Polygon XQUARONE EX 9
Press Camp and Ride Report
Words by Drew Rohde // Photos by Dennis Yuroshek & Darrell Voss
While the Polygon name may not be a staple in North America, you’d be hard pressed to find a mountain bike fan who hasn’t heard of Kurt Sorge or sibling slayers Mik and Tracey Hannah. Despite their talented roster, the general public probably couldn’t name a single Polygon bike model. With the new Square One line – Polygon and NAILD plan to take the brand from obscurity to the limelight.
Polygon has been in the business of making bicycles for 28 years. After becoming a powerhouse in frame manufacturing, they decided to start their own company and build bikes for themselves. The company produces roughly 480,000 bikes a year, which mostly remain in the Southeast Asian market near their home territory of Indonesia. Having the capability to produce their own bikes in-house, Polygon decided to go international in 2010 and have been waiting for a project like this to take the world by storm.
Polygon was approached by NAILD founder and industry veteran, Darrell Voss, in hopes that their access to a private production facility would enable the two companies to work in secrecy while creating a revolutionary bike. By and large it seems to have worked as there was almost zero talk about the unconventional looking bike before the launch in Oakridge, Oregon.
For those who haven’t read my piece on NAILD or heard about our exclusive behind the scenes involvement for the last three years, I’ll give you the quick ‘n’ dirty.
Three years ago Darrell Voss (NAILD founder) and Zendy Meidyawan, Polygon’s product manager, asked that I come along for some early testing of the first rideable prototypes. The goal was to help provide feedback and document the journey of this bike through the developmental stages. It seems even then, Voss and Polygon knew the new bike was destined to make waves.
In the days since the launch of this bike, the internet has been buzzing. There were lines of people at the Polygon booth all weekend at the Sea Otter Classic, each hoping to get a chance to test ride the bike. Out of curiosity I spent a decent amount of time engaging with riders before and after their demo rides just to see what they’d thought. I even saw a legendary World Champion DH racer take the bike out after hours just to see what it was all about.
Regardless of whether or not the people loved the way it rode, I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t convinced this bike was different. I believe the more armchair engineers and skeptics that ride this bike the better. I’d probably be right there with them if I hadn’t been a part of this project. There’s a reason we as consumers are skeptical about the latest and greatest. All the marketing B.S. out there has created paralyzed purchasers who are timid about dropping multiple month’s salary on a bike that may quickly be outdated by another “better, stiffer performance-enhancing standard”. Where were we again? Oh yes, the hype.
The XQUARONE EX 9
Keeping in line with Polygon and NAILD’s goal to let riders focus on the ride and not what the marketing team thinks is important, we’re gonna get right to it. To put it simply and with absolutely zero bullshit, I can guarantee you that this bike rides unlike any bike I have ever ridden, which is quite a few. That doesn’t mean everyone’s gonna love every aspect of that unique ride but that fact remains, this thing rides insanely well.
After a few days aboard their new bikes, both Kurt Sorge and Mik Hannah had plenty of good things to say. “It was too easy to ride,” Kurt explained, and watching him flick and snap the bike into every nook and cranny on the sides of six-inch wide singletrack at 30mph seemed to solidify his comfort. Mik’s feedback was a bit more detailed and revealing; “I’m a downhiller. If I ever entered an enduro race I would hope for as much shuttling as possible so I could save energy for the special stages, but after pedaling this bike I feel the exact opposite. The longer the day on the bike is, the better I feel my chances are. When it comes to descending, the bike is incredible. It’s a new way to look at suspension design and it’s designed to control the rider’s mass rather than suspending the bike. Rebound damping wasn’t nearly as important I found because my body wasn’t thrown around on the trail. Even when I hit unexpected water bars at 25-30 miles an hour I felt composed and well balanced.”
“It’s a new way to look at suspension design and it’s designed to control the rider’s mass rather than suspending the bike.”
Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to ride this bike on trails from southern California to southern Washington. It’s seen everything from snow and mud, to rain ruts and baby heads. All-in-all the EX 9 kick ass, but before we get into the long list of awesome things, I want to get my one complaint out of the way. This bike plays like a 180 bike. If you’re a jibber and like to pop, unweight, tire tap or do other (slower) unconventional things on the trail, just know that this bike will still feel like it has a lot of travel, because it does. It’s not impossible, it just takes a bit more effort to get weird.
The goods? Where to start… Yes, it climbs as good as they say it does. No I won’t say it climbs like a 120mm bike because it doesn’t. It doesn’t climb like a really good 140, 160, or 180mm bike either. The EX 9 blends the best of both worlds when it comes to climbing, or pedaling in general for that matter. A super efficient VPP-equipped 120mm bike will beat your ass up after a long day of climbing rough trails. Ever done the BC Bike Race or climbed thousands of feet in SoCal where sharp, spaced out rocks just hammer your rear end and rob you of speed? That’s what short travel efficiency feels like when you’re not on a smooth ribbon of trail. Ever climbed those trails on a 160mm bike where you feel a bit more comfort, but feel yourself squish farther into the travel as you put more energy into the pedals?
