Right now I can’t imagine feeling too hot in just a t-shirt and shorts, as I climbed up the boiling hot fire roads of Hamsterley Forest. But this is my memory from my last MDE test bike, the Carve 9 29er, see my article here This bike I had in the heart of last summer for a month, it was so much fun, a tad short on travel for my liking, but it took me to my highest placed UKGE race and some of my best Strava times at the local tracks.
The Carve 7 from the small Italian bike company is MDE’s 650b (hand-built as usual) version, as raced for a whole season by UKGE director himself, Steve Parr. The bike was given to me after a full season of hammering around the British country side, with no excuses for the fact it was due a good parts overhaul. during our test we had to replace a couple of worn out bushes, a chain, a set of brake pads and tighten some spokes, but that’s racing for you, Steve does tons of riding and makes no excuses for the fact the bike has had a hard life!
I personally had had a big off at one of my local trails, I was still riding, but after sustaining a small tear to my rotator cuff, it was just the XC steady type riding! I was avoiding aggression and big hits, but as this bike is designed purely for this gnarly type or riding I figured it was time to hand over the testers reigns to a good friend of mine and highly aggressive and skillful rider, ex-DH demon, Andy Cooper. My short, stocky tattooed mate from Wales is the perfect candidate to test such a weapon, now in his mid 20’s, but having adorned many a UK National Youth DH podium of old. Having once battled amongst and held his own against current top riders the likes of Josh Bryceland and Brendan Fairclough. Andy will be entering into the Senior category for his first full season of UKGE this year, keep an eye out for his aggressive style! We gave the bike to Andy, which he kept for a month, he ripped up all the local trails, usually with myself and mates and this is what he thought-
“After seeing the Mde Carve 7 for the first time, I was very excited about riding it, it’s a big hitting and great looking bike, The Italians are well known for their flair and outlandish designs. The blue Shaman chain device and ODI bars along with the yellow Mavic wheels really make it stand out, it’s more like a crazy Lamborghini than a subdued Ferrari. The frame is bare aluminium, which not only looks good but is also also easy to clean, always a consideration for UK riders! The Italian craftsmanship can easily be seen from the tidy welds to the nice machining on the linkages, with the burly aluminium tubing it looks like it could take on any terrain.
The test bike was specced with descending in mind, the big 750mm ODI bars and short stem gave excellent control. The Shaman chain device and bash guard didn’t drop the chain once the whole time I had the bike. The Rockshox Pike fork is balanced out back by the monarch plus, and I will say, believe everything you may have read about these, the damping is totally amazing. Mavic’s flagship wheel, the Crossmax Enduro, combines strength with low weight, while the Maxxis Highroller 2s helps it rail corners with astonishing grip. The Avid xo trail brakes produced good power with lots of control, and of course a reverb dropper post does what it says on the box.
The test bike came in a medium, I’m 5 foot 7″, and while it had a nice roomy cockpit allowing plenty of space to move around, it was slightly too long for me whilst seated; quickly sliding the seat forward and lowering the seat angle resolved that problem easily. With short chain-stays (439mm), low bottom bracket (348mm) and a 67.5 degree head angle, combined with 152mm travel at the rear and 160mm at the front, and let’s not forgot about those (pretty much the norm now) 27.5” wheels. On paper it looks like a very capable bike.
The first test for any bike is the car park test, with a few wheelies and hops around the banks of the car park you can get a feeling for a bike, and straight away I felt comfortable on it, it had no awkward traits that have to be learnt like on some bikes. On the flat easy single tracks, it doesn’t perform as well as some of the lighter bigger wheeled bikes, but when the trail goes down and gets technical it becomes alive. The bike descends like no other I’ve ever ridden, the rougher and steeper the track gets the better it becomes. The short chain-stays keeps it nimble and makes hopping stumps and rocks easy, while the long top tube also makes it feels balanced and stable at high speed.
The bike seems to find grip where others wouldn’t, whether it’s wet roots rocks or off-cambers. It’s a very confidence inspiring bike and likes to be ridden aggressively, pushed hard into corners and launched off roots. The I-link suspension felt nice and plush, soaking up the small hits equally as well as the big hits. After a month of riding including some pretty big hits it didn’t once bottom out harshly, It rides more like a mini downhill bike, not once did I find that I needed more travel. The 27.5 wheels help to smooth out the rougher parts of the trail and flow that little bit better than 26” wheels I’v been used to. I always felt confident while riding the MDE and while hitting sections the fastest I ever had, I never once felt out of control.
As you’d probably expect it doesn’t climb as well as it descends, but it’s no slouch either, the I-link system does produce some pedal bob, however flicking the lever on the Monarch Plus greatly reduces it. The Rockshox Pike was the dual air model, which meant the travel could be reduced by 30mm, this steepened the head angle and really helped on the steep and technical climbs. This bike can go the distance, having done up to 55k long rides with 1400 metres of climbing.
After riding the bike for a month I’ve found myself hitting jumps and technical lines I’ve never done before, it has helped me progress my riding. The bike really inspires confidence and I have really enjoyed riding it. The MDE is ideal for a rider after a fun bike that will perform in the most technical and rough conditions.”
Thanks to Steve of SPS Distribution – www.mdebikes.com
Words: Jim Buchanan and Andrew Cooper | Photos: Doc Ward