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Long-Term Test: Devinci Spartan

Long-Term Test: Devinci Spartan

Devinci’s flagship enduro bike, the Spartan, returns largely unchanged this year. There are some different colors and a few different parts, but for the most part, it’s the same beast.

I’ve been spending more time on the 2015 Spartan RR that I reviewed last year, and for a more in-depth discussion on the ride characteristics and some comparisons to other bikes, check out that review. But some long-term observations are in order.

Noah Bodman reviews the 2016 Devinci Spartan for Blister Gear Review.

Noah Bodman on the Devinci Spartan, Whitefish, MT.

In short, I’m still feeling pretty good about everything I wrote in the review last year. I still have a whole lot of fun on the Spartan, and on the spectrum of low, slack bikes in the ~160mm travel ballpark, I’d still put it slightly more in the “playful” category. That playfulness is partially due to the sizing, and partially due to the Split Pivot rear suspension.

Some Notes on Geometry

As I mentioned last year, the Spartan comes in pretty small by modern sizing standards. For a comparison, look no farther than the Spartan’s sibling, the 2016 Troy. The size medium Spartan has a reach of 413 mm, while a medium Troy is 27 mm (about 1.1”) longer at 440 mm. In terms of reach, that means a medium Troy falls mid-way between a Large and Extra-Large Spartan, or in other words, the Troy is a lot longer than the Spartan. While I don’t have any sort of inside scoop on the subject, it would be entirely unsurprising if the Spartan got longer in 2017.

Aside from its length, the Spartan is very much on par with most of the other enduro bikes on the market. While it’s not extreme in any one metric, it certainly embraces the low and slack trend. In low mode, its sub 66° head angle and 337 mm (13.3”) bottom bracket height place it squarely in the “mini DH bike” category.

New Parts for 2016

For the most part, the 2016 Spartan is rolling with the same parts as the 2015 model. The main difference here is that the lineup is paired down to three different build kits, as opposed to the four offered in 2015. The top tier remains the RR build, the SX falls in the middle, and the RS build is the least expensive. Gone is last year’s lowest tier “XP” build. But fear not. The least expensive build, the RS kit on an aluminum frame, actually retails for a bit less than last year’s cheapest offering, the XP (the Spartan RS aluminum will run you $3,499). And like many of Devinci’s bikes, the three build kits are still available on both the aluminum and (for about $500 more) carbon frames.

Returning for 2016 is Rockshox suspension throughout the lineup: a Pike out front (Pike RCT3 on the RR, Pike RC on the SX and RS), and a Monarch Plus RC3 out back. The brakes and drivetrain on the higher-end models remain the same, but the more affordable RS model gets an upgrade to a GX 1×11 drivetrain and Guide R brakes. The middle of the line SX model, despite a decrease in price, gets a wheel upgrade to the DT Swiss E1900 Spline, as opposed to the semi-generic Jalco’s on the 2015 model.

Aside from those changes, there are some relatively minor tweaks to cockpit bits in the lineup, but for the most part, the builds remain the same. And that’s not a bad thing—Devinci put together some strong build kits last year, so if it’s not broke…

Durability and Long-Term Update

Speaking of broke…

I’ve got nothing. The Spartan has survived quite a bit of abuse, including hacking my way down a bunch of trails in Whistler that are more appropriate for a DH bike. It’s been ridden hard, put away wet, and I’ve applied my usual laissez faire attitude towards maintenance, which is to say, I haven’t done much.

The only issue I’ve had concerns the bottom bracket. First, in the least surprising turn of events since the inception of press fit BB’s, it creaks a bit. Second, one of the bottom bracket bearings seized and attached itself quite firmly to the spindle. That required some swearing and a Dremel to fix, but ultimately wasn’t the end of the world, nor was it particularly expensive to fix.

Noah Bodman reviews the 2016 Devinci Spartan for Blister Gear Review.

Noah Bodman on the Devinci Spartan, Whitefish, MT.

Aside from that, everything has been running smoothly. I’ve had zero issues with the pivots and suspension, and aside from the occasional bottom bracket creak, everything is quiet and running smoothly.

