Firstly, welcome to this new Staff Bike column on BikeRadar. Staffers will be introducing their own bikes, spelling out what parts we picked and why, and updating information on how our choices fare, in this ongoing column.
Just before Christmas I introduced my long-term test bike for 2015, the latest Mondraker Foxy XR, in this 'just in' article. What I didn't mention was that the bike was in fact my personal bike I had decided to buy.
There were many reasons for my purchase, but the main one was so I'd have a stable test bed for other components. I also wanted to try to rekindle a bit of emotion towards bicycles, something that gets worked out of you when you spend the majority of your time riding other people's bikes. That's just the way it is.
The size XL Foxy is every bit as long as it looks – and then some
So why the Foxy? Well, after hearing great things from most of the staff around me I wanted to try out forward geometry for myself. Another big selling point was the unusually large sizing that the forward geometry bikes tend to have. I'm more than 6ft tall with ludicrously lanky proportions, so if a big bike is going to make sense for anyone, then it should be me.
Which reminds me… being tall and shopping for bikes is a similar experience to having big feet and shopping for shoes. I can normally go into a shop and find say three pairs of shoes that I like, but I'd be lucky to find one pair that will be stocked in a UK size 12. It's the same story with bikes. I found several bikes that fitted my requirements perfectly, then I'd have a look at the size charts and there'd either be no size XL, or the XL on offer would be smaller than the size large I was already riding. In fact I'd like to send a big shout out to Whyte, who disappointed me a lot by not offering an XL version of their lovely G-150 Works!
Anyway, the Foxy arrived and within an hour it was fully assembled with no problems. No annoying internal cable routing, nothing stressful at all… it all went almost too well. Oh wait, it did go too well – when I looped a wheelie outside the BikeRadar workshop, I soon realised that my brakes were set up in a non-UK configuration! No bother though, the flip flop Formula CR1s took a matter of seconds to sort out.
Building the Foxy was drama free, apart from when I failed to reverse the brakes that is
One together it took me a while to actually appreciate the proportions of this thing. It's a behemoth. With a wheelbase just shy of 49in at 1240mm, it has too much overhang to really be safe to stick on the back of my car.
My first ride on the Foxy took place at Cwmcarn's enjoyable and varied Cafall trail. First impressions were alarming: "Oh my god I'm stretched in a way that I've never been before on a mountain bike, my back is at an unfamiliar angle and my arms feel like they do when the car seat is too far back!"
Another side-effect of that extra top tube length is that a 760mm bar has never felt so narrow.
I'll be honest, nothing felt comfortable for about 20 minutes. The brakes were wooden as could be, I'd forgotten what it felt like to have a front shifter and I'd not dialled in any of the suspension properly yet.
Conditions were gloopy in places but the triple compound Maxxis Ardents did a fine job – they certainly punch above their weight. The 30mm stem on the Mondraker meant that the steering didn't feel totally alien, and within no time I was chucking the bike about like a bit of an idiot.
My Foxy is quite possibly the first bike to actually fit me properly
I've never ridden a bike with a 680mm (26.77in) top tube before and that was the biggest difference for me. Despite initially being intimidated by the gate-like structure, it seemed easier than ever to climb up familiar trail sections and I finished the loop with no pain in my lower back, which I've become accustomed to.
Better than that, once the terrain start pointing downwards, it proved itself to be the most stable trail bike I've swung a leg over to date. Much like a long-wheelbase rally car, the Foxy can let it all hang out, but in a predictable and satisfying way. You do feel the length around slow uphill corners, though.
As for the not so good things… the DT Swiss rear axle is great, but it locates into an insert that is a press-fit into the frame. It's not a very tight fit, and if you remove the back wheel a lot, then it'd be very easy to lose.
I've really had to keep an eye on that black alloy cap
My gearing was also all over the place, and was chucking the chain off left, right and centre.
I was ready to bin the front mech and shifter after the first ride, but I shouldn't have been so hasty. Turns out both the rear derailleur bolt and the mech hanger had worked loose, and after a dash of Loctite and a twist of torque, everything was spot on again. I've also made a right mess of the chainstay; big feet, a goofy pedal stance and abrasive trail centre surfaces have added a polished section to my rear chainstay.
Remember people, no matter how excited you are to ride, heli-tape first!
It's remarkable quite how quickly a bike can look used, here's why fitting Heli-tape to a new frame is a good idea..
I'm pretty confident that the Foxy is the first bike to actually fit me properly. I can't wait for longer days so I can get more time in with it.
- Costs this month: £0
- Most frequented trail: Cafall, Cwmcarn