Cockpit feel/Fit –
The first thing I noticed about fit was that the stem and handlebars were way too small. The bars were far too narrow for an all mountain bike, and the stem was too short. I promised myself I’d do one ride with the stock equipment, but after that I swapped out the bars and stem immediately. Changing bars and stem also shaved 0.5 lbs off the front of the bike – this is excellent for lighter riders. And the wider bars are great for increasing steering stability and climbing leverage. The longer stem helped pull my weight over the front of the bars for more comfortable climbing and front wheel traction while descending. Aside from that one complaint, the bike fit really well. The pedaling position was good for climbing and it was easy to throw the bike in front of me going downhill. The saddle does get in the way a bit though. It’s too big and puffy. So much so that it hinders leg movement while pedaling and catches your shorts when behind it. The squishiness is nice if you don’t plan on wearing a chamois, but for reasons other than that it’s excessive.
Despite being on the heavy side, the Phena climbed respectably well. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. Both in and out of the saddle the rear tire maintained traction and the front end stayed down. It was easy to shift my weight and get the bike up and over obstacles. There is plenty of gearing available from the small chainring and 34t casette for the steepest of hills, and enough top tube length to stay comfortable while pedaling in the saddle. The wider bars and slightly longer stem that I swapped out on the bike helped with climbing as well.
The Phena really comes alive once you point the bike downhill. It effortlessly gobbles up twisty swoopy trails with smoothness and flow, and quickly responds to rider input without being twitchy or overly sensitive. It’s also so stable through corners it feels like you could drag a knee. It tends to get a little upset and bucky going through rocky sections fast which is most likely a manifestation of the suspension as opposed to the frame itself. The bike rides like it’s got more potential than the stock build kit allows. You can almost hear the bike begging to go faster. But it needs some help getting to that point. If it was lighter with more sophisticated suspension the bike would no doubt scream. It’s fun to ride as it stands, but with a few modifications the tethers would be off and the bike would be free to fly. One thing to note, dropping the seat at the top of the hill is frustrating due to the stock seat clamp provided. It is absolutely terrible on the fingers. I stopped using my hands to tighten it and quickly started using my multitool to actuate it. If you can afford the $20 to upgrade this part – do it. You’ll be so much happier. I promise that your finger tips will thank you.