When a bike costs this much, it needs to be pretty special. In fact, it needs to be extraordinarily, jaw droppingly special.
That’s where most spendy superbikes seem to fall down, but you’re going to have to trust us when we say that the new Dune Carbon XR lives up to the promise of its price tag.
Frame and equipment: mouthwatering chassis, uninspiring spec sheet
Mondraker’s Forward Geometry is, of course, present and correct on the Dune. At 630mm, a medium size has a top tube around 30mm longer than most of its rivals and the bike comes fitted with a dinky 30mm long stem, though 10 and 20mm versions are available should you wish to go shorter.
Forward Geometry might feel a touch odd at first, but you’re in essentially the same riding position – just with more stability at speed thanks to the longer wheelbase.
The frame is a minor work of art too, incorporating lessons learned from the Summum Carbon downhiller to give a stiff and lightweight chassis. New, beefier bearings and collet fixtures hold everything in place firmly for a stiff and direct rear end.
Inserts provide for an adjustable wheelbase
The frame is single-ring only, which means the chainstay length is a respectably tight 430mm, but its flippable chips at the axle can take that out to 440mm. Press-in headset cups come with the bike and enable you to alter the head angle by one degree either side of the base 66 degrees, complete with alignment marks on the frame for accurate fitting.
It’s got be acknowledged though that as a complete package the XR – like other Mondrakers – doesn’t represent the best value on paper.
Fair enough, a big part of its cost is down to the suspension spec. Up front, the 170mm travel 36 Float RC2 is, in performance terms, the best single crown fork available – though compared with what's out back, it’s almost the weak link. The new Float X2 shock is a triumph and syncs superbly with the supportive and taut 160mm of Zero multi link suspension.
Less impressively, the SRAM drivetrain is a mix of X1 and X01 rather than range topping XX1. In fairness though it works just as well and isn’t far off in weight.
Mavic provides stiff wheels and sturdy rubber
The Mavic Crossmax XL Pro LTD wheels are a proven setup with spades of stiffness despite not being overly wide at 23mm internally. The front Charge tyre has acres of grip though you’ll need to be firmly awake when the enduro racing-focused semi slick Quest rear reaches its limits.
The 780mm own-brand, 35mm clamp diameter carbon handlebar feels harsh, and the SDG saddle that tops the Reverb dropper is ideal for any male riders looking to save money on a vasectomy. We’d also rather see some bigger rotors on the Guide RSC brakes for big mountain use, and while the carbon bashguard fitted to the chain guide mounts will fend off the odd blow, it’s unlikely to come out on top in a fight with Alpine rock.
Ride and handling: like sitting astride an avalanche
Those issues aside, set the bike down any gnarly and rough Alpine trail and it feels like you’re sat atop an avalanche. The build in pace is relentless and it constantly urges you go faster.
The tiny stem means lightning fast responses to wrestle the bike through the turns, helped by that substantial 780mm bar, when the trail gets really rugged.
Even then the Dune never feels stressed, and wherever you care to take it has a character that’s ruthlessly efficient and charmingly playful at the same time, with the length and slackness not dulling the fun.
Inevitably, it's on the descents where this bike really smashes it
With high and low speed adjustable compression damping and a smooth and supportive stroke, the 36 fork is capable of chewing up and spitting out terrain that’s downright scary like it’s a trail centre blue.
Meanwhile the Float X2 shock’s EVOL sleeve and Kashima coating give huge sensitivity and with high and low speed adjustment for both compression and rebound damping, it’s possible to extract superlative smashing ground control. It’s simply a step beyond any other enduro shock and it sucked up epic descents without any hint of overheating.
There’s no climbing mode, but the back end gives a stable pedal platform and we never missed it. Indeed, the balanced suspension, roomy cockpit and very respectable 12.75kg mass mean that the Dune is something of a pleasure uphill as well as down.
High and low speed compression adjustment is a plus on the 170mm fork
We went for the slackest geo setting and only regretted that on the occasional steep ascent, when the front end needed weighting to prevent it hunting about.
A bike that costs this much should be mindblowingly good. The real surprise is that the Dune Carbon XR actually exceeds that expectation.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.