PROPAIN SPINDRIFT CF MIXED REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston
Photos by Adam Lievesley
With Propain releasing their updated Hugene and Tyee models over the past couple years, next up was the big hitting, happy climbing “super enduro” machine that is the Spindrift. In line with its shorter travel siblings, the Propain Spindrift sees the same silhouette, featuring the evolved Pro10 linkage system with the shock now located inside the front triangle. With their Tyee offering stellar performance on the downs, I was intrigued to see if the Spindrift could surpass its capabilities. Thankfully Propain were happy to provide the Spindrift CF and we got right to giving it a thorough bashing.
Propain have brought a large range of options to the table with the Spindrift. You can choose from their Blend Carbon or Blend Alloy frame constructions, both available with two 27.5 wheels, mixed wheel sizes (running a 29” on the front and 27.5” on the rear), or a full 29” setup. Each with dedicated frames that maintain optimal geometry for each wheel configuration. Sizes S-XL are on offer with equal 20mm jumps in seat tube length from 420-480mm paired with 25mm reach jumps in top tube length from 425mm to 500mm.
Small-sized riders can only select a 27.5 model, which is smart considering the height that the long travel fork and 29er wheel give the front end. Extra-large bikes come with 29-inch wheels. Riders of the medium and large sizes have the privilege of selecting from any of the three wheel configurations, depending on their preference for speed or play.
Across all options is the shared 180mm of rear travel, courtesy of the PRO10 twin link, floating shock system; 64.5-degree head angle; and 78-degree seat angle (effective). It’ll come as no surprise that a 29er wheel out back comes with a longer 445mm chainstay opposed to the relatively compact 435mm rear end of the 27.5 and mixed frames. Static bottom bracket heights are on the higher side of the spectrum at 10mm drop on the 27.5 and 23mm on the 29er, but it’s important to factor in the healthy amount of sag that’ll result in a more normal position once on the bike. A 29er wheel with the 180mm fork (with an even lengthier 190mm option offered) produces a very high front end and results in huge 608-660mm stack heights through the size ranges, so it’s important to consider this before slapping on your favorite high rise bars.
Propain have continued to evolve their PRO10 system and for the Spindrift they designed a healthy amount of anti-squat for the time spent spinning the legs, with a coil-friendly level of progression for dealing with the heaviest of hits whilst retaining sensitivity earlier in the travel. The shock sits neatly contained between the compact links, protecting it from the firing line of mud coming off the rear wheel whilst still retaining room for a decent sized bottle. Propain’s Spindrift sports many up to date geometry numbers and kinematics with a wide range of options to cater for the widest range of riders. Seat tube lengths may need some consideration for the shorter-legged individuals, but most should still be able to run a decent length dropper in their appropriate size.
Looking at the finer details, Propain have moved to SRAM’s UDH (universal derailleur hanger) system for mounting the derailleur, which seems to be gaining acceptance across the board and should make sourcing a replacement easier in a difficult situation. They use a replaceable ISCG system which avoids any tears if the bash guard sees a serious impact. Propain Bikes also reassessed their cable routing and managed to package it internally with some clean over-BB routing, which removes any low-hanging cables from the danger zone. Propain’s “dirt shield” frame hardware is still in place to add another level of sealing to the frame pivots, which should help them to spin smoothly for seasons to come. Dual-compound integrated frame protection should keep the Spindrift’s huge tubing from sustaining any serious damage in normal use and does an effective job of deadening chain-slap noises in all but the roughest terrain.
Propain Bicycles’ direct sales model continues to offer great value with their bike configurator offering a great level of customization from individual component choice through to the color of the headtube badge. Starting at roughly $3,050 for the base-spec Aluminum framed bike, you can opt for the carbon model to save 1kg of frame weight and leave your wallet $700 lighter. Even this base spec model is remarkably shred-ready, featuring a Rock Shox ZEB R fork mated to a Select R coil shock; full SRAM GX drivetrain with G2 brakes; with good quality Propain and Sixpack finishing components. For those seeking a bike spec’d with the latest and greatest, the full bells-and-whistles CF model will run you roughly $8,450 (€7254) and comes with full Fox Factory suspension; carbon Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels; and an X01 AXS drivetrain.
We were very lucky to have the opportunity to get our mitts on a Spindrift prior to its release, allowing us to put it to the test for an extended period across the UK’s finest terrain and really see where it excels. The Scottish gem that is the Tweed Valley provided the ultimate test grounds once I had figured out the setup of the size large, mixed wheel model featuring a variation on their Performance level build kit, including the monstrous 190mm Rock Shox ZEB out front and retailing for roughly $5,300. A big day in the saddle on the root-infested steeps followed by a day uplifting in the bike park allowed for the limits to be tickled and its characteristics to shine through.
With its burly looks and long travel, it’s easy to imagine the Spindrift will feel like it’s equal-travel freeride compadres from earlier in the decade. Thankfully, bicycle engineering is going from good to good-er, and Propain have designed the Spindrift with very sensible proportions and suspension kinematics to focus on providing a well-rounded ride both up and down the hill. It’s truly a great time to be a mountain biker.
