Mondraker has been taking the world by storm with its revolutionary geometry, but when it came to materials, it was yet to broach the world of composites. No more, for it’s gone and made the Trail Bike of the Year-winning Foxy with an all-new full carbon frame.
Frame and equipment: radical diet
While it shares exactly the same extra long Forward Geometry, short 30mm stem and 140mm of travel at either end with the alloy bike, this carbon option – which we first cast our eager eyes over in the spring – is a different very animal.
It’s a stunning looking thing, with a much more attractive profile than the slightly hunchbacked looking alloy frame. As that bike proved, looks are unimportant when it comes to performance and the real magic is under the skin, or rather, within the skin itself. Moving to the black stuff has shaved a claimed 400g off the frame weight alone, giving our middle of the range RR model an all-up weight of 12.5kg (27.6lb).
Carbon construction drops weight and improves looks at the same time
Despite being the middle child, the RR comes with some pretty top bits – the SRAM 11-speed drivetrain is made up of X01 shifters and carbon chainset with X01 elsewhere too. It’s pretty much flawless in operation, though we did find that the 30T ring was a little too low for a relatively lightweight bike.
Mondraker has also opted for linked, bar-mounted suspension remotes on both the top line Kashima-coated Fox 34 Float fork and the Float rear shock – a bit of a cross-country touch on a rough and tumble trail bike. That makes the own brand 740mm width carbon bars quite a busy place once you add in the internally routed RockShox Reverb dropper post remote. Trying to remember which button does what can be a struggle, and we were half surprised the mass of cabling didn’t strain insects from the air.
The Kashima coated Fox shocks are controlled by a bar mount lever
Aesthetics aside, it means the front and rear shocks can’t have their low speed damping adjusted independently. Instead you get just the three picks of very stiff Climb, a middle Trail or fully open Descend mode, losing the extra fine tuning adjustments in the middle setting that non-remote Trail Adjust models get. This means that if you want to adjust the balance of the bike, say run some low speed Trail damping at the fork to prop it up on steeper sections while keeping the rear open for maximum compliance, you’re scuppered.
Ride and handling: too potent for its own good?
The CTD remote setup seems especially bizarre given that the Foxy pedals well without such interference, and we left it in Descend for the vast majority of our rides. On the plus side, the 2015 model Fox 34 is a vast improvement over last year’s kit. It’s not as stiff as the new 36 despite being the same weight – Mondraker wasn’t aware of that fork’s development when speccing this bike – but there’s much less friction and support is improved without the harsh dive-to-ramp up of previous years.
The Stealth Carbon frame is an equally satisfying step up – it went through a number of iterations before Mondraker was happy with the result, and it shows. The bike has a nicely muted but not dead feel and trail buzz is reduced over its alloy sibling, while there’s no hint of flex from the frame.
On mild to moderate trails, the Foxy Carbon is a ridiculous blast
That's all to the good, because the Foxy Carbon is quick. Ridiculously quick. The Zero suspension system feels taut under power, cutting out pedal bob very effectively but still sucks up the bumps – with the aid of its flawless, subtle-yet-planted Float shock – in a hugely effective way. The low-slung, long geometry effectively keeps your weight central, allowing you to shift weight forwards or back for maximum grip. It can take a bit of getting used to, but once there your cornering speeds are significantly higher.
Even when we found the limits of traction from the Maxxis Ardents, the bike carves through turns in a way that’s more akin to powder skiing, the low frame weight aiding changes of direction further. While front wheel slides are usually terrifying on most bikes, on the Mondraker breaking traction at the front is a less death defying prospect. Simply shift your weight slightly further forwards and it’s utterly controllable.
On our relatively mild test loop, this mix of low weight, speed-enhancing suspension and corner crushing ability meant we put in times that matched and sometimes exceeded our best. Considering we’ve wrestled short travel race rigs around in clips and this is a 140mm trail bike shod with flat pedals that’s not just impressive, it’s bloody amazing.
Maxxis Ardent treads are top performers, skinny Crank Brothers wheels less so
However, a true trail bike should be able to cope with much more than a blue loop in style – and once we hit some more rugged natural trails, some elements of the build kit started to intrude on the party. The Crank Brothers Cobalt wheels may look trick with their odd paired spokes, but the 19mm internal width means the rubber they're shod in gets slightly pinched. That’s no deal breaker – the alloy Foxy R has the same issue and we still loved it – but these wheels are also insanely flexy, something highlighted by the stiffness elsewhere.
Given a big enough berm and enough cornering speed, we got the tread leaving marks on the chainstay – and the Foxy has plenty of clearance. If you give the bike some gas down a rocky section, things quickly get out of line as the wheel flex fires you in directions you’d rather not go.
We also managed to kink the rear hoop noticeably; possibly a function of the speeds the bike encourages, but it also highlights that the wheels are a pain to true thanks to the large unsupported sections between the paired spokes. In their defence, they are tubeless ready from the box and the freehub and bearing quality issues that plagued Crank Brothers seem to be over, but it’s a bit like having a prizefighter with the legs of a toddler; if you can point it in the right direction you’ll smash someone’s head off, but that’s easier said than done.
We'd suggest going for the cheaper R model and spending the difference on some wheels that can take a bit more hammer
While we’re griping, we’re not keen on the Formula CR1 brakes. The tangential pull lever can’t be run close in to the bar without power tailing off, and we had issues with brake rub and excess drag when they got warm.
We put our thoughts to Mondraker over these spec oddities. The company pointed out that for riders who want to push hard, it specs the top-end XR model with the much beefier Iodine wheels as well as a 160mm travel fork. The company also said that it’s working with Fox to get a better balance between the front and rear shock tunes.
For the time being though, the Foxy Carbon RR is a bit like the smart kid in school who goes off the rails just before exams. It’s got a whole load of potential and promise but when serious pressure is applied, things start falling apart slightly.
This is partly because the Forward Geometry is so inspiring that it encourages you to behave like a lunatic all the time. Keep it to the milder stuff and the lightweight wheels and bar mount remote work to make it ridiculously rapid. It’ll have you grinning like a maniac as you pedal until you’re sick.
Get a bit rougher though, and while the heart of the frame and suspension is very much in for the fight, the flexy wheels will have you backing down when you know you shouldn’t have to. It’s addictive but infuriating – and we'd recommend buying the R model instead and using the cash saved on some new wheels, or moving up to the XR if you have the extra funds.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.