In all the years I have ridden bikes I have never once tried out anything made in the the land of Ferrari, Ducati or Armani, so it was with some excitement that I arrived at the UKGE race in Hamsterley to pick up this, MDE 29er version of the tried and tested Carve model. The reason I was picking it up from UK Gravity Enduro race being that Steve Parr (race organiser) also brings the MDE brand into the UK. In the week prior to this race Steve had rang to inform me it would be there “race on it if you want kid, it’s a test bike kitted out with the UK MDE team components after all” fair enough I thought, you’re on! The week before saw me looking through the stats on MDE’s website, 341mm BB height and a 1138mm wheel base sounded good, but I have to admit that after getting used to the slack 65% head angle on my GT the idea of a 70 degree HA was a bit of a concern.
The model I had looked at on the site was a stealthy looking black beast with black components and white graphics, but this test model couldn’t have looked any more different if it tried. It came in lacquered alloy, with quite garish blue graphics and lots of anodised blue components, I wasn’t too sure about the look, thinking it had a bit of a mid 90’s style about it, but I have to admit it certainly looks different and has certainly grown on me since. I also wasn’t too sure about the Maxxis Ardent Lust 2.25 tubeless tyres, they also seemed a bit summer-ish, lacking in mud grip, lucky that the Hamsterley round ended up bone dry really.
On riding this bike it did feel quite tall at first, but maybe that’s just the 29er thing, but at no point did I seem to struggle negotiating the tight turns, of which Hamsterley had many. Although I would say there were a couple of times on drops and certain rooty, big hitting sections where I felt the bike was at it’s limit of the 130mm of rear travel, with the Fox 34 CTD forks working overtime to compensate. But this was massively over-ruled by this bikes rolling\pedalling ability. Once things had dried up on the track it was a matter of point and squirt, after making myself trust the narrow little Maxxis tyres. The I Link System suspension worked faultlessly and had a real look of simplicity and ease of maintenance about it. The chain device Steve had added was a Shaman, it worked well, but did have a bit of a constant hum of the chain travelling through it (although this was probably a minor fettling issue) gear shifting was smooth and efficient, courtesy of the nice short cage Shimano Zee rear mech. Braking was fine, with the Avid XO Trail System never letting me down. I was impressed by the ODI bar\stem combo, especially as the stem had open windows in the front for perfect bar line marking set up. Out of all the components, I was most impressed by the mega stiff, 24 fat alloy spoked, hand built Fulcrum Red Metal 29 XL wheels, they just seemed so strong, and after two weeks of hard testing they are still straighter than James Bond! Also worth really bearing in mind is the fact these frames are hand built in Italy and for a few extra quid on ordering you can request each and every angle to be built to your spec, how factory is that!!!
Once I had spent a good hour warming up on this bike and starting to trust it, I realised that not once had I thought the 70% head angle was too steep, the bike feeling stable at speed and nailing it down the steepest of decents. During practice I never really felt any faster than usual, I could keep up with people I normally can, but there was a relative ease in which I could do it, with it taking less effort than on the GT 26″. Finally it came to qualifying then racing, at which point I noticed the difference, Seeding 4th and finishing 6th (after a silly crash) at that point I realised just how fast this bike is!
Since the race I have taken it on a couple of rides, one of which being my favourite Coed Y Brenin, where thanks to Strava and my mate Andrew Bickley (he has the same GT as me and is the same speed). Well now I really have fallen for this bike, Andy could slightly pull away on some of the tighter corners on the long DH sections, only to be reeled in at a super fast pace as I pulled off some downhill pedalling. Plus, and this is a biggy for me being a Strava freak, I got my first King of the Mountain that day at Coedy and absolutely pissed on all my uphill times on this bike, what more can I say!
Massive thanks to Steve Parr of sps-distribution.co.uk
Frame only £1669:00
Team bike build £TBA
Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Doc Ward (http://www.doc-photography.com/)