Arguably the first hardcore hardtail ever produced, the DMR Trailstar has a solid place in mountain biking history. This new version aims to bring it firmly into the 21st century while retaining the characteristics that made it such a classic in the first place. The update obviously sees a wheel size increase to 650b and can even take tyres up to 2.8inch if you want to go semi-fat. Stealth dropper routing and chain guide mounts give further hints that this is a frame that wants to be ridden hard, as does the ability to run a 150mm fork.Buy Hard Tails on
The new design gives a distinctive curve to the top tube providing low stand over and gives it a look which reflects DMR's description of the Trailstar simply as Low, Slack and Fun, staying true to the 'messing about on bikes' philosophy. Available as a frame only, you could build it up any way you want, cherry-picking your favourite components to create something truly unique.
There are some stand out components on the build, which definitely deserve a mention. The X-Fusion Sweep fork felt great and easily comparable to a Pike with great small bump compliance but never ramping up to full travel too quickly, which is ideal on a hardtail where fork dive can make the front end feel too steep. The Sweep is also highly tuneable with high and low-speed compression damping via some lovely dials on the crown.
In the drivetrain, we have a Praxis Works 11-40t cassette, which provided fault-free shifting with a standard Zee rear mech. The bars and stem from DMR really show their dirt jump heritage and by today's standards may look over engineered, but this only adds to the confidence they inspire as hardcore pieces of kit.
On the downside, the TRP brakes took a bit of fiddling to get full power, with a couple of sticky pistons, and some very long lever blades that had to be moved inboard of my shifters to get that one finger braking sweet-spot. The new style top tube was not an instant favourite with some riders and ex-owners of the original, but it does provide some very low stand over height and I warmed to the frames looks over time.
My first meeting with the Trailstar was back in September, it was in plus-sized mode, and the sun was shining on the hills of Exmoor. I was there for a preview of the DMR Ex, a multi-day enduro planned for 2016, which would provide an ideal testing ground. Already set up with 2.8 tyres, it would be my first experience of the plus-sized genre, and I hadn't ridden a hardtail in months. I had envisaged a baptism of fire as we were shuttled to the top of the first descent.
The grassy descent suggested we were in for a benign trail, and my speed rapidly increased before being rudely awakened by a rock garden that went on forever. Expecting to have my cards handed to me, surprisingly I found myself alive on the other side feeling like this bike would look after me even without any bounce in the back end. Throughout the day, I found the Trailstar to be a fantastically fun bike, but with only one day on board, I was looking forward to giving it a proper thrashing back home.
Fast forward a few weeks and I was reunited, but this time with standard tyres. My initial thought centred on whether it would be just as much fun without the extra volume, and if it would hold up as a 'normal' hardtail. The build was a mix of kit from some of the more unusual suspects of the mountain bike industry. X-Fusion handles the suspension and the dropper post, with TRP 4 pot brakes; a Praxis works cassette and DMR cockpit, cranks and finishing kit.
Back on board and I was immediately reminded what a capable bike this is though not the lightest of machines, especially for a hardtail, it's low and slack design gives a ton of confidence. Having just come from riding some less than inspiring full suspension bikes, I was reminded that good geometry makes a bike, not how much travel there is in the rear end. The ride is playful and engaging, happy to spend time in the air or plough through the rough stuff, encouraging creative lines and looking for opportunities to pump the smallest rollers.
Climbing on a hardtail always rewards pedalling effort, and it accelerates and ascends confidently, if not rapidly. The slack head angle is compensated by the longer reach, allowing elbows to be dropped and keep the front down, but the seat angle does require you to slide forward to keep centred. It will scramble up the steepest of rocky climbs if you've got the legs, but it's the descents this bike it designed for.
This frame excels when it is allowed to get a bit excited in the woods or on twisty and tight singletrack. It will handle the big rocky trails and the rear end never feels too harsh, but its heart is definitely hitting jumps and berms in the forest. I was riding the large sized frame (their biggest) but still felt like a more roomy reach and a slightly longer seat tube would allow for tall riders to get more comfortable on the bike. I am a rather tall specimen though at 6'5"!
The idea of a steel long-travel hardtail is not everyone's idea of a great bike. Forgoing modern suspension technology for something more basic and simple could be seen as a bit backwards, but this bike isn't about shaving seconds or grams, what we have is a bike that sums up the essence of why many of us started riding bikes, especially in the UK. A hardtail will always encourage, and sometimes force a rider into learning new skills while keeping a smile on your face. The Trailstar is the sort of bike you want to keep pushing back up the hill for another lap of foot-out flat-out fun.
• 27.5” specific
• 27+ compatible (2.8” tyre clearance)
• 140/150mm Fork geometry
• Stealth dropper routing
• Tapered Head Tube
• Heat Treated 4130 Cro.mo Steel
• ISCG05 Mounts
• Super Low Stand over Height
• Available in S, M and L sizes
• Slack, Low, FUN.
MSRP: £499.99 | €899.99 | $749.95 USD (frame only)Buy Hard Tails on
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This review was in Issue 39 of IMB.For more information visit DMR Bikes
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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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