2015 Devinci Spartan Carbon SX (discontinued)

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Discontinued
2015 Devinci Spartan Carbon SX  Devinci SPARTAN CARBON SX bike
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Tested: 2015 Devinci Spartan Carbon SX

Rating: Vital Review

Reviewed by Brandon Turman // Action photos by Courtney Steen

Every year at the UCI Downhill World Championships, the Pros are treated to one-off bikes, custom colors, special tunes, and the best of the best in an effort to propel them to the top of the box and the top of the world. Back in 2013, Devinci's Stevie Smith rolled out of the pits on a prototype 165mm travel rig paired with a unique 175mm travel RockShox BoXXer. The purpose built Pietermaritzburg killer was designed to excel on the course's blend of a steep and hairy upper section, big blasty jumps, and a good deal of mashing on the pedals on the way to the finish line. At Read More »

Reviewed by Brandon Turman // Action photos by Courtney Steen

Every year at the UCI Downhill World Championships, the Pros are treated to one-off bikes, custom colors, special tunes, and the best of the best in an effort to propel them to the top of the box and the top of the world. Back in 2013, Devinci's Stevie Smith rolled out of the pits on a prototype 165mm travel rig paired with a unique 175mm travel RockShox BoXXer. The purpose built Pietermaritzburg killer was designed to excel on the course's blend of a steep and hairy upper section, big blasty jumps, and a good deal of mashing on the pedals on the way to the finish line. At the time the bike's 650b wheels were a novelty, and combined with the longer travel and lower, slacker geometry, suspension designer Dave Weagle was forced to put the shock in a different place than previous Devinci bikes.

Back at the office plans were already underway for the all-new Spartan, a bike brought together side-by-side with Stevie's ride, but tweaked to suit the needs of an enduro racer a bit better. Shortly after its introduction Damien Oton locked in his first Enduro World Series race win. So the proof is there - this bike is capable of hauling ass under some of the best riders in the world, taming some daunting terrain along the way. But how does it stack up against the competition? After three months of good times it's time to fill you in on the details.

Highlights

  • Monocoque carbon frame with aluminum chainstay
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 165mm (6.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) fork travel
  • Split Pivot suspension
  • Tapered headtube
  • Adjustable hi/lo geometry via rear shock mount
  • Internal cable routing
  • Aluminum skid plate
  • Enduro bearings with double-lip seals
  • BB92 press fit bottom bracket shell with ISCG 05 mounts
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Frame weight (claimed, size Medium with shock and hardware): 7.1-pounds (3.2kg)
  • $5,899 MSRP complete

At the heart of the Spartan is Weagle's Split Pivot suspension design, highlighted by the easily recognized concentric dropout pivot. The shock is actuated by the seat stays, and the compact 3D-forged Axis Link pivots at the seat tube to control the leverage ratio and the way the bike reacts to braking. Devinci describes the complete system as being able to "separate acceleration forces from braking forces for synchronized feel." All pivot points use Enduro double-lip sealed bearings and it cycles as smooth as can be with the shock removed.

Another standout feature is the bike's rather robust appearance. There's a very large, boxy bottom bracket area mated to a massive downtube. Somehow they've managed to maintain smooth lines though, and despite the initial beefcake appearance it's actually quite smooth looking.

Devinci’s exclusive carbon blend uses "cross-hatched and unidirectional carbon fiber layers bolstered by high-strength epoxy resins and finished with a blast of Nano powder additive." The frame is EPS molded for high compaction and a smooth surface inside and out, which is key to the strength of carbon and keeping weight low. All said and done the carbon version drops 1.5-pounds off the weight of the aluminum frame.

More features include adjustable hi/lo geometry, a post mount rear brake, BB92 press fit bottom bracket, ISCG 05 mounts, direct front derailleur mount, sufficient mud clearance for up to a 2.5-inch tire, and rubberized chainstay protection on both sides of the bike. There's also an aluminum skid plate at the base of the downtube that could probably withstand a solid 50/50 case on a log without issue (sorry, we didn't try).

Cable routing is mostly internal, save some external bits along the stays. Devinci's system does a great job of sealing the frame from the elements and while washing the bike. There are no internal guides and the entrance ports don't retain much tension, so cable rattle is an issue and may require you to get a little crafty. Our solution involved wrapping the housing with electrical tape while pulling them tight from both ends. Aside from that, there was no rubbing, kinking, or odd wear to report.

Though we never would have admitted it several years ago, we've become increasingly fond of water bottle mounts on trail and enduro bikes. Sadly the Spartan comes up short on this detail.

The 2015 Spartan Carbon is available in four complete builds ranging from the affordable $3,899 XP model to the decked out $6,599 RR version. Our SX test bike slots in at $5,899. If you prefer a custom build, you can pick up a carbon frame and shock for $2,499. It also comes in aluminum models.

