Devinci’s Spartan first raced at the infamously pedally South African round of the Downhill World Cup and it’s been impressively ripping up the Enduro World Series scene. Is it totally race focused or a trail all-rounder?
Frame and equipment: solid carbon chassis dictates a few spec compromises
The Spartan comes in alloy and carbon versions but with the latter frame saving a claimed 750g without breaking the bank in the process it seems the smart option. You’re still getting a solid, stiff frame with alloy chainstays for damage resistance, internal cable routing, geometry changing ‘flip chips’ and ISCG chain guide mounts.
The top-spec Monarch Plus shock makes up for a few compromises elsewhere
The XP is the cheapest complete build option but you still get RockShox’s Pike RC Dual Position Air fork, tunable Monarch Plus RC3 rear damper and Reverb Stealth dropper post. The Jalco rimmed wheels, Super Gravity spec Schwalbe treads and Devinci/Race Face cockpit are suitably heavy duty for bike park and big mountain work but weigh heavily when climbing. The cost of the carbon frame is reflected in the choice of Shimano Deore and SRAM X5 stop and go kit but it works OK. A chain guide or single thick/thin chainring upgrade is recommended, because we regularly lost the chain off the SRAM double ring and front derailleur setup when things got lairy. The Shimano left-hand shifter and Reverb dropper remote don’t sync well either.
Ride and handling: gravity-biased pleasures outweigh suspension quirks
There’s a lot going on with the Split Pivot suspension – as we discovered recently with the Spartan's Trail Bike of the Year cousin, the Troy – and it took a while to figure out the optimum balance of pressure and rebound settings for the piggyback RockShox damper. It’s made more awkward because while there are hiccups in the suspension character, they happen occasionally so it takes a while to track them down.
The most obvious issue is very pronounced pedal jack when you’re stamping on the pedals out of the saddle, particularly in the small chainring. This comes from a combination of a lot of chain growth and the effect of the bracing linkage swinging from horizontal to vertical as the shock goes through its stroke. It can be subdued with increased rebound damping but, with the shock already fighting against the hefty rear wheel weight slowing down its responsiveness, it’s smarter to make the most of the double crankset and rely on pedalling smoothly from the saddle instead. That or using the low-speed compression damping lever on the side of the shock to stop it moving so much under pedal pressure.
Devinci’s mostly carbon frame set saves a claimed 750g over the Canadian made mostly alloy frame
On the plus side, the same rearward axle path that creates the occasional choke sucks up steps and lumps easily. When the rear suspension isn’t bouncing it gives excellent pedal-to-trail communication too, and the adjustable travel fork lets you drop the nose to stop it wandering on climbs. That meant that while it was as labour intensive as you’d expect for a 15kg bike when heading upwards, it did manage to claw its way up several technical, limited traction slopes that we’ve not bagged in a while.
While it’ll fight its way up climbs, the Spartan is – clearly – designed more for gravity assisted thrills. The 780mm bar and Race Face Chester stem put plenty of confidence into the palm of your hands straight away, and the head angle is on the slack side of 66 degrees for a pronounced self-correcting steering feel when traction or tracking authority starts to slip.
There’s plenty of opportunity to explore this, with the non-directional tread of the Schwalbe Hans Dampfs, which tend to twist and drift rather than railing round turns. With no option to add progression increasing Bottomless Tokens to the Dual Position Air version of the Pike, we had to run more pressure than usual to stop it pushing deep into its travel under braking and cornering loads. The reinforced Super Gravity tyre casing and broad Jalco rims mean you can run low pressures to offset the loss of small-bump fork sensitivity though.
While the top tube reach and wheelbase are adequate, the low bottom bracket height, frame stiffness and hefty overall and wheel weights give it a solidly anchored feel through corners. The rear end drops into its travel easily under pressure, extending the effective chainstay length and increasing the surefooted feel as you build up pace. The backward wheel path also amplifies the Spartan’s ability to suck up square-edged slaps and big landings without losing speed or control, and the faster you let it run or the steeper and gnarlier the terrain the more its downhill breeding becomes clear.