-130mm rear travel, 140mm front
-All carbon frame
-Living Link suspension
-Fast, efficient climber
-Great value for a small brand
-Smart focus on durability and longevity
-You might be the only one at the trailhead with one
-Not as supple as some bikes in its class
-Not as cheap as some consumer-direct bikes
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These days, it feels like you can’t pick a truly bad bike. Start with a big brand, choose the category, travel range, and price you’re happy with, and chances are the bike will be pretty sweet. There’s nothing wrong with this approach—the big brands can crank out tons of bikes, keeping prices reasonable and performance consistent. But for those riders who really enjoy the process of researching, speccing and understanding their machine, going with a smaller brand can be rewarding. And rewarding is exactly how we’d describe riding the Spot Mayhem 130.
Spot bikes, based in Golden, Colorado, has been around since 1991, and the family-owned company takes a somewhat engi-nerdy, serviceability-oriented approach to the bikes they make. They designed the CenterTrack belt system (a key part of the super durable Gates carbon belt drive), and their proprietary “Living-Link” suspension design claims to simplify full-suspension frame linkage while increasing durability.
Like the other small-ish brand in Golden (rhymes with “Schmeti”) the Spot staff logs plenty of time on the trail, and the local influence shows up in the Mayhem. It is, if not purpose-built for Colorado, at least very well suited to the particular demands of riding in the Rockies. In other words: it’s a little biased towards efficiency (good for long, technical climbs), while keeping things fun on varied, rowdy descents.
The Mayhem represents Spots bread and butter 29er trail bike, and is offered in this 130mm-travel option, as well as a longer-legged 150mm version. The 130 falls in the middle of Spot’s lineup travel-wise , with the Mayhem 150 and Rollik 150 (27.5″) aimed more at the more aggressive end of the spectrum and the shorter-travel Ryve 115 and 100, and Rocker hardtail rounding out the XC/Marathon side of things. With 130 millimeters of rear travel, 140 front, the Mayhem 130 shares territory with some heavy-hitting legacy bikes like the Santa Cruz Tallboy, the Trek Top Fuel, and Specialized’s new-flex stay Stumpjumper.
Establishing yourself in such a competitive field is always going to be an uphill battle, so it’s fortunate that the thing that sets the Mayhem 130 apart is an efficiency-boosting, titanium leaf spring in the lower pivot. To grossly over-simplify it, Spot’s LivingLink design essentially helps flatten the leverage curve in your travel, eliminating a couple bearings in the process. The spring is neutral when the bike is at rest, flexing steadily as it approaches the sag point, where it helps offer extra support. Later in the stroke, it counteracts the progressivity of the shock and effectively extends the sweet spot in your travel. The leaf spring is also very laterally and torsionally stiff, beefing up the rear linkage for snappier handling.
On the trail, the LivingLink created a remarkably (like, we actually remarked on it to each other) robust pedaling platform, without ever feeling wooden or losing traction. While it’s no XC whip, the Mayhem is more than respectable at translating power to the pedals, and it handles predictably through square step-ups and complicated scrambles.
On the descent, it’s no couch—the 130 is a bike that demands an alert rider, but it also rewards you when you push it. We tested it on high-speed, buff singletrack punctuated by sections of pointy limestone fins which, when approached carelessly, made for a somewhat chaotic-feeling ride. However when pumped and stomped, the Mayhem will float a little more, and it felt joyful in the air on some of the many shallow doubles our test track offered. Our fastest tester logged some of her quickest test loop times on this bike, but she was not surprised. The Mayhem 130 feels fast in a way that makes you very aware you’re hauling ass.
One thing we all noted with the Mayhem is that it feels a little short—the reach on a medium is just 440 millimeters, 465 on a large— and that can certainly make you feel less secure than when you’ve got a bunch of top tube and travel as a buffer. The same characteristic that makes the Mayhem feel so precise and controllable on the way up may sacrifice some stability on the way down.
That said, we felt that this bike would be a worthy adventure companion, well equipped to go tire-to-tire with the ringers in its category. It’s buttoned-up, thoughtfully-built, and feels like the right tool for all sorts of jobs.
The least-expensive Spot Mayhem 130 is the 4-star build for $5,000, $1,000 less and one level down from the build tested here. The 4-star build gets a RockShox Pike Select RC fork and a performance-level Fox Float DPS shock. As we often see, this is where most of the cost difference and most of the benefit to upgrading comes from. The 5-star build gets a more robust, more tunable Fox 36 Factory Grip2 fork and a Fox Float Factory DPS rear shock with 3-position compression adjustment in its Open mode. There’s not as significant a drop in features throughout the rest of the build. Spot moves from SRAM X01 to GX in the drivetrain, and you lose some power in the brakes in the drop from G2 RS to G2 R. Impressively, all levels of Mayhem 130 except the AXS build have the same top-notch Bike Yoke dropper post. There are no deal-breakers on the 4-star build, but the suspension upgrades alone are worth the extra $1,000. More aggressive riders will appreciate the extra support, tunability and stiffness in the Fox 36 fork and the extra stopping power in the G2 RS brakes, but if $5k is your ceiling, the 4-star build is well curated.
Find it at spotbikes.com/mayhem-130
Photos: Anthony Smith