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.
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.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.
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.