MSC Zion Carbon R - first ride £4000

Sub-24lb ‘all-mountain/enduro’ bike

BikeRadar score 4/5

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.

The wheels are Mavic CrossMax STs with fast (but not mud friendly) Maxxis CrossMark Lust tubeless treads and Magura Marta brakes on stopping duty.

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