A dependable option that gives you what you expect most the time, the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 is a trail bike that does the job but doesn’t set the world alight doing it. Is that a bad thing? Let’s discuss how the bike performed in the sort of situations you’ll come across on a trail ride first, and then ponder whether the Competitor S Plus 2’s lack of flair is a positive or a negative.
In terms of the bike’s spec, you can check out a comprehensive run through of what comes on the Competitor S Plus 2 in our First Bite, so let’s jump into what happened when we hit the dirt!
How does the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 ride in the singletrack?
With 140mm of front suspension paired with 130mm in the rear, the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 is a bike we would define as a long travel trail bike, and the key to any good trail bike is the performance in the singletrack, so let’s start by discussing that.
The Competitor S Plus 2 provides a stable, balanced ride when the trail gets twisty and narrow. Its middle of the road geometry numbers paired with a long 450mm chainstays means that the Competitor clings to lines well, and is very predictable and planted through corners when you setup well and trust the traction of the big tyres.
When cornering aboard the Competitor S Plus 2, we found it far more critical than on other bikes to use the traditional outside to inside cornering method.
Compared with a bike like the Cannondale Habit, for example, the Competitor S Plus 2 doesn’t like being thrown in on the inside with a foot out and the rear wheel drifting, it prefers to use its stable geometry and predictable traction to cut a smooth arc when the going gets twisty. The exception to this is when you’re faced with repeated tight turns, where we found the best option was to lift the rear wheel rather than drift it, as once you lose traction with the plus tyres it’s hard to regain it, whereas lifting the rear in tight, repetitive turns still gives you the traction of all your weight over the front tyre.
What about when you’ve got to go uphill as well?
In undulating singletrack, the Competitor is a comfortable bike to swap between seated and out of the saddle positions. This is a good thing, because you’ll find yourself cycling through these positions more than you would on a 130mm 29” trail bike, as the tradeoff for the Competitor S Plus 2’s confidence inspiring plus tyres and long-legged suspension is a weight of more than 15 kilograms once you’ve slapped on a set of pedals.
The Competitor S 2 Plus’s weight also becomes apparent on longer singletrack climbs, as well as punchy technical efforts. One saving grace for the bike’s weightiness though is the traction provided by the plus tyres, and the very active rear suspension, which mean unless the terrain is very soft or slippery you’ll almost always have traction.
Not having to worry about traction means you can focus on putting the power down to get the Competitor moving, rather than taking the line that you would have to take on a bike with regular tyres or less travel.
The Competitor has 140mm of travel up front, how does it go on rowdier trails?
The Competitor is a surprisingly capable performer when the going gets rough, or steep. As we noted in our First Bite, for a trail bike in this relatively budget price point, Avanti has done a great job in speccing the bike with adjustable and reliable suspension front and rear. Once we’d set up the Yari fork and Monarch RT shock to our liking, we took the Competitor out on a couple of the more technical trails near Flow HQ.
In the steep stuff, the Competitor holds a straight line impressively, and performs well under braking with its bulky rubber and planted rear end. The biggest limiter in throwing the Competitor into steeper sections is the Shimano M365 brakes, which lack the power of more premium Shimano offerings and require some serious forethought about your braking points when riding steep and technical terrain. In rough and choppy sections of trail, we were also impressed by this sub 4k bike’s ability to soak up the chunder.
The limiter on the Competitor S Plus 2’s performance in rocky or rooty terrain is preserving the tyres because we found running them at mid-teen pressures gave the best performance characteristics, but we flatted the rear twice pushing through technical rocky sections. These flats were a combination of the relatively thin WTB Ranger tyres and soft Alexrims rims, which were about as robust through rocky sections as an iPhone screen going on a date with the pavement.
We were riding the Competitor S 2 Plus in places that perhaps we shouldn’t on the occasions when we got flats, but we wouldn’t want to run higher pressures in the tyres, as running high pressures gives the bike no traction and makes it very bouncy, which are sketchy sensations we like to keep to a minimum!
If your riding involves lots of super rocky stuff, the Competitor can handle it, but we would recommend you swap out to a beefier tyre and wheel set combo.
I might still want to ride the odd fire trail, how does the Competitor S Plus 2 go on more sedate trails?
Whilst we’re sticking to our guns in classifying the Competitor S Plus 2 as a trail bike, albeit one on the longer travel side for the category, it’s not the sort of bike that you’ll be wanting to take on sedate fire trail rides, or longer, smoother rides in general if possible.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, as we’ve mentioned a couple of times now, the Competitor S Plus 2 isn’t light. We can’t complain about this too much considering this bike is pitched as a budget oriented, confidence inspiring trail machine, but it does make the Competitor S Plus 2 a laborious ride on smooth, non-technical trails.