Each bike has a trade off, and depending on whether you value efficiency and speed on the way up or confidence and capability on the way down more, you had to make that choice. Or own multiple bikes. The EX 9 climbs way more efficiently than any 120mm bike does and blows the small bump sensitivity and traction of a 160mm out of the water. I was chastised more than once for showing up to test sessions with flat pedals as Voss explained I’d be missing out on some of the enhancements achieved by a more circular pedal stroke. After bringing a bike home to test for this long term review, I threw on some clipless pedals and was surprised that it actually pedaled even better than it did with flats. Go figure, they were right.
Acceleration and efficiency are very impressive traits of the EX 9. With 25-percent sag and no pedal platform lever, this bike takes off like a rocket and if you maintain a constant cadence it will reward your every effort. I noticed that if I rode the bike in one or two gears harder than my legs wanted, I would go faster and feel less tired than spinning a lower gear. Furthermore, when I clipped in the bike stayed on plane even better. If you imagine a boat accelerating before the nose drops and it gets on plane you’ll understand what I’m trying to describe. This bike has a very similar feeling no matter how steep the climb is. Once you’re on the gas, the bike sort of sits up and moves forward. The more we rode this the more fun it became to point the bike at rocks we were convinced we couldn’t climb. We waited until we were tired, worn out and didn’t even get off the seat to really see how forgiving this bike could be. It’s game changing. Yes, I said it, now get over it.
When it came time to end the torture and point the EX 9 downhill we couldn’t help but grin. I nicknamed my bike Tommy Lee Jones ‘cuz this thing is more two-faced than my ex-girlfriend. Polygon and NAILD worked very hard to make the EX 9 feel like it had a coil shock on it, and they succeeded. With 25-percent sag and a shock that runs 60-percent less damping than any other shock Fox produces, Polygon and NAILD created a bike with a stable pedaling platform, big hit capability and untouchable small bump sensitivity.
“With 25-percent sag and a shock that runs 60-percent less damping than any other
shock Fox produces, Polygon and NAILD created a bike with a stable pedaling platform,
big hit capability and unsurpassed small bump sensitivity.”
NAILD refers to their swingarms as ground tracing devices and if I had to pick an area the bike truly excelled it would be here. I’ve never felt a bike respond so quickly to terrain changes while still being composed on big hits. It’s like riding an undersprung coil DH bike that doesn’t bottom out. In fact, Mik had so much traction that he said it required more effort and some rear brake to get the back end sideways. The increase in traction can be detrimental if you live for freeride flicks and ride like you’re always making a roost-shot edit. If you value traction and keeping your bike on the ground, then I doubt you’ll find another bike that will please you more.
All this ground-hugging performance does have a slight penalty. Bunny hopping takes a bit more effort. It’s far from a deal breaker or a major issue that’s caused us any trouble, but there are certain types of trails that are lots of fun when you can pre-hop and pop little obstacles here and there. If you’ve got a lip and some speed, the EX 9 will get airborne without a hitch. If you don’t believe it just watch the Kurt Sorge edit below. After only two days aboard the bike he dropped into a pretty sketchy and old-school style jump line. He wasn’t too thrilled about the line but after a couple warm ups he began throwing stylish whips and felt comfortable in the air.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Believe the hype.
Over the last decade I’ve ridden a ton of bikes and I could probably count the ones that have really stoked me out on two hands. Out of that small group, this Polygon is the most unique bar none. Suppleness and sensitivity are equally impressive on the way up as they are on the way down. If you love to climb technical trails, or are low on skill and fitness, this bike will undoubtedly elevate your game. As far as descending goes, the EX 9 will feel comfortable in just about any situation you throw its way. It will gobble up rocks, chunder and roots with ease and give you confidence-enhancing traction like you’ve never had before. We’ve all heard of hero-dirt. It’s that perfect soil that lets you get away with anything, corner like a pro and makes you feel like you’re way better than you are. Well, this is the hero-bike.
Weight: 30.24 lbs
Sizes: M, L, XL
Frame: ACX Carbon; 180mm
Fork: Fox Factory 36 Float; 180mm
Shock: Fox Factory Float X2
Brakes: SRAM Guide Ultimate
Handlebar: Bontrager Line Pro; 780
Headset: FSA Knock Block
Saddle: Entity Assault
Seatpost: KS Sio; 150mm
Shifter: SRAM XX1 Eagle; 12s
Stem: Race Face Turbine R; 35mm
Hubs: E13 TRS Race
Rims: E13 TRS Race
Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic; 2.6
Bottom Bracket: SRAM PressFit GXP
Cassette: SRAM XG-1295; 10-50t
Cranks: SRAM XX1 Eagle; 32t
Derailleur: SRAM XX1 Eagle; 12s
Unsurpassed Suspension Sensitivity
Hubs Had Lots of Drag
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