Because of these design efforts, the Spindrift climbs remarkably well. Not good for its class, just very, very good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that in terms of ability to grind up steep and awkward terrain, it’s the best climbing all mountain or enduro bike I’ve had the pleasure to test, and there’s zero need to use a climb-switch even with the coil shock. The 78-degree seat tube angle puts your weight bang in the middle of the bike and necessitates very little consideration for weighting the front wheel. Less focus on your weight balance means more room to focus on your route up the hill and timing your pedal strokes. Pedal clearance on this mixed wheel setup with the 170mm cranks fitted was ample, requiring less consideration than many. Given its intentions, the weight of the Spindrift is reasonable at 15.5kg (34.1lbs) with pedals. That can partly be attributed to the Schwalbe “Super Trail” casing tires, which for me are a little fragile for such a heavy hitting bike, confirmed by the early demise of the rear tire on some local rocks. Add on another few hundred grams for some more appropriate tires and perhaps an insert, and the weight starts to make more sense. An ultra-lightweight bike is not what the Spindrift is trying to be, and it isn’t the tool of choice for a marathon event, but it’s certainly one hell of a bike on the ups for those looking to winch themselves up to a rowdy down.
Along the flatter sections of trail, you find the only real compromise of the Spindrift, and begin to feel the long travel and slightly heavier weight than a less aggressive bike. When on the pedals, it still offers good support through the gear range; but pumping efforts don’t produce the speed reward of shorter travel machines, and tight sections of trail force hard efforts of muscling around the slack head angle and huge fork. This bike isn’t designed for this type of terrain however and customers would be best served to consider their local terrain and not overbike themselves for 80% of their riding calendar as this bike is a beast.
Now for the bit that you really want to know about – riding the Propain Spindrift CF downhill. On the first descents, the stand-out feature of the Spindrift was its conversely imbalanced ride, that felt very “off the back”. The high stack, mid-height BB and relatively short rear end combined with the high-riding Zeb all contributed to this, and certainly made for an exaggerated mullet feeling. This was remedied by reducing the air pressure and low speed compression in the fork and adding some low speed compression to the shock, and after a little bit of fettling it was possible to obtain an acceptably balanced ride. And oh boy did it come alive!
Coil sensitivity off the top combined with a reasonable amount of mid-stroke support and a healthy amount of progression offers a cushioned ride that’s a stark contrast from the stiff pedaling platform. There’s a resounding feeling that the bike desires airtime and adventurous line choice, inspiring riding that satisfies the freeride moniker.
The geometry produces a fairly stable ride that encourages the brakes to be let off and the charging to commence, however the mixed wheel size and compact chainstay go some ways to maintaining a playful aspect. Being a long time since my last stint on a mountain bike without a 29” rear wheel, it was a very pleasant surprise to be gifted the extra clearance on the steepest trails, where the Spindrift feels as if it knocks a few degrees off the steepness of the trail and lets you focus on the best line. The frame is stiff and precise and makes little noise on all but the roughest terrain thanks to effective chain and seat stay protection. This stiffness inspires aggressive cornering efforts, where the Spindrifts compact rear comes into its own and carves a tight arc through turns with ease. The Newmen wheelset tested provided a small amount of compliance and generally offered acceptable conformation to the trail; but the Spindrift definitely errs on the stiffer and more bike park friendly end of the spectrum, potentially producing a touch more fatigue over an extended ride in rough terrain. The ZEB on the front goes exactly where you point it, with an incredible level of stiffness given its extensive length – the new crop of 38mm stanchion forks were made for this style of bike, and form the perfect aggressive package without weights that remove all the fun from the way back up the hill.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Representing great value, with looks that receive regular compliments from fellow riders, and blending climb-friendly pedaling with bike-park destroying descending capabilities, Propain have delivered an incredible option for those looking to charge on the downs without suffering too much on the way up.
There’s something special with the Spindrift, offering the ultimate self-assisted bike park machine, and managing to disguise its downhill capabilities until they’re called upon. If you’re fortunate to make regular trips to a bike park, but still require a day-to-day pedal friendly machine that doesn’t remove all of the fun from a less intense ride, then the Spindrift will likely serve you very well as a single bike option. I’d certainly still like a shorter travel bike for the least aggressive of rides, but in terms of a case for a so-called do-it-all bike for downhill-fiends, the Spindrift could well be as close as they come.
Frame: Blend Carbon; 180mm
Fork: RockShox ZEB Ultimate, 190mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate RCT Coil, 230x65mm
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC, 200F/200R Centreline rotors
Handlebar: Sixpack Millenium, 35 x 805 mm, 20mm rise
Headset: Acros, ZS49/ZS56
Saddle: Sixpack Kamikaze
Seatpost: Bikeyoke Revive, 31.6 x 160mm
Shifter: SRAM X01 Eagle; 12s
Stem: Sixpack Millenium, 35 x 35mm
Wheelset: Newman Evolution SL A 30, 30mm, 110/148
Front tire: Schwalbe Magic Mary, Addix-Soft, Super Trail, 29″ x 2.4″
Rear tire: Schwalbe Big Betty, Addix-Soft, Super Trail, 27.5″ x 2.4″
Bottom Bracket: SRAM Dub GXP Threaded
Cassette: SRAM XG 12-75; 10-52T
Cranks: SRAM Descendent Carbon, Boost, DUB, 32T, 170mm
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle; 12s
Class Beating climbing prowess
Bike park appropriate stiffness
Slightly flimsy tire spec
Rearward weight bias
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