When every second counts, the Mondraker Chrono Carbon R delivers
From the very first pedal stroke, the Mondraker Chrono Carbon R felt purposeful, poised and precise, instantly reacting to the most subtle of rider inputs
Mondraker is probably best known for its pioneering Forward Geometry. So when the Chrono XC race hardtail arrived we half expected to unbox a bike with radical sizing and a seriously short stem. That wasn’t the case.
Mondraker Chrono Carbon R review
And while the Chrono’s XC Forward Geometry may have been ahead of its time when it was first released last year, the new Specialized Epic HT actually holds claim to more progressive geometry. That said, the size L Mondraker isn’t far behind, its 447mm reach measurement guaranteeing that the Chrono Carbon R frame remains current, even if it no longer pushes the boundaries.
It’s still a Mondraker through and through, though. The way the seatstays are elevated as they enter the dropouts is reminiscent of the Foxy trail bike, and the kink in the top tube, just behind the tapered head tube, bares more than a passing resemblance to the Dune enduro bike. It’s the flattened top-tube and seatstays that are most striking on the Chrono though. And the frame design is not simply about being easy on the eye – when combined with the slender 27.2mm seat tube, the frame has also been engineered to be easier on your lower back.
Of all the XC RockShox forks we’ve tested, the 100mm travel SID Select on the Mondraker is by far the most race-focused. And when we’re talking XC racing, that means it’s the lightest. It still has stout 32mm upper tubes, but excess material has been whittled away from the lower legs, where even the 15mm dropouts have cuts outs to save precious grams.
The Charger RL damper has a different feel too, offering more support in the form of a low-speed threshold, so when you get out of the saddle to sprint, the fork remains steadfast. Start hitting bigger bumps though, and the SID reacts, and quickly. Like the Trek Procaliber 9.7, you also have a remote lockout to maximize efficiency for the finish line sprint, but the firmer initial touch to the damping on the SID means you are way less likely to need it.
All XC bikes we’ve tested recently came with SRAM Eagle 12-speed drivetrains and NX rear derailleurs. That’s not to say they are the same however. Mondraker and Specialized both downgrade the shifter to SX level, and while this doesn’t diminish shifting performance, you can’t help but feel a little short-changed. There’s no shortage of top-end speed on the Chrono though, the bigger 34t chainring guaranteeing that you won’t spin out as readily with the 11-50t cassette. In fact, given that many XC racers run 36t chainrings, it seems like a good compromise for us mere mortals.
We mentioned earlier that the slender 27.2mm seat post provides additional compliance, but it is also worth pointing out that it seriously limits your choice of dropper posts. Also, the small 160mm brake rotor up front seems out of place, but the limiting factor on an XC bike is normally tyre traction, not braking power, so it works just fine and even saves a few grams.
To say that it felt 100 per cent race focused is an understatement. Stand up to sprint and the Chrono responds with fast, efficient power transfer. It carved corners more effectively that most of it rivals too – the low bottom bracket height and balanced weight distribution allowing you to load the excellent Maxxis Ikon tyres for maximum traction. And it’s this balanced handing that really gives you the confidence to stay off the brakes and maintain maximum momentum.
Precision is something of a double-edged sword, though. When you’re fresh, it’s a blessing, but on longer rides and on rougher courses the Mondraker was less forgiving. The skinny grips transmit trail buzz straight to your hands, and while the forgiving flex of the frame is noticeable when fully weighting the saddle on steeper climbs, stand up, or simply hover just above the saddle, and that modicum of comfort instantly evaporates.