Canfield Brothers Riot 29er trail bike review

Capable climber that's hell on wheels when pointed downhill

29er All Mountain Trail
The bike just begs its rider to seek out air time. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

The bike just begs its rider to seek out air time. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Enough About Climbing

As the name indicates, this bike’s purpose in life has nothing to do with Strava. At least not in the traditional aerobic sense. The actual Canfield Brothers (Chris and Lance) are a couple of adrenaline junkies. Lance is a four-time Red Bull Rampage competitor. Chris was once a regular on the World Cup downhill circuit. These guys like it fast and loose — and the bikes that bear their name reflect that.

“We are a downhill company at heart,” said Chris, noting that the official name of the Bellingham, Washington-based company is Canfield Brothers Downhill Bikes. “The guy who likes slow, smooth trail is not our guy. We like things fast and rowdy and that’s how we design our bikes. We build them tough and built to last.”

There's reportedly enough clearance that you can swap on a plus set-up and keep the party going.

There’s reportedly enough clearance that you can swap on a plus wheel/tire set-up and keep the party going.

In the case of the Riot, it’s also built to be, you know… a riot. Thanks to the stubby chainstays, the rear wheel is tucked tightly into the back end, meaning instead of dragging it around corners, you can really shove it through turns. The harder you push, the greater the sensation of steering from the rear.

It’s a blissfully snappy ride that will make you forget you’re rolling on wagon wheels. Indeed, this bike is quick and nimble like a race car, not slow and Cadillac sluggish like the first gen of longer travel 29ers. The only time I thought much about wheel size was when I was blasting through high speed chunder or clawing over wheel-stopper rocks on slow, techy climbs. In both instances, I was smiling.

The size large frame has a somewhat short effective top tube length of 599mm, but reach is a roomy 457mm, which really determines fit. And with a low 30.5” standover, 13.8” BB height (that’s below the axles), and low, slack geometry, the Riot delivers a stable in-the-bike feel, yet pedal strikes were rare.

The alloy Canfield wheels were solidly reliable, standing up to a fairly hard four-month thrashing.

The alloy Canfield wheels were solidly reliable, standing up to a fairly hard four-month thrashing.

Lifting the front end was also virtually effortless, making it easy to pop up and over trail obstacles or manual off ledgy drops. During the last couple months, I’ve taken this bike everywhere from bike parks in Crested Butte and Snowmass, to high desert chunky gnar in Grand Junction and Gunnison, to various alpine odysseys in the Colorado high country. Not once have I felt outgunned or overmatched. And that goes for most of the climbs, too.

The Test Build and the Future

I wont spend too much time talking about this bike’s spec because currently Canfield only sells the Riot as a frameset ($2100 with Cane Creek shock, or $3000 with the Push ElevenSix shock upgrade). The good news is that Chris told us they’ll soon be offering complete bikes, and that they’ll look a lot like the one we spent the last few months on. That means Shimano XT 1x drivetrains and brakes, RaceFace cockpits, RaceFace Turbine dropper post, Maxxis tires, and suspension options from DVO, Cane Creek, MRP, or RockShox.

Among our favorite places to ride, in the shadow of Mount Crested Butte.

Among our favorite places to ride, in the shadow of Mount Crested Butte.

Chris guessed that our test bike would sell for around $4500 brand new, including Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock, the superb DVO Diamond fork, reliable Turbine dropper, 1x Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, and Canfield Brothers branded cranks and alloy wheels, which have proven exceptionally durable. (Yes, we’ve crashed this bike a few times. And no, the wheels have not come out of true or otherwise betrayed us.) Canfield currently sell these wheels aftermarket for $449. You can also pick up Canfield branded cranks, pedals, and seat clamps.

“We just released a new pedal,” said Chris, adding that pedals and cranks are the company’s primary component focus, and that while they feel like they offer a solid 6000 series aluminum wheel with reliable hubs, ever changing industry standards are likely to push them out of the wheel business. “It’s just such a headache with all the changes, so I think we’re going to tone it down.”

Bars on our test bike were 800mm wide, which was great for handling but a little tough in the trees.

Bars on our test bike were 800mm wide, which was great for handling but a little tough in the trees.

However, in much bigger news, Canfield does intend to enter the carbon frame fray, though it’s at least a year away. “We have plans to eventually offer everything we make in carbon,” Chris revealed. “We just got a deal done with the factory we want to work with, so now it’s a matter of getting everything signed off and rolling. I’m hoping we’ll be there in the next 14 months (or roughly by Interbike 2017).”

Boost spacing is also in the works, and it’s also worth noting that the current Riot can be converted to 27.5+ (2.8” is max tire size). We haven’t tried this yet, but if we can talk the Brothers into extending our test session, there is a pair of plus-width Atomik Carbon 27.5 wheels in the garage that need to be put through their paces. We’ll post a separate review after we make the conversion and log some more ride time. But it’s safe to say the riotous times will continue.

The Riot was right at home at the Crested Butte and Snowmass bike parks. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

The Riot was right at home at the Crested Butte and Snowmass bike parks. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Bottom Line

If you have leanings toward the rowdy side of riding, dig the significant benefits of big wheels, and don’t want to rely on a pick-up truck to get you to the top of the descent, the Canfield Brothers Riot is a top-notch one-bike solution that can do everything from bike park sessions to backcountry epics. On descents it’s plush and controlled, providing ample confidence to tackle big hits, burly chunder, and steep sketchy chutes. Yet it also climbs well enough that you won’t be cursing under your breath any time the trail heads uphill. The idea of a boost-equipped carbon version is almost too much to handle. Sign us up for another test session pretty please.

For more info please visit canfieldbrothers.com.


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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