For 2014, the Avanti Montari made the move from 26in wheels to the larger 650B (27.5in) size. The Montari provided plenty of off-road spirit and its compact sizing found a playful niche.
Ride and handling: nimble and fun, but short position
Despite its competitive weight, the Montari isn't a great cross-country bike for fast riding; it's too upright and sluggish. It was fantastic whipping through trails, catching a little air and just playing on the bike. It felt closer to a jump or all-mountain bike, and that’s where the Montari found its niche, its handling hindered only by the second-rate suspension.
A short top tube and stocky 70mm stem gave a compact and upright position with generous standover height. This position didn't lend itself to long extended climbs under power or attacking the road out of the wind. Positively, it placed the rider into a position that made the bike easily flickable and highly manoeuvrable.
The Montari 27.2's short stem and top tube
The handlebar reach was very short and therefore upright, and were also in a low position compared to many other recreational priced bikes. We believe most bars are too high and so were fond of this lower position; it allowed greater cornering traction and stability.
As we experienced with the Giant Talon, the Montari’s off-road potential suffered from the basic SR Suntour fork. With slim 28mm stanchions and poor dampening control, the suspension didn’t inspire confidence through rough trails. This performance varied between samples, highlighting the manufacturing inconsistency at the price point.
With just three sizes on offer, the Montari won’t suit all rider heights. Based on the frame’s short dimensions, we’d certainly recommend that tall riders (taller than 6ft 1in) look elsewhere.
Frame and equipment: sturdy frame, but basic parts
The Montari frame is built solidly and, judging by the bike’s total weight, we’d suggest it is quite light too. The frame's aluminium tubes were heavily manipulated and showed no signs of flex. Rear rack mounts were given, allowing the fitment for panniers or even a baby seat. The matte black paint scheme had a stealthy appeal among the more commonly seen glitz and glam.
Stealthy matte paint and exposed cables
While it’s now common to see sealed gear housing, the Montari frame ran exposed cables open underneath the down tube. In this position, the cables were more susceptible to dirt contamination effecting shifting.
Given the price, Montari’s Shimano eight-speed drivetrain was overly basic. It all shifted when asked and offered the right range, however the rear mech wasn't well suited to off-road use, with a soft spring and large, impact prone profile.
Basic gears means more plastic
Cheap Shimano cranks featured non-replaceable chainrings and shifted sluggish. A bent or worn chainring will mean the whole chainset needs replacing. Luckily that wouldn’t cost much at this price point.
The Tektro hydraulic brakes continue to impress us with solid performance, but the lack of reach adjustment bothered us, placing the levers too far away from our liking.
Helping with the off-road duties were the quality and large volumed Kenda Slant Six tyres. These were capable of tackling serious trails and provided plenty of all-round traction. The trade-off was felt on the road, with a sluggish feel compared to the more commonly used multi-purpose tyre's of this price point.
The rest of the components were generic, but good quality. The wheels featured basic Alex rims in a disc specific profile and stayed true throughout testing.
The saddle was a quality piece, but the firm padding and performance shape were out of place for this entry-level bike; a softer seat would be better suited. Holding the saddle in place was a twin-bolt seatpost – an appreciated addition.
The comfortable grips tended to twist slowly on the bar, something a little hairspray or change of grips would easily solve. It’s common for bikes to skimp on the pedals, and the Montari included a wide metal platform pedal. And once the gloss paint roughed up a bit, they gripped the shoe well.
Held back by the cheap fork and basic drivetrain, the Montari was an otherwise fun-handling trail bike. Unfortunately, the short top tube limited the bike’s versatility and stopped it scoring more highly.