The start of the year if you live anywhere in Northern Europe then you know the weather always turns bleak, so it’s important to have an exit strategy in Jan and Feb.
So we decided to take The Brigante to Portugal for some sun and big mountain testing. On hand to test our new creation was a full Kingdom crew; James McKnight (creator of the Vendetta) and Jim Carroll (mastermind behind The Foia). Jim lives in Lagos and runs The Mountain Bike Adventure, when he’s not guiding or designing Kingdom frames he’s been building one of the finest all mountain trails in Europe!
‘ The finest all mountain trail in Europe’ Bold words but if anyone doesn’t believe me, then I challenge you to go to Lagos and ask Jim to take you down the 10km trail that runs from the top of Monchique through some of the finest singletrack you’ll ever ride.
The trail is very long and descends through rock strewn mountain top, into fast flowy berms, morphing into tight woodland and pops you out onto tight switchbacks that finish the trail weaving through farming terraces. It has it all, thus becoming on of the finest all mountain trails in Europe…
For a week we blasted The Brigante down these trails and it made for a few interesting discoveries about The Brigantes dual personality.
On the first few runs which start from the radar station at the top of Monchique, the terrain is rocky and tight, and I was having a nightmare. She was kicking off and I was finding The Brigante hard to control through the tight corners, almost as if it was going to fast to control. I know that sounds weird given I had brakes, but with The Foia I’m used to hammering hard down all kinds of trails and still having the ability to dance through anything at the last minute, with The Brigante there was no dancing only wrestling.
On the lower part of the trail The Brigante changed personality completely as it smoothed out and became flowy /fast, she came alive and was a whole new ride, a huge smile crept onto my face as the bike railed the corners, floated over everything and rode more like a FS DH bike than a hardtail. The Brigante was as good as, if not better than any hardtail I’ve ever ridden 26” or 29”. It was most annoying to have pleasure and pain all in one ride.
The more I rode the trail, I could anticipate the tricky sections and the better the ride became better/faster/smoother, but for me it was still a two sides of a coin, the best hardtail I’d ridden and also the worst!
It was time for a second and third opinion. It was time for McKnight to have a ride. Without doubt McKnight is the most anti 29er person on the planet and after just one section of singletrack he mumbled something about a klunker and refused to ride it again. So much for the professionals opinion.James ‘Joe Breeze’ McKnight reliving the glory days.
Then Jim had a go it and its was a completely different story. Jim’s taller than me, at a guess I’d say 6 foot 3″ or something. His riding style is more complete, meaning as an ex-downhill racer he rides bikes through corners and not into corners like I do.
Jim’s ride was a very different experience altogether, he didn’t have the same battle in the corners, it was easy for him to control and guide The Brigante through the tight rocks, switchbacks and hair pins. In short a much more complete ride. A big smile ride, Everything I hated on The Brigante he loved.
So what’s our conclusions on The Brigante and long travel 29ers?
You could say Jim’s a better rider than me, which he undoubtedly is and therefore could control the bike. But I think the answer to our different experiences on The Brigante lies more in the size of the rider and how comfortable that rider feels on a long travel 29er.
For example I’m 5’10” and I’ve been riding and racing XC 29ers alomost exclusively for almost a year now and I’ve never felt like any of the bikes where too big, infact I love riding them. But in a true all mountain experience when you add 140mm of travel, raise the front end, stretch out the wheelbase and then take that bike on terrain that demands quick handling, in my opinion long travel 29er hardtails simply become too much to control for a shorter rider. If however, you’re a bigger rider (over 6′) then it’s not a problem, infact the exact opposite you get a win win, all the benefits of a 29er plus the handling of a 26″.
My theory needs proper testing so, The Brigante will be on tour in the UK through March and April and 10 lucky riders will get the opportunity to test and review it for themselves, so watch this space.
To ride ‘The finest all mountain trail in Europe’ and some other very good trails in the sun with Jim click here and get yourself down to Portugal…