The test 301 was set up with a Shimano XT 2×10 drivetrain system, Magura 150mm Thor (15mm TA), the amazing Magura MT8 brakes, Syntace stem and handlebars and seatpost, and DT Swiss EXC1550 wheels and Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires. Part way through the test, I got a set of the super sweet Syntace W35 wheels, so I installed them with some fat Continental Trail King 2.4′s. My usual loyal steed, is the impeccable Ibis Mojo HD, which utilizes the DW-Link suspension system, and that is my main reference point for other bikes. The local Colorado terrain that I ride is predominantly rocky conditions, with many sections of long steep downhills, rock gardens and slabs, and ugly, loose gravel and rocks. I weigh in at 155 lbs, ride with a light touch, and love to use the brakes. I habitually prefer All Mountain riding, and frequent extremely technical terrain, which requires precise maneuvering, split-second timing, and nerves of steel and a big dash of lunacy.
The 301 has an active suspension, and has little pedal induced bob and sag wallow (I like that term). It sits up high, and will pop down deep into the travel when it’s requested to do so. It has excellent small bump compliance, and just seems to fly along the terrain, and glide over the little stuff like it’s not even there. You can really crank and mash the pedals, and you get great power transfer to the ground on mild terrain, whether it’s up, down or flat. Even when standing up and hammering, it displays little bob, and sits up firm in its resolve. When climbing terrain that has medium-sized roughness, it does just fine, and it absorbs the undulations well, keeping the tires firmly attached, and offers good compliance and control and traction. On ugly and gnarly rock gardens climbs, I found that it lost a bit of its composure and felt harsh, and you really had to hammer it hard to keep it on line and moving over obstacles. In direct comparison, my Mojo with the DW-Link excelled in that same terrain, and offered greater plushness, absorption and control. I must admit that I preferred a bit less active suspension, so it took me a week or two to get used to the system, especially after many years on the DW-link. I like to plod along sometimes through rocky terrain, and it seemed like I had to fight against the 301 in those conditions, and had to crank things up a notch to keep it rolling along. One benefit of the 301′s suspension design was that I rarely got any pedal strikes on normal terrain, which is a pretty common complaint on my Mojo.
This bike likes to haul ass, and prefers to be hammered. It is an amazing bike in fast and swoopy terrain, and feels like it is on rails, and it felt almost like it had 29er wheels. I recently rode it on a long ride, Copper Mountain to Searle Pass that goes up to 12,000 feet, and it was super sweet on the swoopy and flowy stuff, and it was a joy to climb.
The geometry is sort of interesting, as the top tube is a bit short, but it has a very long wheelbase, and the latter is an aspect of their Tuned Chainstay Length, since each frame size gets their own chainstay length. The long wheel base made the bike climb better and offered more stability at speed, but it made it a tad tougher in super tight technical stuff, though the uber stiff chassis made it easy to force it around. I swapped out to a longer stem (90mm) to compensate things for me, and it felt much better for my tastes and body geometry, and increased the control and handling characteristics. The frames butted tubes, reverse linkage suspension, tight bearings and linkages, make for an unbelievable stout, stiff and strong system. I never felt one bit of flex or slop out of the design, and it made for a bike that was incredibility easy to control. It did feel like a 140mm bike when hauling down the steep and deep, and it felt on the harsh side of things, but it was out of its realm in that territory, and the active suspension certainly doesn’t help. I think bumping it up to 160mm might help it in those types of environments, and I’ll be testing that setup next. I personally found the Magura Thor 150 to be overwhelmed when it was hammer time on the 301, so the 160 swap out sounds like a good plan?