Bionicon are the only manufacturer to offer an adjustable geometry system for tailoring the bike for climbing and descending while riding. The Alva is their 180mm (7.1in) platform designed for winching to the top of killer descents.
Ride & handling: Uphill performance not matched by downhill confidence
With the climb mode engaged, we were surprised by how much the riding position changed – the fork dipped 80mm (3.1in) while the seat tube angle steepened by 4.5 degrees, putting our bodyweight in front of the bottom bracket.
For climbing steep terrain this really does help, although the rear end extends under hard pedalling in the granny ring, due to the seatstays lowering and altering the angle of the linkage.
We also found that despite being able to ﬁne-tune the geometry anywhere from the uphill to the downhill setting, it’s tricky to get a happy medium because there is no deﬁned ‘middle’ position. This can leave you in the full uphill setting on a grinding climb, weighting the front end so much that drag can be felt when compared to a mid or downhill setting.
In the downhill setting, the riding position is good, geometry feels good and, as long as it’s not too rough, the Alva feels okay. However, the total lack of compression damping on the fork saw us adding extra negative air pressure, which held the fork back from maximum travel and made the ride feel nervous.
Although we like it as a concept, the Bionicon doesn’t excel in any one area. At 15.9kg (35lb) it isn’t exactly sprightly to ride, and although it climbs reasonably well for a hefty bike, the descending performance to validate that weight is questionable.
Frame & equipment: Boxy style with decent spec
The box-section aluminum tubing gives the frame a burly, industrial style look and has a two-tone colourway. Out back, the excellent Syntace X12 bolt-through system is hung from a Horst link four-bar rear end, offering good torsional rigidity and active performance under braking. The huge down tube has a large contact point for the welds, and a conventional bottom bracket shell with ISCG mounts.
The head tube incorporates Bionicon’s FIT headset system, while the top tube features mounts for a dropper post as well as bottle cage bolts – although installing a cage would reduce the standover height.
Shiny SRAM X0 takes care of shifting and braking duties with expected precision and DT E2000 wheels make for reliable rolling, although our test sample arrived with Alex FR30 rims laced on Bionicon’s own hubs. Maxxis High Roller II and Minion tyres ensure maximum grip.
The Bionicon Doubleagent fork provides 180mm (7.1in) of travel, adjustable down to 100mm (3.9in) in climbing mode, and features external rebound adjustment. An X-Fusion Vector RC coil shock provides 180mm (7.1in) of travel and is mated to a Bionicon slave unit to alter the geometry.