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High-pivot bikes have a reputation for eating rough terrain better than any other suspension system because their rearward axle path allows the wheel to get out of the way quicker than if it were moving more vertically, like it does with most other designs. It feels really good, and it’s why we’re seeing a big resurgence in high pivot right now. Either that, or COVID solitude is messing with engineers’ heads.
Not everyone is convinced high pivot bikes are worth the extra hassle of adding an idler pulley to the drivetrain, which is of course needed so the bikes don’t ride like a 1990’s Cannondale Super V. But, we all came away from our test laps thoroughly impressed by the new Devinci Spartan.
It’s a surprisingly astute climber for an enduro bike. Yes, there’s additional drivetrain vibration from the idler and chainguide pulleys, but we got used to it pretty quickly (and also canceled the extra noise out with some earbuds). And once we did, we could focus our attention on the fast that it’ll climb the steepest climbs we could pedal up without bobbing or sagging a ton. The steep seat angle certainly helps make the Spartan a good climber as well. And with the level of traction it provides, it’ll tractor up and over pretty much anything.
We found the shock lockout to be mostly unnecessary, too, which was an even bigger surprise. I for one, reached for it almost automatically, as I do for most bikes in this travel range, but wound up realizing that locking the bike out was actually just taking traction away and costing energy. It’s really only something to be used on smooth climbs. Talking about climbing isn’t always the most exciting thing, but experiencing a bike that looks like it wouldn’t climb to save its life perform so well definitely is. It pedals through technical undulating terrain without any funky bobbing, squatting, pedal kickback, or wheel hangup, which really makes it ride lighter than it is. For a big bruiser, it’s actually quite efficient.
But descending is the Spartan’s real speciality. It has a similar feeling of destroying rowdy terrain as the other high pivot bikes in the test, but not all of them are as controlled as the Spartan in corners, or as supportive when pushing hard. That’s because it’s sort of a high-pivot-light sort of design. The axle path does travel rearward for a bit, but then starts traveling more vertically later on. This prevents the wheelbase from growing too much and allows the bike to feel both like a magic bump eating machine when it needs to, but also kind of normal in corners where high pivot bikes are notoriously not great.
It also helps that the chainstays are really short (426mm in high, 430mm in low). We really think this is a big contributor to the bike’s ability to maneuver quickly and be as rideable as it is.
The overall feel and response of the bike is quite a departure from what Devinci has been making for years. Most of the company’s bikes have been more progressive than plush, and testers have routinely commented that they’ve felt they’re not aggressive enough to uncork Devinci bikes to their full potential—especially the Spartan. We got along well with this new DNA, though. It’s more easygoing, and to put it bluntly, has a ton more traction than any other Devinci we can remember.
There are arguably simpler ways to make an excellent bike. Both the Specialized Enduro and Evil Wreckoning don’t need to have idler pulleys to feel as good as they do, and they don’t require a lower chainguide like this bike does (it’s needed or else the derailleur won’t be able to keep tension on the chain throughout entire gear range). But, when you feel the way this thing tracks the ground you’ll realize there’s something unique to it.
Which might justify spending $6,150 on the Carbon GX spec we tested. For that price you get a Fox Performance Grip 38 fork, Performance Elite X2 shock, SRAM GX drivetrain, Race Face aluminum wheels, a very slow SDG dropper post, and Code R brakes. It’s a solid, well performing build, but it’s not hard to find bikes at this price with nicer spec. This isn’t a big shocker though. Devinci’s bikes have been priced a bit high for a number of years. What is a shocker on the other hand, is how much every tester loved riding the new Spartan. Seriously, most of us are high-pivot skeptics. Some of us still are. It was great to see a bike that some people probably wanted to hate, do so well in the test.
Studio photos: Ryan Palmer
Action photos: Paris Gore