Review: Durango Bikes Moonshine 650b

160mm of dialed Horst Link travel

27.5 All Mountain Trail
The Durango Moonshine 650b bike against a beautiful Santa Cruz sunset.

The Durango Moonshine 650b bike against a beautiful Santa Cruz sunset.

The Lowdown: Durango Bikes Moonshine 650b

Spending a lot of time with Durango Bike Company‘s founder Jeff Estes and riding the Moonshine 650b a ton, we got to know the bike and the vision behind it. What we have is a US-made, aluminum, Horst Link bike where every component and design choice has a purpose. The result is a capable bike that is feels completely at home in the chunkiest descents and the fastest corners. Suspension is supple and controlled in all conditions we tested. Climbing is a strength too as its 26+ lb weight and well-supported suspension got us up the longest and rockiest climbs.

Stat Box
Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3 160mm Head angle: 67 degrees
Shock: RockShox Monarch Plus RC3/Cane Creek Effective Seat Angle: 73 degrees
Wheelset: Crank Bros. Iodine3/Industry 9 Torch Chainstay: 17 inches
Drivetrain: SRAM XO1 1×11 BB height: 13.3 inches
Bars: Thomson Carbon 12mm rise MSRP: $5,495-$6,495
Stem: Thomson Elite X4 Rating: 4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers 4.5 Chilis-out-of-5
Seatpost: Thomson Elite 31.6/RockShox Stealth

Pluses
Minuses
  • Plush travel for descending and climbing
  • Traditional looks and design not ideal for all
  • Good cornering traction
  • No water bottle in main triangle
  • Excellent in rough terrain at high speed
  • Tall head tube on smaller sizes
  • Top the line components
  • Not carbon, not flashy
  • Monarch Plus shock and Pike fork are top performers
  • Curved seat tube limits dropper post height, makes fitting difficult
  • Personalized builds and service
  • Clean external cable routing
  • Excellent welds and construction
  • Threaded BB for creak free performance
  • Traditional materials and engineering
  • Suited for XC and some enduro racing
  • Made in USA

Full Review: Durango Bikes Moonshine 650b

The Durango Bikes Moonshine is made in the USA, Durango, Colorado, to be exact. Jeff Estes and Wendy Aber fully believe in supporting their local economy and want to source a competitive product using the best components possible. It’s a bit of a throwback without carbon fiber frames and the flashy new paint schemes. But sound construction and the best engineering are harnessed to produce a good mountain bike. They have staff preparing the frame for welding that cut, miter and fixture the frame parts, pivots, links, inserts, and head badges. And they have an expert crew that welds them and puts them together. They realize that for every dollar spent on U.S. manufactured products that an additional $1.40 of economic revenue is generated in other sectors, whereas only $0.60 is generated by foreign parts. These core values are important to Durango Bike Company and its customers.

The Durango Moonshine 650b features tubes mitered and welded in the US.

The Durango Moonshine 650b features tubes mitered and welded in Colorado.

Horst Link suspension

Founder Jeff Estes believes this is the most sound suspension design possible for a mountain bike so he launched the company as soon as the patent laws allowed other manufacturers to jump in the fray. Estes has redesigned and optimized the suspension kinematics to deliver a plush and efficient bike using the Horst Link design.

The Durango Moonshine 650b in the nude finish.

The Durango Moonshine 650b in the nude finish.

Small batch spec agility

These bikes aren’t spec’d and locked in 12 months in advance like big companies. Thus Durango Bike Company has the ability to respond to market demands and component advancements. If a better brake or rear shock comes around, they can quickly change the stock spec or offer it as an option. Thus the Moonshine buyer is assured the best currently available components are spec’d on this bike. For example as soon as Estes validated that the Cane Creek DBInline, RockShox Monarch Plus, and SRAM Guide brakes are some of the best components for this bike, they quickly became available to the buyer.

Continue to page 2 for more on the Durango Moonshine 650b and full photo gallery »

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • industryfan says:

    ever since the bikeradar test showing 26ers are on average 7 seconds faster than 27.5ers on a 3.4km combine up and downhill course, I’d have to say I’d pass on this bike.

    • Shred says:

      I agree 100%. I’ll keep my 26″ American made 28lb Uzzi with 180mm travel until it breaks, if it ever does. And if it ever does, I’ll get another 26″. If I can’t find one, I’ll make one…

  • Young Person says:

    Awesome!!!!! I found the perfect enduro bike for a slow, old person!!!

  • Francis Cebedo says:

    Thank you for the comments on MacPherson Strut vs. Horst Link. We indeed meant Horst Link and have updated the article.

  • Gary says:

    Am I the only one looking at those welds? 🙁

  • Cooper says:

    @Gary… these welds look better than what I’ve seen posted elsewhere on MTBR for this bike.

  • Marquis says:

    No water bottle inside the main triangle = deal-breaker for me. I’ve had plenty of other Horst Link bikes that managed to find room for a water bottle cage, so it’s eminently do-able. Filling up the whole inside front triangle with shock and mount seems like lazy design to me.

  • Jeff says:

    Not lazy Marquis…intentional engineering attaches shock to down tube NOT top tube so your center of gravity is lowered improves handling, speed and agility…take those any day over water bottle placement. Bottle cage fits on underside of downtube.

  • Jamie Knight says:

    I got a moonshine in December and have been riding it a ton since. I can report that after testing the moonshine, bronson, nomad, mach 6, burner, and tracer, the moonshine was clearly the best overall bike especially for the price of what you get. The only bike that compared on technical descents was the nomad and the climbing advantage of the moonshine over the nomad is considerable. This bike is extremely stable while also being agile and easily maneuverable. I’ll be honest that before demoing this bike I was not expecting near as much as what I got. So before you make an opinion on this bike I highly recommend you ride it first. The welds might not be the prettiest, but they are strong and this bike is built to last. Customer service has been outstanding and nothing like when I had to deal with Santa Cruz in the past to get a replacement part on my old blur. My favorite thing about the moonshine is how well it hauls ass downhill.

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