During our testing of the Competitor S Plus 2, we rode a few sections of fire trail linking up more interesting trails with riding buddies who we’d normally plod along just fine with, but aboard the Competitor S Plus 2 we finished these same rides feeling pretty hammered due to the Competitor’s portly figure and ground hugging tyres.
Despite our reservations about taking the Competitor S Plus 2 out on the fire trails or longer rides, having a lockout on both the front and rear suspension is a bloody brilliant addition if getting to the good stuff involves a road commute, as it does for us most of the time.
So, if the Competitor isn’t a ‘do it all’ style trail bike, who is it the right bike for?
We’ve spent longer than we normally would in this review talking about what the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 isn’t, which has affirmed what this bike is perfect for. If you’re the type of rider who’s on a budget, but wants a bike that gives you grins in flowy singletrack, or when the going gets just a touch gnarlier without getting to the stage where you’re thinking about putting on body armour, then the Competitor S Plus 2 could be the ticket.
If you’re the type of rider who’s willing to have a bike that requires a bit more grunt on the up and the flats as a tradeoff for traction, stability and confidence on the way down, than the Competitor S Plus 2 is worth a look.
All in all, the Competitor S Plus 2 is just like a soft serve from McDonald’s, you know exactly what you’re getting every time.
How did the parts go, is the bike good value for money?
As we mentioned in our First Bite, and also our Avanti Range Highlights piece, the Competitor S Plus 2 is a bike that represents pretty good value for money at under $3500 bucks, and Avanti specced this bike very wisely, for the most part, spending their dollars where they really count.
Of course, the heart of any bike is its frame, and the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 is an all-aluminium affair with pronounced welds and solid feeling construction. The bike’s suspension platform is a four-bar linkage that Avanti call Tru4, it delivers stability and grip through a fairly linear stroke, which promotes keeping the tyres glued to the trail rather than floating or popping over it.
The suspension is handled by RockShox, with their budget oriented Yari fork and Monarch RT shock. The fact that these are closer to the entry level of RockShox’s line and they delivered outstanding performance is a testament to how good the suspension of today is, and with rebound and air volume spacer adjustments available, as well as compression adjustment on the fork, there were more than enough knobs to satisfy our inquisitive tweaking.
The drivetrain was Shimano’s SLX 1×11, and as we said in our comprehensive test of the groupset, it’s bloody awesome! We set the gears up on the stand for 10 minutes when building the bike, and a half turn of the barrel adjuster a couple of times throughout testing kept the shifts going smoother than Chris Froome’s legs.
The brakes were handled by Shimano, and whilst their M365 brakes aren’t top of the line items, they do the job most of the time. On typical singletrack rides and undulating trails their power and modulation is fine, although their initial bite is on the weak side, so think about your braking points in advance.
The M365’s budget price point becomes more obvious when the going gets steeper, but if you’re getting into longer, steeper riding than upgrading to something like an SLX brake set isn’t a hugely costly upgrade.
Wheels and tyres play an important role on plus bikes, the tyres need tough casings but can risk being too heavy, the rims need to be wide and should withstand dings, too. The wheelset on the Competitor S Plus 2 uses Shimano Deore hubs laced to Alex rims MD35 rims, the 35mm width is necessary to support the tyre. During testing, we noticed the rear wheel needing a little TLC with a spoke key to return it to true.
With the mid-teen pressures that the WTB Ranger tyres need to be run at to give the best compromise between grip, damping and avoiding tyre roll, the rims ding and dent remarkably easy. They’re also not the lightest wheelset out there, perhaps a wheel upgrade down the track to something lighter and stronger would take all the great handling traits of the Competitor S Plus 2 and amplify them with better performance on the climbs, flatter trails and inspiring confidence to give it a bit more of a nudge when the going gets rough.
The KS Eten dropper post, despite having the external routeing performed well, and allowed us to get the best out of the Competitor not just on the descents, but getting low and tipped in (at least in our heads) through the corners.
Any final thoughts?
The Competitor S Plus 2 might not be the most radical bike out there in terms of geometry, suspension design or spec, but its overall abilities offer consistency, and you’re not going to experience too many surprises out on the trail. Despite a few niggling issues with the Competitor, it remains a bike that is excellent value for money and sits right in the sweet spot for the sort of bike most riders should be riding, especially on loose and challenging conditions.
If you’re someone who takes predictably solid performance over potentially outstanding performance, and you don’t want to re-mortgage your house to buy your next bike, then the Competitor S Plus 2 is worth a look!