense are all large-sized test bikes with reach numbers between 474mm and 480mm, Pole has a slightly different sizing chart; our medium has a 470mm reach, which they say is ideal for someone between 5' 7" (170cm) and 5' 11" (180cm) tall. In other words, the sizing is a little unconventional, so pay attention if you're ordering from their website.
The Stamina 140's numbers might not seem as wacky as they would have a few years ago, but Pole is still pushing the limits with the 78.6-degree seat angle. For comparison's sake, that's 4.6-degrees steeper than what you'll see on the Intense Primer. The Stamina gets longish 450mm chainstays and a 64-degree head angle, all of which should
add up to a very capable machine on the descents.
The wild-looking front triangle is mated to an equally wild, dual-link rear-end that's also machined out of aluminum before being glued together. The upper and lower links rotate in the same direction, each on massive aluminum axles, with the bottom one turning concentrically around the threaded bottom bracket shell. You can take it all apart with a set of hex keys, a bottom bracket tool, and a rubber mallet, while all of the frame components are available directly from Pole. Climbing
The Stamina's focus is on the way back down, of course, but with 140mm of travel, it doesn't get a free pass on the shuttle truck. Thankfully, it's a reasonably efficient-feeling bike that, while a bit cumbersome when it's really tight and slow, doesn't lose much to the Optic, Occam, or Primer on the climbs. At first, the steep seat angle feels like it's rolling your hips forward strangely, but soon I was used to it - and see the benefits - to the point that a more traditional number just won't cut it for me. It helps to hide much of the Stamina's length, but the long rear-center is always going to be a pain in the ass through cramped switchbacks.
Like most trail bikes these days, the Stamina delivers plenty of climbing traction that helps its cause, but you'll want to stay seated to find the most grip. Actually, that's by far the best way to get the silver Pole to the top of anything; keep your butt planted and straight-line your way through roots that lesser machines need to be steered around.
Shoutout to the big Pole's three (3!) water bottle locations; there are two inside of the roomy front triangle, and then a giardia-catcher location under the downtube for when you're free-randonneuring. The catch is that you'll probably have to use the supplied FidLock system to squeeze in two large bottles, as we couldn't quite fit both standard bottles in at the same time. Descending
If this thing is a trail bike, maybe I should look into getting a trophy truck as a daily driver? I should do that anyway. Not surprisingly, the Stamina 140 is the most competent descender of the bunch, with both Kazimer and I noting how calm and composed it was during our test laps. When it was wet and sketchy, it felt a little less sketchy on the Pole than the others, even if the bike might have been sliding around just as much. The difference? The Stamina's 450mm ass, for starters, and the 64-degree head angle that works together to provide a central, safe-feeling riding position between the axles that's perfect for going too fast.
Timed testing proved the Stamina was the fastest bike for me (and second fastest for Kazimer), but it manages to do this weird trick where it feels calm. Naturally, you should then speed up a bit, which is exactly where the Pole likes to live. On your personal limits, your own edge, I don't think you'll find a trail bike that'll let you get away with so much.
Ah, the corners. Being so long and slack, it must suck in the corners, right? Yes and no. At speed, and especially if it's rough or traction is dangerously low, it's noticeably easier to carry more speed on the Stamina 140 than the other bikes in this category, but it's a different story when the trail tightens up. The impressive stability is nice, but there's no getting around the fact that the Pole ain't small. I suspect that a relatively timid rider would find the length a burden if their trails aren't quick enough often enough to take advantage of the Stamina's poise when it's rowdy.
The handling, while damn impressive, won't be for everyone, and neither will the Stamina's rear suspension. This is a very deep feeling bike, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that it'd fool many riders into thinking it has another 20mm of travel. Bottom-out? Sure, the O-ring says it happened, but I don't remember where or when. It's reasonably supple at the other end of the stroke, too, but no amount of knob-fiddling could bring much life to the shock; planted rather than playful, no doubt about it, but that might change if a different shock was used.
Bottom line: The Stamina 140 is a bike that stands out for both its appearance and how it rides. Talking in trail bike terms, there might not be anything else as capable when the terrain or speed is serious. Interestingly, Pole did this cool trick because it's still a blast when the ride is tame, only being stifled at near-trackstand speeds where I'd probably fall over regardless.
See the vertical supports with the big crimps in them? We were accidentally sent a lighter weight, prototype swingarm with thinner supports that buckled during our huck-to-flat filming.
Incredibly fast, and pushes the boundaries of what we expect from a trail bike+
It ain't carbon +
Unique appearance and manufacturing
Not as easy to throw around, and struggles in tighter terrain-
It ain't carbon (and the stock one is 98g heavier than ours)-
Oh shit, it broke...