|My Xprezo W-29. Pretty much stock, except for my seatpost, saddle, and handlebars.|
Let me start out by writing a little bit about myself. My vision of the ideal race bike has changed over the years. I started out on a 26" hardtail with a narrow 580mm handlebar. I noticed that everyone was riding past me on the downhills. I then moved to a 26" wheeled 4" full suspension and got some 710mm handlebars. I still noticed that everyone was riding past me on the downhills, and I started to notice that the bike also wasn't carrying speed well and I getting bucked around on singletrack climbs. ort travel 26" bikes were slowing me down.
When I felt it was time for some change, I did some research and riding. A lot of people figure that the suspension and the larger wheel sizes take the sting out of the descents, which they do. But equally important is taking the sting out of flat or uphill singletrack sections, allowing myself to rest and carry speed through these sections.
I rode a couple of 29er hardtails. I think they are great if you want a low cost race bike or a ridiculously light race bike, but they are still a hardtail. I rode a 5" 26er and I loved it. Take a 4" race frame, add another inch of suspension travel, you can run your suspension softer and you have a faster bike. And of course I tried a 4" 29er full suspension which I loved as well. When riding the 29ers, I didn't really notice any of the complaints that most people have about them: weight, slow steering, not stiff, and I definitely noticed the benefits: smoother ride, increased braking/climbing traction, and momentum. Okay, I did notice how they made riding a little less playful*, but who cares, I was going for speed! Going faster and not getting bounced around as much can be more fun!
You can probably guess from the title that I ended up going with a 29'er full suspension. Enter the Xprezo W-29. Xprezo is a CANADIAN manufacturer making their bikes in Bromont, CANADA. They have fully jumped on board with all the wheel sizes (26, 27.5, 29) and have a wide range of bikes from steel hardtails all the way up to downhill machines. I even had a choice of paint and some SRAM build kits. While deep down, I am a Shimano/Fox guy, why not try something new.
-X0 build: brakes, drivetrain. I love the double crank, though the gearing is a little tall considering all of the steep singletrack climbs around here.
-Cockpit: heavy Truvativ stuff. The 20" frame is as large as they come, but the stock seatpost was not long enough, so I grabbed a Bontrager RXL off my old bike. I put an Easton Haven 710mm handlebar on as well.
-Fork: Rockshox Reba fork: still getting used to it. I'm running it at the recommended pressure, but I have the gate cranked all the way "+" to get any sort of suppleness out of it. Remote lockout is a bit of a gimmick. It's annoying that you have to run the lever and cable to keep the fork active. If you crash and digger your remote into the dirt, your rattledness will now have to contend with a locked out fork! I have removed the remote and rigged it so that it is always open. 15mm thru axle adds some stiffness up front.
-A nice Fox Float CTD boost valve in the back. As I've implied earlier, suspension needs to be active on the descents AND on the climbs, so I've been running this in the softest "trail" setting, or heaven forbid, in the "descend" mode.
-Wheels: Nice to see some race ready hoops right out of the box. Stans Crest wheelset is light and it is ready to go for tubeless. The LUST Crossmark tires are anything but lightweight at 835grams claimed, I could easily drop a pound by relegating those to some beater wheels and Stans-ing up some normal tires!
Frame: My Acid yellow/green frame is beautiful. Steel/aluminum single pivot rear end paired to an aluminum front end. Tapered head tube, some internal routing, direct mount front derailleur, 142x12mm rear thru-axle. Feels stiffer than my old bike.
Weight: 26.6lbs, I think I could get it down to 25.5lbs easily with some lighter tires. Keep in mind, many of the other 29er FS carbon wonderbikes out there are coming in above 24lbs, even with the super high end builds.
So in summary, stiff, flashy, and fast. I have already been setting some STRAVA personal bests on climbs and bombing down some rock slabs with ease. This bike gobbles up singletrack better than my previous 4+4 26'er: The geometry feels dialed in the corners, the bike is stiff and confident in the rough and steep stuff, and the rear single pivot suspension feels like it is tuned perfectly. Some may scoff at the lack of multiple linkages, but let me assure you, it feels really good, and I'm sure the simplicity is something I will appreciate when it comes time to maintain it...
*there are definitely lots of riders just out there to have fun but I don't see how anyone who normally rides a 6-7" bike on a cross country trail could complain about a 4" 29er being less "playful".