If I really dig deep to find things to complain about, I’d reiterate my gripe that the 18 points of engagement on DT Swiss hubs is complete shit, and any high end hub should have (at an absolute minimum) twice that. But the hubs have worked well and they’re durable, so there’s that.

I’d also say that the Easton Havoc 35 carbon bar that came on my 2015 Spartan is too stiff and it beats the snot out of my hands on long descents (for some reason, my hands contain snot in this metaphor). But that’s irrelevant, since none of the 2016 models have any Easton parts. I’ve swapped out the bar for a Raceface SixC, which I find to be a whole lot more comfortable.

My only other complaint is that the frame still doesn’t fit a water bottle cage. This is hardly rare amongst longer-travel bikes these days, but it sucks. Or, more accurately, wearing a backpack sucks, and I’m not cool enough (or uncool enough?) to wear a fanny pack. Um, I mean lumbar belt. So, Devinci, if you’re listening: if and when you tweak the Spartan to make it longer, please find a way to cram a water bottle cage in there.

Bottom Line

The Spartan remains a stiff, capable bike for going really fast downhill. But despite that, it retains acceptable pedaling characteristics, and it’s pretty poppy and playful when compared to some of the other bikes in this category. It’s good at pumping and building speed on rollers, and it can still handle big hits gracefully.

The 2016 model sees a few welcome tweaks to the build kits, and while the high end RR model is still pretty spendy, the RS model is more affordable than ever.

But perhaps the most important question should be: if I was going to do it all over again, would I buy another Spartan? Yup, I would. Although I might size up to a Large next time.

 

9 Comments

  1. sean May 20, 2016 Reply

    Great write up.
    I am really interested in the Spartan but do not have any dealers near by so I can’t test ride one.
    Any chance you have ridden the Enduro 29 or Salsa Horsethief and can compare?
    I own a Horsethief but have borrowed an Enduro 29 a few times. I felt the Enduro climbs well (it was about 2lbs lighter than my Salsa) and feels good going down rocky trails but with the high front end and bottom bracket feel my Salsa corners better.
    The Spartan sounds like it strikes a good balance between playfulness and straight line stability.
    I am just worried I’ll suffer on the climbs.
    The new Troy looks really good too. I just like the Spartan because of the extra versatility. I could ride my local trails one day and the bike park the next.

    thanks

    • Noah May 21, 2016 Reply

      Hey Sean,

      I have a bit of time on both the Horsethief and the Enduro 29. The first and most obvious difference is that the Spartan is rolling on 27.5″ wheels vs the 29″ wheels on those two. Generally speaking, I’d say that makes the Spartan feel a bit more maneuverable, but a little less inclined to just steamroll over stuff.

      Compared to the Horsethief, I’d say the Spartan is a lot more bike. I’d place the Horsethief at the XC-ish end of the “aggressive 29er trail bikes.” So the Horsethief is plenty capable on the descents, but compared to some of the other bikes in that class, I think it climbs a bit better and is better suited to long XC rides. The Spartan, on the other hand, will go uphill alright, but you’re not going to get around the fact that the bike is really designed for descending.

      Compared to the Enduro 29, the Spartan feels quite a bit more maneuverable and playful. They’re both big bikes that like to go downhill fast, but the Enduro 29 feels like a bit more of a handful in tight spots. On the climbs, the Enduro 29 probably wins out by a little bit since (assuming equivalent build kits) its a bit lighter, and the big wheels make climbing techy trails easier.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Matt May 22, 2016 Reply

    I have the Spartan, and Id buy another. Actually, if Devinci adds an XXL, or lengthens the XL next year, Id sell mine and buy another. I keep looking at and trying other bikes, and not buying them because they might climb better, but decent like shit, or vice versa, and my Spartan does everything pretty well!

  3. Will September 12, 2016 Reply

    Hi Noah,

    Great follow-up, I recall reading your first article on the Spartan a while back. I’m trying to figure out sizing for a Spartan myself. You mentioned if you bought again you might bump up to the Large, would you mind going into a bit more detail on that and perhaps including your height? Much appreciated!

