Brent Foes and family have been turning out big-travel bikes for over 11 years. Although they're most associated with building exquisitely made, perfectly executed big-travel freeride and downhill rigs, they're now turning their attention to the lower end of the travel spectrum.
Foes have always been innovators and they're certainly a company to buck a trend rather than follow one. So what does moving away from their long-travel heritage hold in store? Well for starters, here's the effervescent 2:1 XCT 5 - a 5in (127mm) travel step down from the bigger hitting 6in FXR.
When talking Foes, you can't forget their exclusive partnership with Curnutt Progressive Shocks. Here's a potted 40-year history: Mr Charles Curnutt used to design shocks for big desert racing trucks and tinkering led to other projects, one of which was mountain bikes and a collaboration with Brent Foes. The result of the Curnutt/Foes project was the first bike with what's now commonly known as a 'platform' shock, and this was way back in 1999. It's the perfect example of a shock and frame being designed to work in perfect harmony.
The XCT, along with all the other bikes in the Foes stable, runs exclusively Curnutt shocks - this is the Foes way of doing things and it gives us an insight of how they think about bikes.
Big is beautiful
The XCT has a very big shock for a 5in travel bike but there's a good reason for that. The majority of bikes run a 3:1 leverage ratio, meaning 3in of wheel travel to 1in of shock movement. Foes and Curnutt worked to reduce the radio to 2:1. This gives a longer shock stroke, faster shaft velocity and more oil flow for every inch the wheel travels. It also produces a more adjustable damping range and means you can run a lower spring rate and simpler valving. The bigger 2:1 system also puts less strain on the shock, pivots and frame.
Think of it as like listening to a thumping music track - you can enjoy the tune through a set of small speakers but you run the risk of blowing them if you crank up the volume. Even better would be to run your tunes through a proper sound system that can handle loud noise. Same goes for the Foes - it just finds the hard-hitting life easier to deal with. The attention to detail and no-compromise design don't make the XCT the lightest 5in travel bike in its class but it's certainly the stiffest. Make it big, make it strong and make it work seems to be the motto here.
Not exactly subtle but the Foes' brashness speaks volumes - an overbuilt 5in bike that just loves to be ridden hard. You're unlikely to race it in a cross-country series but it makes one hell of a trail bike. It's not the prettiest of machines but that adds to its charm. Look at it with an engineer's eye and things change. It's completely hand-built in the USA and every weld has been slaved over. Details such as the CNC'd pivot rocker and hydroformed gusset add up to something special.
When you fit a big, progressive shock such as the Curnutt into a laterally stiff, overbuilt single-pivot frame, you know you're on course for some serious fun. As you'd expect, the XCT's handling is sharp and it demands to be ridden hard.
Its character won't suit everyone but if you enjoy pushing yourself and want an involving ride, this bike will mop up body language and repay you with interest. Hell, it even climbs well. The stiff rear end tracks the ground with unbelievable efficiency and just loves to be chucked into corners. With a combination of fantastic stability and smoothness, it's fair to say the XCT handles like no other single-pivot five incher.
Only the one pivot and it's a stiff one at that. The Foes philosophy is to build stiff and responsive suspension bikes. Combine that with the platform shock and you can ride the XCT like a hardtail. This is no sit in the saddle and relax bike - get up and ride it hard.
The stiff rear is perfectly twinned with the front end. The big hydroformed gusset welded to the butted Easton top and down tubes is possible overkill for a 5in travel bike but then this is a Foes.
This is no virtual pivot, it's a swing link, designed to reduce flex at the rear under side loads and remove stress from the shock. It's a simple, lightweight way to support the connection between front and rear and it lets the shock get on with what it's supposed to do.
2:1 Curnutt ITD shock
Here we see the steel spring. An optional titanium spring is available that will lighten things up a bit but it comes at a price. The ITD shock has pre-adjusted bottom out control or you can spec the XTD shock with externally adjustable bottom out control. There's also an air shock option.
Strength to weight
It doesn't pay to go light on a bike like the XCT. A rugged trail bike like this works best sensibly specced with quality kit to match the manner of the frame. This XCT built was just under 30lb. We reckon we could get it down to 28lb without too many problems. If you want to go even lighter you could spec Curnutt's air shock or even go for the 4in travel XCT 4 frame.