Review: Durango Bikes Moonshine 650b

160mm of dialed Horst Link travel

27.5 All Mountain Trail
The flask accessory goes well with this bike.

The flask accessory goes well with this bike.

Cornering and descending ability

This is where the Moonshine excels as the Horst Link rear suspension is dialed and it is complemented nicely by the RockShox Pike fork with a 67 degree head angle. The rear is quite supple, as it handles big hits and square edge bumps well. We’ve tried the bike with the Cane Creek Double Barrel rear shock and the RockShox Monarch Plus. Both take the big hits well with the Cane Creek much better at the small bump compliance and the RockShox better at pedaling efficiency.

Jeff Estes of Durango bikes is seen here taking a corner in Santa Cruz.

Jeff Estes of Durango bikes taking a corner in Santa Cruz.

The 13.3-inch bottom bracket height is perfect and drops even lower at the sagged position. So it does corner and carve rather well. The 17-inch chainstay length with Industry Nine wheelset gives it a quick and laterally stiff rear end for agile singletrack performance.

Climbing performance

Climbing is good as this interpretation of the Horst Link rear doesn’t bob too much. And with the mid-stroke support of the RockShox Monarch Plus rear shock, we were able to do big climbs in the wide open position. At times, we forgot we were riding a 160mm travel aluminum bike because it felt nimble on rollers and climbs much like a lightweight trail bike.

On rough climbs, this bike really shined. Traction was excellent and the suspension remained active under power when climbing stair-step style rocks. Our only niggle is the front end is high and we had to really work on fit and stem angle to get the handlebar position low enough for our liking.

We tested the Durango Moonshine 650b extensively at the Santa Cruz and Demo Forest trails.

We tested the Durango Moonshine 650b extensively on the Santa Cruz and Demo Forest trails.

Looks and styling

It is not an orange carbon bike available with matching grips, wheel decals and six different color combos. It is more of a raw, industrial looking bike available in nude or orange finish. So it’s not for everyone. But the discerning buyer looking for a well thought-out U.S. made bike will be pleased.

Details and fit

We’re not jazzed that there’s no water bottle mount inside the front triangle. This bike was really optimized for frame shock position and that took up all the real estate.

The head tube on our small frame was quite tall too, and that made the handlebar height high for our liking. We adjusted it with a negative rise stem. This is less of an issue with the larger sizes.

The Durango Moonshine 650b head badge matches the frame well.

The Durango Moonshine 650b head badge matches the frame.

And finally, the curved seat tube effects the saddle position and the maximum dropper post height allowed. On the small size, we were able to install a 125mm dropper. The good news is Estes and crew will expertly guide you through the fit and the best options for you. Their customer service is superb.

Bottom line

This is a unique, American-made bike that really looks out for the mountain biker and the local economy. Every component is chosen for a reason. With a bike this good, we think these core values will resonate with a lot of riders.

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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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