    Cheers,
    Will

    • Noah September 12, 2016 Reply

      Hey Will,

      I’m 5’9″, so on a bike like the Spartan, I can be pretty comfortable on either a medium or a large. That said, longer bikes feel a bit more stable, and I’ve generally embraced the industry trend towards longer bikes. Like I mentioned, for a given size, the Devinci Troy is over an inch longer in the front end than the Spartan, and I prefer that. The extra room to move around in the cockpit makes it easier to keep my weight centered-ish on rough trails. It does make for a bit more work to push the bike around in tight spots, and the bike feels less whippy and playful, but I’m ok with that, at least for the trails I ride most often.

      I tend to look at reach when assessing how big a bike will feel – there’s plenty of other numbers that factor in, but I think reach tells the sizing story as well as any single number can. For a bike like the Spartan (i.e. longer travel, slack, “enduro” bike), I personally like a reach somewhere around 430mm. But that number is definitely pretty subjective – I know a few guys that are shorter than me that would prefer a longer bike, and I know guys that are taller than me that like a smaller bike. If you’re unsure on sizing, try to ride a bunch of different bikes, and pay attention to the fit, especially while standing. Then check the geometry charts for those bikes and see how they measure up compared to the Spartan. That should at least give you a rough idea of what size might work best for you.

      Hope that helps!
      -Noah

      • Lucas April 17, 2017 Reply

        I’m in a similar boat, I have a 2014 medium Spartan that I love and that I have convinced myself is the right size since I got an incredible deal on it! I’m 5’10 and a bit, and in 2014 the Devinci website had 5’10” as the top end for height for the medium so I thought “Sure, I want a flickable bike, it’ll do.” But lately I have been feeling like a large would be better, I’ve got the seat slammed back and I still feel like I could stretch out a bit further. I ride in Nelson, BC, where the nimbleness of a medium is appreciated but the stability would also be appreciated on the chunder, of which there is plenty. I know reach subjective, and I like a pretty upright riding position, but I think I can find that on the large but have a bit more flexibility in the fit. Also, as if to support my (thoroughly unscientific) thesis, the website now has the medium topping out at 5’9″!!! I’ve got a line on a 2016 large frame that I think I will pull the trigger on, its so hard, every time I get on the medium I think, “Oh, this is fine!” and I am loathe to go into the bike shop and say “hey can I test ride a large so I can then go off and buy a used frame from someone else?” but I might at least go in and sit on one, just to see how it feels. Great review, great bike.

        • Lucas April 17, 2017 Reply

          Woops, just had a look and the height recommendations haven’t changed. Still, I think the large is the way to go for me.

  4. Brian October 5, 2016 Reply

    Noah,

    Thanks for the review. I haven’t had my Spartan RR for very long. It definitely loves to send it and is way more nimble than my last bike (GT Sanction). It’s night and day. On the flats and climbs the Spartan is super comfortable for me compared to the Sanction. Now that I’ve compared and contrasted 2 totally different bikes, I’m finding I like the Mac truck feel (gt sanction) a little more on the descent even though the Sanction is a dog on the flats and climbs. the Spartan feels a little looser than I am ready for I think. What’s a good bike in between the Spartan RR and the GT Sanction? If anyone is interested, I might be putting the Spartan RR up for sale soon.

    Thanks Noah in advance!

    • Noah October 6, 2016 Reply

      Hey Brian,

      Similar to the 29er roundup that we posted a couple days ago, we’ll be doing a 27.5 roundup with quick comparisons to a bunch of bikes. That should be up in 2-3 weeks. Until then, here’s a rough ranking of “enduro” bikes, from more versatile (i.e. closer to a trail bike), to more aggressive (i.e. closer to a DH bike). There’s a few of these that I haven’t personally spent time on, but I’m taking a guess as to where they’d land based on conversations with some of our other reviewers – I’m putting those bikes in (parentheses) just to note that I might be a bit off as to where they should rank.

      Marin Attack Trail
      Specialized Enduro 650 (old / 2016 version)
      Transition Patrol
      Devinci Spartan
      (Santa Cruz Nomad)
      (Specialized Enduro) (new / 2017 version)
      Giant Reign
      GT Sanction
      Pivot Firebird (new / 2017 version)

      There’s obviously a few other contenders (Yeti SB6, Trek Remedy / Slash, YT Capra, etc.), but I’m not sure where they’d fall on the list.

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