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First Ride: Mondraker Dune Carbon RR

Big bikes and big news

Before Mondraker announced they’d finally start bringing bikes to the U.S from their native Spain, they invited a few members of the American mountain bike press to to the Colorado Springs area to ride some bikes. Bikes that we may have never had a chance or a reason to ride before.

One bike happened to be this curvy pink beauty. The Dune Carbon RR is the middle of three carbon Dunes in the 2018 Mondraker lineup. The 27.5-inch wheel, 160-millimeter rear, 170-front travel platform is what Mondraker considers “Super Enduro.” It definitely is ‘enduro,’ but is it really ‘super?’

When you could find a line between the rocks, the high-speed alpine traverses down from Pike’s Peak were perfect for the Dune.

The terrain we were on seemed tailor-made to answer that question. We split our time between a day of lunch loops and out-and-backs in the suburban foothills and another day of epic descent from the 14,000-foot Pike’s Peak. One measure of a bike like this is how well it handles the fastest, rowdiest terrain, but another is how well it handles everything else.

It was an excellent test of the Dune’s technical chops weaving our way down the boulders in high-altitude hills above Colorado Springs.

One handicap the Dune has in the ‘everything else’ department is its length. The wheelbase on a large-sized Dune is 1243 millimeters. That’s 14 millimeters longer than the longest 27.5-inch bike we’ve tested this year, the Pivot Firebird. And we encountered some windy trails during our orientation with Mondraker. I find there are two ways of looking at frame design and how they relate to tight turns: One is that any extra length makes navigating ultra-tight turns difficult, and you should opt for a shorter bike if you have a significant number of slow-speed switchbacks on your trails. Another way to look at it is that most ultra-tight turns will never flow without a skid or a nose-wheelie, so why fight it? I happen to be of the latter mindset, so I got along with the Dune really well.

 

The stock 66-degree head angle is adjustable via fixed-angle inserts that will give you one degree of adjustment either way.

When the Dune was out of its element on the slower local foothill loops, the modern steep seat angle kept it punchy and responsive when I didn’t have gravity to bring me up to speed. And even with 160 millimeters of travel to contend with, the Zero linkage never let me sink too deep into its travel. The long reach on these bikes was meant to be an asset on the downhills, but it also helps keep your weight over the pedals and reign in the rangy front center on the climbs. Traditionalists might be tempted to size down because of the long numbers in the Mondraker lineup, but I encourage you to embrace the new paradigm. It’s so much more capable in so many more situations, and depending on your body type, it’s more comfortable to boot.

Mondraker’s parallel-link-style Zero linkage floats the shock between the lower and upper links, and is designed to be supple off the top and maintain a supportive mind-stroke.

When the Dune was in its element, the length was even more of an asset. Trying to keep up with a half dozen locals on a dry day on Pike’s Peak, I needed all the help I could get. The Dune I rode was the longest bike I’d ever ridden, but by only 8 millimeters, so it rarely felt unwieldy. The only times it did was when trying to find front wheel traction in the turns. Unless I was on steep enough terrain that the front end was bearing all of my load, it got a little washy. But that’s where the adjustable head angle comes in. Nearly all of the Mondraker staff steepened theirs up to 67 degrees for this very reason. A change I’d personally make would be to the tires and wheels. The High Roller II front tire is great, but this bike deserves wider than a 2.3-inch casing. Likewise, the 27-millimeter inner width on the XA Elite wheelset felt under-gunned on a bike like this.

But swapping tires and experimenting with geometry is the stuff of longer-term tests, and I’m determined to squeeze the Dune into the lineup soon so I can change it to suit my home trails.

mondraker.com/us

Related:

Mondraker makes the leap to U.S. sales

First Ride: 2018 Mondraker Foxy Carbon RR SL