Geometry

Note: The first top tube (TT1) measurement is based on a seatpost with a 25mm (1-inch) setback. TT2 is the traditional effective top tube measurement to the center of the seat tube.

On The Trail

We were able to ride the Spartan in several locations, including the rocky trails in Flagstaff, smooth and fast runs in Steamboat Springs and Winter Park, east coast gnar at Mountain Creek, near vertical pitches in Squamish, and everything under the sun at Whistler. From the biggest jumps and steepest steeps to rocky sections out to eat your lunch, the bike saw it all.

When choosing what size of Spartan to ride it's important to consider the reach measurement, which is critical to finding the most balanced option for descents. Compared to many others in its class the bike has a relatively short front end, which is incentive to size up provided you have enough seat post clearance. At 178cm (5'10") tall, we opted for the size Large with a 432mm (17-inch) reach. The bike comes in four sizes, and should be suitable for riders up to about 191cm (6'3") tall. Paired with the stock 50mm stem and 780mm wide bars, it's a simple matter of airing up the tires and suspension before most riders will be ready to roll.

We began our test in the "hi" geometry setting, and while this proved to be plenty usable with no quirks that adversely impacted the ride, the temptation to drop it down to "lo" was too much to resist. Can you blame us? Making the switch is very easy to do and has no impact on the suspension - just remove the rear shock bolt, pop out the flip chips, flip them over and reinstall. This drops 7mm in bottom bracket height to a very reasonable 337mm (13.27-inches), and slackens the head angle and seat angle by 0.6-degrees, ending up at 65.8 and 72.4-degrees, respectively. Making the switch amplifies what the Spartan is best at, and in the lower position we really began to appreciate what it brought to the table.

One of the first things you'll notice is how precise the bike feels. This thing is stiff! That big downtube, large pivots, oversized bearings, seat stay bridge, and compact 3D-forged link all combine to create a ride that's ultra precise and quick to translate strong pumping motions and proper cornering technique into speed. After pushing through with your legs, you can't help but giggle when popping out of turns with the invisible boost button pressed. Add in a front end that's surprisingly easy to pull up into a manual thanks to 432mm (17-inch) chainstays, and you've got a bike with a playful attitude that's built to take some abuse. Here it is in action on some of Whistler's funnest jump trails:

The speedy sensation when pumping is aided hugely by a very progressive leverage curve, especially when combined with the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair shock. Our first handful of rides were spent at a generous 32-33% sag setting, during which it quickly became clear that the bike excelled at the flow/jump/pump/big landing type of stuff. After passing the very sensitive initial portion of the travel, which aids greatly with traction needs, the suspension gradually but quickly ramps up. This adds a ton of mid-stroke support, but can make it difficult to consistently use that last inch or so of travel, even over some very sizable hits. As claimed, heavy braking seems to have minimal impact on the suspension action.

It's rare that the bike feels as though it's out of its comfort zone, though it can occur on the roughest bits of trail at speed, especially when they are steep. The Spartan simply lacks the supremely calm and quiet sensation over repeat hard hits that some other class-leading enduro bikes possess, which can throw off your focus a bit, make you work harder through the chunk, and rob a bit of speed. Then again, those other bikes don't tend to pump and jump as well as the Spartan, so there's a tradeoff here.

Searching for a solution in the rough stuff, we first experimented with a few different rebound settings to no avail. Next we cracked the shock open to find that there are no volume spacers installed in the shock from the factory, leaving you one option if you'd like to let things work a bit more freely without opting for a different shock tune - increase the sag. Bumping up to 35% we began to feel an improvement, and pushing the envelope all the way to 38-39% sag yielded the best result on rough trails. "That's crazy talk" you must be thinking, and admittedly it does sound odd, but Devinci's own Damien Oton has been known to run a whopping 40% sag at some Enduro World Series stops.

Heading back to smoother trails at the new sag point, we found it lost a bit of that awesomely responsive feel and pushed through a bit quickly on jump faces and fast berms, so it's best to consider the trails you're riding and adjust accordingly. Leaning back into a manual over semi-rough terrain is an absolute joy at the greater sag percentage, so choose the ride feel/sag that's best for your style.

When discussing our findings with Luc Albert, another experienced Spartan owner, he mentioned trying a lighter compression tune: "At first I thought the stock MM shock tune was a bit aggressive for me, so I went ahead an bought a ML Monarch Plus to try. It made the bike a bit more compliant in the rough, but it didn't have the same mid-stroke support as it had with the MM (eg on fast berms and g-outs). Adding volume spacers just made it ramp even harder, which I didn't like."

