The Iron Horse Azure Sport’s DW Link suspension delivers great traction and plush performance without affecting pedal efﬁciency. While the spec isn’t as good as the best of the competition, this is an active-feeling bike that seems to have more travel but doesn’t compromise on speed.
The Azure Sport slots into the Iron Horse’s ‘marathon cross-country’ series – bikes designed to cover as much ground as possible, as quickly and efﬁciently as possible. Subtle looks and a sensible-but-conservative spec disguise this bike’s hidden asset: a ﬂoating virtual pivot point suspension system. Iron Horse calls it the DW Link after its designer, Dave Weagle. It’s an unusual feature at this price, and sets the Azure apart from the crowd.
Ride & handling: gobs of traction, deceptive long-travel feel
Efﬁcient geometry ticks all the right boxes, combining conﬁdence-inspiring low standover with plenty of room for the rider to move around over the bike. Grippy, open-tread Continental tyres cling to the trail tenaciously in all but the wettest conditions and accelerate quickly.
What about that rear end? Well, it works, and works well. Small bump response is exceptional, and only equalled in this company by the Commençal (with its ProPedal damping switched off). The rear tyre seems to stay glued to the ground at low speeds no matter what the provocation. Keep the power down and the front wheel pointed where you want to go, and the Azure’s rear end will follow through with a tenacity that the Trek and Norco simply can’t match.
Pedal feedback is effectively non-existent, although the pattering of the shock as it responds to rear wheel movement can make it feel as though there’s some pedal-related bob. Some riders won’t like it, but we’ll take the traction boost any day.
As the speed picks up and the bumps come harder and faster, the ﬂoating pivot point continues to do its work, delivering a bizarrely ‘bottomless’ feel that’ll have you swearing that you’re on a longer travel bike. With great weight distribution and tidily balanced handling, the result is a surprisingly conﬁdence-inspiring descender.
Frame: built for finesse not hammertime
Light Easton tubes and some positively skinny bracing plates at various points around the Azure’s frame ram home the point that this is a bike to be ﬁnessed, not hammered. While it’s arguably not light enough to be considered a pure cross-country race bike, the slender build and 90mm of rear-wheel travel hint at its intended purpose.
The DW Link attaches the rear swingarm to the two main frame pivots via a pair of short secondary linkages, while the shock is driven directly from the top of the seatstays. Like other virtual pivot point systems, the net result is an effective main pivot that hovers somewhere just behind the front wheel. Claimed advantages include better small bump response, minimal pedal feedback and greater rear-wheel traction.
Sound familiar? Well, it’s true that most modern suspension systems claim similar advantages, but Iron Horse’s insistence that all those efﬁciency gains don’t rely on a platform-valved shock appear to be borne out by the Azure Sport’s ProPedal-less Fox Float R shock, tuned with minimal compression damping. In a world that places such a premium on bob-less pedal input, that’s a bold vote of conﬁdence in Dave Weagle’s design.
The build budget for Iron Horse’s product managers seems to have been limited – the RockShox Tora fork gracing the front end isn’t as light or as adjustable as some of the competition. Still, it works well and you can add the optional bar-mounted remote control to fettle the compression damping while you ride, if that’s what ﬂoats your boat.
Equipment: decent, but down to a price point
The Azure Sport gives every impression of a bike that’s struggled to hit a price point, with components that can’t match similarly-priced competitors. Still, there’s nothing wrong with the Easton and WTB ﬁnishing kit, and although Shimano Deore loses out on showroom appeal to the slightly lighter XT, in practice it works very nearly as well.
Verdict: great frame – look beyond the spec
It’s easy to dismiss claims about suspension performance as marketing hype. But in the case of the Azure Sport, the DW Link delivers what it promises: superb traction, a very active feel and efﬁcient pedalling, all at once. It won’t suit riders looking for a tauter feel, but the grip and control advantages are tangible. If you can live with the slightly downgraded spec over some of its competitors, it’s well worth a second look.
|Name||Azure Sport (08)|
|Brakes||M485 Hydraulic Disc|
|Available Sizes||15 Inches 17 Inches 19 Inches 21 Inches|
|Top Tube (in)||23.25|
|Standover Height (in)||29.5|
|Seat Tube (in)||19|
|Bottom Bracket Height (in)||12.5|
|Rear Shock||Fox Float R 90mm Travel|
|Frame Material||Easton Aluminium|
|Fork||RockShox Tora air, 100mm travel|