What Haro have done with the Xeon is take their Virtual Links rear suspension system as found on the Sonix XC machine and wrapped it up in a new frame while injecting 40mm more rear wheel travel. The result should be a machine that's a good all-rounder, happy handling the bigger hits and yet at home trundling up and down the hills in an XC style. What they've actually done though, is create a small ball of confusion with wheels on.
Frame: Clever design, but tricky to set up
The Virtual Link system at the rear is a clever design, mainly because of the way it has scooted around the Virtual Pivot Point patents (Santa Cruz and Intense) by putting the bottom bracket on the swingarm rather than the main frame (like a unified rear triangle bike) rather than for how it works. It's a simple offset parallelogram system that essentially allows both links to move up to a certain point in the rear wheel travel, and then moves around the pivot between the bottom link and the frame - behaving like a single pivot bike in the last part of its travel.
Taking the same system as the 120mm (4.7in) Sonix and then bumping it up to 160mm (6.3in) of travel has drawbacks, though. Mainly that this bike doesn't know what it's meant to be and is a pain to set up for different riding styles. We could make it work nicely for seated riding, or for standing.
The bike's 15.86kg (34.96lb) weight sticks it firmly in the camp of being hammered down the hills, and yet some of the kit isn't up to that task. The Truvativ FireX triple ring cranks are XC items, as is the Manitou Radium R damper and the Truvativ XR stem. And yet the bike runs with Marzocchi Bomber 55s, 2.35in Kenda Nevegal tyres, and a tough steel Cane Creek headset. It's a tough bike to figure out, both in terms of what it's meant to be and who it's aimed at.
Ride: better component choices would make for better handling
The ride isn't that bad, but the weight and the component choices really mess around with enjoying it. It steers well at higher speeds, feeling stable and yet quick to respond, but when faced with some of our favourite big drops the component choice caused us to hesitate. On the climbs it felt understandably heavy, and a quick switch to lighter XC wheels soon uncovered a sharp-feeling bike. Everything about the build quality is right for all-round riding, but the Virtual Link pushed to 160mm (6.3in) travel coupled with the Manitou Radium R shock results in a rear end that doesn't know if it's coming or going.
The rear suspension problems and the mismatched components, not to mention the weight, add up to a less than stellar performance. And that's a real shame because the Virtual Link based Haro Sonix XC bike is a cracking little machine that really performs like a star right out of the box. It's just a shame this Xeon doesn't match it.