Stevens won’t be a name familiar to many UK riders, but don’t let that put you off. The German manufacturers have been around since 1990, built their ﬁrst carbon frames in 1991 and are both popular and highly rated on the continent.
The 120mm Fluent Carbon ES is the full carbon version of the Shimano XT-equipped, alloy-framed Fluent ES that scored so well with us earlier this year. But at a £900 premium over that otherwise identical model for a drop of the black stuff, can this one hold its own?
Ride & handling: No nonsense and easy to ride
Look past the carbon and what you’ve got is a tried-and-tested variation on the Horst link theme. That’s a good thing. Stevens’ designers haven’t set out to rewrite the rulebook, and there are no surprises – again, potentially a good thing – while the low weight brings a climbing urgency that some of the competition struggle to match.
A big-volume Fox rear shock gives good performance on the big hits at the expense of small bump compliance, but there’s little to grumble about in terms of the Fluent ES’s willingness to lope up steep, bumpy climbs with minimum interference from the rider.
Handling in the tight and twisty stuff is nippy, and although this isn’t the kind of bike that encourages hooliganism, descending is stable and surefooted – thanks partly to the rear end tubing damping out high-frequency buzz, but mostly to the Shimano Deore XT brakes’ conﬁdence-inspiring bite.
Frame & equipment: Full carbon, full Shimano XT
Many entry-level carbon bikes make spec compromises to keep the price reasonable. Not this one. The Fluent Carbon ES and its alu-framed stablemate have identical specs. Both feature full Shimano XT stop-and-go bits, right down to shifters and front mech. Quality Easton wheels and Schwalbe tyres do the rolling, while own-brand Oxygen Scorpo (no, that’s not a typo) provide contact points. It’s all good, reliable stuff.
So that extra £900 buys you a full carbon frame. It’s a bit spendier than some of the competition, thanks in part to the no-compromise spec, but thanks also to the no-compromise frame – the rear triangle and even the shock linkage are made from carbon ﬁbre. Impressive.
Stevens claim a 900g (2lb) weight saving over the aluminium model, and our 20in frame was just a hair over the claimed weight at a respectable 11.2kg (24.7lb), so we’re inclined to take their word for it.
Chainstay and down tube protectors fend off chain and rock impacts, while a Horst link offers the industry-favourite four-bar suspension. Fox shocks at each end mean it’s not wasted either.
The Stevens Fluent Carbon is a very competent trail all-rounder, with the beneﬁt of carbon’s lower weight and comfortable ride. However, it’s matched in handling – and bettered in spec – by some of the cheaper bikes out there.