Founded and run by the cycling-obsessed Marias family, MSC is one of the most prolific brands in Spain and now they’re coming to the UK. They know a thing or two about making fast bikes, thanks to their World Cup cross-country and downhill race teams who are regular top twenty finishers.
The Zion is a big-hitting five or six inch rear travel trail bike, tipping the scales at 27lb, but unlike most of the overweight, undersprung sleds that promise much but deliver little, the Zion is notable because while it flies over the kind of trails that make other bikes think twice, it’s also a really great long travel cross-country bike.
What really got us interested in the Zion was the 7005 aluminium frame. It’s a really well-appointed bit of kit with lots of details and shapes that have not come from the pen of a ‘design student’ but from the hard won experience of riders – that is how every product MSC product is designed, so it’s little wonder that MSC are bought by riders who know the difference.
As supplied, the bike comes with 2.1in Maxxis tubeless High Roller tyres (on Mavic Cross Max ST wheels), which means that the Zion certainly covers most ground with speed and poise.
Ride & handling: neutral, not boring
So how does it ride? In a word, neutrally, but don’t confuse that with boring, as we found the Zion to be one of those bikes which is always asking questions of you – usually ‘have you got the balls to hit this next section fiat out?’
MSC hasn’t tried to reinvent the suspension wheel, either. For the rear they’ve gone straight to Specialized and licensed their patented Horst Link in the chainstays and a Fox RP3 rear air shock slung beneath the top tube, activated by a very neat CNC swing link. Unsurprisingly, the Zion’s ride is supple without being wallowy when the pro pedal’s on, flick the switch and the back end suddenly offers a firmer place to apply power.
The RP3 rear shock mates perfectly with the 100-140mm Fox Talas RLC fork, which was faultless. Truvativ and SRAM do the rest of the main kit on the bike.
The 69-degree head angle is spot on, and the Zion gobbles up the trail with gusto, even at slow speeds. Climbing is effective if not fast, with no hint of floppy steering on the steep pitches.
Of course, with some reasonably slack geometry the Zion is no slouch on the descents either. Guy, our test editor, even took our test bike to the MegaAvalanche massed start downhill race off Alp d’Huez in France for a few runs – that’s how capable and versatile this bike really is. All-day cross-country epics, all-mountain descent bagging and even a marathon (so long as you’re not looking to win it – the Zion is just the wrong side of the 25lb mark to be a pure marathon race bikes, the Zion can pretty much do it all.