Devinci has a curious habit of naming their bikes after ancient Greek cities and gods. The Spartan, likely named after the ancient Greek city of Sparta, is Devinci’s latest enduro bike, sporting 27.5” wheels and 165mm travel. At it’s prime in 650BC, the city of Sparta was dominant in military force, recognized as the overall leader of the combined Greek forces. Is it not too far-fetched to conclude that Spartan is the dominating bike in Devinci’s current lineup? It sure seems that’s the message Devinci is sending. Take one look at the Spartan, and its clear this bike means business. Based on appearance alone, we would agree that the Spartan is the wildest and most aggressive looking bike in Devinci’s fleet. But it would be wrong of us to judge a book by its cover, we need to dig a bit deeper to see if the Spartan truly lives up to its name.
A DOMINANT FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH
Devinci built the Spartan for a couple of reasons. With the rise of enduro racing over the past few years, Devinci knew they needed a solid contender on the EWS circuit. While the Troy is a fantastic trail bike, it will likely be a bit under-gunned on some of the more grueling enduro tracks around the world. Enduro racers need slack geometry, gobs of travel, and burly, stiff framesets. It’s interesting to note that our first glimpse of the Spartan was NOT at an enduro race – in fact, it was at the 2013 Pietermaritzburg World Cup downhil race in South Africa. This track was known as one of the more pedal-intensive courses on the World Cup circuit, and many riders were opting for shorter travel bikes to get an advantage on the competition. When we saw Steve Smith aboard this wild looking silver prototype, we didn’t quite know what was to come. How much travel did it have? Was this going to be the shape of the next downhill bike? Or was this going to be a new long-travel enduro bike? As the bike came to fruition, it became clear that this was indeed an early prototype of Devinci’s new 27.5” enduro weapon.
BRED FROM DOWNHILL, BUILT FOR ENDURO
It’s a good sign that Steve Smith was one of the main test pilots for the Spartan. If there’s someone who knows how a bike should ride, it’s this guy. Granted, Steve is not an enduro racer – he’s a full-fledged downhill rider, and he’s in his prime. We’d venture a guess that if Steve did enter an enduro race, he’d likely lay waste to the competition. Devinci developed the Spartan with feedback from their sponsored enduro racers, as well as Steve Smith. So it makes perfect sense that we describe this bike as: “enduro with a bit of downhill sprinkled in.”
Steve Smith shows off the first prototype that would become the Spartan
At the heart of the Spartan is Devinci’s rendition of the Split-Pivot suspension platform – the same platform used on all Devinci full suspension bikes. We’ve pretty much come to love any suspension platform developed by Dave Weagle, and Split-Pivot is no exception. The Spartan feels bottomless, even on bigger hits, it has great mid-stroke support, and acceleration is remarkably quick. Devinci opted to spec an 8.5” x 2.5” (215mm x 64mm) Rock Shox Monarch RC3+ Debonair rear shock, which is a solid choice in our book. A few of us have logged significant trail time on this shock, and we’re hard-pressed to come up with anything we’d change. Devinci worked with Dave Weagle and Rock Shox to develop a custom tune just for the Spartan, so it really shouldn’t require a whole lot of tweaking out of the box – just set the air pressure to your weight, dial in rebound and compression to your liking, and hit the trail.
RADICAL NEW DESIGN
Based on appearance, the Spartan doesn’t look much like any other bike in Devinci’s roster. As you increase suspension travel on a bike, certain aspects of frame design become more challenging. To keep the bike low and slack with relatively short chainstays, Devinci’s engineers had to rework shock placement, which in turn changed the entire rear-end of the bike. Compared to the Troy, the “Axis” rocker link has been relocated, mounted underneath the seatstay, and the lower end of the rear shock attached directly to the seatstay. This revised design allowed Devinci to place the longer 8.5” x 2.5” shock exactly where they needed on the Spartan frame. And let’s not forget the most important part of the Split-Pivot suspension design: the concentric pivot around the rear axle. Two sealed cartridge Enduro bearings are housed in the chainstay, allowing the chainstay and seatstay to pivot around the rear axle – and that’s largely where the magic is made in the Split-Pivot suspension platform. The concentric pivot reduces suspension compression caused by acceleration and braking forces. That means your suspension has very little feedback when you’re hammering on the pedals, which in turn saves your precious energy. On the flipside, your suspension will stay fully active when you hit the brakes, and removes excess compression due to braking forces. This is exactly why the Spartan accelerates so quickly, and holds its momentum so well.
