NS are big in the dirt jump game, producing some of the best kit on the market, so when the Soda was released we couldn’t wait to try out the versatile full suspension offering.
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The Soda comes in four different complete build options, including two freeride, one slopestyle and finally the more do-it-all Air model, which is what we opted for here.
Ride & handling: The clue is in the name...
Weighing in at 14.8kg (32.6lb), the Soda doesn’t claim to be anything but sturdy. And that it is. The rear end’s big bearing setup translates into a stiff frame that tracks superbly. It feels more sprightly than you’d expect and is eager to be thrown about.
Even with the dropper post up, sat down on a climb, the weight isn’t as obvious as we thought it would be. NS have specced a 1x10 drivetrain and a chainguide too – something that we’re keen to see more of. There are no mixed intentions here, it’s a bike for Cheshire cat sized smiles.
In the shorter, 152mm (6in) travel mode the bike has more uphill capability, but is still a ridiculous amount of fun on the flat sections and even more so on the downhills.
The rear end feels supple and easy to get moving, but with a noticeable ramp-up in around about the last quarter of the suspension stroke, with a supportive feel throughout – there’s always enough to use as a platform to push off and push into.
It’s only when we started riding really rough downhill runs that we found the bike was better in the 177mm (7in) travel mode, giving a bit more to soak up those big hits. Thanks to the progressive leverage ratio and top performing Monarch Plus R shock, the bike still coped with big square-edged compressions better than we thought it would.
The Soda really starts to shine when you make the slightest hint at becoming airborne. It’s always persuading you to hit that bump a little harder, jump a little higher and even try some stunts that provoke even more of a grin than you’d otherwise have riding this little beast.
Frame & equipment: Solid, reliable kit on alu chassis
Custom formed and butted 6061 aluminium tubing makes up the Soda’s frame, with a tapered head tube, ISCG 05 mounts, and 135x10/12mm rear end spacing. The travel is adjustable through a reversible chip changing the shock’s position on the linkage, from 152mm to 177mm (6in to 7in).
The Soda Air comes with a solid spec list that comprises NS own-brand kit and kit from sister brand Octane One, neither of which disappoints.
SRAM’s multitude of brands makes up the rest of the components, with a SRAM drivetrain, Truvativ Descendant cranks, Avid Elixir 5 brakes, and RockShox suspension in the form of the Lyrik RC fork up front and a Monarch Plus R shock out back. There’s an e*thirteen LS1 keeping the chain in check too.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.