Our experience with the Spartan suggests that it's a prime candidate for a coil or high volume air shock, which wouldn't ramp up as much, would allow you to run a little less sag to keep a more reasonable bottom bracket height, and still be very sensitive off the top due to the high initial leverage rate. Luckily the bike uses a standard size rear shock and has plenty of space to accommodate the change. If it already feels like a mini downhill bike, why not go all the way?

Our SX test build tipped the scales at close to 32-pounds, which is pretty dang portly these days. While the frame is a tad on the chunky side, much of the weight came down to rather heavy wheels and tires, which robbed it of some spunk when laying on the gas and pedaling hard. The suspension feel keeps things spritely when you're already up to speed, though that extra rotating weight and supple suspension feel hampers acceleration. There's no avoiding the fact that it's a big bike meant for smashing, not sprinting.

Pointed uphill on singletrack the Spartan SX has a decent pedal response with no drastic need for a platform, but is again dragged down by slow rolling tires which can be taxing to the legs on long days. Fireroad climbs are best tackled in one of the Monarch's pedal settings. While this bike admittedly saw fewer big uphill grunts than most of our test bikes due to its heft, it could easily be transformed into a more pedal-friendly, do-it-all beast. Rear wheel traction is excellent over technical, loose climbs, and the ~73-degree seat angle puts you in a good seated pedaling position when the seat is slid slightly forward. Spin to win on this rig.

Build Kit

The Spartan Carbon SX comes ready to rally the descents, sporting key items like a 780mm wide handlebar with a good rise, short 50mm stem, 1x11 drivetrain, dropper post, and tires made to withstand some serious abuse. Though there is some room for improvement at the same price point, the chosen components align well with the bike's capabilities and we didn't break anything during our test.

Up front the bike comes stock with a 160mm travel RockShox Dual Position Air Pike RC, which can be lowered in travel with the flip of a switch. Convenient? Yes. Necessary? Hardly. Even on steep climbs we had no issues with the front end pushing in uphill turns, and the already low bottom bracket height didn't offer much in the way of forgiveness when it comes to crank clearance. Given the choice, we'd prefer to swap the almost never used travel adjust feature for the more easily tunable and slightly smoother Solo Air version. Otherwise it's the standard Pike affair, with good initial sensitivity and a buttery smooth stroke that reset the standard not long ago. We recommend adding a Bottomless Token or two to the fork to help mimic the progressive nature of the rear end.

RockShox's 125mm travel Reverb Stealth dropper post was reliable, though mounting the remote under (instead of over) the left brake lever would make it easier to reach.

Schwalbe steps up to bat in the traction department with their Hans Dampf in a hardy Super Gravity casing and TrailStar rubber compound. Props to Devinci for going so aggressive here - there are far too many very capable bikes with paper thin tires out there. When new these tires have good all around performance, great sidewall support, and really excel in looser dirt. Just a dozen or so rides in and they begin to lose their cornering bite, however, as side knobs begin to break free which can create a rather squirmy cornering sensation. At 1,065 grams per tire and a pricey replacement cost of $96 USD, there are better tires to be had with equivalent flat protection, less rolling resistance, less weight, and less damage to your wallet.

The decision to use Jalco's DD28 rims was questionable, though they withstood some serious beatings without much fuss. The 22mm internal width rims are quite heavy, and due to the pinned joint they're technically not tubeless ready. Given enough time and patience a basic Gorilla Tape conversion worked. Once dented enough the rear rim's seal at the joint broke free, however, forcing us to go back to tubes. We appreciated having large brass nipples for truing the wheels, and straight gauge 14g spokes aided with durability and stiffness.

SRAM's Guide R brakes came paired with dual 180mm rotors, which gave the bike plenty of stopping power. Though this model lacks the Contact Point adjustment found on SRAM's more expensive models, they worked well enough and felt consistent with a good bleed. While descending some of the steepest, most unrelenting terrain we've ever ridden the brakes pumped up slightly, but not to the point that it was an issue.

The 1x11 SRAM X1 drivetrain performed quite well initially with crisp shifts, no skips, and a simple, clean layout. Applying a few drops of Loctite to the derailleur threads early on goes a long way to ensuring consistent performance out of SRAM's derailleurs. Devinci spec'd a 32-tooth chainring which helps make the climbs less of a chore, but at times we found ourselves wanting something a tad bigger for more low-end range. Increasing the ring's size will slightly reduce flat out pedaling performance slightly as the anti-squat numbers drop, however. As time went on the bike became noisy due to chain slap which we attributed to a blown Type II clutch that was seized and couldn't be tightened. This lead to a few dropped chains as the chainring also wore, though the X-Sync ring did an admirable job of keeping things in check most of the time.

