The Up Side: The Dune has a 74.7-degree seat tube angle. This would be steep if it didn't have a 493-millimeter reach (size large). With a front-center this long, it could easily use a 76-degree. It doesn't climb poorly at all--it climbs decently, it just could climb better and the long length can make it feel unwieldy.
Down Time: Big, sweeping turns of speed are the answer here. If you're looking for slow-speed, line-choosey tech where you need to reposition and be precise, look elsewhere.
Dollar For Dollar: Not good, even when viewed through the 'for a bike shop price' lens. You pay a premium for something different, you definitely get something different and the parts that accompany it aren't attained from Bargain Market.
Mondraker made waves in 2013 with Forward Geometry--stratospherically long toptubes with zero- and 10-millimeter stems in a time when things seemed to have settled on 60 for all-mountain and enduro. The first iteration, seen with the 2013 Foxy, still relied on a 73-degree seat tube angle. The Spanish brand has since evolved to steeper seat tubes and 35-millimeter stems. We tested the 2018 Foxy RR SL, refined over five years since its first iteration developed with Fabien Barel (that's Mr. French Downhill and Mr. French Enduro to you, aspiring shredder) at Marquette's Bible this past fall and were perplexed--it was different. It almost rode harshly for a 150-millimeter bike, was decisively sporty and was longer than anything we thought we considered long--a 500-millimeter reach on a size Large. Damn. So, what happens when you add 20 millimeters of suspension up front, 10 in the back, a higher-volume DH air can and soften the reach's impactful blow by 7 millimeters? And, beyond that, how does it stack up against a roundup of new-age bikes that appear to have emulated geometry that Mondraker and Kona espoused starting as early as 2012?
Well, Mondraker still offers a decisively different offering. You can't mindlessly board the Dune and pick your way down a trail musing over unread e-mails and what you want for dinner this evening as things unfold beneath your pedals as they always do. You need to plan ahead, and accept change. For one tester, this meant rethinking cornering entirely:
"It gains speed quickly, I was going into corners really, really quickly, which was messing me up--’Where are my braking points, I haven't even started to turn yet?' And I just kept blowing off the course that we were riding. I think I blew off the course three times in one run before I figured out how to steer it."
It takes some faith, but if you engage a turn sooner than you're used to, the Dune dutifully follows and it relies on a lean-it-over turn style. Move your riding position farther forward, keep your weight quite low and hang into the approaching turn and the bike will hold its line without complaint--regardless of how rocky or jarring the terrain may be, seemingly more content the faster things become. To straighten out, reassume the central position over it, then slide your posture backward and the bike's line naturally straightens. This may seem like a watered-down how-to of cornering basics, but the maneuvers need to be so methodically planned out and slowly exaggerated (compared to the instinctive, reactionary adjustments on bikes of shorter reach and wheelbase) that it needs to be mentioned.
Quite possibly the most perplexing, is the traction and relative smoothness gained arcing through something that would appear as though it'd jostle your fillings loose. We looked down in wonderment at the Dune's tires only to find that they're itty-bitty, probably-undersized Maxxis 2.3-inch tires devoid of volume and we wondered where the hell the traction and damping come from?
Fox's Float X2 DH air shock is worth a thank you here, as it does further tame things from the smaller DPX2 found on the harsher-riding Foxy, but a lot of this effect must be coming from wheelbase and reach--which shouldn't be so refreshingly novel, but feels astounding based on the difference in the ride, but it's polarizing.
So, who's the Dune for? Somebody who knows that the fastest time between 'A' and 'B' is the straightest line and is open and willing to adjust their approach following that direct line through rethinking cornering through broad, arcing turns. Sound like a specific rider? It's a specific bike.
Q&A with Israel Romero, Mondraker international communications manager
1) When Forward Geometry first came out in 2013, I seem to remember seeing 10-millimeter stems. On this Dune RR, also touting Forward Geometry, it arrived spec'ed with a 30-millimeter stem. Walk us through the evolution of Forward Geometry, why'd it change?
We launched Forward Geometry in 2013 in Factor XR, Foxy XR and Dune XR models. The first 2013 generation featured just two frame sizes, M and L, with our most extreme FG concept, longer toptubes paired with the original short 10mm stem. This original approach proved to be too extreme for most riders, so for 2014 onward we democratized the concept, offering four frameset sizes matched to our FG30 stem maintaining the long reach, which has become the benchmark for us. Over the years we have updated the concept for every model, for every platform, adding a few millimeters here and there, slacking or steepening angles... but the basics are the same as on the original concept.
2) In this test, we rode other European bikes now available in the U.S. But, YT and Canyon both elected for a consumer-direct distribution model. Did Mondraker consider consumer-direct sales at all, or was the plan always for a distributor serving bike shops?
Our plan has always been finding the best possible distributor in every country -we are very proud to have QARV Imports as our distributor in the U.S.--and sell our bikes through exclusive bike shops. Our bikes need to be ridden and carefully explained, so we never considered going consumer-direct. Same way for all the other countries we sell worldwide.
3) The new Foxy Carbon RR 29 sports a 75.5-degree seat tube angle. With a bike as long as the Dune, testers noted that a steeper seat tube angle could be a welcome addition. Are there plans for steepening the seat tube angle of the Dune any time soon?
Not anytime soon. We went from a 160-millimeter to a 170-millimeter front fork last season so it slackened the seat tube angle a bit to 74.7 degrees now but we believe it's not a big issue for an enduro bike and our overall geometry balance as a whole. For 2019 there will be some updates on this model as we update the rear end to a new Trunnion carbon rocker, metric-style shock, new lower link and completely new swingarm, as well as also going 170mm on the rear and geometry stays the same as on 2018.