With small diameter tubing, the traditional-looking Wanga’s front end is even simpler than the Charge, and lacks any gussets at all. Slender, tapered seatstays combine with taller, tapered and ovalised chainstays to give lateral stiffness with some vertical compliance. Removable brake bosses mean that V-brakes can be used, while allowing clean lines to be retained if you opt for discs.
It’s at the dropouts where things change. Rather than having simple cast slots for the hub, thick, machined aluminium plates are bolted to the rear end. The disc mount is included in this sliding assembly, so you can run the bike as a singlespeed, without tensioner, if you wish. It does allow some degree of geometry adjustment too, as the slots are 3/4in long, although you would struggle to fit the large tyres on if the wheel was rammed as forward as it can go.
Rather than using a damping-based lockout — as featured on the Toras that grace the Charge — Marzocchi’s MX Pro LO fork has a mechanical lockout. While equally effective at stopping fork movement when climbing or dragging along the road, if accidentally left on there’s no blow-off valve to allow the fork to move when hitting the lumpy stuff. 30mm stanchions keep everything on track; damping is reliable, action is buttery smooth and the ride is good. There’s also an adjustable air spring to fettle according to your waist size.
Huge WTB tyres wrap the wheels on the Wanga, and while not the fastest-rolling treads, the front and rear-specific tyres hook up well in almost all conditions. The tall tread on the rear even coped well with mud. They may not be light, but they don’t suffer from pinch punctures like the Kendas on the Duster. It is also good to see quality WTB tubes, rather than the Durex-thin ones usually found on complete bikes.
Like the DMR, the Wanga uses reliable and powerful — if a little wooden feeling — Hayes Nine brakes. To increase power, a larger 7in rotor is used for the front brake. This is the only area where componentry is similar, however, as the rest of the running gear is from Shimano rather than SRAM. An XT mech offers increased life if not improved shifting. The LX range supplies the remaining drive-train parts, and feel at the shifters is a world apart from the flexible plastic X7. The only non-Shimano part, an FSA external bearinged V-Drive chainset, also shifts impeccably thanks to solid, machined aluminium chainrings, with their integrated shifting ramps and pins.
FSA also supplies the bars, stem and post. The oversize bar has a good shape, but the bulge is too long. It’s not possible to move the controls inward to give enough room for even medium-sized hands. Removing the gear indicators helped, but it’s a bodge.
In terms of parts bolted on, there is very little we’d change on the Wanga. However, it’s not the first bike we grabbed when heading out of the door.
As always, the geometry is what sets the bikes apart. With a steeper seat angle, a rider’s weight is further forward, more directly over the cranks. So sitting and spinning, or climbing smooth trails, is a lot more effective than the laid-back Charge, but when things get twisty you’ll need to stand up to keep weight central. Staying seated places too much weight over the front end, making for a twitchier proposition altogether. A layback seatpost allows you to get around the forward bias somewhat, but it’ll never be as relaxed as the Duster.
We could live without the dropouts, as the hunks of alloy not only add excess weight, but also came loose too regularly for our liking. A shame, as it’s by far the most comfortable frame tested here, with the most traditional ‘steel’ feeling.
The rear triangle on the Wanga proves that it is possible to get a ‘steel feel’ at this price, this being easily the most comfortable rig on test, but it’s geometry that sets the Voodoo apart. A forward weight bias would suit a machine with a longer-travel fork, but unfortunately that’s not to be.
This fast-handling machine actually suits more experienced riders than its price tag would suggest. You can ride it fast on technical terrain, thanks to the tyres and compliant rear end, but the steeper front end and weight distribution mean you need to know what’s what or you can get into trouble.
MBR RATING: 7/10