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2013 saw Mondraker Bikes bring a revolutionary design and geometry concept to the table in the form of Forward Geometry. The idea behind Mondraker's new geometry was to take the trend for longer top tubes and shorter stems and accelerate the process slightly brining the handlebar position closer to the fork steerer and increasing the top tube length. With input from their World Cup race team and design guru Cesar Rojo Forward Geometry was born.

What makes Forward so different?

The concept behind Forward Geometry sees the top tube length grow and the stem length decrease (to 10mm) all while maintaining the position of the bikes seat and handlebar position. In fact, if you were to put a Forward Geometry bike like the 2013 Foxy XR next to the 2013 Foxy RR you will see that bar the longer travel fork, the position of the bikes controls remains the same.

These adjustments to the bikes geometry make the Forward Geometry great going up and even better coming down. The advantages when compared with traditional geometry give the rider better control, handling and confidence. As well as,

Forward Geometry advantages:

  • Security on steep sections
  • Improved confidence at high speed
  • Direct steering
  • Uphill precision and control
  • Stability on rough terrain

Forward Geometry Mondraker 2013 from Mondraker on Vimeo.

You can find out more on Forward Geometry here

We wanted to know more about how Forward Geometry rides so we shipped our demo Foxy XR off to the Silverfish Stig to put it to the test.

X(R) - Rated: The Freaky Foxy

Yes, the bike looks a little weird. Weird enough to always gather a crowd at every trail centre car park or top of descent seatpost drop, post climb regroup. Not only does it have a high rise turret rather than a stem, but the humpbacked top tube and wheelbase are freakishly long. So long that when you lock the forks onto a roof rack the rear wheel is further back than a long travel twenty niner. But what does Mondrakers radical Forward Geometry Foxy XR trail bike ride like?

Considering how odd it looks before you get on it the very 'normal' feeling initial fit will come as a surprise. However because all the length you've lost in the stem is made up in the longer top tube your hands are actually in the same place in relation to your saddle, hips and feet as normal. Look over the front of the bars though and you'll actually be able to see the cross brace of the Fox forks when you're sat in the saddle. The super slack head angle means there's masses of front wheel stretching out down the trail too.

Into the first corner and unless you're used to full on DH bike handling the response you get from flicking the big bars will definitely be alien. As daft as it sounds there's almost no sense of steering. Instead, as the bar end moves the bike drops sharply into the corner, taking your bodyweight with it and slinging you round with all the commitment and side knob roar of a World Cup warrior. Super light bar feel means instant intuitive reaction to any loss of traction letting you stir maximum grip out of whatever trail recipe your rubber is chewing on. Long wheelbase and low slung weight mean that the basic bike is utterly stable too, so however hard you're twitching the bar all you're doing is micro adjusting the big cornering/line choice picture. Whether the front wheel is sliding across mud or nailed into the belly of a monster berm the Foxy will hunt out every last scrap of traction and rip you out on a far tighter line than you'll expect on the first few runs and we guarantee you'll fall off the inside of at least a couple of corners until you re-calibrate but you will be smiling.

The biggest trade-off I was expecting isn't anywhere near as big a deal as we thought it would be either. You certainly have to take a longer line round tight, trail centre switchback corners because of the super long wheelbase. The Forward Geometry drops the front end in easily and whips it round with confident conviction though so as long as you believe in the bike. While it's no different to normal bar placement in theory, we also found we knee'd the shifters a lot less when the wheel slipped on slimey climbs and it's certainly not restricted on breathing space like a lot of super slack, bar in your lap bikes can be. Flip the rear shock lever to Climb or Trail and there's no rubber chain sensation under your feet, just precise, even power delivery.

Like anything else it doesn't take long to adjust to the XR handling and then you'll start to appreciate how well the rest of the bike is working to amplify the radical handling. The Crank Brothers ribbed rim Iodine wheels with super tight two part alloy spokes aren't just light, they're super stiff and perfect for underlining the increased cornering tenacity of the XR. The humpbacked, 'Stealth' technology frame itself does a great job of keeping the tapered fork lined up with the rear of the bike, despite the extra mainframe length. The 160mm travel Fox Float 34 fork gets gold Kashima coated legs for maximum smoothness while the TALAS travel adjust fork lets you drop the nose for faster turning on climbs. Fox's CTD damping never runs out of control however chaotic the trail gets and the forward axle of the XR system works really well with Fox's new more linear spring rates. Mondraker's own 740mm Foxy bar means maximum leverage is applied through the unique direct mount stem.

While 160mm of travel up front but 140mm at the rear sounds unbalanced, the Zero System Suspension, makes such good use of the stroke the whole bike feels superbly balanced. Evolved from the all-conquering Summum DH bike, the twin linkage Zero system is based around a floating shock compressed from both ends rather than driven against the frame. This takes loading off the mainframe allowing it to be made lighter yet stronger and it lets Mondraker create the exact suspension character they want. Like all XR bikes the rear shock uses less low speed compression damping, to maximise supple trail surface tracking and traction is superb. The super wide pivot axles keep the back end totally locked in line right to the 12x135mm dropout tips too.

The low and central mounting of the Zero system means it's perfectly placed in the already super long low frame in terms of increasing stability and neutral balance however fast you're going. Less travel to get lost in also keeps the back end more precise and responsive and it's brilliant to be able to squeeze the back tyre to step out at will without any worry about losing it due to vagueness.

The Formula T1 brakes are jaw droppingly powerful yet subtly controlled and as light as most XC race brakes. The mixed SRAM transmission also helps keep weight low, while the Crank Brothers Kronolog height adjustable seat post helps keep your body weight hunkered down when you're hovering over the saddle on descents.

If you want the same ultra-progressive, skill multiplying handling character as the Foxy but in a shorter travel, lighter and snappier format the Factor XR has all the same bigger tyred, dropper posted, Kashima coated goodness of it's bigger brother in a 140/120mm travel format. Keep your eyes peeled for a more affordable but equally attitude rich version of the Factor XR arriving in time to leave your mates eating dust in summer.

As much as we love the bike, we're not going to claim the Forward Geometry is the ultimate set-up for everyone though. If you prefer to concentrate on the view not getting violent with corners then the fussy steering might get irritating on climbs. Get too far back and pull too much front brake on a steep descent like the mags used to tell you in the 90s and the long chassis can plough straight on while the front end jack knifes underneath you. Not everyone is going to want a barrage of questions about the bike every time they stop either. The good news there though is that if you want a more conventional character with the same Stealth Technology frame and Zero suspension advantages then there are three 'conventional' Foxy bikes to choose from.

With the Foxy XR appearing at demo's right round the country this year we definitely reckon you should at least leave your pre-conceptions at the trailhead and give one a go. Like we say it might feel odd at first, but as soon as you start hitting berms as hard and low as you've always wanted, laughing out loud as you surf a dirty big drift in total traction tweaking confidence or sit at the bottom of a descent waiting for your normally faster mates we think you might be surprised.

If the Foxy XR is a little out of budget then news of a more wallet friendly Foxy XR MS model will come make you smile but at SRP £2,895 they will not be around for long.

For more on the radical 'ride like you're on rails' Forward Geometry bikes and the rest of the Mondraker mountain family click here

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