Land Rover are relatively new to the bike business but there's no denying the global reputation they've got for off road motor vehicles. With cable discs and a Marzocchi fork for £449, the Sajama Pro looks promising, but does this pedal-powered Defender live up to the legend of its diesel namesake, and is it "the best 2x2 by far"?
The frame is a sturdy looking beast, with all the right shapes; squareheaded mainframe tubes join in a massive seam weld for extra strength and the super low top tube gives massive standover clearance. Rectangular seatstays run almost parallel to the top tube, with a short, quick release clamp-equipped seat stub sticking proud for saddle height adjustment. The chainstays are equally butch and finish in stout but simple dropouts, which get a reinforcing strut on the disc brake side.
Land Rover have included XC details such as bottle bosses on the down tube and Crud Catcher mudguard bosses, but for the bike's intended purpose it's surprising there's no room for anything bigger than the 2.3in Tioga tyre fitted at the back end... The chain device relies on a retrofit ISCG ring mount rather than built-in tabs, and we're not convinced by the use of an integral headset.
The V-brake, cable disc and hydraulic disc fixtures on the back end make the frame look a little untidy, but the hose is routed under the top tube which stops it from catching your feet on step-throughs.
The Sajama looked promising on paper, but as soon as it hit the trails it was obvious it wasn't really going to deliver. The cockpit feel was immediately unsettling compared with the connected, wide span set-ups of the other bikes here.
The high, flexy bars also combined with the clanking, 'pogo stick' fork action to make it hard to judge what the front end was going to do next, whether we were hitting jumps, landing them, or trying to rip round tight singletrack corners. This is a shame because the basic geometry of the bike feels fine, and we know the tyres are up to hard work.
While the chainset and back end certainly don't waste power, muscling round more than 33lb of weight with a single ring left us no twiddle options on climbs, so the Land Rover was a fairly tiring proposition for any uphill spurts. Mis -shifts from the Grip Shifts were also a problem when we were chucking the bike around. On the bright side, the chain keeper worked well to keep the chain on, even if the fork was trying to do the opposite with the rider...
The brakes are a definite control and confidence-inspiring boost, and came into their own when we were down hilling or trials riding. At the jump park, the fork and cockpit conspire against comfortable and confident flying or hucking, and the single ring also limits the Land Rover's playing around in the woods or trail potential - unless you're prepared to do a lot of pushing. Keep the wheels on the ground and point it downhill though, and the advantages of the bike's single ring spec and hydraulic brakes are obvious; the downsides of the hyperactive fork and high cockpit also become less noticeable, and you get a sturdy and enjoyable ride.
Hanging off the frame is a disparate mix of headliner hydraulic discs and other pieces, but totally anonymous kit elsewhere. The Hayes Sole brakes are basic and blunt feeling, but they're in a different class to the cable discs on the other bikes here in terms of consistent firm feel and modulation. Long levers mean the 160mm rotors give ample power for most dodgy moments too.
The Truvativ Hussefelt single ring crank and chain device are another real highlight, with a legendary reputation for strength and durability. The Isis bottom bracket stiffens things up too, although the single ring does limit the bike's potential for general hardcore/XC mucking around. While the Marzocchi MZIII fork wins big-brand name points, it's too bouncy for controlled landings.
Grip Shift shifters aren't best suited to the essential 'wrist flick and roll' moves of in-flight control either, though the gears themselves work fine. The immediate worry is the bar and stem they sit on. Neither the high rise bar nor thin, front clamp Tioga riser stem inspire big-landing confidence and make the riding position nervous rather than naturally involving.
The big Tioga Factory DH treads are classic shock absorbers, and helped protect the unnamed wheelset to keep it rolling smooth and true. The Land Rover branded saddle is tough and even has little grip ridges on the grab pad under the nose . Guy Kesteven and Rob Jarman