Shinobi Downhill Performance
I expected the Shinobi to be a good climber. After all 29er afficianados recite improved climbing traction as a key reason for wagon-wheel world domination. However, I was extremely impressed by the broad range and capability of the Shinobi’s downhill ability.
As alluded to in my gushing praise of the Shinobi’s rolling terrain ability, I feel that a key contributor to the Shinobis’s rapier-like ability to dissect terrain is the stiffness of the frame which refused to be deflected from its course. Chalk that up to the 20mm axle Reba, the Syntace 12mm rear end, the one-piece link arm, the tapered steerer or the overall bike’s design. Point and shoot is the way of the Shinobi.
Frame angles also seemed ideally suited to attacking downhills. The slack head angle coupled with the Reba’s ability to handle multiple hits of varying amplitude meant that the Shinobi always felt in control. From a personal preference point of view, I believe that wider bars and a shorter stem deliver disproprotionate benefits to 29er handling. As I’ve repeated over-and-over again, these big wheels have more inertia to overcome. The ever so slightly wider than stock 710mm bars I ran gives the rider ever so slightly more torque to finesse steering. The shorter stem allows that steering to be fine tuned and the rider to get back off the rear relatively easily in steeps without sacrificing that same steering ability.
While the Shinobi was stable and had that downhill-bike quality of being able to ride over terrain it did not lack playfullness. I found it surprisingly poppy when it was at speed; manuals, small bunny hops, hipping root balls and other small hits were easy to pull off. Although you won’t mistake the Shinobi for a dirt jump bike this side of the Shinobi speaks volumes as to its versatility.
Having said that, a dose of reality is always a good thing. The Shinobi is still a 120mm rear travel bike and is best suited to fast rolling downhils with small to medium sized hits. This is not a knock on the Shinobi or the eminently capable Monarch rear shock but this bike is by no means a coil sprung long-legged machine with freeride pretensions and if you push it too far and too hard it can and will be overwhelmed & the suspension will bottom out. Keep the Shinobi close to or on the ground and it will shine.
The only other remark on the Shinobi is something which I feel is generic to all 29ers. When you’re in extremely steep terrain and you encounter rocky terrain or obstacles there simply isn’t as much room to move the bike around you as with a conventional bike. The simple reason for this is that the bigger wheels get in the way. I would find it disconcerting to be buzzing my shorts (or getting uncomfortably close to my nether regions) as I navigated this steep terrain. Perhaps being psychologically pressured I would then lose my form, tighten up and not let the bike move under me as much as I’d like and consequently not have as much control as I’d like. It certainly could be the the case thatit is not a 29er issue so much as it is my issue and that, given more time, on 29ers I would discover the sweet spot to descending steeps on wagon wheels. It almost certainly is the case that this “limitation” (and I use that term advisedly) is not specific to the Shinobi but endemic to all 29ers. I would certainly welcome more discussion on this topic.
I tweaked the Shinobi’s front compartment by replacing the 80mm with a 70mm stem and adding a 710mm Answer riser to replace the flat 680mm alloy bar
Miscellanous Shinobi downhill shots from various places in BC