With the 2016 models already listed on Devinci's website, we're pleased to see some great updates to the SX build thanks to better wheels, better tires, and a Solo Air Pike RC fork at $500 less than the version we tested. We also really like the looks of the new $3,999 Spartan Carbon RS with the same updates and a comparable but more affordable SRAM GX drivetrain.

Long Term Durability

Following three months of use in a variety of weather conditions and likely a hundred or so park laps, we're pleased to report no major issues. We experienced no creaking from the press fit bottom bracket, and Devinci provides a handy dandy guide to keeping your bike creak free. The frame is backed by a generous "Ride in Peace" lifetime warranty with a one year limit on the pivots.

What's The Bottom Line?

All it takes is smashing one good turn on the Devinci Spartan Carbon to see its downhill race roots shine through. The combination of a stiff frame and highly progressive suspension yields a bike that is superb at generating speed when pumping, jumping, and being tossed about, which will keep you coming back for more. It's a bit of a brawler so you'll have to put some muscle into it, but the bike responds well when told what to do. It's a little outclassed in the rough by other bikes in this category, although not to the extent that we think its a huge detriment to the overall ride.

Given our experience with the 2015 Spartan Carbon SX, a few rear suspension tweaks and component swaps could boost it to the next level and make it better suited to longer rides, which makes the upcoming 2016 models something to be pretty dang excited about.

Visit www.devinci.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 32 photos of the 2015 Devinci Spartan Carbon SX up close and in action


About The Reviewer

Brandon Turman likes to pop off the bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike, and to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill. His perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. He loves transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives him that momentary stomach in your throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting and you've got a winner in his book. In 15 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. After finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, his riding focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy, putting in saddle time on nearly every new platform and innovation the bike industry has to offer.

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Specifications

Product Devinci Spartan Carbon SX
Model Year 2015
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S (Lo/Hi), M (Lo/Hi), L (Lo/Hi), XL (Lo/Hi) View Geometry
Size S (Lo/Hi) M (Lo/Hi) L (Lo/Hi) XL (Lo/Hi)
Top Tube Length 587mm/585mm 607mm/605mm 627mm/625mm 647mm/645mm
Head Tube Angle 65.8°, 66.4° 65.8°, 66.4° 65.8°, 66.4° 65.8°, 66.4°
Head Tube Length 105mm 115mm 125mm 135mm
Seat Tube Angle 72.4°/73° 72.4°/73° 72.4°/73° 72.4°/73°
Seat Tube Length 410mm 445mm 475mm 510mm
Bottom Bracket Height 337mm/344mm 337mm/344mm 337mm/344mm 337mm/344mm
Chainstay Length 432mm/430mm 432mm/430mm 432mm/430mm 432mm/430mm
Wheelbase 1140mm/1138mm 1161mm/1159mm 1182mm/1180mm 1203mm/1201mm
Standover 727mm/730mm 734mm/737mm 749mm/752mm 764mm/766mm
Reach 395mm/401mm 413mm/419mm 432mm/438mm 449mm/455mm
Stack 607mm/603mm 612mm/608mm 617mm/613mm 626mm/622mm
Wheel Size
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Carbon DMC-G with Integrated Skid Plate and Integrated Cable Routing
Rear Travel 165mm
Rear Shock RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair Fast Black, 8.5x2.5
Fork RockShox Pike RC 27.5 Dual Air
Fork Travel 160mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset FSA Orbit 1.5 Zero Stack
Handlebar V2 Pro Riserbar, 31.8mm x 780mm
Stem Race Face Chester, 50mm
Grips Devinci Performance Lock-On
Brakes SRAM Guide R (Stealth-a-majig Rear) with 180mm SRAM Centerline Rotors
Brake Levers SRAM Guide R
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM X1, 11-Speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur SRAM X1 X-Actuation
ISCG Tabs ISCG 05
Chainguide N/A
Cranks SRAM X1-1000
Chainrings 32 Tooth
Bottom Bracket SRAM BB92
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM X1, 11-Speed
Cassette SRAM 11-Speed, 10-42 Tooth
Rims Jalco DD28
Hubs Formula Disc TA Front // Formula Disc Sealed TA Rear
Spokes Stainless 14g with Nylok
Tires Schwalbe Hans Dampf, 27.5x2.35", TrailStar Super Gravity TL
Saddle SDG Fly RL
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth, 125mm
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp Alloy CNC 37mm
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12mm x 142mm
Max. Tire Size 2.5"
Bottle Cage Mounts No
Colors Black/Yellow-Green-Blue, Black/White
Warranty Lifetime for Frame, 1 Year for Pivots
Weight N/A
Miscellaneous
Price $5,899
More Info

Devinci Website