Reviews / FreeRide Bikes
I still haven't decided what to call bikes like the Spindrift. Propain have a few suggestions including such terms as SuperEnduro, Bike Park Enduro, or even Trail Freeride… Whatever you call them, these bikes are the new wave of long travel bikes with, for want of a better term, pedal-ability.
As suspension has developed, riders have demanded more and more versatility in their bikes, and where once 120mm may have seemed like a lot of travel to pedal up a hill, we now consider 180mm to be 'big'. So is it possible to tame all that suspension into a bike, which can travel both with and against gravity?
Propain think so, and the Spindrift is their biggest bike (except their downhill bike) in the lineup. 180mm travel front and rear delivered by a Rockshox Lyric and a Super Deluxe RC3 Debonair shock give this a lot of capacity. We opted to run an air shock on the 'Trail' model to keep weight down and see what it could really do as a trail bike. The Propain website gives plenty of options for configuration if you are that way inclined.
The rest of our build is a refreshingly different mix of parts including standout pieces such as the Stans Flow Rims, Magura brakes and the Bikeyoke Revive dropper post. The drivetrain is SRAM GX, which keeps things functional rather than extravagant, allowing the budget to be spent on the more important things, such as massive suspension!
The first test was spent riding up at Innerleithen, in the Tweed Valley, home of super steep world class trails, but with big, non-technical climbs to test out the winching capabilities. What was immediately surprising was that it actually felt like it wanted to go uphill. Our tester on this day was given the challenge of keeping up with the enduro boys for a full day of 1500m of climbing. Even with the big and chunky Onza tyres, the Spindrift ploughed on, never like a rocket, but just kept on chugging.
Downhill the Spindrift inspires an incredible amount of confidence, very quiet, almost silent when charging through the rough stuff, which really makes you feel like the bike is working incredibly well underneath you. The rockier the terrain became, the better the bike felt.
With the Spindrift only going up to a size large, but with a 465mm reach, the bike was passed around testers to find the ideal size. For me well over six feet, it was somewhat short, giving a manoeuvrable feeling I would not expect of a big bike. Shorter (normal sized) riders found on tighter trails the bike's length was felt in the way it took more effort to shift around. The playfulness and agility were also directly linked to the steepness and the speed of the riding. At slow speeds it could feel very lethargic, as if it was bored, waiting for the terrain to get burly and wild again. The Spindrift needs to feed on a healthy diet of the biggest and nastiest trails you can find.
For such a long travel bike we never actually needed to lock out the rear shock much, as when seated the bike was efficient and pedalled with minimal bob. Those who like to mash the pedals could find it needed to be calmed down a bit, but the full travel is generally well controlled when spinning uphill.
The big tyres and proper sized chainstays give incredible traction on seated, technical climbs, the steep seat angle keeping the front easily in control.
Components-wise, the bike was a solid build focussing on the reliable and robust kit. The Bike Yoke dropper post worked flawlessly and smoothly until left for a week in the garage, at which point it decided to cause some issues. The cable operated cam at the base of the post rotates and pushes a button to release the post, and this needed greasing to keep things going, but was an easy fix. The other notable part of the post is the bleed valve, which allows any air to escape the oil and remove any 'bounce' that the post builds up over time.
The Magura brakes didn't dazzle us and the second ride in the wet; both brakes pulled to the bar. They settled down but never had a particular reliable lever-feel to them. The Chunky Onza Ibex tyres were a pleasant surprise, and gave exceptional grip; ideal for the steep terrain the Spindrift is good for, but less appreciated on the climbs!
The raw finish on the frame looks great, but the downtube cable routeing forces the cables dangerously close to the fork crown resulting in some rub.
With flexibility on the spec of each bike, it really is about tuning the tool for the intended job. Yes, light wheels and tyres would liven up the acceleration and climbing speed, but potentially at the expense of downhill reliability and grip. We thought that overall, the spec hit a pretty good sweet spot of strength and weight.
Sizing is an issue for those the wrong (or maybe right?) side of six foot, as this type of bike benefits from a long front centre. Tall riders will be comfortable, but an XL size would be a great edition as Propain have done on their Tyee enduro bike.
For a mix of pedal and uplift riding to access bike park or downhill trails, the Spindrift is the ideal tool. Alpine environments will be ideal, and the roughest of Enduro trails will be smoothed out with ease. This really is a bike that wants to turn your riding up to eleven.
It's worth remembering that the Spindrift comes in at prices starting at €2,399 for the complete bike, which is an incredible price for such a weapon.
This isn't a bike trying to do everything, it has a clear purpose in life, which is to go full-gas everywhere, providing you have the trails and skills to go with it. It will, however, happily find it's way back to the top of the hill without complaining. You will be hard-pressed to find a more capable descending bike and raises the question of whether you even need a downhill bike anymore...
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.
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Dan, Joe and Edgar