Iron Horse MKIII Comp review£1,699.00

Is the MKIII Comp trail bike back on track?

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Iron Horse has tweaked the geometry of this all-mountain trail shredder for 2008, dropped the price and weight and improved the spec. The result is a far more balanced bike that now does exactly what it says on the tin.

The MKIII has had a confused breeding: born as an all-mountain rig, it morphed into a heavier-weight hitter but with slightly reserved geometry.

Despite this, the performance credentials of the DW-Link suspension system have never been in doubt. What compromised the overall package was the disparity between what the bike did well, and what it was specced to do.

Ride & handling: singletrack charger that still climbs

The MKIII Comp was always a confident trail hound on singletrack, and this trait remains for 2008. However, unlike last year’s bike, the new MKIII has improved poise on sustained steep descents thanks to the slacker head angle.

The MKIII is an enigmatic bike: the frame weighs at 6lb and is built tough. It cuts against the ‘less weight, more travel’ cross-country trail bike grain by having a strong and versatile frame that can be built and ridden as a trail bike – both as a reasonably cross-country-orientated rig or as a more aggressive one – as well as a hard-hitting 4X bike on the same chassis.

The DW-Link performs faultlessly under pedalling, and the lost weight makes climbs less taxing. The MKIII is especially good on techy ascents where fighting for traction is required.

Its downside on the ups is its 30lb weight, which sucks the killer acceleration punch out from under it. That’s mainly due to its frame weight, but then again, this isn’t a lightweight cross-country trail bike – it’s an all-rounder that will climb yet descend and charge singletrack with a commitment that more sprightly offerings rarely match.

The frame: tweaks improve handling of durable chassis

The major change for 2008 is in the geometry: the top tube has been lengthened by half an inch on the 19in frame for a slightly better trail stretch, and half a degree has been knocked off the head angle to 69 degrees for smoother handling.

A lot of work has gone into the frame itself, with proprietary flourishes all over. It’s still constructed from 6069 aluminium, using custom triple butting with various external tube profiles to maximize strength.  

The DW-Links are strong forged 7075 T6 aluminium with Iron Horse’s Max-e cartridge bearings for smooth running and ease of replacement, plus the frame also gains proprietary 10mm shock mount hardware. All in all, it makes for a durable and strong package.

Equipment: weight saved by careful speccing

Clever spec choices have helped Iron Horse knock almost a pound off the weight compared with the 2007 model. However, while the RockShox Recon is a good fork, at this price we’d expect either the Motion Control version or a Revelation or Fox fork.

The heart of the transmission has had a significant change, from Shimano to a SRAM X.7/X.9 mix. Iron Horse has also rectified last year’s narrow bar faux pas with a 27in wide Easton EA50 lo-rise bar for confident cockpit control.

You can ride this bike at the National Demo Series. Go to the Demo Series website now.

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