Devinci Atlas RC

Words by Mick Ross | Images by Flowtographer

The not-so-minor details

Product

Devinci Atlas RC

Contact

Meeco Sales
www.meecosales.com.au

Price

AUD4,799.00

Weight

12.68kg

Positives

Supple rear suspension and very nimble handling character. Unique brand with a great gravity heritage.

Negatives

Nervous at high speeds. Front end flex and frame weight let down the efficient suspension. Pedals hit the ground too often. Quite pricey!

There are not many Devinci bikes on the trail around these parts, but the handmade-in-Canada brand is edging its way Down Under and we welcome it with open arms. We were very excited to get our hands on the 29er Atlas RC for a comprehensive test.

With such a strong presence in the gravity end of the spectrum with World Cup downhillers gaining loads of exposure for the brand, we expected the Atlas to be targeted at the mountain biker who’s focused on handling first and foremost, and this proved to be the case. Claiming to have the shortest chain stays in its class, the Atlas focusses its attention on creating a 29er with a ride characteristic that is fun and nimble like a 26″ bike, and with less of the negative handling characteristics sometimes found with 29ers.

We have heard this all before, but on paper they look to have got it sorted. Often we find that bikes with nimble handling end up compromising on stability though, so how did the Atlas fare? [private]

If you prefer a lower front end for increased weight over the front wheel, and a more climbing friendly position, the Atlas will impress. The combination of a flat (and wide) handlebar, internal headset bearings, and a stumpy headtube all make a big difference.

It feels all too often that we get on a 29er and say things like, “why do I even bother with 26-inch bikes these days” or, “these trails are perfect for a 29er”. Our first experience on the Atlas was one of those moments, especially as it was dark and on a particularly technical trail riddled with sandstone steps, and motorbike induced ruts. As it turns out, this guy loved to be led blindly through hectic terrain with the pilot hanging on for dear life following a frothing Chris Southwood on an all-mountain bike. The steps appeared smaller, surfaces seemed to have more traction, and ruts were found to be easier to avoid. Go 29ers.

All the funky shapes and tubing configurations may not make the Atlas look very streamlined, but in this case it is all about bringing the rear wheel in close for an agile ride.

The Atlas is a seriously agile number, with your average 120mm 29er feeling pretty big under you, this one doesn’t give that impression. We did notice the rear wheel was tucked in closer to the bike’s centre, and with bar height down nice and low it didn’t feel like we were riding too much bike – a pleasant change from some 29ers. First impressions were great, we relished the fact we could pop a wheelie on it, and flick it about quite easily.

All was peachy until the trails turned rocky. Not an issue with the suspension ability, rather the fact that we found ourselves bashing our pedals on rocks and undulations in the trail at an alarming rate. We thought perhaps we’d lost air from the shock, but that wasn’t the cause. Admittedly the frame’s geometry adjustment option was in its slackest and lowest position, but even still we shouldn’t have been clipping pedals so often.

Further investigation proved that it was a combination of a low bottom bracket and a shock tune that was too light in the compression valving and/or air volume department. It became a real problem and caused a few stern words to be yelled out to the dark skies. We would sit back to pedal up a rock step and the cranks would bash into the ground, causing the bike to bounce back and the rear wheel to lose traction. In corners we would have to really pay attention to pedal placement as the suspension neared the bottom of the stroke. It simply put us off our game. The flip side is that the rear suspension was very supple and smooth, and of course it used all of its travel easily making for a plush and comfortable ride.

Notice the elongated pivot hardware? Swapping the chip around from the setting we have pictured here will lift the back end up and sharpen the head angle from 70.6 degrees to 71.2. Only a slight geometry adjustment, but is always an interesting experiment.

Not content to let it get to us, we set about looking into the rear shock sag. Increasing air pressures and reducing the sag by half we found the bike to ride a little higher. We also made more liberal use of the rear shock’s ProPedal lever and found this also helped. But the flip side was that this did detract from the sensitivity of the bike’s suspension, and that was a shame.

The real remedy lies in reducing the air volume of the FOX RP23 shock. This can be done with specialised plastic volume reducers. Installing them can be done yourself if you are keen, or simply send it to a shock tuning centre or to FOX via your local bike shop.

The Atlas is nearly completely void of round tubing. The square edged top and down tubes give the bike a slightly aggressive and perhaps a little agricultural appearance.

We would have liked to taken the time to sort out the cable routing that runs around the head tube. The cables stick out a fair way and when standing up out of the saddle our knees would knock into the cables. An easy fix with a little time.

