Do you prefer to do your dirty work on a hardtail? Whether for winter reliability, honing your MTB skills or because you just plain love being punished, the hardtail mountain bike continues to evolve and delight. IMB’s Ewen Turner gives his long term impression of one of the genre’s recent ‘stars’, the DMR Trailstar.
I have had a long and productive relationship with the Trailstar, first getting a spin back in Autumn 2015 at the launch event down in Exmoor, followed by a winter test for a few weeks after which I was reluctant to give it back. A chance discussion at Eurobike gave rise to a plan to have the bike back again in it’s new XL size, race hardtail category at a few races and give it a long term test. The build sent to me was an ‘Upgrade’ build, with nearly every component coming from the British distributor including a mix of well known and less well know parts.
Now this being the heart of the whole test, it is most important, but being a steel hardtail the long term aspect of testing has had little effect on its performance. The new sizing is better for me and, given the low standover, is accessible to a range of sized riders who want things longer. Other than that, it has been as bombproof as expected, and although I have worn out and broken various parts over the months, it would seem that the Trailstar is pretty robust. The only niggles I have had are with the external cabling, which isn’t very weatherproof, and the rear axle, which is a ‘nut and bolt’ type affair and the nut is easily lost if one is not careful. Solid, dependable and an absolute blast to ride, the Trailstar keeps it real and competes with the finest enduro machines – you just have to work a bit harder in the rough stuff.
The X-Fusion Sweep has been quietly impressing riders for some time now, and the addition of the Rough-Cut damper has really helped to keep it competitive with the rest of the market. Often overlooked, these forks provide a great alternative to the common big name brands and give excellent value. The 34mm stanchions mean it’s not as stiff as it could be, but the mixture of cost, weight and adjustability make these a winner in my eyes. A winter of riding and they’ve still kept going strong, the only annoyance is again an axle issue, as it’s awkward and tends to remove paint from the lowers.
TRP may not be familiar, but with Aaron Gwin using them, this season has certainly brought the brand into some limelight. These are the Slate model, and share an awful lot with Shimano brakes, including pads and bleeding systems, but the similarities end there, as the feel isn’t anywhere as good, unfortunately. They have a long lever which means they need to be moved inboard a long way to get one finger alignment, but it’s the lack of firm feel on the lever that I didn’t like. Saying all this, they are plenty powerful with the four-piston caliper (and I raced in the alps this summer) and with only a little brake fade, they did well. Hopefully, with the Gwin Influence (Gwinfluence) TRP will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
Vee tire, another brand quietly producing some great products including the 2.8-inch Bulldozer, the only plus-sized tyre I haven’t put a hole in yet. The Flow Rumba is their gravity tyre and comes in a bulletproof casing and a very aggressive profile weighing in at around 1200g it’s no lightweight, but that’s the compromise for a tough tyre. Other than ripping a side knob clean off, these have reliably kept rolling on the rockiest of terrain without a hint of sidewall damage, and although a bit dragging on the climbs, they are a truly tough tyre with a ton of grip.
The Praxis works cassette and chain guide has done sterling work, and offer a great way to get a wider range 10-speed cassette, in this case, an 11 to 40t run with a Zee rear mech. The chainguide has done what a good chainguide does and given no dropped chains for the duration, whilst being small and light. The Deathgrips from DMR have been excellent, offering a comfortable, not too thick feel, and a bit of dirt jump flange styling. The DMR stem bars and cranks again have been great, but perhaps still look very industrial, on a bike which now has some svelte styling and swoops.
The Trailstar has been the star of my autumn riding, taking me to some great races, and always providing me with a bike ready to go, and requiring little maintenance. With so many hardtail frames out there to choose from, it’s a difficult call, but for me a hardtail should be reliable, solid and a whole heap of fun, which is exactly what the Trailstar is through and through.
Do you enjoy reading IMB Magazine, using our App and website? We now need your support to keep IMB going. Support IMB from as little as £2 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you!