BERGAMONT Fastlane FS – Intro and First Ride Impressions: by c_g
OK, here in Germany we are still on the outskirts of winter with temps often dropping below freezing and trails only partly open – so we gladly accepted German bike manufacturer BERGAMONT´s invitation to the launch of their new FASTLANE 29″ers on the island of Majorca, Spain. We all were hoping for spring temps and riding conditions but it turned out to be more like 5-10C and frequent rain, but who cares, I got to ride …
Some may remember that we had already given you a preview of the 2013 BERGAMONT Fastlane during our Eurobike´12 coverage (here). Only now I get to ride the bike. I was really anxious to find out whether they had managed to adorn the Fastlane full suspension 29″er with the same agility and playfulness as I had come to love in their Revox hard tail, which I have been using as testing platform for a good part of 2013.
The Fastlane is BERGAMONT´s first 29″er full suspension bike and their first full carbon susser, too. By design it is a 100 mm bike, aimed squarely at XC- and Marathon racing, with a good potential for trail use as well.
The Frame: Of course the Fastlane pushes the limits of stiffness and weight as much as possible. For this the frame is incorporating different construction technologies, like two monocoque structures (head tube and a good portion of the top and bottom tube as one piece, bottom bracket section and seat tube as another) and joining procedures like tube-to-tube and sleeved joints. BERGAMONT calls this elaborate way of building a frame CMC („Carbon Multi Connect“). Besides the industry standard inner sleeve, the head tube and bottom bracket section get a special inner mold made of PU that ensures perfect integrity of every carbon fiber. As can be seen in the pictures, the result is a very smooth and clean inner surface.
Of course the frame features all the stiffness enhancing standards tapered head tube (here for Zero stack head sets), a PF92 bottom bracket, a 142/12 rear axle … and for XC standards rather huge pivot bearings and a large carbon linkage unit.
Brakes are post mount (unfortunately limited to 160 mm max.) and the front derailleur is a high direct mount. The rear brake hose and shifting cable (in one full length housing) run externally along the down tube. Only the front derailleur cable is running internally in the top tube with the exit port right where the top tube splits to meet the seat tube.
As well unusual for a XC bike but very welcome by us is the provision for a stealth style running dropper post – visible by the little plastic plug in the pic above. I asked why there was the pronounced bend in the down tube near the bottom bracket and besides assisting the appearance, the idea was that one could run a big water bottle inside the frame triangle – even in size small!! I am a hydration pack kind of guy but I am sure this will make many a rider happy to hear.
A frame size med (with all hardware, but w/o shock) is claimed to have a weight close to 1980 g (4.36 lbs).
Sizing and Geometry: There will be 4 sizes of the Fastlane 29″er, ranging from S (17“ seat tube) to XL (21“). There are some interesting tweaks to the geometry, not typically found on XC-oriented frames – one is the slack 69,5° head tube angle angle (accompanied by a climbing friendly steep 74.5° seat angle), second the rather short chain stay length of 440 mm (17.3“) and last but not least, the low bottom bracket with a 45 mm bottom bracket drop drop.
I admit – these figures got me interested .
Models: For 2013 there will be three versions of the Fastlane 29″er – all with the identical full- carbon frame.
At the top, there is the Fastlane MGN (MGN stands for „Mehr Geht Nicht“ or „More Goes Not“) with a not soo over the top € 4999.- price tag. Componentry is pretty top end as well – a complete SRAM XX group (incl. brakes, only the front derailleur is from the X.0) , REYNOLDS AL 29″er wheels and lots of light carbon pieces all over. For suspension duties you find a F32 Float CTD 100mm fork and a FOX Float High Volume CTD shock – both Kashima coated and Factory series … of course. In that spec our test sample weighed a race worthy 10.67kg (23.52 lbs). As usual for BERGAMONT – the MGN version is rather understated with only a few color highlights adorning the matte carbon frame.
