PRODUCT REVIEW: MONDRAKER FOXY CARBON
A BOLD MOVE TOWARDS A CERTAIN FUTURE FOR MOUNTAIN BIKES
Mountain bikers are a lucky lot in present times! Bikes are so well designed that there may never be such a thing as a "bad bike" ever again. Besides choosing from a myriad of suspension platforms to suit your riding style, the aesthetic of the bikes are also getting a whole lot better. While bike geometry numbers have been evolving in a relatively steady fashion where changes are concerned, it seems that new demands on the sport has triggered some product designers into taking bigger and bolder steps toward getting that "optimal" bike geometry. All for that whole new level of riding experience and performance. We rode the Mondraker Foxy Carbon recently, and … Man! Have we got some news to share!
ARE WE READY FOR BOLDER CHANGES?
Mountain biking is considered a youngling compared to other mainstream sports. The first purpose-built mountain bike was manufactured as recent as 1978. As with all products, there comes an initial discovery stage, an "industrial explosion" where many new entrants join in the initial industry boom, and then comes the equilibrium stage where those who didn't make the cut get weeded out. The battle for design followed and the few main linkage systems we see today are the essence from the past few decades of product design & development and riders' feedback. With the linkage battle eventually settling to a few established schools, bike designers can now choose the linkage that best suits the cycling characteristics they want to achieve. And almost certainly, they will get an awesome bike (or a complete bike product range). It has come to a point where almost every bike performs as well as expected. What is next then? While marginal changes to bike geometry is an on-going process (as with almost every new season of product range for any brand) it was never drastically altered from the previous year's models. Of course, this has to do with brands accumulating performance characteristic consistency and maintaining brand beliefs. But the question remains. Could there be something that the bike designers had overlooked, or should have ventured into? Could mountain bike designs be any better than it is now? What if you ride a mountain bike that made you feel like you're riding a rig that's one size larger than what you normally ride, but it enhances your performance, control, and overall confidence on the trail?
The Mondraker Foxy Carbon is a sleek, aggressive looking trail bike in stealth black and red detailing. We liked its look the moment we set eyes on it. The test model (Foxy Carbon) is the entry level model for the range of Mondraker Foxy Carbon series. The other models are the Foxy Carbon R, RR and XR. The Foxy Carbon is made with a carbon front triangle and an Alloy 6061 rear triangle and uses a monoblock upper link in its suspension system. The first unique feature we noticed about the Foxy Carbon is its outstandingly long top tube and low standover. At first glance, some may say the bike looked "weird'. But to the rest, this bike looks masculine yet sleek. Being an entry level model in the Foxy's carbon range, the components are picked from the average to above-average level bins.
Perhaps the most talked about feature of any Mondraker bike is its long top tube and wheelbase (just as we had noticed). As such, we would provide a better picture of what this brand's unique concept is all about.
Mondraker's bike designs are based on what they call Forward Geometry. In their 3rd generation of Forward Geometry, they now apply this concept onto all their full suspension mountain bikes, and they are all coupled with Mondraker's proprietary Zero Suspension System.
To explain briefly, the Forward Geometry is supposed to improve control, handling, safety and stability through all types of terrain. This is achieved by crafting frames with long(er) top tubes, matched with the shortest stems possible. While somewhat similar bike reach for each bike size would be achieved, the rider would have his/her weight moved forward and in a stretched out posture. This posture, and by extension (no pun intended) the unique geometry numbers adopted by Mondraker, is thus responsible for giving the rider more confidence, control and opportunity for better speed.
Zero Suspension is thus named for its aim to achieve zero power loss, zero pedal kickback, zero brake jack and zero bumps. Essentially, the Zero Suspension is a virtual pivot where the rear shock is floating between two links and is compressed from both ends. For all their full suspension bike models, the lower plate will compress the rear shock by about 35% and the upper plate by 65%. The positioning of the rear shock together with the compression that the shock receives from both sides give this suspension system its unique characteristic. On close inspection, both the upper and lower links rotate in the same direction and at full compression, they form almost a straight line with the bottom bracket. This is very similar to a certain famous pivot system, and with similar suspension characteristics too.
Mondraker bikes also adopt the Stealth Technology, which in essence forms the design language for their bike designs as well as the basis for their frames' structural optimization. With Stealth technology, the tubes on the bikes can take on flat faces and sharper angles as opposed to the traditional curved or round tubes. The end result is an overall stiffer frame. Stealth Carbon uses the previous experiences acquired from making aluminum frames and added effort on the specific position and direction of carbon plies for each bike model.
