If any of our Trail Bike of the Year test line-up this year proves that you can’t judge a bike purely on how much travel it’s packing then it’s KTM’s 125mm-travel Lycan Elite. However, if you’re looking for a lightweight, climb-devouring race bike with a side-serving of trail survival then grab it by the fat foam grips and hang on.
Judging by looks would be more of a giveaway as the flattened carbon main tubes with swept-back SLL (Straight Line Linkage) rocker tucked into the top tube/seat tube ‘armpit’ and super-flat flexible seatstays are almost identical to KTM's Scarp XC bike.
It’s a 27.5in-wheeled chassis, though, with 125mm rear travel and 130mm up front. The Revelation fork is held at 68.5 degrees for more stability than a regular XC bike. You even get a dropper seat post, albeit only a short 100mm stroke one.
Flexy 32mm fork stanchions, a minimal leverage 700mm bar and XC rather than enduro levels of steering stiffness from the frame and wheels mean I still needed to dramatically alter my expectations of what it could cope with on the technical trails of the Forest of Dean. Even then, I still ended up on the ground or punching trees a lot more regularly than any of the other bikes on test.
The paper-thin Schwalbe Rocket Ron LiteSkin tyres need nursing through anywhere pointy, too, and the porous sidewalls don’t convert to tubeless running easily, either.
Aim for the sky, though, and the Lycan is a proper werewolf in sheep’s clothing. The rising rate shock kinematic means a firm start to suspension proceedings, which is amplified by the lightweight DT-Swiss based wheelset and tyres to properly rocket forwards when you apply the power.
While I’d still add volume adjusters for a more progressive response to bigger impacts, the default trapdoor behaviour of the shock lets it carry speed easily over otherwise momentum-sapping rocks under power.
The enhanced rebound effect of the flex stays also gives a lithe and lively spring to its step, and reach is generous, too. In other words, if you’re more about summits and mileage than berms and drops it’s well priced for a full XT go and SLX stop spec.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.