Monday, August 5, 2013

Leopard 29R review

I’ve had a chance to ride some fine bikes.  Some of them I’ve loved and have kept my passion for cycling strong.  Others, not as much.  The Leopard Cycles 29R mountain bike definitely falls in the former category. 

Having just come off a rough relationship with my previous carbon fiber hardtail 29er, I was hesitant to jump onto another this season.  I was assured by my local Leopard representative that the 29R was designed with a high amount of compliance, the lack thereof being the major complaint I had about my previous carbon rig, so I decided to take the plunge.

I’ve been riding and racing the 29R for 3 months now and after making a few tweaks, I feel like I am comfortable enough on the bike to offer an opinion.  For reference, I am an upper level CAT 2 mountain bike racer/rider from the Midwest who’s longest race on the bike has been a 12 hour duo event.  My favorite trails are are technical singletrack with lots of tricky climbs and descents. 

First of all, there is a lot to like about this bike.  It’s efficient like my previous carbon 29er but much more compliant in the rough stuff.  The frame does more than you would expect from a hardtail to smooth out the trail.  I’ve done some really rough endurance races on rocky singletrack without feeling beat up.

At 5’ 9 1/2”, I’m on the edge of the size 17” frame, but with a 110mm stem, I’m able to make it work.  With the longer stem, the steering was just a hair slow for my taste, so I cut down my 660mm wide handlebar a little and it’s improved the issue.

It climbs well, it flies in the flats and it is completely competent on the downhills.

This frame is tough.  I’ve had a few bad incidents with this bike, including the worst I’ve ever had, and the bike is no worse for wear.

Not only tough, this bike is light, too.  I'm running a full SRAM 2x10 XX drivetrain except for the RaceFace Next SL crankset which is lighter than the xx crankset, Stan's Crest rims mated to Chris King wheels, 100mm Fox 32 Float 29 FIT CTD fork, Answer Protaper XC Carbon handlebar and the older generation Shimano XT brakes. Including the Crank Brothers Candy 2 pedals, two water bottle cages and Garmin cycling computer accessories, the bike comes in at 21.25lbs with room for improvement. 

Bikes don’t come much better looking than Leopards.  You can choose from a number of different colors, pre-designed paint schemes or even have your Leopard custom designed.  Add to that internal cable routing and you've got a bike with clean lines that looks as good as it performs.

The only quibble I have about this bike goes back to sizing.  I only wish the 29R was available in an 18” frame which would would allow me to run the bike with a stem shorter than 110mm.  I’m not sure if they would ever consider it, but that’s my 2 cents.

It’s a tough, competent bike that’s stiff where it needs to be and compliant where you want it to be.  The geometry is right where it should be to handle everything I’ve thrown at it.  It’s a bike I would highly recommend if you are looking for a new hardtail 29er for trail riding or XC racing.

Of course, all of this carbon fiber awesomeness is a lot less fun if it's never working properly.  I'd like thank Wilhelm Harm of Harm Cycles for doing a great job building up and and maintaining this bike.

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