The medium sized Foxy Carbon we tested has an effective top tube of 635mm, head angle of 67.5 deg, a 1193 mm wheelbase but a reach of 478mm. This was compared against the more conventional medium sized 120mm travel trail bikes, where reach usually numbers in at 420 mm. Match the Foxy Carbon frame with the 30mm Onoff Stoic FG30 stem, and it would have a similar cockpit space of the conventional bikes with 50-70mm stems. The Foxy Carbon's wheelbase is also about 40mm longer than an average medium sized bike of similar travel – which translates to confidence and stability, but seems to balance out with a wider turning radius. At 67.5 deg head tube angle, this bike has the potential to be a relatively competent climber (at least where trail bikes are concerned) although we would want to find out if the long top tube and wheelbase would affect the actual climbing prowess of this bike. On the other hand, the long top tube and wheelbase would make this bike a good descender.
HOW IT PERFORMS
Do all these innovative concepts add up to a good ride? We tested this bike at a few local trails – from technical ones to flowy ones, and rode it with various riding styles – efficient pedaling for long rides as well as fast aggressive explosive bursts for those Strava lap records.
On our first ride, we had to admit we needed some time to get used to the bike. It is definitely unlike the usual bikes we ride. In fact, Mondraker assures that "after a short adaptation", the rider would feel that overall control in riding will improve more than expected. And that was exactly what happened.
In our first few minutes of riding, the bike felt hard to control. Rock garden upslopes which we used to clear easily became harder to climb, requiring a lot more effort, and the weight shifting from our usual body English just didn't seem to work as well. We sort of suspected the bike fitting was bad for us. But then it became easier as we rode, as our body got used to the bike. For an average height rider on a medium Foxy Carbon, we simply needed to slide forward and pedal as usual when climbing. The bike performed its duty effectively. We advise using a slightly lighter gear for that first ride to get used to this "new school" geometry before going back to your usual gear ratios for climbing. A few more days into the testing of the bike, we got so used to it that there was no conscious effort needed for climbs. It climbed just as well as what we would expect of a good trail bike.
On fast flowy sections, the Foxy Carbon held its speed very well. The long wheel base gave the bike its added stability. At speed bumps, we simply adopt a neutral position and pump the bike through for a long rolling high speed momentum cruise.
During cornering of berms, we noticed that shifting the body slightly forward could help maintain the speed throughout. We tried it with our normal riding position and there was no perceivable loss of traction. As such, we believe different riders may be able to find their sweet spot posture easily when cornering and carving through berms.
At tight switchbacks, the best way to maneuver through the tight bends is to ride the Foxy Carbon – a 27.5 inch bike – like you would a 29er. It rides easier with a flowy bigger turning arc. That's logical of course, considering its long wheel base. It is also at tight turns and switchbacks that the short stem's responsive steering became evident – sometimes a little too responsive. As we rode the bike more, we became very addicted to its sure-footed and responsive steering.
On the descent, this trail bike amazed us. One of the testers, who just rode a downhill bike down a slope section tried the same section with the Foxy Carbon and came back smiling saying he was convinced that the long wheelbase and Forward Geometry did indeed work to give him that stable downhill bike feel. As for other downslope sections, there were times we forgot that it was only a 140 mm bike.
At one section, the bike's front wheel went fully into a hole which was previously housing a small rock while the tester was bombing through at a relatively good speed. Given other bikes of 140 mm, he may not be too sure he could recover from the sudden dip. As claimed by Mondraker, it is "almost impossible" to go over the bar due to the Forward Geometry. We cannot be sure if it was our tester's good riding experience or the virtue of the Forward Geometry, we will let the readers decide for themselves. (Ed: No bike was hurt in the process)
Throughout the ride, the Foxy Carbon felt stiff and predictable. The head tube and the split top tube seems to work well, although we thought the split top tube was only an aesthetic feature initially.
The Zero Suspension, like all other variations of floating pivot systems, has their little shortcomings. Some of us do not like the rear shocks' "locking up" when going over bumps. The best way when going over a series of bumps for the Foxy Carbon is to flow through and fight as little as possible with the obstacles at mid point.
Another issue to note about riding a bike with Forward Geometry is that; after riding the Foxy Carbon for a few days, the other bikes we own suddenly felt a little tight. More adaptation needed again?
WHO SHOULD RIDE IT
This bike is for those who wants a fast trail bike with that extra confidence to bomb down steep slopes or carve berms faster. It is also for those who are ready to embrace a possible future of "new school" bike designs. With its sleek lines, Stealth Technology and Zero Geometry, this bike has very little flaws. More like, it just needed time for the rider to adapt to it. And once rider and bike got well acquainted, the experience would be all good.
Currently, Mondraker bikes are still rare to find at the trails. As such, it would be a perfect choice for those who wants a special keeper.
Due to the special geometry, the Onoff Stoic 30mm stem and 760mm handlebar are essential parts of the whole "new school" Forward Geometry system. As such, we strongly advise buying the complete bike as opposed to just the frame set only.
Welcome to the new world!
Mondraker Bikes are available at:
553 Bukit Timah Road Singapore 269693
785 Bukit Timah Road Singapore 269761