Geometry & Sizing
It's great to see affordable bikes come in larger sizes, so taller riders can benefit from the handling advantages of a shorter stem. Only a few years ago, anybody over the 5' 9" (180cm) mark had to put up with a tiny frame and a 70mm stem to get a decent riding position, so to see a €2699 bike with a 490mm reach in X-large and 35mm stems on all sizes is great progress. For smaller riders, the small-size frame is kept at a sensible 420mm reach, where some brands seem to have over-sized their small frames.
I generally dislike writing First-Ride reports, as it is tough to get on a bike for a few runs and be on point, but the Alpine Trail was a break from the norm. I pressured the suspension to give 28% rear sag and 15% front, set the brake levers to my angle and went to shred.
The Alpine Trail isn't the most spritely pedaler on smooth surfaces, having some bob, but this does help it to track better over bumpy terrain, and while you may be losing fractions of efficiency on the road, it is generally easier to ride up and through technical terrain. The steep 76º seat angle put me in a good position over the bottom bracket and minimized front wheel lift despite the short-ish 430mm chainstay.
Over the top and into the thick of Les Get's worst kept singletrack secret, we were bombing. The geometry is aggro for a value bike with a 65º head angle, and 76º seat angle, and there's no other way to describe the Alpine Trail as friendly and easy to ride. The single-pivot kinematics sits the bike into the travel and preserves the geometry while braking, keeping more weight on the rear wheel and maximizing traction. It also has plenty of mid-stroke support to keep it riding up in the travel in the rough stuff as well as making it easier to descend in a tall, strong position without issue. It drives well when pumping terrain and also tracks well, with a measure of forgiveness and no harsh rebound.
The normal protocol on a media ride is to hand out the highest tier machine, which has the lightest, most refined components and best suspension. In reality, the bike than most people will buy will be the lower-level clunky tank. In this case, we took the lower level Alpine Trail 7, and I wouldn't change a thing. Tires are often where money is saved on lower priced bikes, yet the rarely seen 2.6" Vee tire combo had sturdy casings, soft rubber and a good tread pattern. I didn't feel like I was losing anything important. Only nicer clicky sounds from the rear hub, a crisp gear shifter, and maybe a slightly smoother dropper post with seamless actuation. The Alpine 7's performance is focused where it matters - for shredding down the kind of alpine trails it was made for. We'll have one for a full review later this year.