At first glance, the newly redesigned Spartan looks like it'd win a race against gravity itself. With its mean, aggressive stance and 170 and 165 millimeters of front and rear suspension, respectively, that looks like about all it'd do well.
Yet, testers were pleasantly surprised by the Spartan's willingness to tackle punchy, technical climbs, even with the adjustable geometry in the low/slack position. Flipping the chips on the seatstays steepens the head angle from 65 to 65.4, while the seat angle hoists to 75 degrees from 74.5. In high mode, it's more of a long-legged trail bike on the not-so-steep stuff than most bikes in its class. The Spartan is more agreeable than its competitors on normal, tame singletrack, terrain even the raddest riders begrudgingly find themselves riding from time to time.
When things get rowdy, the Spartan takes care of business. Roots and rocks disappear under a supple beginning stroke while big hits are managed by an aggressive ramp-up to the end-stoke. Even in the steeper of the two geometry settings, the Devinci is still confident and stable at speed and on steeps, with a quicker, more nimble feeling than you'll get out of the ultra-slack Santa Cruz Nomad, for instance. Testers found both bikes to have a similar active and bottomless rear suspension feel, but the Spartan's high geometry setting, in particular, makes it potentially more appealing to a wider group set.
There's only a half-degree change when the chips are flipped back to slack, so the swap won't turn the Spartan into a completely different bike. But if your descents are steep enough that walking them seems sketchier than riding them, you'll get that added level of security a 65-degree head angle provides. And since it's not a totally different bike in this position, it still climbs pretty well. For what it is, of course.
165 millimeters is a lot of travel, and the Spartan's is supple and active. There's a good amount of suspension bob, which is more noticeable when in the slack setting, but the steep seat angle and long reach put the rider in a nice, forward climbing position. For long slogs, there's always the shock's pedaling platform, but putting up with a bit of movement in the open setting is rewarded with excellent traction on slick or technical climbs.
While the Spartan can be versatile, it's not trying to be a Swiss Army knife. It'll cruise the average blue square trail just fine, but if you're devoid of double black diamonds, you may want to opt for a bike less gravity-oriented.
The GX Eagle build option combines performance and value--it has the top-level the RC3 version of RockShox's Super Deluxe shock, a RockShox Lyrik RC and quality Maxxis Minion rubber. It isn't the absolute, best-spec'd bike you'll find in the $5,000 range, but the Spartan is one hell of a bike, so we're inclined to tell you it's worth every penny.
Q&A with Marc-André Girard, marketing manager for Devinci Cycles
We found the Spartan to be pretty versatile. Put it in the steep setting, and it'll be just fine with normal trails, but in slack, it's down to party. Many enduro race bikes are one-trick ponies, but the Spartan has a bit more of an all-rounded flavor. What kind of rider do you think the Spartan is ideally suited for?
The Spartan has been developed with the help of our top Enduro riders like Damien Oton but also all the passionate riders we have here at Devinci headquarters. It's a bike for racing but also for big mountains. With the FRG [geo adjustment chip] at the rear and the possibility to add a cup in the front, the bike is able to suit many different riding styles. So, I would say the Spartan is pretty versatile; it's all about the way you're playing with the setting.
There are a bunch of long-travel 29ers out there right now. Did you consider making the new Spartan a 29er?
For this version, we focused on 27.5 because we had a lot of success with the previous version of the bike and we wanted to continue to walk this path with the new improved generation of the Spartan. On the other hand, Our R&D department along with our local Factory are always working on new prototypes. However, that don't necessary means that every project will be commercialized.
Does the leverage rate on the Spartan make it a good candidate for a coil shock or is it better suited for air springs?
It depends of the riding style and which kind of trails you're up for. In most of the conditions the Spartan is better suited for air springs. However, the ability to use a Coil Shock has been considered during the development of the product. For long and hard descents like those found at EWS Crankworx Whistler, we recommend using a coil shock.