Durango Bike Company is heavily invested in flipping the script on the bike industry’s current status quo. DBC is crafting frames out of aluminum in Durango, Colorado, and selling direct to consumers in a hands-on manner best described as somewhere between ‘personal’ and ‘intimate.’ For our purposes, DBC selected a 120-millimeter-rear travel Blackjack, painted it a fetching shade called ‘Twisted Tangerine,’ kitted it out with a SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, RockShox Pike RCT3 fork and Monarch RT3 shock, Thomson bars, stem and dropper post and Industry Nine wheels. This level of componentry is what we expect to find on bikes running skyward of $8,000 so it was a treat to see the $6,650 price.
The Blackjack features Horst-link rear suspension and can be run as a 29er or a 27.5+. We opted for 29-inch wheels and a 130-mil fork. This is a high-leverage suspension; setting the shock to the recommended 35-percent sag took a ton of pressure–our resident chunky tester weighs 180 pounds and needed 230 PSI in the can to get the sag right. Clydesdales may need a different shock tune. The bike has super-short chainstays (424 millimeters) and a retro-slack seat angle (70.5 degrees), combined with a long and contemporarily slack front end. All pivot hardware is easily sourced and aircraft-grade, although it looks a bit old school compared to the current trend toward proprietary hardware. Likewise, the threaded bottom-bracket shell and externally run cables will make mechanics smile. The absence of bottle mounts will make others frown.
Testers were split on how well the bike handled the rocky chunder of Northwest Arkansas; some struggled with its maneuverability in tight terrain, thinking it would be more at home straight-lining Porcupine Rim in Moab, while others thought it was well-suited to the rocks, roots and ledges we were constantly punching through. The suspension is surprisingly plush and works well for seated climbing, but suffers slightly on standing ascents. It wheelies like a fiend, and the front wheel goes right where you point it. For a homegrown alternative to the sea of Asian plastic, the Durango Blackjack is worth a long look.
Q&A with Jeff Estes, Owner – Durango Bike Co.
Made in the US, top shelf parts, carefully curated purchasing process, very competitive price. How do you manage to make any money on these bikes?
Thanks for seeing the details. Bikes are fucking expensive and a hard pill to swallow by most. But there is technology behind the cost. We do try curate the best bang for the buck for our bikes that will last for as long as you want it to. To the means, it is why we sell direct so you can get the sweet components that are built to last with the least amount of indigestion. Basic economics tells us that customers don’t like to overpay, they want the good shit at a good price so we have to sharpen our pencils and make sure we deliver that.
While the suspension performance drew positive marks from all of us, some were concerned about what seemed to be a pretty high leverage suspension–it took a lot of air in the shock to get the sag where most of us wanted, and there were some concerns that clydesdales would be inflating shocks up into the “uh-oh” zone. What’s DBC’s take on this?
This a two-part answer: 1.) The Debonair canisters can withstand higher PSI than their predecessors. We have quite a few riders at the 6’7″ mark on the trail with the Debonair with no “uh-ohs”. Part 2.) is our suspension design. It has a balanced weight distribution and is what our riders refer to as the “voodoo” of our bikes. You hit the technical section, rebound, and immediately move through-the shock isn’t carrying the entire load of the hit, the entire suspension design comes into play which allows for higher PSI in the shock without compromise and is an excellent match for the Clydesdales.
Where do you think the Blackjack would be most at home, and who is its ideal rider?
The Blackjack, like all our models, is an all-mountain, all-trail rider…it is nimble, fast and can take on anything. The 27.5+ wheel swap option makes this bike one you can take to any trail in any condition. If you want to do more aggressive riding put the 27.5+ wheel on or if you have a long day of climbing in the saddle, swap it for the 29ers.