There was a good vision for this bike but it’s always won and lost in the details. All the Bontrager parts are dialed. The two-bolt seatpost, the wide 9-degree sweep bars are dialed for this rig. The 90 mm stem is a bit long for this kind of bike but that’s usually swappable between the buyer and local bike shop. The SLX brakes and shifters are awesome!!! These are probably the best value components available today as we cannot really detect the difference between these and their XTR counterparts in a blind usage test. The Race Face cranks are stiff and shift well. And finally, the contact points of the saddle and the grips work well. The grips are lock-on type but only locked on in the inside so they don’t interfere with your hands. And the saddle may look flat and wide but they roll down the sides just soon enough to make them comfortable for short and long hauls.
The Bontrager 29-3s are again remarkable. These are the latest Frank Stacey designed tires following the success of the beefier 29-4 tire. What they wanted to achieve is a faster tire with lower knobs for a better all-around riding and pedal efficiency. With the long footprint of the 29er tires, these tires are very confident in cornering and descending. In loose and slippery conditions, we might opt for the 29-4 in the front to complement the speed of the rear 29-3 in the rear.
This system is tubeless ready and the build comes with tubeless strips and valves. Since this is a hardtail, tubeless can really add to the formula since the rear tire pressure can be dropped 3-5 psi without pinching a tube. This lower pressure can deliver some extra relief to the rider’s tail. It’s a 29er of course but it’s still an aluminum hardtail so optimizing or running the lowest pressure you can get away with is key. Bontrager has the best tubeless in the business since the rim tape is molded just for this rim profile and the valve hole area is reinforced to prevent leaks and valve problems. Finally, Bontrager has a new sealant that seems less damaging than Stans. It also has more particles in the solution and it was able to seal tire leaks that Stans could not.
And let’s call out the chainstay guard since it is a nice piece of engineering. Chainstay guards are often overlooked as it is often a piece of padded tape on top of the drive side chainstay. Our local bike shop will artfully wrap an inner tube around the stay to achieve good padding with a good fit. Bontrager trumps everyone by putting in a molded rubber piece that actually routes and hides the rear derailleur cable.
This is a great package but a discussion on possible improvements is always healthy. Here’s a few:
- It would be great to have a singlespeed option for this bike. Folks will be curious as we are how this would perform as a singlespeed.
- Color options would be good. The lime-green color for the Stache 8 is dialed but what if green is not your thing? What if three other guys in your group already have this bike?
- The chainstays could be shorter! 17.5 inches is good but is not on par with the shortest in this category of playful hardtail 29ers. They should have pushed that rear tire forward as there seems to be a ton of room available between the downtube and the big 29-3 tire.
- Finally, this is still a beefy aluminum bike with a stiff rear end. It is not ‘Banshee Paradox’ stiff so it can be controlled by a big tubeless rear tire. But what if it was carbon with thin stays? What if it was steel with a lively rear end?
The bottom line is this is a fun, capable and agile bike. We expect to see this bike in all sorts of applications and cofigurations from jump bike to race bike to slalom or endurance bike. But we think its most fitting use is the one bike a rider with a limited budget to rally on. But hey, we think it’s good enough that even the person with $5k to spend might covet this one too.
Buy the Stache 8, set it up tubeless, put a Reverb Stealth or KS Lev on it and get ready to rally.