Next in line is the blue/white/black Fastlane Team with a slightly downgraded spec list (ROCK SHOX SID RL fork and Monarch shock, SRAM X.9 drive train, REYNOLDS Al29 wheels and Elixir 7 SL brakes). At a stated weight of 11 kg / 24.25 lbs it may have gained a bit of weight, but sure is easier on the bank – Msp is € 3799.-. Doesn’t sound bad for a more budget marathon bike, does it.
Third in line is the Fastlane 9.3 with an even more mid range component spec, a claimed weight of 11.6 kg / 25,56 lbs and a Msrp of € 3199.-. Noteworthy are the 3×10 SHIMANO XT/SLX-drive train, that make it interesting for the tourer and occasional endurance racer alike.
So much for the introduction of the BERGAMONT Fastlane, now let´s take it out on the Majorcan island trails and see how it does there.
The suggested testing loop during the two day event has been pretty well suited for the bikes designated application. At about 7 km (or 4.3 miles) it allowed each rider to take several loops and experiment with settings. The only thing missing from it were really technical sections, other than that it had flowy rolling sections, rough baby head boulders, steep uphills (smooth and rough alike), fast winding gravel roads, and a rather bouncy downhill …anything you would usually ride with a bike like this.
Immediately noticeable was how well the positive handling characteristics were carried over from the Revox. It may not be quite as agile and nimble as the hard tail, but among comparable XC full sussers it features an exemplary handling. Every little steering input is immediately put into action – the Fastlane can be steered very easily both by actual steering through the bars or simply by shifting your weight. By my first impressions I would rate handling and agility very good and very fun.
At 1.83m (6 ft) and pretty standard proportions, I seem to be right between frame size M and L. Since there were mostly frames size M to be ridden, I needed to run the 400 mm post at full extension. I tried a size L once but found myself too stretched for my taste. Still I found the seating position to be nicely neutral and central. The negative rise stem with the flat bar put me into a low riding position, which may be a bit too much for some – I found it quite okay for myself, even for longer rides. Once I experimented with the seating position and turned the stem by 180° and to my positive surprise it ended up being more upright, but only marginally less effective and climbable.
As common practice these days to achieve a short rear end, the seat tube is shifted forward and slightly bent. By that the weight distribution often is more sensitive to seat post extension and with my post being out all the way, I had expected to find some issues with the Fastlane´s climbing attributes, but instead I found the bike to storm up anything I dared to climb with the 2×10 gearing – thanks to the steep seating angle. Still, it was remarkably easy to lift the bike into a wheelie and keep it there. By that, the Fastlane perfectly strikes the fine line between positively agile handling, and still awesome climbing traits.
The SCHWALBE Racing Ralphs were not really the ideal tire for the terrain, but they allowed to see how controlled the bike still handled, when tires were giving way. Thanks to the great weight distribution, frame stiffness and trail friendly angles, I never felt insecure even in sketchy sections.
Much to my astonishment – the rear suspension didn’t win my favor in the first runs – on the uphills it was noticeably pogoing in the granny ring (only to be tamed by a strong platform setting) and on the downhills it became rather bouncy. For the first half of the day I experimented with all possible settings and pressures, but i never came away impressed. Late in the afternoon, I had the chance to ride another bike and all of a sudden I was riding on a bike that didn’t only shine by handling, but also by suspension performance. WOW! I could hammer up the uphills with a fully open shock and never felt traction or comfort to suffer. On the downhills the tires felt like they were glued to the ground, and they followed the trails contours with ease. Only when the obstacles got big enough to challenge any other 100mm full suspension rig, would it reach its limits. In the end I switched to a third MGN test bike and again, found no reason to complain. So in the end I had to attribute my initial criticism to a defective shock.
Short Test Verdict: This two days with the BERGAMONT Fastlane were rather interesting. Had I had to give a verdict after the first bike, I would have given it a perfect score for geometry, handling and high limits … but a real deficit in the suspension performance. By riding two other samples, that worked exactly as they should – effective, yet secure and comfortable – I came to the conclusion that the BERGAMONT Fastlane is a well rounded and capable bike. All in all the balance it strikes in terms of fun, handling, weight, stiffness and suspension performance is very good – I didn’t find any real reason to complain, so I end up really liking the 2013 BERGAMONT Fastlane.