Up front the FOX fork wasn’t without its own worries either.  A knocking clunking feeling between the transition of compression and rebound was noted. Running less rebound damping helped it become less noticeable though.  However, we fear that heavier riders will need more rebound damping to control the increased air pressure, and that will exacerbate the issue. All this was a surprise, as FOX suspension is typically consistently fine in our healthy experience.

We ran the bike with an inverted stem and found the low bar height coupled with the unique geometry gave this bike a particularly agile feel. If it were ours, we’d trim the excess steertube for a cleaner look (and teeth saving safety).

Out on the trails, and paying close attention to where we pedalled, we felt at home. It’s a very supple and smooth bike to ride. Pedalling efficiency is right up there with the best, although we left the ProPedal lever on the majority of the time. Under brakes, the Split Pivot suspension system does what it is intended to do and isolates the braking forces from the suspension. This was particularly evident when dragging the rear brake whilst descending rough surfaces. The Atlas’ rear wheel remains in contact with the ground very well, instead of skipping about with the suspension locked up like some bikes do.

The Atlas didn’t respond to heavy handling through turns though. The frame’s front section exhibited just a little bit too much flex for our liking. Under pedalling and rear wheel steering the back end felt plenty laterally stiff enough. Heavier and taller riders will no doubt notice it more, but at the same time a rider that would rather sit and spin through the trails won’t even find it an issue. Plus, the ride is so comfortable the frame never feels harsh or jarring which is certainly a positive.

A standout feature is the dropouts, utilising the DW Patented Split Pivot system. This is to aid suspension performance under rear brakes, and it works a treat. Grabbing a handful of rear brakes whist motoring across rough terrain does not phase the rear suspension, where many frame designs exhibit unwanted suspension stiffening in this case.

We found all the components to be good, with a solid parts spec from the SRAM camp, with brakes and shifting taken care of nicely. The handlebars are kept free of clutter via the neat matching of the brake and shifter clamps, and we found the 2×10 gearing more than sufficient to crank around all gradients with ease. At $4799 it is well up there, but there is a cheaper spec option, the Atlas XP at $3599. And if carbon is your preferred frame material, a stunning Atlas RC Carbon starts at approximately $5899. We can attribute part of the high price to the handmade aspect of the bike and increased logistics for it to travel from Canada to Australia, a long way indeed.

We doubt the shock was valved correctly for the frame. We found ourselves blowing through the travel too easily, and then banging our pedals on the trail below. Even when pedalling up rock steps, we ‘pegged out’ (hit pedals on the ground) way too much. To rectify this, we ran less sag in the rear shock, and more ProPedal.

 

FOX’s entry level Evolution line uses older damping technologies and a slightly heavier chassis than the Performance line. This one was a little clunky in its action.

A neat and uncluttered cockpit is refreshing, thanks to the combining of the shifter and brake lever in one clamp.

Ditch the saddle, we found it too soft and spongy, plus the synthetic surface seemed to stick to our baggy shorts when hanging off the back descending.

Flow favourites, the Kenda Small Block 8 tyres are a winner. They may not be a tyre that bites into the trails, but their tacky rubber and consistent tread makes for a tyre that has more ‘friction’ that ‘traction’ so on hard packed trails and slick rock, they rule. Not tubeless though, we recommend looking into that straight away.

A press-fit bottom bracket is simple, and allows for a wider bottom bracket shell where the adjoining tubes have a greater sized area to join.

And there she is, our first ride on a Devinci was definitely not dull. With a few tweaks to the shock to help it navigate rough terrain, this guy will win over many 26″ wheeled fans with its zippy and agile character.

Devinci bikes in Australia are actually sold to consumers a little differently via Meeco Sales in QLD. As Peter from Meeco puts it, “Ultimately, the best way for a customer to purchase a Devinci is to give us a call and we can advise them on availability, and put them in touch with their closest dealer.  Whilst we have dealers in most capital cities, where there isn’t a dealer, we have bike shops acting as agents that can receive the bikes and build them up for the customer”.

We feel this is an interesting business model, allowing dealers to avoid carrying too much stock. It’s pretty easy to organise a demo of one though, and if a Devinci is your thing, it’s worth the effort for sure.

In the end we enjoyed riding the Atlas, its smooth riding character and agile geometry was a pleasure to flick about the singletrack. It prefers to be handled lightly, and calmly rather than muscled about. It may need a shock tune to prevent the pedals from bashing the ground too much, but niggles aside we enjoyed the Atlas. It’s a comfortable and smooth singletrack machine, making the most of the many benefits a 29er gives us. This guy is well worth a demo.

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