Down Time: The Spartan 29 is intuitive, it goes where you want it to without any fuss. It isn't a downhill barge, but it doesn't shy from features. Technical, medium-speed, line-choosing trails are where it's happiest, though it's never upset.
The Upside: The Spartan 29 is an effective climber, adept at tighter maneuvering while still feeling efficient on smooth, drawn-out fireroad climbs too. It uses its travel for traction, though never feels inefficient or wasteful.
Dollar for Dollar: This is an over-the-top build, you get what you pay for, but you're paying a lot. If you want the utmost, this is for you, if you want a good value, look to the GX version at only 1.3 pounds more costing $5,200 rather than $9,000.
We couldn't pigeonhole the Spartan 29. We like pigeonholing here (sounds rather dirty, doesn't it?), makes us feel like we know what we're doing. "You're a ___. You know how I know you're a ___, lookit your damn chainstays … lookit your remote switch, lookit that neon! That rear tire!" There's a lot of finger pointing, gesticulation, wide-eyed excitement. We're a mature bunch, we swear.
Then along comes something where you can't do that. It's a hollow feeling, really. One of unemployment—what to do when you can't do all that you know to do. That's a lot of do. Do the Dew.
And the Spartan 29 just might be that Dew. It's the same color, for starters. More importantly, it’s impossible to pin down. It's 165 millimeters out back, big-kid travel for big-kid wheels, but it's not goopy, and also not a poppy trampoline—certifiably less springy and amplified than the Devinci Marshall's stroke. Yet at the same time, there's a fair amount of free-fall feeling initial travel to the shock's stroke. Conforming, with a slight chance of pop. Ok, a good chance of pop.
Moving forward, you don't have to move too far forward to be forward. It's a reasonable, 465 millimeters of reach. Combined with the very short, 432-millimeter stays, it doesn't feel very boat like. Maneuvering feels as simple as thinking about where you want to go. Then you're there. Magic.
It also didn't feel like some airy little feather you could whisk here, whisk there, either. The 170-millimeter Lyrik additionally kept things glued and the gi-normously wide Race Face Next R Carbon wheels with 36-millimeter-inner widths ballooned the 2.5/2.4-inch DHF/Rs significantly. This petite ballerina slipped on her easy-going Loafers.
At 29.7 pounds for the size large, the Spartan 29 X01 is a ballerina, and a light one at that. It rides light too. If you'd have told us 5 years ago that a 165/170-millimeter 29er with 2.5-inch tires that measure closer to 2.6, with real knobs, mind you, would weigh less than 30 pounds for a size large, well, at least one of us would have been angered just trying to rationalize its feasibility. And here we are, sub-30 pounds with a 65-degree-headtube angle. Damn.
Uphill, the Spartan 29 is no slouch, as it shouldn't be at a nice weight. The rear shock seesaws about slightly, but each push of the pedal feels as though you're moving forward without wasted effort. Only after suspecting bobbing did testers peer closely and witness a hint of wallow.
So, what is this bike? We've called it Goldilocks, Mountain Dew, not a poppy trampoline and a ballerina wearing Loafers. Perhaps that's sufficient, which brings us to the concluding sentiment here, it's more than sufficient. It does everything well, despite calling it whatever you think you should call it.
Q&A with Julien Boulais, Brand Manager, Devinci Cycles
Testers marveled over the Spartan's well-rounded nature. So much so, that it was difficult to pigeonhole specific usage for the Spartan 29. Looking at the Troy 29's description, mentioning "its fifth generation Split-Pivot platform increases bottom-out force, while its team-inspired geometry tames steep, rugged, unpredictable terrain," it sounds a lot like what we noticed with the Spartan 29. So, who's the Troy 29 for versus the Spartan 29?
With the advent of the bigger wheels on bigger travel bikes everything feels so capable. Now that suspensions are so efficient, even the smaller travel bikes, like the Troy, can feel bottomless. However, it is on the high-speed, gnarly sections, when the riding gets really rough, that you can appreciate the longer travel the Spartan 29 offers. The bike was developed with enduro racing in mind, to be the best platform for the Unior Devinci Factory Racing team to use on the EWS circuit. This bike is aimed at riders that train and race on the same bike, looking for a fast, efficient and dependable bike that can tackle any and all terrain.
The Troy 29 is also for riders who push their riding to the limit, but in a lighter package, and with geometry that's well suited for more forgiving terrain. The Troy has a shorter wheelbase that makes it feel nimble and playful, which will be what certain riders are looking for. In my opinion these two bikes are not necessarily aimed at different riders, but more at different types of terrain, with the specific suspension, travel and geometry needed to best perform in specific conditions. Consumers now have more options than ever and it is a good thing because they can really get a bike that suits their needs. A bike that really optimizes their riding experience.
The Spartan 29 had the steepest seat tube angle, and the second shortest wheelbase in the test. Was maneuverability a primary design consideration?
It definitely was! We looked at the overall geometry with our UDFR athletes and studied the optimal head angle, reach, chain-stay length and seat angle. The short wheelbase was the end result, helping to keep the bike lively and nimble, even though it's a big bike. We feel it strikes a balance between its capabilities in high-speed, rough sections and how equally well it performs in more technical trail sections.
Bible testers often praise Devinci for progressive-feeling suspension; a very discernible ramping and stiffening occurs as riders approach end stroke. With the Spartan 29, sure enough, the progressive feel was there, though buffered by a deep, supple beginning stroke. Is the progressive platform something Devinci prioritizes across all suspension platforms—XC to DH—and, walk us through the reasoning behind this choice.
With a gravity-oriented background, we have always designed our suspension platform to provide ample support for riders pushing their limits. From our Wilson 29 DH rig, to our Django 29 trail bike, we make sure that our bikes will be plenty capable for their designed use, and more.
The Spartan 29 is no different. And being a team bike, it was even more important for us. We wanted to ensure our racers would have sufficient bottom out resistance while going all out on the EWS circuit. Also, because the Spartan 29 is made to endure grueling, long descents, we felt it would benefit from a leverage ratio that enables the use of a coil shock. We want to offer our athletes and customers every advantage possible to make them faster on the trails.
As we updated the second-generation Spartan platform, we also wanted to be more inclusive in our offering. We want riders who are not necessarily top level athletes to feel comfortable on the bike, and that added suppleness plays a big role. Obviously riders have different abilities and weights. It's hard to adapt a shock to everyone with only air pressure. So we have a stock volume spacer on the bike, and we encourage riders who need more adjustment to play with ±1 VS (0 VS for less aggressive riders; 1 (stock) normal riders; 2 heavier, very aggressive riders). We feel the new suspension design and shock tune make the new Spartan (27.5 or 29) stand out from the previous generation by providing loads of confidence to less experienced riders, while offering a great suspension platform with plenty of support for top level athletes.