Upstart mountain bike company Durango Bike Company’s new Blackjack alloy full-suspension mountain bike looks to have some good things going for it, such as room for both 27.5+ and standard 29in wheels and treads, 120mm of true four-bar rear suspension, and the exclusivity that comes with buying from a small builder. What’s perhaps most impressive, though, is what you can’t see.
Many companies boast “aerospace grade” or “military spec” materials but Durango founder Jeff Estes says that he can actually back that up with paperwork. According to Estes, each Alcoa and Kaiser tube, every weld, and every heat treatment batch is truly certified to US military standards, complete with full documentation. Estes says this is only possible thanks to Durango’s fully domestic US production and it’s this rigorous traceability that allows him to include a full lifetime warranty on every frame – a rarity for a company that only aspires to build less than a thousand frames per year, max.
“We’re a hand builder,” he said. “I want something that the consumer can keep forever.”
The Durango Blackjack may not be able to go toe-to-toe with carbon on paper in terms of stiffness and weight but the company is hoping the 'lifetime' aspect proves appealing to potential buyers
Indeed, Estes is hoping the new Blackjack will be one of those ‘forever’ bikes for the handful of riders that end up buying one. The alloy frame features 120mm of rear wheel travel with a true four-bar Horst Link design, Boost 148 rear hub spacing, and a “playful and nimble” geometry thanks to 424mm-long (16.7in) chainstays and a relatively slack 67.5-degree head tube angle.
Additionally, each suspension pivot includes full complement Enduro cartridge bearings and cone-shaped, machined-in-house brass washers that Estes claims are less prone to creaking than typical flat aluminium ones. If and when those wear out, a replacement kit is just US$28.
Tyre clearance on the Blackjack is quite generous with either diameter, too, with enough room for 29x2.5in or 27.5x3.25in treads.
It's the little things that make the difference, right?
Estes wasn’t able to provide a frame weight for the Blackjack but the complete medium-sized 27.5+ bike on display supposedly tips the scales at a very reasonable 27.5lb.
Complete bikes will cost US$4,500 with a SRAM GX group or US$6,500 with SRAM XX1. Either option will come with Industry Nine Enduro wheels, Thomson cockpit components, and a Chris King headset. Estes says bare frames will eventually retail for around US$2,400 but those will only be available once the company has worked through the current pre-order list.
There's certainly appeal in essentially getting two bikes in one
Even if the Blackjack doesn’t end up being a ‘lifetime’ bike, Estes is still hoping that person will at least be a lifetime Durango customer – so much so that the company even offers a buyback program so that its products don’t end up being dumped on eBay.
“We want to keep the value of our bikes high,” he said. “You know you’re not going to find our bikes online at a discount.”
For more information, visit www.durangobikecompany.com.