Momsen is known for its budget consciousness, but with this top-end race machine, which secured a top 10 overall finish in the 2012 ABSA Cape Epic as well as four Master’s category stage wins, we see another side to the South African brand.
The SL929 is an update on Momsen’s original carbon hardtail frame, with the high modulus layup Race Tech SL Plus version apparently making it around 150 grams lighter. There’s a tapered headtube upfront and a Syntace X-12 Thru-Axle at the rear adding strength and lateral stiffness respectively. The seat stays are laterally narrow to improve vertical compliance in the quest to soften trail chatter. There’s not much variation possible in carbon hardtail frames where the name of the game is efficiency. Momsen has managed to give the bike a stealthy look with matte black being the dominant colour with red and white accents. We’re still not fans of the in-your-face size of the ‘Inspired by the Mountain’ payoff line on the top of the top tube. But that’s just us. The SL929 is dripping with premium components.
The Rock Shox Sid XX World Cup fork has Pop Lock remote, 100mm travel and a 15mm Thru-Axle. The wheelset is Stan’s ZTR Arch rims mated to SRAM X9 hubs with Schwalbe Racing Ralph Snakeskin tubeless 2.25-inch tyres. The groupset is SRAM XX allround with new XX10 Gripshift. And the cockpit is a Fizik Gobi saddle, Easton EC90 carbon seatpost, Truvativ Noir carbon flat bar (700mm) and a Momsen Super Light alloy stem. It looks sleek and fast. There’s nothing unnecessary. The Gripshift makes the handlebars look a little naked at first, but pleasantly uncluttered, while the internal cable routing keeps the frame tidy. Our test model came with a Momsen Design front mudguard, which is reviewed separately in this issue.
Our testers immediately headed to the tight, twisty trails with the SL929. At 700mm, the bars take a little getting used to and tight gaps require additional awareness. But the leverage you get when accelerating out of turns is noticeable and substantial. Through corners, the SL929 is just superb. The aggressive angles (71.5 degree headtube and 74.2 degree seattube) put you firmly in a position of optimal control, while the tapered headtube, front Thru-Axle and wide Schwalbe Racing Ralphs all combine to offer very reassuring front-end stability. On climbs, as you’d expect, the SL929 is swift. The overall bike weight was 9.95kg with pedals and bottle cage, making it rather svelte. Sure, you could get the weight down a little more with different tyres, but then you’d be sacrificing tyre durability. We like Momsen’s thinking on this. Descending with the more hardy, wider tyres is also more reassuring. We had some shifting issues initially when changing gears under pedal load, but this subsided after a few rides. We assume it took a while for the lightweight KMC chain to settle in. Riding with Gripshift was a bit of a novelty at first, but ultimately, a real treat. Being able to shift across the cassette in one movement – should you need to – is amazing (see separate review).
Braking performance was actually superb. Something we’ve not said about SRAM’s brakes before. On a high-performance bike like the SL929, you rely heavily on predictable, sharp braking performance. The match-up is a good one. In terms of comfort on long rides, we found the SL929 to be similar to most carbon hardtails, not so comfortable, but fine if you’re a conditioned rider.
Despite its 2012 ABSA Cape Epic credentials, marathons and XC races are actually the SL929’s bread and butter. Ultra-marathons and stage races are a real stretch for most on a bike like this. If performance, such as age-group podium places, Strava KOMs, or even overall podium places is important to you and you’re a well-conditioned rider (i.e. not carrying much – if any – extra weight), the SL929 is well worth looking at. You won’t find too many top-end racing carbon hardtails for less than R60 000.
SIZES: S, M (tested), L, XL
TOP TUBE LENGTH: 603mm
SEAT TUBE LENGTH: 430mm
HEAD TUBE ANGLE: 71.5 degrees
SEAT TUBE ANGLE: 74.2 degrees
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: 438mm
*PRICE: R57 500
FRAME: Carbon HT
COLOURS: Carbon black with red and white accents.
FORK: Rock Shox Black Box SID World Cup with Pop Lock remote lockout and 100mm of travel
SHIFTERS: SRAM XX 10-Speed Gripshift
FRONT DERAILLER: SRAM XX (2×10)
REAR DERAILLER: SRAM XX
CRANKSET: SRAM XX 175mm cranks, 2×10 Chainset 39/26
BRAKESET: SRAM XX hydraulic disc with 160mm rotors
WHEELS: Stan’s ZTR Arch Rims,
SRAM X9 Hubs and Cassette
TYRES: Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25
OTHERS: Easton EC90 seatpost, Momsen Super Light alloy stem, Truvativ Noir
T30 Carbon handlebars, FSA Carbon headset, Fizik Gobi saddle
CONTACT: www.momsenbikes.com, 041 368 5708
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 22, 2013 – All rights reserved