Ride in Germany and you’ll see loads of Stevens bikes on the trail. The well equipped, well shaped Ridge suggests that their new importers, Hargroves, are likely to let a lot of them loose on UK trails too.
Ride & handling: Solid front end but no good on tight trails
Once you’ve got the pleasingly wide bars in your paws, the next thing you’ll notice is the sheer length of the Stevens Ridge. The slack 67-degree head angle accentuates the greater fork length and, when mated to the long chainstays, it takes noticeably longer to come round even in the car park. It’s even more obvious in tight, twisty woodsy sections where you really have to slow it down and swing it wide like a bus driver, rather than nipping and tucking through the trees.
The bike is lighter than it looks, but the sticky compound front tyre means it feels sluggish when tapping up the trail to the top of descents. Plus, while it pedals well enough even without the ProPedal compression damping engaged, it doesn’t take much exertion or effort for the back end to start feeling flexible and soft.
The soft rear end is obvious when descending, too. Most of the time it’s not an issue because tracking slur and twist is happening behind you, and the front end is still totally surefooted. It does stumble and stagger sideways if you land it offline, though, and even the whip addicts on our test team soon learned to keep it straight if they didn’t want to stain their shorts off drops.
If you do keep it straight, though, the Lyrik fork and long wheelbase stability seem to suck the bike downhill like some sort of tractor beam, refusing to even notice big rocks that throw other test bikes all over the place.
As long as you’re just letting it trail behind you, the back end gobbles up big stuff without trouble. The linear rate does use more travel than you’d expect for a given hit, even at a relatively firm 20 percent sag.
The easy back-end squish also accentuates the sense of the back end squirming around in turns, although it does offset the otherwise slightly high bottom bracket.
Frame & equipment: Big forks and tyres, broad cockpit and long wheelbase
The front end of the Stevens Ridge frame is a usefully sturdy structure, with an angular tapered head tube, massive geometric section top tube and a chunky curved down tube keeping everything together.
A braced seat tube gives ample standover clearance and there are ISCG tabs on the conventional bottom bracket shell for easy transmission upgrading. The cables and hoses are all routed underneath the down tube to help protect the frame, too.
The back end is a different story, though. The single-piece rocker link has more bits missing than left behind and the U-shaped seatstay top bridge is a skinny piece too.
Apart from the X-12 through-axle, the sucked-in stays, windowed dropouts, hollow tubed chainstay bridge and the short uprights linking it to the main pivot all look more appropriate for a short travel trail bike than a 160mm (6.3in) travel mountaineer. It does keep frame weight low for the category, though, so the complete bike mass is much more manageable than you’d expect looking at the heavy-duty kit.
The massive, matte black legs of the 160mm (6.3in) travel Lyrik fork have a 20mm Maxle axle locking the front wheel into place. Next to the Maxle is the enormous four-piston calliper of Avid’s Code DH brake, complete with monster 200mm rotors front and rear providing properly eye-popping stopping power.
The front tyre managing that anchorage is Schwalbe’s appropriately named bulbous, big block Fat Albert 2.4in with sticky ‘Trailstar’ compound for properly tenacious traction.
The Easton Vice wheels are downhill-oriented too, although the full wheel package is reasonably light. The 65mm stem and low, wide 740mm bars are a great layout for making the most of the fork, brakes and stiff front end.
Given the fork and brakes, the triple chainset – rather than bashguarded double – might seem odd, but remember those Germans demand a full gear range for grinding up fireroads and blitzing back down.
The naked metal outer face of the cranks is a big bonus for aesthetic longevity and the SLX/XT shifting performance lasts much better than SRAM in typically grim UK conditions. The only thing our test team moaned about was the brutally firm saddle – it felt more like a piece of wood than something you’re supposed to sit on.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.