Ride & handling: Super smooth, super responsive and naturally agile
Despite the fact our demo bike had a relatively down-to-earth spec, it was still a very light complete machine. It needs more tuning time than some other bikes, but the reward for patience with a shock pump is well worth it.
While mid-weight wheels in the larger 29er diameter inevitably take some of the sharpness off acceleration through the first few pedal strokes, the low overall weight is definitely apparent on extended altitude gain sections. There’s plenty of length in the top tube to fill your lungs up with hunching, and there’d still be spare breathing space with a short stem on to lighten up the steering character.
The Split Pivot design is definitely more tolerant of torque in the big ring than the small ring though. To be precise, there’s an obvious bounce in its lower gear pedalling stride unless you flick the Floodgate compression damping on or spend a while fettling the shock pressure into its fairly narrow sweet spot.
Once you’ve got it dialled though, it tracks the ground beautifully wherever you are in the power stroke, and there’s less need to feather your muscle flex in response to trail surface changes compared to simpler swingarm setups.
It’s a tribute to how smoothly the Split Pivot design operates that the 110mm (4.3in) of rear travel and Monarch shock synced really well with the class leading Kashima-coated fork. This was particularly noticeable in terms of soaking up chatter and rock ripples, whether we were cruising or clattering into pre-corner braking bumps.
The Monarch also holds the back end of the bike up better than Fox damper-equipped alloy Atlases we’ve ridden, when we were really squeezing it hard into berms and compressions. It doesn’t push as far through its travel on moderate hits either, although that can be remedied on Fox bikes anyway by fitting an internal volume reducer.
29ers definitely roll over rocky trails better than smaller wheels too, with the overall feel and control of the Atlas definitely more in the 120 to 130mm (4.7 to 5.1in) conventional bike camp.
Kenda Slant Six 2.2in tyres add useful cushioning without cramping mud clearance and we were happy letting go of the brakes and letting it run through the more savage sections of the Bootleg trails.
Even when we had to rein it in, the short back end and steep angles meant it snapped round tight lines and turns without the usual big wheel delay. It whips and flares better than most big-wheelers if you get some air under the wheels. Pushing it hard does accentuate the flex of the 24-spoked Easton wheels, but frame flex is within acceptable limits for its race-ready weight.
Frame & equipment: Lightweight frame plus lifetime warranty
The new carbon mainframe follows the existing alloy Atlas template but loses nearly 290g in mass, despite claimed stiffness gains and 140mm (5.5in) travel fork compatability.
There are dropper post cable hose guides on the top tube as well, while the rest of the routing on top of the down tube is pragmatic if not necessarily pretty. The bottom corner has two wing gussets to support the shock, while the rocker pivots are two separate carbon fibre triangles that rely on a cross-brace on the double-headed Clevis pivot ‘seat’ stays to keep them working together.
The rear end is the same asymmetric alloy structure as the original Atlas with Offset pivot inserts allowing a very subtle change (0.6 degrees) in overall geometry in the high or low settings. Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot design puts the rear pivot concentric to the rear wheel, with a 142x12mm through-axle pinning everything together.
Despite the low frame weight and very competitive price, the bike is still covered by Devinci’s lifetime warranty scheme, which is very rare for a carbon fibre bike.
Our Interbike 2012 sample ride was US spec with an upgraded Kashima fork. UK bikes will have an Evo fork but SRAM X9 transmission, Easton EA90 cockpit and Formula RX brakes upgrades for a bargain £3,399.99. There’s also a RockShox Reverb dropper post option.
The low cost of the Atlas is backed by a lifetime warranty that makes it a proper bargain too. It’s impressively light, responsive and tight-turning, and its neutral suspension response and through-axle future-proofing give us confidence well beyond normal cross-country expectations.