This sawn-off shotgun Devinci first appeared under Steve Smith at last year’s DH World Championships, then got an official launch as the Spartan at the Enduro World Series round in Scotland.
Can it translate Devinci’s World Cup success to the trails?
Highs: Super-surefooted, neutrally suspended, lifetime warrantied mini DH machine that’s a responsive ripper on the descents. Excellent control-focused spec, even on the cheapest bikes
Lows: Alloy frame, heavy wheel and tyres and stand-up pedal bob make it hard work to get moving. Short reach means you need to size up if you like your bikes long
Frame and equipment: well-made alloy frame with a no-nonsense spec
The Spartan is a buff-looking machine, with a big, sweeping down tube and steep-sloped top tube throwing the frame weight down low around the extra-wide BB. It uses Dave Weagle’s wheel-skewering Split Pivot layout, with deep carbon seatstays extending forward to the rear shock and a stout horseshoe linkage pivoting on the kinked seat tube.
A small chip adjusts BB height by 7mm and angles by 0.6 degrees. The compact frame means the piggyback Monarch shock has to be inverted and reversed for clearance.
Reach is compact too – the large frame has the top tube length of most medium bikes in its category, which means you’ll need to size up to run the short stem it deserves.
The biggest problem for the handmade-in-Canada alloy chassis, though, is the otherwise identical carbon frame made in Taiwan. It is 750g lighter (2.8kg vs 3.55kg) and costs just £300 / AU$550 / US$400 more. The alloy frame is beautifully built though, and all Devincis get a rare full lifetime warranty.
Devinci also takes a refreshingly essentials-focused approach to its complete bike builds. Every model in the range gets a RockShox Pike fork, Monarch Plus shock and Reverb Stealth post, plus downhill-spec Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres.
Apart from the top RR model (which gets a carbon bar and DT wheels) the builds all use the same pragmatic rather than flashy Formula hub/Jalco rim wheels, Race Face DH stem and 780mm wide V2 Pro bar.
That means even the basic Shimano Deore-based XP gets arguably the most balanced, consistently controlled damping set-up around and the benchmark dropper post, all glued to the ground with enduro race rubber and a proper power-assist cockpit.
It’s a bold approach that goes against the normal price and performance progression model, and – given that Deore is so good – almost discourages you from spending more. That said, one of the overwhelming impressions we got from our desert riding was how positive, punchy and wonderfully simple SRAM’s 1×11 transmissions are. We’re also becoming big fans of SRAM’s Guide brakes.
Ride and handling: surefooted and good at carrying speed. Worth the effort to get it moving
Grunting the heavy-tyred, short-reach Spartan up the trails just before dawn wasn’t an inspiring start. Getting out of the saddle also produced noticeable bob if we didn’t flick the shock into pedal mode.
What rapidly became clear, though, was that the Devinci ploughed straight over anything we blundered blindly into. That meant that whatever gap the other bikes in our convoy opened up on the climbs, the Spartan charged shut immediately on the sketchy scree and rut descents or across the numerous rocky outcrops.
As soon as the sun rose enough to carry proper pace and spot race lines early, the Spartan started to show its massive speed potential. The inertia of the heavy tyres and reversed shock is offset by the short chainstays and the DebonAir can retains excellent start sensitivity.
The neutral Split Pivot suspension gives impressively consistent connection over every size and shape of impact too, whether you’re pedalling, braking or recovering from a lung-emptying landing. It carries decent speed through staccato braking hits and square edges without wallowing or spiking but it’s still easy to loft the front wheel and manual or launch the whole bike when needed.
In its longest and lowest format, and running the low pressures the reinforced tyres allow, the Devinci is defiantly surefooted, no matter how sketchy the surface. Push it to the limit and the front end stays locked solid on to the trail while the super-short back end kicks out in a feelgood speedway flare that fired showers of rocks over Russ, our photographer, with remarkable accuracy.
Despite screaming legs it was always worth finding the extra wattage to earn another descent and the rock solid, ‘flat out, foot out’ ride of the Spartan made it one of the bikes we were most reluctant to hand back after our time in the desert.
Note: the SX build is not available in Australia. Distributor Rowney Sports offer the alloy Spartan as a frame only for AU$3,300 or a SRAM X0-1 complete build for AU$,7150.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.