Tested: Devinci Minus NX 12s
Because it's winter somewhere
-Purpose-built for snow
-Canadian-built aluminum frame
-Nimble, snappy, and playful for a fatbike
-North American manufacturing
-Great component spec
-Twitchy at speed and on steeper trails
-Geometry could be pushed further
-Doesn’t come with tubeless setup
Devinci’s dedicated snow bike, the aptly-named Minus, got a major makeover for 2021, including standard geometry updates to keep it fresh and relevant. On the size-large I tested, the reach was extended by 25 millimeters to 465mm, seat angle steepened and headtube angle slackened, each by a degree, respectively, and the chainstays were, surprisingly, shortened a touch to 450 millimeters. But Devinci didn’t just adjust its jigs for this one, the frame also got new tube shapes and gussets, a dropper-friendly 34.9 seat tube, more standover clearance, and Devinci added a XL size for larger riders. Oh, and it is now being built in North America, at Devinci’s headquarters in Chicoutimi, Quebec, Canada, right where it was designed and developed.
Like with Nordic skiing, most dedicated fatbike trail systems are machine-groomed. This means that a lot of trails are limited to the terrain that the grooming device, often a Snowdog or snowmobile pulling a sledge, can access. Because of this, most trails tend to be more undulating and smooth than steep and wild. This is the terrain the Minus was designed for—the snow-bike trails near Chicoutimi are largely groomed via Snowdog—and this is where it shines brightest. The 69-degree head angle and short chainstays keep the bike nimble and playful when weaving between trees, pumping through dips, and even jumping off small rollers. It has a very sporty feel to it that makes you want to rally hard on the pedals and drift through corners while a smile gets literally frozen on your face.
Unsurprisingly, this snappiness carried over to the Minus’ climbing prowess. Its stiff frame and short stays combined with the reasonable reach and seat angle made for an almost-eager ascending experience that was, dare I say, enjoyable on both extended grinders or short punches. That said, when climbing on fresh snow or in softer conditions, I found myself wishing for a slightly longer wheelbase to make weight transfers more forgiving as I searched for the sweet spot between finding traction and dredging in.
In addition to the standard groomed trails, the main trail system that I ride has a devout group of riders who snowshoe-pack some of the local enduro trails and all-mountain lines for fatbiking. On these types of trails, and on fast trails with softer conditions, the Minus would benefit from a slacker head angle and a slightly lower bottom bracket for added stability and to take the edge off oversteering. It’s important to note here that there aren’t many fatbikes that have the angles to properly thrive in these sorts of conditions; Rocky Mountain’s Blizzard, Corvus’ forthcoming Skookum AF, Foes’ Mutz, and Pole’s Tiaga currently round out the list, though there are rumors of other companies following suite soon. I chatted with Devinci briefly about this, and they mentioned that an advantage to in-house manufacturing was the ability to quickly and easily make changes if they feel that they can improve their bikes, but also confirmed that the Minus is designed for the best performance on machine-groomed trails.
Devinci did a great job picking the parts it put on the Minus. Winter tends to crush components, especially if you ride or commute on salted roads. So unless you find yourself between the tape often or just enjoy setting Benjamins ablaze, a mid-level spec is perfect. And that’s exactly what the Minus has. The one I tested was Devinci’s highest-end offering, the NX 12s build, which includes, as its name suggests, a full SRAM NX Eagle group, plus the basic, but reliable TranzX dropper post, a carbon fork, and Maxxis Colossus 27×4.5 tires. Sram’s Level T brakes work well and are inexpensive enough to replace or repair if the pistons freeze up from salt corrosion. The cockpit is a standard house-brand aluminum, but I appreciated the short stem and 780-millimeter wide bars with a future-proof 35-millimeter clamp-size. The only reason I could see swapping them out is if you live in an area with temperatures consistently below 0-degrees Fahrenheit; at that point I’d swap them for carbon bars for better heat management, and put hockey tape around the brake levers—the fewer metal contact points the better.
In addition to a solid spec, the Minus NX 12s packs in plenty of value. Priced at $2,400, it is right in line with, if not more affordable, than other fatbikes with comparable components. Hats off to Devinci for pulling this off with a bike built in North America. The Minus is a bike that’s easy to like from all angles: price, performance, fun-factor, sustainability, and, sprinkle in some patriotism too. If I were plunking down my own pennies for this bike, I’d likely pony up for a 2-degree angle-adjust headset to slacken the front end a touch, but if most of your riding is on groomed trails, the stock setup will likely suffice.
The Minus is offered with two build kits. The entry-level build, the SX 12s, keeps the same Canadian-built frame, wheels, tires, and bars and stem as the NX 12s build, but brings the price to $1,800. The value proposition for this model isn’t quite as great though: with the $400 you save over the NX model, you also lose the carbon fork, dropper-post, hydraulic brakes, and downgrade the drivetrain. To be fair, this is still less expensive than most other brands’ entry-level fatbikes with similar components, and is still an incredible deal for a North-American built bike.
Photos: Ryan LaBar