Its combination of low weight and long travel sits the MSC Zion Carbon R between cross-country and all-mountain bikes. It doesn’t quite live up to its ‘all-mountain’ billing, but it’s an inspiring ride that zips uphill and rockets out of corners.
You have to be a brave bike maker to whack an all-mountain/enduro tag on a 10.8kg (23.8lb) bike. Commonsense would dictate that a super light carbon rig shouldn’t be ragged and blustered through rock gardens by a 200lb rider wearing armour. So what’s the deal?
Ride & handling: tight, efficient & stable
Despite its feathery frame, the MSC Zion is a pleasant surprise on the trail. The frame design, chainstay swingarm pivot and rocker-activated shock set-up work together to create a tight, efﬁcient ride that’s stiff and conﬁdently stable.
There are two shock positions and the longer travel shock mount offers a plusher ride feel than the lower setting. However, both set a static bottom bracket height below 13in. This results in occasional pedal-to-ground strikes as the suspension compresses through bumpy corners.
A low centre of gravity may help stability, but another half an inch of height would enable you to keep the power down through rougher twists and turns.
Set the fork at 140mm and the steering is good on steep downhills but lazy for normal trails. We felt happiest with the fork set at 120mm and the shock to 145mm, especially when taking on tight singletrack trails.
It should come as no surprise that the Zion’s acceleration and climbing are impressive. Instant speed bursts out of tricky corners really set it apart from burlier bikes, but it lacks conﬁdence on more ragged terrain that heavy frames can steamroller through.
Ultimately, the nimble Zion inspires, but skips and pings when the going gets rough.
Frame: low mass, tidy details
The Zion might be the lightest frame on the planet to declare itself all-mountain, but then everyone has a different deﬁnition of that phrase. With 140mm travel up front and 145mm out back, it sounds about right for ‘try-anything’ riding. The stated geometry (72 degree seat, 69 degree head) also ﬁts the bill.
The main frame sections use a two-part clamshell construction and the carbon lay-up reﬂects the need for reinforcement at major stress points. There’s loads of standover room, with a long top tube allowing for a short stem – great for steering response.
A Horst Link keeps the suspension ﬂuid and the two shock mount points give a choice of 120 or 145mm of travel. The ﬁnishing details are also good, with cables and brake hose routed through the frame, titanium bolts and masses of mud room around the tyres.
Equipment: classy mix
There’s a classy mix of parts on the Zion. The fork is a Fox 32 TalasRL, the gears are a top-drawer SRAM offering and it’s all topped off by MSC’s own brand of cranks, carbon bar, stem, carbon/titanium seatpost and saddle.