In between my travels, I showed up to a couple local rides recently on the Motobecane Fantom 29 and folks had a ton of questions for me about the shiny bike I was riding. What is it? How does it ride? Is it full XTR?
A few rides in, I’m happy to report that the bike checks out. It rides as a proper hardtail should, responsive yet smooth. Titanium frames are often a tricky bunch as some can have too much flex in them and be sluggish and handle poorly. But the Motobecane has a stiff front end with its stiff head tube area and it steers accurately with the Rockshox fork. The rear end is stiff laterally as well and this bike carves the singletrack well.
On climbing, I rocketed past a couple of my peers on their titanium hardtails even though my fitness is lacking this season. I’ll credit some of that to this bike as it is 22 lbs and the bottom bracket is plenty stiff to transmit power to the ground.
We’ll let the photos tell the story here but we are pleased by the shaping of the tubes and the quality of the welds. Tubes are oversized and the big down tube is bent to meet up with the top tube to save space and maximize weld area with on the join with the short head tube. The join at the seat tube area is clean as well. Bent stays, Ritchey dropouts and a standard BB area all check out as well so we are pleased with this frame. And it doesn’t cost over $2000 like most carbon frames these days.
The real story here is the full XTR drivetrain. It’s a 2×10 system with full XTR on the shifters, derailleurs, crank and brakes. These components are the best in class and are normally unattainable for a bike under $7000. Shimano has excelled in braking in the last couple years and the XTR brakes are their flagship. Shifting is clean and accurate as nothing shifts like an XTR, especially in the front where the design and materials of the crank and front shifter work in concert to deliver a clean shift under power.
The components are good, but not quite up to par with the frame and the XTR bits. Vuelta wheels, Ritchey stem, post and bars and WTB saddle do the job, but can be upgraded according to personal preference. The Maxxis Aspen tires are ok and are fast enough, but we’d rather see bigger tires that offer more cush and traction for a hardtail. A nice wide rim and tubeless 2.3 Schwalbe tires would probably be our next upgrade. The bars were too short for us and the stem too long, so we quickly replaced it with a 70mm stem and 720mm bar.
The RockShox fork is a highlight, as it is very smooth throughout its 100mm of travel. Steering is accurate and the lockout is handy for this hardtail.
The test rider is 5’8″ and normally rides a medium or 17″ frame. But this bike 17.5″ bike was slightly too big. Their sizing recommends this size rider to be on a 15.5″ inch frame so we would say that their sizing runs big as we’ve never been sized with a 15.5″ before. So heed their guidelines:
15.5″ fits up to 5’8, 17.5″ fits up to 5’10”
19″ fits up to 6’1″, 21″ fits 6’3 and taller*
- MaxleLite 15mm Through-axle Rockshox Forks (tapered steerer)
- NEW Ti29er Frame design with Titanium 3AL/2.5V Butted and Geometric Multishaped tubes
- Tapered Head Tube 1.125″ to 1.5″ Zero Stack for improved steering response
- Ti SForm Downtube, OptiCurve seat tube
- Shorter chain stays for better climbing with clearance for most 2.35″ tires
- MSRP $4999
We received the bike 90% assembled. We bolted the remaining parts together and hit the trail. The bike looks great and made us look like rock stars. So it does check out and we’re happy with our our first Motobecane bike experience. Construction looks good, the bike is light at 22 lbs and rides very well up and down. Weight of the bike was 22.75 lbs with inner tubes and light pedals and we were able to drop it to 22 lbs by converting to tubeless.
We’ll call personal preference on some of the components, but some folks may be ok with it as this is an XC Race bike after all. But give us meatier tubeless tires, wider bars and a better saddle and this bike can keep us smiling for a long time.
The greatest story and enigma here is the question of value. This bike has an MSRP of $5000 and it is a very fair price since it is full XTR and Titanium in a well designed frame. But peeking in to the Bikesdirect website shows that it is currently selling for much, much less. The website is a bit difficult to decipher, but we found the bike here and it really looks like a deal at that price.
We’re happy to report that the bike rides well and we’ll put many more miles in it and report back.