This South African brand continues to refine it’s range of 29ers to the South African market. Taking into account the tighter economic situation and the fact that we still have largely non-technical, flowing trails and race routes, Momsen has invested even further in it’s hardtails. We got to ride the latest model of the AL529.
Photos: Dino Lloyd
The 6069 butted aluminium frame has a curved top-tube, which appears to make the frame more compact and probably stiffer. Otherwise it’s a fairly standard hardtail 29er frame with pretty neutral geometry and shortish (440mm) chainstays.
It’s gloss black and citrus green with gray accents, a departure from the very solid colours currently trending and quite good looking.
So a very solid frame in all. But the component spec is where the AL529 really shines at this price. The focus is on quality and performance with the drivetrain a full Shimano XT 2×11. The Stan’s ZTR Rapid rims and Rock Shox Reba fork with remote lockout bring the spec to an impressive level on a bike this price. The brakeset is Shimano’s M615 hydraulic disc model. The seatpost, stem and handlebars are all pretty standard alloy fare, but obviously very upgradeable should you want to start stripping some weight from the 11.84kg bike.
It comes with VeeTireCo Rail tyres – a 2.25 up front an a 1.95 at the rear. The narrow rear tyre is immediately noticeable and we were interested to find out why Momsen specced this, other than possibly to lighten the weight on the shop floor… Apparently it’s a ‘pro-racer’ thing to have a narrower rear tyre. We’re well aware of this and have specced our own bikes as such. However the one-inch difference on the Rail model is quite marked and just looks a bit peculiar. Fortunately for Momsen, a tyre change is a fairly minor thing. We did our full test with the specced tyres though and you’ll see what we found below.
After riding so many dual-sus bikes, it takes a little while to get used to a hardtail again. But when you focus on the positives, it becomes easier! For one, the AL529 quickly confirmed how stiff an responsive it is on both climbs and accelerations. The power transfer is so direct and we soon began to use this to our advantage when on competitive group rides or chasing Strava medals (we didn’t’ get to do any races on the AL529). Very rough climbs were still a challenge though (as with any hardtail), but we loved how the Rock Shox Reba fork made the bike a little more composed with it’s quality action – a composed front end helps keep the back from becoming too wayward. It was the same on very rough descents actually. The fork never really seemed overwhelmed by what we pointed the bike at and the lockout lever worked well most of the time. It’s default mode is to be locked, which means cable tension required to unlock it. A couple of times it was shaken back to locked mode, but we only discovered this after completing a very rough section, not actually while tackling it.
The Stan’s rims withstood consistent beatings (our editor used this bike to instruct a number of pre-Cape Epic skills clinics on the rugged sections of Thaba Trails). The back one especially, as the narrow tyre led to a less cushioned ride and on a few occasions, whacked a rock that left us expecting rim or tyre damage – but no, no damage, not even a buckle…
Cornering was impressive. The combination of the 2.25 Rail tyre and the Reba fork was confidence inspiring. We did feel a wider handlebar would have made cornering even better, but for most, the 700mm wide bars are just fine.
The Shimano XT 2×11 groupset worked well and the shifting was crisp and predictable. This really is the ideal gearing combination for most. Our stronger testers didn’t use the small chainring too often and a couple of testers did experience the chain dropping off the big ring on long, rough descents even with the rear derailleur clutch activated. The brakes were good. Not impressive, but certainly reliable.
When you ride a hardtail, you can expect the saddle to take a beating. That’s why a reasonable quality saddle is important. We found this to be a weak point on the AL529 with the front of the saddle taking some strain by the end of our test. But being such a personal item, most will use their favourite saddle on this bike, so we wouldn’t consider it a significant issue. Another source of frustration, albeit a mild one, was how the curved toptube made bottle removal and replacement a bit tight with a standard 650ml bottle.
With a fragile economy, a R60 000-plus dual suspension bike is a stretch for most and out of the question for some. But a good quality hardtail still offers a fun, full ride without putting you into personal financial stress. The AL529 is just that kind of hardtail. The groupset, fork and wheelset are high value for a bike this price and all contribute to a very secure, high-performance ride feel. The frame is strong and stiff and the cockpit parts are very upgradeable should you be on a quest to trim some weight, although we reckon a wider rear tyre would be the first upgrade we’d make.
SIZES: S, M (tested), L, XL
HEADTUBE ANGLE: 71.5 degrees
SEATTUBE ANGLE: 73 degrees
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: 440mm
PRICE: R26 995
COLOURS: Black/citrus green with grey accents
FRAME: ‘Race Tech 2’ 6069 Butted Alloy
WEIGHT: 11.84kg (without pedals)
FORK: RockShox Reba Air with 100mm travel and remote lockout
SHIFTERS: Shimano XT 11 speed (M8000)
FRONT DERAILLER: Shimano XT 2×11 Dual Pull
REAR DERAILLER: Shimano XT Shadow Plus11 Speed (M8000)
CRANKSET: Shimano XT 36/26T (2×11, M8000)
BRAKESET: Shimano M615 hydraulic disc with 160mm rotors.
WHEELSET: Stan’s ZTR RAPID 29er 32h Tubeless-ready rims with Shimano Deore hubs
TYRES: VeeTireCo. Rail 2.25 front, 1.95 rear. 72tpi Folding Bead, Tubeless Ready
OTHERS: Alloy Seatpost, Alloy Handlebars (700mm), Alloy Stem, Momsen Custom, Embossed Graphic Saddle, Cane Creek Tapered headset.
CONTACT: www.momsenbikes.com; 041 372 1418
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 39, 2016 – All rights reserved