Stevens Fluent ES - First ride review

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£2399

Don’t get too hung up on wheel size – 26ers still provide a fast and fun ride

BikeRadar verdict

70.0 out of 5 stars

"A reliable trail weapon that should be ridden rather than talked about"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 7.00am By

It would be easy to criticise the Stevens design team for taking no chances with their 120mm Fluent ES trail bike: it’s a classic four-bar linkage setup, crafted from triple-butted 7005 series alloy tubes in the familiar traditions of Turner and Trek. But you could congratulate them for taking the obvious route to making a quality trail bike that has few vices worth mentioning. We choose the latter.

Ride & handling: Sensible geometry and suspension for technical trails

The Fluent is just that – fluent in the language of most trails, flowing and confident. It’s especially good at those UK trails that are tighter, twistier and rootier than most. Its key to success is well-balanced geometry, allied to a similarly suited suspension layout. There are faster, flightier feeling bikes and deeper, plusher ones too – all with 120mm travel – but the former need more care and thought in the tech and the latter can lose precision and pop.

Once rolling the bike is happy to stay up in its travel, even running a decent level of sag. The suspension copes with whatever comes in its way but never eats at pedalling, which is impressive.

With all the hoo-ha about wheel sizes, it’s refreshing to remember that 26in wheels still deliver a sparky, dependable and durable ride. Sure, you’re not the talk of the town, but who cares when you’re on a rig that can dispatch miles as happily as this?

For those on a tighter budget the £1,900 SLX version is, blindfolded, hard to discern from this. That’s partly because you almost instantly fall off, but you know what we mean… Okay, once the transmission suffers some miles the XT will shine through, but SLX won’t fall apart. For those wanting to drop a kilo more, there’s the carbon ES.

Frame & equipment: Back to basics for instant riding 

Stevens describe the Fluent’s use as ‘marathon’, which, if you love marketing-speak, means it’s half rapid cross-country bike and half trail hacker. The ES model is the one we think represents the best all-round package. Peppered with quality kit such as full Shimano Deore XT transmission and Fox suspension, it’s a bike that needs barely a single penny of upgrading. With the exception of swapping the bargepole stem (a German spec oddity) for something shorter, you can ride it out of the shop and straight up the mountain.

The Fluent’s 69-degree head/73-degree seat angle chassis is built to last, and while not especially light (our 18in frame is 11.9kg) that sorted suspension layout means the bike rides with a lighter, nimbler feel than the numbers imply. Jabbing hard on the pedals from a standing start generates a small amount of squat, common to all four-bar designs, but it’s reduced via a Stevens’ tune on the Fox Float RP23 Boost Valve.  

We think the Fluent is pitched just right for the middle ground of riders looking to get out there fast and in comfort, but with a ride that’s engaging and responsive.

The fluent es is up for pretty much anything, straight from the shop: the fluent es is up for pretty much anything, straight from the shop

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

What's the score with BikeRadar reviews? You can find a full explanation of our ratings here.

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Specification

Name:
Fluent ES (12)
Brand:
Stevens
Price:
£2399

Description:
Sizes: 16, 18 (tested), 20, 22in
Brakes:
Shimano BL-M785, 180/160mm rotors
Chain:
himano HG-74
Cranks:
Shimano XT
Fork:
Fox 32 fl oat RL tapered steerer, 120mm
Frame Material:
Stevens 7005TB Superlite
Front Derailleur:
Shimano XT
Handlebar:
Scorpo
Head Angle:
69
Headset Type:
Ritchey Pro Logic
Rear Derailleur:
Shimano XT
Rear Shock:
Fox Float RP23 Boost Valve
Saddle:
Stevens Oxygen
Seat Angle:
73
Seatpost:
Scorpo
Shifters:
Shimano XT
Stem:
Scorpo
Weight (kg):
11.9
Weight (lb):
26.2
Bottom Bracket Height (in):
12.2
Chainstays (in):
17.1
Seat Tube (in):
22.3
Top Tube (in):
22.3
Wheelbase (in):
43.2
Tyres:
Schwalbe Rocket Ron Evo, 2.25in
Front Wheel:
Easton EA70 XC
Rear Wheel:
Easton EA70 XC

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