Mondraker have been lurking in the background for a few years now and are continuing to grow in strength with the addition of downhill legend Fabien Barel to their ranks. The Kaiser has been ousted from its flagship role by the new Summum, and this has been reflected by a significant drop in price.
It may no longer be the range-topper, and it's a lot of bike for less demanding terrain, but if you're looking for a downhill rig that can go with you to the Alps and race every week back home, this could be the one.
Ride & handling: A racer with attitude that needs to be ridden flat out
The Kaiser is rocking a lot of suspension travel – 8.5in rear, 8.1in front – and this is really noticeable. The four-bar linkage gives a rising rate (more on this below), but the first part of the travel is particularly plush. Dial in 35 percent sag and that soft initial stroke, burly chassis and wide, low bars make you feel like you can take on anything. And this isn’t misplaced confidence. The Kaiser proves itself to be a very capable gravity-fuelled machine.
The Van R is Fox’s base model shock, but it proves to be very well controlled on this machine. The rebound damping flutters through small hits in that initial, plush stroke, giving huge traction, yet remaining composed through the biggest G-out or the heaviest landing. Coupled with the active four-bar suspension system, the Kaiser manages to charge through the roughest of rock gardens with surprising – and sometimes scary – velocity.
The bottom bracket height clocks in at just over 14in. Once you take into account that it drops a further 3in with the correct sag dialled in, you have one low bike. Combine this with a low centre of gravity, slack 65-degree head angle, long wheelbase and rear suspension that can generate huge grip, and you have one fast and stable bike too.
Or at least one that likes to go fast – all of these elements conspire against the Kaiser on slower, more technical terrain, where the bike feels more sluggish and less responsive than we'd like. The other downside to the active back end is that it doesn’t sprint all that efficiently. You really need to spin a low gear, or you can feel the bike mush about underneath you as you mash the cranks.
Going slow is certainly not what the Kaiser is all about though. If you’re purely into gravity-fuelled fun and speed is the only catalyst that can put a smile on your face, the Kaiser could be a wise choice.
Frame: High quality monocoque chassis with great geometry for high-speed action
The Kaiser’s appearance can’t disguise its out-and-out downhill intentions. The swoopy, shaped and welded tubes are built into a very purposeful looking, compact frame. This frame construction has given Mondraker free reign to add massive strength to high stress areas and sculpt away bulk for a super-low standover height. The frame yells quality, not least from the twin monocoque spans that surround the shock.
A full 215mm (8.5in) of travel is on tap from a long-stroke Fox Van R rear shock. The suspension system is reminiscent of the classic Intense M1, which is no bad thing. The system is made up of a low mounted main pivot and Horst link pivot on the chainstay. The seatstays then drive the shock through a massive linkplate to give a tuned four-bar linkage.
The only downside to the slightly dated nature of the frame is the head tube, which is just 1.125in instead of the now-standard 1.5in. The back end is held super-solid by a 12mm through-axle clamped by massive modular dropouts.
Equipment: Good spec for the money, including excellent RockShox Boxxer fork
The RockShox Boxxer Race fork needs a good amount of bedding in but is super-sweet once through the initial sticky stages. The new 35mm chassis tracks really well through the rough, yet isn’t wrist-jarringly stiff like some other, bigger stanchion forks.
Mondraker have fitted a drop top crown. This is normally used to allow for extra long head tubes. With the shorter head tube on the Kaiser, it enables you to extend the stanchions further out of the crown to raise bar height, slacken the head angle and lengthen the wheelbase.
This is particularly useful for riding very steep and very long descents, as found in some alpine resorts. We found that dropping the stanchions about 30mm sharpened up the steering and gave a better bar height for sprinting and weighting the front end round corners.
Formula’s K18 brakes are simple and powerful, and their broad lever blade adds comfort and aids modulation. SRAM’s X7 gears shift clunkily, but effectively, over a close ratio 11-26 block. Mondraker-branded ITS tyres have a huge section, but their low cut centre knobs roll quickly and well-supported side knobs hook up predictably. The super-low, direct-mount M-Decline stem and low and wide Onoff bars make the bike feel like a very current race-ready machine.