The Foxy was a surprise winner in last year’s Trail Bike of the Year showdown – and it was right in the running to repeat the feat all through 2015 testing, especially if you’re a flat-out speed fiend.
Frame and equipment: Forward Geometry still rules but spec is average
While a lot more bikes are using longer front ends and shorter stems this season, nobody has matched Mondraker’s extreme Forward Geometry setup. With a 160mm travel Pike RC in front of the super-short 30mm stem and 760mm bars it’s an even better view from the XR, recently profiled here as the personal steed of BikeRadar staffer Oli Woodman, than before.
There’s a ton of complicated extra long, extra stable wheelbase, ultra-light wheel weighting and other physics behind Mondraker’s unique DH/motocross derived thinking. All you actually need to know is that creates a massive control and confidence ‘crumple zone’ that can turn even the tamest, sanest riders into suicidal maniacs.
The double-ring drivetrain is a step below what's on many of the Foxy's peers
Before we get into all that goodness, it's worth mentioning that despite the superb frame design, the Foxy's kit doesn't offer particularly high value when set against some of its rivals. The less durable SRAM 2x10 X9/X7 transmission with hidden X5 chain and cassette is poor value for a non-carbon frame, the Fox shock is basic and the Formula brakes wouldn't be our first choice either.
Out front things are better though – the 160mm Pike RC fork means big rocks and drops are no obstacle to open throttle ignorance. And the Zero linkage rear suspension offers impressively capable control once you’ve found the shock pressure sweet spot, only getting rattly at the ragged edge of steppy, droppy, rocky descents.
While they'll run out of traction quickly if it gets wet and sloppy, the big 2.4in carcass Ardent treads so underline the Foxy with extra pneumatic insurance. You need to keep pressure relatively high though as the fat flanks are nipped in narrowly at the base by the 21mm wide CrossRoc XL rims. Both rims and tyres are tubeless ready.
Ride and handling: insane confidence under gravity and surprising climbing ability
Even with a minimal tread Ardent out front we were soon ripping the Foxy downhill at sickening speeds, spraying rocks out of corners as the front wheel surfed in and out of traction. Drifts and split-second saved turns that would leave you with soiled shorts on many bikes are totally matter of fact on the Mondraker, and whether it’s a loose sweeper or a slingshot berm you’ll be riding out of your skin after a couple of runs.
Surprisingly for what seems such a gravity focused freak it climbs and charges along singletrack really well too. The extra reach means plenty of breathing space and it’s as dismissive of potentially speed killing loose turns or lumps of geology as it is on descents. The Zero suspension pedals well without flicking levers or sacrificing traction and the Ardents add easy speed. The choice of a Pike rather than a Fox 34 fork makes it significantly lighter than the 140mm travel Foxy R this year too, and just under the average 14kg weight of bikes in this category and price.
The Foxy's handling alone was enough to give it another shot at the Trail Bike of the Year top spot
You might be wondering why the Mondraker didn’t take the TBOTY win again – and it certainly went down to the wire. As with any extreme there are downsides and in this case it’s low speed handling.
At speed, the super-short stem steering trips up the long wheelbase to drop bike weight into the turn. At slow speeds that same dynamic, particularly under braking, can jackknife the front wheel right under. The long fork also gives a precariously high 350mm bottom bracket height that’s really obvious as the wheels slow down, suspension rises and the balance emphasis returns to the rider. And as mentioned above, the kitlist just doesn't stack up well compared to some of the competition.
All this being said though, if you're a rider who lives for technical thrills and loves to go as hard as humanly possible, then the Foxy XR remains a superb machine and should be high on your hitlist.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.