First Ride: The New Devinci Spartan
A storied history. In the mountain biking world, representing your country at the World Championships in the hopes of claiming the rainbow stripes is the pinnacle of elite racing. Sponsors pull out all the stops, providing their riders with custom builds and paint jobs for their bikes, helmets and jerseys with the hopes of seeing their products elevated to the top of the podium alongside their athletes. It was for the 2013 World Champs in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa that the first iterations of the Devinci Spartan were conceived.
Dave Weagle, along with Devinci’s Gabe Fox and Nigel Reeves worked to design a bike for the late Stevie Smith that incorporated Dave and Devinci’s patented Split Pivot design into a shorter travel bike that handled like their Wilson DH bike but was better suited for the flatter, more pedally, high-speed South African track. At the time, everyone was still racing 26” wheels and this un-named prototype, short-travel, air-sprung, 650b (27.5”) bike caught a lot of press. With a ton of momentum and a new bike well suited for the course, Stevie was a favorite to win. He backed it up with the fastest time in training, only to bobble out of the gate and see his chance at the title slip away on race day. Despite the error, Stevie went on to send goon airs and no handers down the track. He quickly shook it off and went on to win the DH World Cup overall that season, the first Canadian to accomplish such a task.
The following spring, Devinci released this “super bike” with a few minor tweaks and a carbon frame under the Spartan moniker. It was a mini DH bike capable of handling everything from bike parks to all day rides. A bike up for anything and everything one could throw at it, but efficient enough that you could pedal to the top. The Split Pivot made the 165 mm of rear travel feel bottomless while being pedal-able with the shock fully open. It featured geometry closer to a DH bike than any all mountain bike at the time, making it an aggressive trail bike rider’s dream. But the Spartan wasn’t futureproof. Shortly after its release, the bike industry started pushing longer top tube and reach measurements while suspension designs were becoming more progressive.
Jump to today. After months of rumors, anticipation and spy shots surfacing a month or so back, Devinci has unveiled their latest bike, an updated Spartan featuring new linkage, a metric shock, Devinci’s first full carbon frameset (all other bikes feature aluminum chain stays) and of course, modern longer reach geometry and room in the front triangle for a water bottle.
Earlier this year, evo’s Chris Shalbot got the chance to get out with Devinci/evo rider Matthew Slaven, who had direct input on the updated Spartan. Matthew had this to say about the new bike:
The new Spartan is the next generation of Devinci trail bikes. It’s a long and poppy bike thanks to a more progressive linkage, but then when you let off the brakes it still has that Hulk-smash, super-fast DH bike feeling. It’s got the perfect amount of playfulness without losing its heritage. Rather than keep the sizing the same as our other models released recently, we grew the reach even more to stay on the leading side of the sizing curve.
Our test ride took us to Bellingham’s steep and natural trails – terrain that could really highlight this rig’s capabilities. The climb to the top of Surf N Turf is not too steep but rather a consistent, unrelenting fire road gaining 2200 feet in about 2.5 miles, the perfect test of the new Spartan’s pedaling efficiency. The first thing I noticed was the reach – on the first-generation Spartan, I found myself between the medium and large frame sizes. This felt much more like the 440 mm reach Troy I had become accustomed to. The test bike came equipped with the 12spd XO1 Eagle drivetrain. It was comforting to have that bailout 50 tooth out back if needed, but the Spartan kept motoring up the road even in the fully open position thanks to a frame that is nearly a pound lighter and the tried and true Split Pivot platform.
On the downhill, the new Spartan is every bit as capable on steep, rooted and rock infested trails as its predecessor but in a more playful package thanks to the revamped linkage that resembles Devinci’s Troy and Django models. As Matthew stated, the bike stays true to its origins, tracking straight when held wide open. Surf N Turf is a mix of off camber roots, steep fall line and highspeed traverses with holes and rollers that require pumping and doubling to carry speed. The Spartan stayed planted and held its line in the rough but its new found nimbleness was the obvious improvement, popping off everything in its path. Overall, the new Spartan is far more forgiving in the sense that you don’t need to ride like Stevie to feel like you’re getting everything out of the bike – and if you do, it’s every bit as capable, if not more capable than the original prototype form 2013 thanks to the longer geometry.
Mountain bikes continue to get lighter, longer and more capable both up and down, and the new Spartan is no exception. If you’ve ridden the Troy, and liked its aggressive nature but are looking for more travel and stability on raw, steep and fast rides, look no further. The new Devinci Spartan is everything long-travel bike should be for today and the distant future.
2018 Spartan Highlights
- 170mm front and 165mm rear
- Frame accommodate 170mm dropper posts
- Adjustable head tube 65˚in low setting & 65.4˚in high setting
- Trunnion mounted metric shock
- Full carbon frameset including chainstays
- 310g lighter frame than predecessor
- Kevlar reinforced carbon skid plate
- Integrated Di2 housing under skid plate
- Clearance for 38t chainring
- Updated internal cable guides
- Water bottle compatible
- 12×148 Boost spacing
- 4 builds available: XT Di2, X01 Eagle, GX Eagle and NX
- Aluminum frame to be released later this year