New Zealand is home to some of the best trails in the world, don’t we all know that, but how many know it is also home to a well accomplished bike brand we’ve grown fond of over the years, Avanti. Their latest range of carbon suspension bikes have impressed us, the Ridgeline we reviewed last year was excellent so we eagerly hit the trails with its bigger 150mm travel brother, the Torrent.
We tested the Torrent’s slimmer brother, the Avanti Ridgeline 2 with a carbon framed 100mm travel 29er recently and loved it. (review here)
Catering for the growing segment of the market, the Torrent with 150mm of travel, carbon frame, stiff FOX forks and a wide range drivetrain, ticks lots of boxes. How’d it go on the trails?
Avanti have built their dual suspension bikes around the classic four-bar linkage system since the late 90s, and they stick to it for 2015. The proven design may not be specifically unique to Avanti but they do a great job of incorporating what makes the four-bar system so popular into a solid and reliable package. Laterally the Avanti feels very sturdy when given the good old rear end flex test, and whilst we had a few bolts shake loose during our first ride the hardware and massive one-piece rocker arm gave us confidence that it will last the distance.
A carbon front end is mated with an aluminium rear end, giving the bike the best of both worlds. The carbon gives the Torrent a very direct, sharply snappy handling ride frame, whilst aluminium out back is impact resistant and a less expensive to manufacture. At 13.4kg though it’s not a featherweight.
With a matte black finish and vivid green highlights, you catch a glimpse of the shimmering carbon glinting in the sunlight. It’s a beautifully finished frame, and while it may not have all the colour matching components like some of the big brands, it makes up for it with nicely subtle branding and lack of silly in your face acronyms plastered over the place.
There was a noticeable lack of a chainstay protector, whilst the e*thirteen chainguide roller and Shimano Shadow+ derailleur keep the chain from slapping around too much, we’d still appreciate one for cleanliness sake.
Cable routing is internal for the front and rear derailleurs, while the seatpost and rear brake lines run down the underside of the frame. The cables up an the handlebars are in desperate need of a little grooming and organisation to neaten things up a little, we’d re-route the rear brake around the other side of the head tube, too, end definitely trim a few inches off all the cables and brake lines.
Our medium size frame had provisions for one bottle, but no regular sized bottles would fit in the tight space without rubbing the frame, so it was a Camelbak only bike for us.
The geometry chart displays pretty neutral and modern numbers for a 150mm travel bike; a 66.5 degree head angle, 438mm chain stay length, and a 595mm top tube (medium size).
The Torrent is a real mixed bag of great components from all sorts of brands, while they do have their in-house component line, Zero, they don’t extend to much high end kit, so it’s only Zero grips that make it on to this high end model. From Shimano, Easton, DT Swiss, FOX, Kenda, Prologo and X-Fusion the Torrent almost has a custom build feel to it, the designers behind the bike must know what components would suit the frame’s nature, rather than shopping from just one catalogue.
The new DT Swiss Spline X1700 wheels with fancy straight pull spokes felt light and fast to ride, although we did dent and put a wobble in the rear wheel, luckily they use conventional spoke nipples for easy maintenance. Perhaps keep in mind they aren’t touted as an enduro ready wheelset, so if you’re keen to race it hard, take a spoke key along too. Tubeless ready though, tick!
The Star Ratchet system in the freehub is a real winner, simple to maintain and provides a quick and solid engagement when you put the power down into the pedals. Our first ride on the Kenda Honey Badger tyres was not exactly on their ideal terrain to be fair, so they lacked bite in loose surfaces but on hardpack or slick rock surfaces they really held on nicely. Their low-profile and sparsely set tread combined with a big volume would be ideal for drier and more consistently hard packed terrain. We did slice a hole in the rear tyre during the violent rim denting incident, and the Stan’s sealant we used wasn’t enough to seal the hole, so in went one of those old school inner tubes for the remainder of the day.
The Shimano XT drivetrain paired with a double chainring and chainguide setup will please those who haven’t fallen victim of the single ring fashion and actually appreciate a wide range of gears. Single ring setups are definitely increasingly popular, but with a Shimano setup it will take some aftermarket conversion parts to turn this bike into a single ring setup with a gear range that isn’t too hard. The added clutter that comes with a double ring if offset by the excellent range of gears on hand, we loved dropping down to the small chainring and cleaning the steepest trails without grinding our teeth of blowing our knees apart. Double rings still have a place!
Our test bike needed a bit of setup tweaking to remove the chain from dragging on the inner plate of the guide, but the bottom roller did a great job of silencing and securing the chain when trails got super rough. It’s a double chainring setup without the noise or any unwelcome surprise of a dropped chain.
While we welcome the sight of any adjustable seatpost on pretty much any dual suspension mountain bike these days, the X-Fusion HILO STRATE post with 125 of infinitely adjustable travel lacked the speedy and slick action that we’ve become used to with a the popular offerings; RockShox Reverb, Specialized Command Post or KS LEV. The cable tension was a little finicky to, finding the exact tension in the cable was vital to stop either the remote lever rattling noisily, or alternatively the seatpost dropping in height as you sat on it. We eventually got used to its lazy action, learning to allow a little extra time for it to drop or return. But without an adjustable post the Torrent wouldn’t have descended as well.
We set up the X-Fusion post’s remote lever inboard from the brake levers, and it was always within reach with the left thumb, it is quite an ergonomic lever that can also be mounted underside the bar in place of a left hand shifter if a single chainring conversion happened.
We love Shimano SLX brakes, they feel like the higher level XT brakes just without the pad contact adjustment which we rarely touch anyhow. The power and control was what we’d come to expect from these reliable and mighty stoppers. Our set required a top up of the mineral oil levels, but that’s a simple job that can be done at home.
It’s a full FOX affair with the suspension, and it’s great to see the beefy legged Float CTD 34 leading the charge, and the steering rigidity that you gain over a 32mm FOX fork is stellar. Our fork felt a bit lumpy when in climb mode, but felt nice and supple on the whole.
For $5499 the spec list is fair, not particularly amazing value but you can see the worth in the hand-picked nature of the spec.
The Torrent’s heart is set on singletrack, it’s a bloody lot of fun to let fly in the tight and twisties. The super-short 50mm stem makes for lightning fast handling when weaving through turns and making quick direction changes, and takes very little time to get used to. Punching down rough lines with the big FOX 34 fork up front was plain sailing, and once we knew how hard we could push the front wheel into the rough stuff, we rode the Torrent harder and harder (until we flatted…) and loved it.
The four bar suspension offered more of a tight and efficient ride than a super plush one, the top of the stroke felt firm and allowed us to really spin on the pedals hard without the suspension sucking away our energy. The CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) rear shock might lack some of the suppleness of the high end versions, but the three adjustments were perfectly effective and we found the middle Trail mode to suit the Torrent’s suspension system until the roughest descents where we’d flick it over to descend.
The short 50mm stem on our medium bike would normally be found on bigger travel and downhill bikes, while it really lifted its descending and fast handling it did made climbing a bit of a chore at times. The front end was challenging to keep trained in a straight line when we were searching for traction up steep gradients. The bar and stem is from Easton’s new over-oversize standard with a unique 35mm bar clamp diameter in place of a 31.8mm that is found on the vast majority of bikes these days. Sure the oversize cockpit is stiff and solid to steer with, but switching stems for a different sizes will require hunting down an Easton one, or perhaps other brands will jump on board and make 35mm cockpits too?
We would have been keen to try a longer stem, and perhaps pushing the seat forward at the same time too, just to put the rider in a more aggressive position for climbing and aggressive pedalling.
On flatter terrain the Torrent wasn’t the type of bike that we found ourselves jumping up out of the saddle and sprinting all over the place on, perhaps it was the short reach, low gear range and slack seat angle that made us spend a lot of time spinning around pushed back into the saddle. But when trails turned on their heads, we were popping off drops and launching blindly into rocky chutes with real confidence.
With such a wide and useable gear range, the Torrent made light work of long rides. Steep pinches at the end of the day became achievable without hopping off and pushing, nothing good about pushing.
[divider]What are your alternatives?[/divider]
There are more options than ever in the long travel trail bike or all-mountain category (or whatever it is called) these days, you can thank the increased popularity of the enduro racing scene for that.
At 150mm travel, the Scott Genius blurs the lines of an all day trail bike with adjustable travel and category leading lightweight (review here). Trek’s Remedy comes in two wheels sizes and its supple and balanced suspension is a real highlight (review here). Cannondale’s Trigger 275 Carbon is worth a look if you’re after an all day adventure bike with a unique take on suspension (review here). A Flow favourite, the Lapierre Zesty AM uses electronically adjusted suspension, and that is so cool! (review here). For killer geometry and Spanish flair, the BH Lynx is a great and close option to the Torrent (review here). For some classic Colorado craft, the Yeti 575 remains in the catalogue for 2015 for good reason, check it out (review here). Giant’s Trance SX Advanced was a real winner with us, and would make for a great race bike for the enduro nut, (review here). Or a GT will please the heavy handed rider with its efficient feel and unique suspension linkage system (review here).
Our time aboard the Torrent was certainly a good one. We enjoyed the chance to ride a bike from a local (well, close enough) brand which presents itself without all the hype and mumbo jumbo of some of the bigger brands. The finish and appearance is sweet, the components has been well-picked to suit the bike’s vibe and the suspension performed really well.
If you ride on looser terrain, we’d recommend seeking out some tyres with more bite, and perhaps a single ring conversion to clean things up if you have the legs to push a bit harder. Perhaps seek out a stem length option too.
We’d happily take a local enduro race on with the Torrent, or pack a bag and ride all day. It’s been great, cheers, Avanti.