2015 Devinci Spartan RR

The Ride
Having ridden the Spartan briefly last fall, I had some expectations coming into this. And while I wasn’t way off in my initial impressions, there are certainly some things that became more apparent after riding the bike for a couple weeks.

First, the fit: as I mentioned above, the Spartan doesn’t feel long and stretched out like a lot of the bikes on the market these days. It’s not short to the point of being out of the ordinary (it’s still longer than, for example, a Pivot Mach 6), but it might feel a bit cramped to some people.

At first I wasn’t a fan, and I wished I’d bought a large. But after spending more time on the bike, I’ve come to appreciate it. The smaller size makes the bike noticeably more maneuverable in tight spots, and it also makes it a bit easier to keep my weight over the front axle while climbing.

The lack of length means the bike does give up a bit in the stability department—the Spartan is less inclined to mindlessly hold a line at speed. It likes to dance down the trail, not plow through it. And that more or less sums up the Spartan – it does very well when ridden actively, but it’s not a monster truck through the rough.

Now all of this isn’t to say that the Spartan is unstable – it still sports a sub 66° head angle and a 1161mm (45.7”) wheelbase. So to be clear, this isn’t a little darty trail bike. But if I’m drawing fine lines and small distinctions between bikes in this class, I’d say the Spartan is a bit more playful than, for example, the Specialized Enduro or the Giant Reign.

The rear suspension is fairly progressive, and it doesn’t have any inflections or platforms in the curve. This makes for a rear end that’s very predictable and gives the bike a ton of pop. Some people say that the fastest way through a rock garden is in the air – and if that’s your mentality, then you’ll likely get along with the Spartan pretty well.

Gaps between natural obstacles that felt like a bit of stretch on my Enduro are easy to double up on the Spartan. And if that doesn’t work out quite right, the rear end will still (usually) take care of you—even running a bit over 30% sag, it takes some doing to bottom out the rear end, and I never experienced any harshness when I did hit bottom.

The rear end feels very supportive, which contributes to that playful, poppy character. When I pump through something on the trail, I don’t feel like I’m wallowing deep into the bike’s travel. And this was consistent even as I fussed around with air pressures in the rear shock—I don’t find the Spartan to be one of those bikes where exact sag is 100% critical to making the bike ride correctly.

Under hard braking, the Split Pivot did its thing; the rear end stayed active under braking and didn’t seem to cause the rear end to pack up.

The rear end does seem to give up a little bit in the “motor over everything” department. It’s not harsh by any means, and it’s still more supple than (for example) the Rocky Mountain Altitude, but it doesn’t completely level the trail like some other bikes. The rear end will occasionally hang up on more square edged hits—the bike definitely likes to be ridden lightly and float through chunder, rather than simply pointing and smashing.

The Spartan corners with authority, no doubt due in part to its relatively low bottom bracket height. Also, probably related to that same popiness that I noted above, I found I could pretty effectively load up the suspension and launch out of corners.

It helps too that the frame, and particularly the rear end, is decidedly stiff. The stays on the Spartan make the rear end of my old Enduro feel like a wet noodle. The downtube—and particularly the bottom bracket area—are massive.

Any possible flex has been reduced to a minimum. The frame on the Spartan isn’t a featherweight, but at least that extra heft went to a good purpose; the Spartan achieves pretty close to DH-bike levels of stiffness.

Pedaling Efficiency

In my initial write up on the Spartan, I’d commented that it wasn’t overly impressive in the pedaling efficiency department. This is one area where further time on the bike changed my mind—the Spartan actually pedals pretty well (for a 165mm travel bike, at least).

When casually plodding along there’s some noticeable bob, which I think is what I was noticing at Interbike. But the more force I put into the pedals, the more the suspension firms up. Even with the rear shock in the open (least damped) position, I can sprint and actually feel like I’m getting somewhere rather than just humping a bowl of oatmeal.

Noah Bodman reviews the Devinci Spartan for Blister Gear Review
Noah Bodman on the Devinci Spartan, Whitefish, MT.

I find the Spartan to be significantly more efficient than my Enduro was, which helps me overlook the extra pound or two that the Spartan is carrying over the Enduro.

