Babies are delivered by storks. It’s a well known fact. Storcks, on the other hand, are delivered by couriers, in a box, or in this case two boxes.
The Storck Rebel Seven came to Flow HQ as a bare frame and build kit. This is a rarity; most bikes leave a factory in Taiwan 90% assembled with only some tweaking, tightening and lubing left to be done by the shop mechanic. While building the Storck from scratch took a while, it also gave us a chance to really appreciate the fine workmanship of the German-made frame. It also gave the whole assembly process a sense of ceremony, or anticipation, kinda like a gestation period.
The Rebel 7 is a single-minded machine; a 27.5”-wheeled carbon cross country race hardtail. We’ll be honest, it’s the first of its ilk we’ve tested here at Flow, so it’s a challenge not to draw comparisons with a 29er hardtail, given that 29ers have been so dominant in the hardtail ranks over the past few years.
Marcus Storck looks like a genius, and he is widely viewed as such by many in the bike industry. Behind that mighty forehead lurks a powerful design brain and the Rebel Seven is a very fine piece of work.
At 1.1kg, there are lighter frames, but it has a great finish – both aesthetic and construction-wise – with a reassuringly solid feel, especially through the chain stays and dropout area. It’s clearly a frame built with great power transfer in mind. Tube profiles are broad, especially the top tube, and the ‘super size chainstays’ are deep to resist flex.
A host of practical features won us over. Smart cable guides with full-length gear housings make for simple setup and minimal maintenance. Sure, internal cables are nice… until they rattle or need replacing. A direct mount front derailleur makes for powerful, crisp shifts, and the use of a pressfit bottom bracket gives plenty of meat to this critical area.
The chain stay mounted rear brake looks good, especially with the adjustable banjo on the XT brakes allowing a very clean brake line routing to the caliper. Brake calipers with less angle adjustability for the brake line mightn’t look so neat. Given the bike’s purpose, it’s surprising that the 142x12mm rear axle requires tools for removal – in a race situation, most riders would prefer not to carry an 8mm Allen key. That said, the system is low profile and will never give you any dramas.
The geometry features what we’d call traditionally European cross country angles. It’s not common to see a 70-degree head angle on many newer bikes – such quick steering angles are the domain of serious cross-country racers. The wheelbase is compact too, with 425mm stays and 100mm stem on our medium sized bike to provide a decent reach.
If you’re stacking the Storck up alongside offerings from some of the bigger market players, the value for money won’t blow you away. But keeping in mind the boutique, German, handmade pedigree here, we feel that the build kit is pretty decent…. Except for the grips, which we found too fat and which aren’t lock-ons. An easy swap.
We’d have expected to see a Rockshox SID on the Rebel Seven, but while the Rockshox Revelation has a small weight penalty, its performance is very hard to fault. It’s a stiff steering option, and in conjunction with the Crank Bros cockpit it makes for a front end that goes exactly where you point it.
Shimano provide the deceleration with immensely powerful XT brakes. We’d ideally drop down a rotor size up front to a 160mm (rather than the 180mm fitted) as the bigger rotor sometimes had too much bite for the bike, overpowering the tyres. Still, that’s a much better problem to have than the opposite!
DT M1700 wheels set off the frame finish nicely and while they’re not the lightest wheelset, they’re stiff and reliable. They’re ordinarily a tubeless ready wheel, as are the tyres, though unfortunately ours didn’t come with the tubeless rims strip in the box. As we’ve stressed below, adding some more compliance to the ride is something we’d look to do, and going tubeless is the best solution.
A matching Prologo saddle is a classy touch, and the Shimano 2×10 drivetrain is a wise choice, giving riders enough gears to get this light machine up just about anything.
It had been a while since we last rode a bike as single-mindedly cross-country focused as the Rebel Seven, let alone one with little wheels (ok, mid-sized wheels technically… but 26” is so 2012). While we’re still dubious about all the claims that a 650B wheel offers ‘the best of both worlds’, there’s no denying how quickly these wheels get moving. This bike gets up and going faster than a dobberman chasing a commuter cyclist. The short chain stays, stiff wheels, crisp shifting and direct power transfer tell you to get up out of the saddle and click up a few gears out of every corner.
At less than 10.5kg, the Rebel 7 is incredibly easy to move around. There’s no lethargy to the steering, it can be lifted and popped over every undulation in the trail. Thankfully it still doesn’t feel overly twitch, the wide (well wide given the style of bike) bar gives everything a touch of stability, as do the grippy tyres.
There’s definitely a knack to riding this style of bike, and coming off bigger wheels and longer travel it takes a little bit of smoothing out your riding style before you find some flow. The Rebel 7 isn’t happy if you plough and the chainslap against the carbon stays lets you know loudly if you’re riding roughshod, rather than floating. Sit-down riders (or regular dual suspension riders, like us) will soon be beaten out of their lazy ways.
While decent rubber and 100mm-travel fork provide a little more forgiveness than some other cross country hardtails, there’s still nothing particularly soft about the Storck. The large diameter 31.6mm aluminium seat post is at odds with the trend towards narrow, 27.2mm carbon posts – there is not a lot of give under your butt. As we’ve noted above, we didn’t have a tubeless conversion kit handy, but setting the Storck up tubeless is a wise move, so you can drop the pressures lower than we dared without fear of pinch flats.
As you’d hope, the Storck is a fantastic climber, particularly in situations where sharp accelerations are needed, like getting up ledges or steep pinches. Get your timing wrong though and the rear wheel will kick back and skip, get it right and it shoots up any incline like a lizard up a tree. On the flipside, high speed descending requires a good nerve; the sharp head angle needs a firm hard on the tiller to avoid the front wheel tucking. We had a couple of hairy moments hitting sand at pace before we got back in the swing of things. Getting the bike off the ground and floating over the worst of it is the way to go, and the Storck is happy to oblige, its short wheelbase a pleasure to bunny hop.
While the window of appeal for the Storck Rebel 7 is narrow, it hits the mark for those who know what they want from a cross-country race bike. Its construction is a true highlight, and when it comes to that critical aspect of acceleration, the Rebel 7 feels like it has an afterburner. We’d love to try the Rebel 9 (the 29er brother of the Rebel 7) by way of comparison to get a better feel of the trade off between weight, acceleration and abilities in technical terrain afforded by the two wheel sizes.