Canfield Brothers Riot 29er trail bike review

Capable climber that's hell on wheels when pointed downhill

29er All Mountain Trail
Utilizing a parallel link design, the idea is to “balance” driveline forces by pointing them through the center of curvature.

Utilizing a parallel link design, the idea is to “balance” driveline forces by pointing them through the center of curvature.

The Riot also benefits from what Canfield calls its Balance Formula (CBF) suspension, which was seven years in development and is designed to deliver pedaling efficiency via optimal anti-squat throughout the entire range of travel.

Utilizing a parallel link design, the idea is to “balance” driveline forces by pointing them through the center of curvature. This, claims Canfield, differs from most other multi-link suspensions, which migrate over a larger area. The result is that the Riot has an efficient, but also active pedaling platform, independent of sag, travel, drivetrain, and braking forces.

“Most suspension designs focus on the instant center,” explained Chris Canfield. “That means they are only efficient in a small portion of the bike’s travel when chainline forces are balanced with that point. That’s why you have recommended sag.”

The short chainstays deliver a quick, and nimble ride, especially when darting in and out of corners. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

The short chainstays deliver a quick and nimble ride, especially when darting in and out of corners. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Without going too far down the suspension rabbit hole, Canfield believes that while there are a number solid current suspension designs (DW-Link, VPP, etc.), most sacrifice performance at one or the other end of the spectrum, meaning either you lose pedaling efficiency or sacrifice small bump performance.

CBF attempts to minimize those sacrifices by balancing the center of curvature on the chainline to create an instant center that travels from a high position to low, forward to back, all the while mirroring the rear axle and keeping the distance between the two more consistent, lessening chain growth and pedal kick throughout travel. As the wheel moves up, the instant center moves down, avoiding unnecessary interruptions to the pedal stroke. The chainline pivots with the suspension around the same point, providing isolation of drivetrain and suspension forces, claims Canfield. CBF is also designed to decouple suspension and braking forces, allowing the rear wheel to track terrain even under hard braking. [Editor’s Note: For more on CBF check out this more in-depth tech talk post.]

The external cable routing isn't as clean as internal set-ups, but there's been no rattle issues and when the time comes it's far easier to maintain.

The external cable routing isn’t as clean as internal set-ups, but there’s been no rattle issues and when the time comes it’s far easier to maintain.

I’m not going to turn this review into a comparison of all current suspension designs. But I will say that the Riot definitely strikes a solid balance between its ability to absorb bumps and hits of all sizes, minimize the negative forces of braking, and pedal on flats and uphill with reasonable efficiency while maintaining traction. The rear suspension felt very linear in the early part of travel, with a slight ramp-up kicking in near the end of the stroke. Bottom outs were all but non existent.

The stock Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock has a climb switch, but honestly I couldn’t feel much discernable difference with it on or off. The pedaling platform was universally stable unless you were out of the saddle hammering, in which case you’re probably on the wrong bike to begin with.

Seated climbing was a far more efficient venture than we expected. It was not hard to keep the front wheel under control.

Seated climbing was a far more efficient venture than we expected. It was not hard to keep the front wheel planted and under control.

Obviously this bike is not a KoM killer. But given its descending acumen, it’s truly surprising how little squat or bob there is when heading uphill. It’s efficient on smooth climbs and fire road grinds, and sticks to ground well on techy, loose terrain.

My lone gripe of significance is the complexity of the Cane Creek shock. It’s a great option if you love tinkering and tuning with finite precision. But for the 80 percent who prefer to set and forget, all that adjustability can be overwhelming. I had one person with extensive experience with the shock say, “It takes the hands of a surgeon to really get it dialed in.”

Depending on your persuasion, the Cane Creek shock is either highly tunable or too complex.

Depending on your persuasion, the Cane Creek shock is either highly tunable or too complex.

I know a few doctors who ride, but I am certainly not one of them. The good news is that Riot framesets ship with the shock pre-set to the recommended factory settings, so you can just set sag and go ride. And Cane Creek just released a handy trail tuning app that is sure to make the adjustment process a little more user friendly. Alternatively, you can make a strong argument for the Push ElevenSix coil shock option, since you don’t really need the climbing switch on this bike anyway.

There are also no provisions for a front derailleur and cable routing is external, which makes servicing easier, but is not in line with the current trend to more stealth aesthetics.

Continue to page 3 for more of our Canfield Brothers Riot 29er trail bike review »


About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.


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