Comparisons

I mentioned a few bikes above, but here’s how the Spartan stacks up against some other bikes that I’ve spent at least a little time on.

Climbing / Pedaling Efficiency
The Spartan is pretty dang good. It’s better than the Specialized Enduro (all variations), the Giant Reign, the Knolly Warden, and the Rocky Mountain Altitude. It’s a smidge better than the Transition Patrol and Intense Tracer, about on par with the Pivot Mach 6, and maybe not quite as good as the Breezer Repack.

Leveling out every little thing on the Trail

Extremely supple suspension can make a bike feel more stable at moderate speeds, but it sometimes comes at the cost of playfulness. An active suspension absorbs bumps, but it sometimes also absorbs rider input.

The horst link bikes like the Specialized Enduro and Knolly Warden tend to be more supple over small bumps, and the Giant Reign also does well in this regard. The Repack was quite active, but it gave up a bit of ground on bigger hits.

The Spartan is a bit more similar to a Transition Patrol, a Pivot Mach 6, or an Intense Tracer; not harsh by any means, but they don’t make the trail a sidewalk.

I do, however, find the Spartan’s suspension to be more supportive than the Mach 6 or Tracer, and because of that, it does better pumping the trail and popping off of small obstacles.

Big Hits

The suspension on the Spartan does really well at taking big hits, but the slightly smaller feel to the bike means that it doesn’t necessarily have the stability to match the suspension capabilities. Sizing up would certainly help this.

Purely talking about the suspension, the Spartan does a bit better than the Specialized Enduro and Knolly Warden, and far better than the Rocky Mountain Altitude when the rear end is really getting crushed. The Giant Reign probably takes top honors here: a nicely progressive rear end combined with slack, stable geometry makes for a bike that can shrug off big hits like a DH bike.

Stability vs. Maneuverability vs. Playfulness

DH bike stability is at one end of the spectrum, trail bike maneuverability is at the other end, and a combination of suspension characteristics and geometry affect how any given bike in this travel class lands in that range, and how playful any given bike feels relative to its peers.

Of the ~160mm bikes I’ve ridden, the Giant Reign and the GT Sanction, sit at the decidedly stable end of the spectrum. A notch below that would be something like the Specialized Enduro 650 (with the older 26” version being a bit less stable, and the 29” version being a bit more stable) and the Transition Patrol.

The Spartan (along with the Pivot Mach 6 and the Knolly Warden) are a bit more on the maneuverable, playful side, although each of those can effectively be made a bit more stable by sizing up. The Breezer Repack is probably the least stable, and that mostly has to do with the steeper head angle.

Bottom Line

When Devinci first released news of the Spartan, I’ll admit to being pretty dismissive. It’s too heavy, I thought. And yeah, the Spartan isn’t a featherweight. Despite having lighter components, my Spartan weighs over a pound more than my Specialized Enduro Expert.

So what changed my mind? For starters, the Spartan pedals pretty well for a longer travel bike. That in and of itself makes getting uphill a bit less miserable.

But ultimately, I’d say the thing with the Spartan is just that it’s an all around fun bike. It pops really well, and it’s the kind of bike that really encourages you to be in the air as much as possible. That extra weight that’s loaded into the frame makes it quite stiff, which means the bike really lends itself to being ridden hard.

If you’re looking for a bike with the sole intention of recklessly plowing through minefields, the Spartan isn’t the first bike I’d pick. But if you’re an active rider and like to air off of everything the trail has to offer and come into soft corners with two wheels drifting, or if you’re someone who punishes frames and needs something burly and stiff, then the Spartan is right up your alley.

 

14 comments on “2015 Devinci Spartan RR”

  1. I closely inspected the DaVinci lineup at my LBS
    The shop rat gushed on about it as I frowned and remarked that quadruple digits for a single pivot was not on the list of bikes I’m seriously looking at throwing my platinum card down for.

    Too bad he couldn’t explain the split pivot.

    • Hi Bob,

      Could you please tell me which Devinci dealer you went to to get that information ? We may have to provide them with better info regarding our product line if that is the answer he gave you. Split Pivot is definitely not a single pivot !

      Julien from Devinci.

  2. Digging the new review format – all the talk and comparisons with regard to playfulness and stability (as well as other contexts like pedal efficiency). This is exactly how reviews should be done.

    For an experienced rider who knows what they like, it answers the question:
    “I want a playful (or stable) bike. What bikes should I be looking at?”

    Four thumbs up dude!

    Right now I run an older Nomad with PUSH link and an Yeti ASR5. The new Reign sounds like a good replacement for the Nomad – a heavy, stable plow bike with solid DH chops for when I feel like getting in over my head. If the Spartan is out of the price range, what would be similar, as a good replacement for the ASR5 as a poppy/playful bike for trails that I know well and have dialed? It sounds like the Mach 6 didn’t have the poppiness.

    • Thanks Lindahl!

      Yup, in terms of a heavy, stable plow bike, the new Reign would probably be my first pick. As for an ASR5 replacement, there’s a few really good options. In that travel segment these days, you’re looking at a lot more 29ers, so some of the answer will really depend on whether you want smaller wheels (which these days on new bikes mostly means 27.5), or bigger ones.

      On the smaller wheeled side of things, a Devinci Troy would be worth a look – it has the same split pivot design as the Spartan, although it’s a bit longer travel than your ASR5. You could also check out a Transition Scout or a Trek Fuel EX. Obviously there’s the new Yetis, but I haven’t swung a leg over one so I’m not sure how they ride.

      On the 29er side, a Salsa Horsethief or a Transition Smuggler might be worth a look. Like the Devincis, the Salsa is running on a split pivot suspension design. I’ve also been hearing a lot of good things about the Evil Following (not a split pivot, but still Dave Weagle designed suspension), but I’ve yet to get my hands on one.

  3. I’m with Lindahl. Great write up in focusing on the bike’s character. Bikes are so good now, we can choose what kind of ride we want.

    I also appreciated that you talked about weight as just one element of the overall character of the bike, not as a primary factor.

    On a linear rate frame, do you think a rider can dial in more playfulness or more plow by adjusting air pressures up or down, or rebound settings?

    On the 650b wheel benefits, I am right there with you. A lot of Meh. A bit better roll over, at some playfulness expense. Not much benefit for changing frames and wheels. I feel a bit taken on a bike industry ride on this one. Some sort of force in the industry HAD to change wheel size (to counter the 29er?). Or maybe mountain bikes are just now in the micro-incremental performance boost phase of development? = Gotta change a lot to get a little.

    Re: hub flange size. Hub flange height does not really matter on a 2x or 3x wheel. It won’t increase stiffness like it would on a radial spoked wheel. Tall flanges on a radial spoked wheel will increase the bracing angle, which will up the lateral stiffness. On a 3x spoked wheel, the bracing angle doesn’t really change with taller flanges as the spokes come off the hub at an angle, an angle that will be similar with both smaller and taller flanges. Boost will help with 650b wheel softness, due to the higher bracing angle, but is super lame for needing a new frame and hubs to get there.

    • Thanks Mr. P!

      And yeah, I definitely think the shock plays a significant part in the pop and playfulness of a bike. Some of that is settings, and some of it is the shock itself; different dampers from different companies have distinctly different “feels” to them and can certainly make a given bike more or less playful. Like most characteristics of a bike, it’s the sum of the parts – the damping type and how that damper is set up certainly contributes a lot to how the bike rides, but that just gets mixed in with all the other ingredients like geometry, wheel size, linkage kinematics, weight, etc.

      On the issue of the hubs, I’m not sure I agree with you. All other things being equal, the bracing angle is always reduced when the hub flange diameter is increased, and that makes the wheel laterally stiffer. It’s true that going from a 3x to a radial lacing pattern would also change the bracing angle, but that brings on other issues.

      And aside from the bracing angle, it’s pretty well accepted that larger flanges make for a torsionally stiffer wheel. It’s also worth noting that (again, all other things being equal) larger flanges would mean that the wheel would use shorter spokes. I haven’t found anything that quantifies the effects of spoke length on wheel stiffness, but my gut tells me that it’d make for a stiffer, stronger wheel.

