It’s like choosing an appropriate weapon when heading into battle. In order to confidently tackle a stage race, you need to have a bike that’s going to take you through all kinds of conditions, over varying terrain, with maximum control, a reasonable level of comfort and, if you’re super competitive, a generous helping of speed. There’s no denying that for stage racing, you need a good quality mountain bike. – Compiled by the TREAD Editors
But good quality mountain bikes aren’t something you just pop out and buy on a whim. You do research online; speak to fellow riders; examine advertising and reviews in media; spend hours in bike shops – it’s a process. But what a great process to follow!
We’ve ridden a couple hundred mountain bikes over the past six years since TREAD magazine was launched. In that time, we’ve seen a dynamic industry both respond to rider demand (29-inch wheels, more robust tyres, single chainring gearing, wider bars etc); and deliver what it feels is needed to fill gaps (27.5-inch wheels, electronic gears, intuitive suspension, pre-set suspension etc).
Between them, our test riders have racked up scores of stage races on different bikes (fully-rigids, hardtails and dual sussers; carbon, aluminium, titanium and steel frames; all three wheel sizes; single, double and triple chainrings, varying bar styles and widths and stem lengths and angles… You name it, our guys (and girls) have ridden it. You could say we know our stage race stuff.
The thing is, most of the bikes we get sent to review are from the top models of each brand’s model range. But the reality is that most of us couldn’t afford a bike that costs that much (over R60 000). Or, we just can’t justify allocating that much cash to a bicycle.
We recently published a feature in Issue 31 on why we feel mid-travel, trail-geometry bikes are ideal for bigger riders, especially in stage races. But there are many average-sized riders too. And of course bigger riders that believe they have as much right to buying a XCO/XCM race bike with more aggressive geometry, lighter parts and shorter-travel suspension that’s less forgiving.
With that in mind TREAD concluded reviews of four bikes that cost under R40 000 (Issue 33 The Stage Race Guide) and that are classified as Marathon Race bikes. We rode them in all conditions, in three different provinces and with the kind of commitment and intensity of anyone training for a stage race (because most of our testers are doing just that!).
We’ve given our standard TREAD review and added some badges that we feel each bike earned. If you’re in the market for a well-priced bike for stage racing, stick with us… In no particular order of preference…
TREAD Magazine is sold throughout South Africa and can be found in: Spar, CNA, Exclusive Books, Discerning bike shops and on Zinio
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 33, 2015 – All rights reserved