Forget about storks bringing babies; German performance fanatic Storck never delivers anything less than highly focused, high-velocity bikes. This new 650b version of its Rebel hardtail is no exception.
Frame and equipment: rugged contender
With 29ers now the accepted choice for easy rolling cross-country speed – for any rider big enough to fit the necessarily slightly bigger frames, that is – 650b race hardtails need to punch hard first to avoid questions later. And few bikes give anyone trying to follow them a bloodier nose than the Rebel.
Given the girth of the down tube, the supersized 92mm press-fit bottom bracket, the huge hollow 142x12mm dropouts and a seat tube/top tube/seatstay junction made with bigger tubes than most BB clusters, it’s obviously a seriously muscular bike.
Chunky dropouts and stays add to the bike’s muscular looks
The instant the clack of you clipping into the pedals echoes through the pipework, you realise there are some serious steroids coursing through its carbon fibre veins. As the chain tautens there’s a totally direct, undiluted sensation that you’re standing directly on the DT Swiss freehub pawls, ripping torque onto the trail through (thankfully) stiff spokes.
The frame is around 100g heavier than the best-in-class Scott Scale 700, but even with relatively sturdy XT transmission and brakes and its all-alloy Crank Brothers finishing kit, it’s an impressively light bike. This brings all the normal acceleration and climbing advantages, and the smaller (than the now de rigueur 29in) wheels give it an edge in reduced inertia.
We’ve found with other 650b race bikes that the first few metres out of every corner or up each fire road climb are a chance to kick some space between you and bigger-wheeled bikes. Shorter forks, spokes and stays give a much tighter connection to the ground than similarly light 29ers, so you can turn in harder and later, relying on the pin-sharp feedback to keep the tyres sliding and under control.
The Rebel's slack 72 degree seat angle and long 100mm stem mean there’s more breathing space for sustained efforts than the 23in top tube would suggest.
While it makes for crowded bars, the twin-lever Fox CTD remote means you can switch easily between the fork’s Climb lockout and the suitably tight Trail damping without letting go of the fat, ribbed grips. The PaceStar compound Rocket Ron Evo tyres are as fast as you’ll get without losing your knobbles, too, which all adds to this bike’s obvious race readiness.
Ride and handling: tough get going
There’s a slight snarl and scuffle from the Schwalbe tyres as they brace against loose grit and you’re gone. Bars sawing from side to side, finger rattling the XT shifter through the ratios like the trigger of a semi-automatic rifle, it’s a symphony of speed superlatives.
The mid-sized wheels’ mixed performance makes the Rebel a fun machine outside the tapes too. The 70-degree head-angled steering is accurate without being too snatchy on really steep or loose descents, and the precision tracking and low weight make it easy to pop and hop over trouble.
As long as the trail is smooth or soft it drifts and slides with impressively consistent control, helped along by the precisely metered bite of the XT brakes. The gear cables and rear brake pipe are clamped under the top tube, which makes servicing and set up much easier than internal routing, though at the expense of a bit of weight, frame-shouldering comfort and general tidiness. More practically there’s a ton of mud clearance around the rear wheel so it can take much bigger rubber than the 2.1s fitted.
Lots of space for bigger tyres, mud and splinters of rattled backbone to drop through
Despite Storck’s claims of ‘vertical compliance’ and ‘a high degree of vibration dampening’, the Rebel is an absolute ass-kicker. We’re not talking a bit of buzz and a need to dodge big rocks and be careful off drops either; the Rebel turns even duck boards into tooth-rattling, spine-shaking jackhammers, bruises your feet on long rocky rides and gives you a proper ‘brain against skull’ staccato concussion on stepped descents if you’re too heavy on the brakes.
Reach a rough climb and that unflinching power transfer, so efficient on smooth trails, suddenly needs a lot of traction control from the rider. Every ripple or rock can kick the back end up and blow your grip if you don’t trim torque at the right moment. While traction is definitely better than a similarly stiff 26in-wheeled bike, you can’t just meathead your way up anything rooty, rocky or cobbled the way you can with a more compliant or bigger-wheeled machine.
The Rebel 7 is a race-ready machine, but still great fun – if brutal
Whatever they say in their spiel, German frames tend to be a lot stiffer than those from other countries. Here, the fat grips and adequate but not amazing Evolution-spec damping in the Fox fork mean palms are punished on longer, rougher rides, and even with plenty of seatpost showing above the low-slung frame, you soon learn to be wary of the saddle on more chaotic trails.
While the Germans led the 650b field in 2013, and being ahead of the curve then cost a premium, there’s a lot more competition for mid-sized race and trail honours this year. That makes this ‘intro’ spec of Crank Brothers and Shimano XT look expensive against similar (if less kudos-commanding) mainstream bikes, though it’s comparable with other ‘boutique’ builds. Storck also includes a bike fitting, which includes sizing the cockpit components to you, in the price.
Light, massively powerful and confidently planted, the monster-tubed Storck hits the trails with a proper Rebel yell (or possibly a shriek of pain). It’s ready to race, reach far horizons in record time or pin the local singletrack. Just don’t expect a cosy or comfy experience – and remember that a prestige name comes at a cost.