      Now, whether any of that would actually make a noticeable difference, I couldn’t say.

  4. Is it new that Devinci build carbon frames in Canada? I had heard that they built all aluminum frames here, but for carbon frames they are built offshore and the bikes are assembled in Canada…

  5. Hey Noah, just wanted to say that your review helped me push over the edge and pull the trigger on a 2015 Spartan Carbon XP that was being cleared out – I felt like I got a heck of a deal on it especially since the MSRP is rising due to the weak Canadian dollar.

    So far I’m loving the bike – its got a lot of extra travel compared to my previous bike and feels so much more stable and plush due to the geometry/suspension. I mainly do shuttling with not too much climbing so the lack of pedaling efficiency compared to a lower-travel bike hasn’t been much of an issue, but going downhill has changed for the better tremendously. I’m in Burns Lake, BC so we have lots of amazing trails with features that I’m becoming more confident on when I’m riding the Spartan – it’s that good!

  6. Nice Noah, such a good review. I did exactly what you did, 2013 Enduro Expert to RR. I debated the 2015 Enduro but this one won out in the end. You nailed the switch exactly. I loved the Enduro and was skeptical my first three rides on the Spartan. After the 4th ride I literally laughed out loud ripping down and haven’t looked back. Headed back up to Whistler this weekend for a few days and have toyed with the idea of leaving the DH at home with the versatility of the Spartan.

    Any suggestions on how to lighten the load a touch? All your efforts here very much appreciated.

    For others reading, my only gripe about this bike is the lack of water bottle option. Very minor. I ride packless whenever I can and have been hiding water in friends bags.

    • Hey Mike – thanks!

      And I’m with you on the water bottle thing – I’ve started wearing some Specialized bibs a bit more often that can hold a water bottle in the back. I’ve concluded that I dislike wearing a pack more than I dislike wearing bibs.

      As for the weight, I’ve mostly just ignored it. I think my bike has actually gotten heavier since the review since I’m now running some pretty heavy tires (WTB Riddler, which is over 1000g).

      If I really wanted to throw money at the weight issue, some carbon rims are the first thing I’d look at. But on more reasonably priced front, there’s weight to be saved in the saddle. Other than that, you could save a few grams here and there, but nothing that seems like it’s worth the money. I suppose you can always just start drilling speed holes!

  7. any more tips for the monarch debonair setup? having trouble finding the right balance of support and small bump sensitivity. generally finding myself riding too deep in the travel and packing up with sag between 30-40%. gonna try a little more air and rebound next but wondering if you fiddled with volume spacers at all?

    in the same boat as you in sizing and got the medium as well. a few rides in the high setting and 800mm bars had me wishing for a large, but a switch to low and trimming the bars to 780 really helped.

    cheers for the great review! agree with everything you’ve said.

    niccolo

    • Hey niccolo,

      I’ve settled on running mine at about 32% sag and I’ve been pretty happy there. I haven’t messed around with the volume reducers on the Debonair on my Spartan, but I’ve done it one some other bikes (like the Devinci Troy I reviewed a month ago). Some assorted thoughts, in no particular order:

      -If you’re packing up a bit, maybe try running your rebound a bit faster.
      -Reducing volume won’t, in and of itself, help with small bump sensitivity. But it might allow you to run lower pressure / more sag without running into bottom out problems.
      -Running lower pressure with a reduced volume will still probably reduce that supportive feeling through the mid-stroke, but it’ll make the shock ramp up a lot late in the stroke.
      -Throwing some “bottomless rings” into the Debonair can is quick and easy, and they’re pretty cheap. I’d say give it a try; it can’t hurt.

      Hope that helps!

      • Hey Noah sorry to be so late on the reply but I figured I’d update you on my experience. I ended up giving up on finding the perfect balance of air to rebound after fiddling with all kinds of variations. Your 32% sag suggestion was where it felt best to me as well. Decided to send the monarch off to be tuned by Avalanche and it came back absolutely perfect. Can run it at 30% and get insane small bump sensitivity with the mid stroke support I was missing too. Translated to much less chatter and packing up through the rough and improved tech climbing / traction as well. Would highly recommend the upgrade to anyone on a spartan.

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