Pros: Light weight, top of the line components, build quality, bold engineering
Cons: Price, wheelset, bold engineering
This is my second Klein mountain bike. I bought this to replace a Klein hardtail that I physically outgrew. I sometimes think I should have gone with another hardtail. This bike can earn a rider a ?poser? status, meaning it has a lot eye catching style, costs a fortune, but lacks the dynamics a hard core enthusiast expects.
I chose this bike because I wanted a dual suspension setup to take the edge off my commutes to work as well as a bike to tackle the single tracks on the weekends. It also was a light 25 lbs (that?s without gear such as water bottles, and security). That is about as light as most hardtails.
The Mantra Pro came fully equipped with a Shimano XTR drivetrain, which by most opinions the best in the industry, and is the standard in professional mountain bike racing. The rim brakes a cheaper version of the Shimano V-brakes and are made by Avid. They work very well. The rest of the equipment such as the Time clipless pedals and Thompson seat post were also top shelf. The Manitou oil/air Mars C took some time to adjust as well as the Crane Creek AD-10 rear shock. But I?ll explain more about this later. What wasn?t so great is the Bontrager wheelset. I switched them out for a tubeless setup. But that is a matter of personal opinion.
This bike considered in terms of strength of materials is an engineering marvel. It?s fuselage, Klein?s term for frameset, has a boom made of carbon fiber and chainstays made of gradient aluminum. It has one pivot that sits high and allows for several inches of travel. It looks great on paper and in true form but it really presents some riding issues on the trail.
The suspension is controlled by air pressure in both the front and rear shock. Heaven forbid you lose a seal or some freak lets the air out of the rear shock. The bike would completely sag and become unrideable.
What is interesting is Klein designed the bike to have some sag, meaning the rear shock is under compression when the rider is on the bike. This requires that the rider tune the air pressure in the shocks to compensate for his or her weight as well as for trail conditions. If there is insufficient air in the shocks the rider?s pedaling action may cause bike to produce a cyclic bouncing motion that just robs you of forward energy and is just downright annoying. And if there is too much air in the shocks, the ride may be so stiff that it defeats the purpose of having a dual suspension.
The benefit of the high pivot design is its simplicity and strength. It only has one pivot compared to other bikes with several pivots that may produce lateral flex as time goes on. The Mantra has no lateral flex. None, nada, zip, nor does it look like it will ever develop it.
The biggest con, oddly enough, is the action of its suspension. When the rear shock is compressed due to a landing or a bump on the ground, the wheels actually spread farther apart. In other words, the wheelbase lengthens significantly and the bottom bracket (the part controlling the riders center of gravity) drops down. These changes radically alter the geometry and handling characteristics. Some riders consider this downright dangerous, especially on technical descents where predictable handling means the difference is riding the bike to the bottom of the hill versus the bike riding on top of you to the bottom of the hill.
I have to say that for East Coast riders like myself, I like this bike. The Mantra shines in a cross country environment where it handles quite well. The dual suspension keeps the wheels planted to the ground when I crank hard on the pedals. And the Mantra ascents like nothing else. When tuned properly, it does have a plush ride that can allow me to go longer distances with less effort. But for downhilling, I would pick something else like the Gary Fisher Sugar, which has a pivot close to the bottom bracket.
Before I forget to mention, anyone who says carbon fiber is a poor material for mountain bikes, obviously has not ridden a Klein. The build quality as well as the paint and embossed graphics are amazing.