The box section rear end of original 650b Mondraker Vantage was pretty harsh, but the extra long front end of its Forward Geometry was a boon on steep descents.
With the on-trend addition of plus tyres, the 14.3kg Vantage RR+ has lost some of that vicious kick from the rear end, while the Spanish firm's maxed-out geometry stretches the bike’s reach to the extreme. While the reach on many other large sized bikes is around 460mm, the Vantage comes in at 491mm.
High speed stability is increased and, if you weight the front wheel, there’s a lot of grip. If you hang back though, with the front wheel so far forward of your weight, it can feel vague and is prone to understeer.
The 68-degree head angle isn’t super-slack, but with the large outer diameter from the plus-size wheels, it doesn’t feel twitchy, even with a 30mm stem, while the 74 degree seat angle is steep enough to give a reasonable body position when climbing.
The own-brand saddle sits atop a 74-degree seatpost, helping the Vantage claw its way over most things
The Maxxis Chronicle tyres are best suited to dry, rocky conditions where the low profile tread rolls fast – they're not puncture prone and have decent levels of stability. In the wintry UK conditions we tested them in though, they’re no better than ice skates, thanks to minimal tread and no prominent shoulder blocks, so we quickly swapped them for some Schwalbe Nobby Nics, to allow us to make the most of the flat out nature of the bike.
Up front there’s a 140mm Performance damped Fox 34 fork – not as stiff as the top-end 36, though its slight twang gives a bit of front-end compliance to temper the rear end’s kick. Damping isn’t quite up there with pricier Fox forks either.
Push hard and you'll feel some twang in the Fox 34 fork
Mondraker’s own MDK wheels don’t break the scales, but do come with their own 157mm bolt-thru rear axle system. This means the back end is wider than most, so heel clippers beware.
Position is everything
Despite big-volume rubber, the Vantage RR+ is still a very stiff bike. It pedals and climbs well, but relies on you positioning yourself forward over the bike to get the most out of it when the trail points down. Get this right though, and the levels of grip available up front mean you can almost forget what’s going on behind.
Get adjusted to keeping the fork weighted, and you'll be hounding full-sus bikes downhill
As such, we found ourselves chasing 150mm trail full-sussers down trails, ignoring the fact that we didn’t have anything more than 15psi of rubbery suspension behind us.
Like other long bikes, it’s perhaps not quite as suited to popping and hopping around than a shorter bike will be, but if you get your kicks from flying flat out down a trail, and still want that bit of extra feedback from a rigid back end, the Vantage RR+ is an absolute ripper.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.