As with the rest of Devinci’s bikes, the Spartan is equipped with flip-chips located in the seatstay, which allows you to adjust head angle, BB height, and chainstay length. In the low/slack setting, the head angle sits at 65.8°, BB height at 13.25”, and chainstay at 17”. Flip the geometry chips, and the head angle steepens to 66.4°, BB rises to 13.5”, and chainstay shortens to 16.9”. The adjustable geometry allows this bike to be catered nicely to a variety of riding styles. If you’re a competitive enduro racer, you may find find that the high setting is best for more pedal-intensive tracks, while the low setting will be advantageous on steeper tracks.
Devinci is pushing hard into the carbon mountain bike market, as are many other manufacturers these days – but they are also just as dedicated to producing high quality aluminum bikes in-house. Devinci is one of the few bike companies that is not outsourcing aluminum bikes – they produce them all right at home at their factory in Chicoutimi, Quebec. As we’ve seen with previous models from Devinci, they tend to produce the aluminum bike first, then the carbon bike follows. It should go without saying that this allows Devinci to cater to a variety of budgets. The Spartan Alloy XP for example starts at just $3899 with a very solid build kit. For those with a deeper budget, the Spartan Carbon is available with the same kit starting at $4299, which is still quite reasonable. The carbon model weighs about a pound less than the alloy model, and also features full internal cable routing for brakes, shifters, and dropper post. Geometry and fit are identical between the two models.
A BIKE THAT LOVES TO PLAY
We found the Spartan’s geometry lends itself well to a variety of terrain. We absolutely love how playful the bike is overall – as you’ll see in our video, there was plenty of drifting, fern tire slashes, and general two-wheeled horseplay to be had. The bike begs to be tossed about, jumped, and toyed with. It’s truly a blast to ride, especially when you point it down. Climbing performance turned out to be a bit better that we had anticipated. The slack angles, beefy frame, and 165mm travel didn’t exactly paint the picture of a bike that climbs all that well. When we tested this bike, we fully expected to be working hard on the climbs. We were pleasantly surprised that it climbs better than we had anticipated. Granted, the Spartan certainly does not climb as well as a short-travel 120mm trail bike – not by any stretch of the imagination. But it does hold its own, and we found we weren’t breathing quite as heavy as we expected on the climbs. The compression switch on the Monarch definitely helps, so we recommend using that when you know you’re going to be climbing for a while. It firms up the initial compression nicely so you don’t sit as deep in the travel, which will make your life easier on the ascents. The slack head angle will take a bit to get used to on technical climbs, and may require a bit more attention on your part. Given the nature of this bike though, that’s to be expected.
IT’S ALL ABOUT FUN
After our day testing the Spartan together, Ryan and I both agreed that it is a fantastic bike, and it fills an important gap in Devinci’s lineup. We reviewed the Troy last year, and came away very impressed overall – it’s nimble, quick on climbs, and lightweight. Everything you’d want in a trail bike. That said, the 140mm of travel and 67° will find their limits eventually, and that’s where the Spartan comes into play. If you’re an aggressive rider rocking the one-bike quiver, the Spartan will not disappoint. It strikes the perfect balance between all-mountain and downhill. Sure, you can slap an enduro label on it if you’d like, but all nomenclatures aside, it really is just a damn fun bike to ride down a trail. At the end of the day, it’s all about fun, is it not?
DEVINCI SPARTAN QUICK SPECS
- Frame Material: Carbon or Aluminum
- Frame Travel: 165mm Split Pivot
- Rear Shock: Rock Shox Monarch RC3+ Debonair
- Frame Weight: 7.25 lbs (carbon medium), 8.38 lbs (alloy medium)
- Seatpost Size: 1.6mm
- Headtube Size: ZS44mm upper, ZS68mm lower
- Wheel Size: 27.5″
- Dropouts: 12x142mm
- Bottom Bracket: BB92
- Internal guided stealth dropper post routing
- Internal brake and shifter routing
- High direct mount front derailleur mount
- ISCG ’05 chainguide mount
- Integrated rubber chainstay/seatstay protectors and bolt-on alloy downtube shield