The Commencal El Camino 3 29 certainly stands out from the crowd. And it’s not just the appearance that’s different: its attitude sets it apart too. With slacker geometry and more stable handing, it makes everything seem easy. Carving corners, jumping off roots and blasting descents, it never failed to put a smile on our faces. It combines the Trek 4500 Disc’s engaging handling and sensation of speed with the benefits of bigger wheels. OK, so the Kenda tyres with their low-profile and closely spaced knobs are all but useless in mud, but they are perfect for blasting round typical trail centre surfaces.
The contact points couldn’t have been better if we’d hand picked them ourselves. A wide handlebar offers optimum steering control, while soft, ribbed grips and a comfy saddle are the icing on the cake. Even the RST fork moves, when you hit something hard enough. The saddle goes all they way down, letting you really cut loose on the descents.
All in all, the Commencal El Camino 3 29 is a heady cocktail of good geometry, a half-decent fork and a great riding position, which gives a natural high every time. However, it isn’t faultless. The chainrings on the budget crankset are riveted on, so once one wears out, you’ll have to bin the entire thing rather than simply replacing the worn ring. Factor in the eight-speed SRAM gears with their super-heavy shift action and the lack of adjustment on the Tektro brakes, and much as we loved how the El Camino rode, it really needs a better drivetrain to put it on a par with the Lapierre Raid 329.
Highs: Great riding position and perfect handling
Lows: Heavy action of SRAM’s eight-speed gears
MBR Rating: 7
Fork: RST Blaze ML 100mm
Wheels: Commençal hubs, Jalco rims, Kenda Small Block 8 tyres
Drivetrain: Lasco riveted chainset, SRAM X4 8-speed shifters, X4 r-mech, Shimano Alivio f-mech
Brakes: Tektro HDC300
Weight: 14.60kg (32.18lb)
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Size tested: L
On test in our Hardtail of the Year competition: