Sled v Jeffsy v Mettle: these all-rounder dream machines need to handle every type of terrain with a special emphasis on slaying the downhill sections.
For decades bike manufacturers have been following a set pattern for releasing new bikes. Launch next year’s model this summer to generate a ton of excitement around the latest design, then deliver said bike six months later when most of us have forgotten all about it, or simply moved on to the latest greatest thing that’s just been released.
Times are changing though. Brands keen to capitalise on that initial buzz are now delivering bikes before the hangover from the launch party has even had a chance to lift, and some brands have ditched the concept of model years altogether.
This month’s test consists of three such bikes. The newest of which is the Identiti Mettle. Launched just weeks ago, this is the very first test of Identiti’s new enduro bike and it benefits from the recent release of SRAM’s GX Eagle drivetrain.
Hot on its heels is the DMR Sled. It’s not the first full suspension bike from the UK band that built its reputation on flat pedals, but DMR has definitely stepped it up with the Sled.
By far the oldest bike in our test trio is the 27.5in version of the formidable YT Jeffsy. Launched less than six months ago it can hardly be described as long in the tooth and while we’ve already done a First Ride on the less expensive Jeffsy 27 we were keen to see how the top-end version stacked up against fresh competition.
And it’s not just timing that our three test bikes have in common. All are rolling on 27.5in wheels, all have 160mm travel and all have progressive geometry and are geared up for shredding. So whether these three test bikes are genuine early birds or fashionably late to the 2017 model year party, it doesn’t really matter, all we’re concerned with is which one is the best?
Tale of the test
Long days and dusty trails make for good test sessions, not least because the trail conditions are consistent and you can pack more riding time into each session. The higher speeds that go hand in hand with hard packed trails are also good for highlighting any shortcoming in the suspension.
And while there’s no slip sliding around in the mud, the limits of traction can also be reached when the dust is deep enough to coat roots and rocks, which there are no shortage of at the Forest of Dean.
We did a mix of uplifted assisted testing care of flyupdownhill.co.uk and big pedal rides to test the bikes’ climbing ability and reach more natural terrain.
We also did back to back runs on select trails in the Surrey Hills as the quick turnaround helps reduce the influence of fatigue during the testing process.
Verdict: Depending on the trail, the DMR Sled seesaws between being the best and worst bike in this test. That’s mostly due to the suspension response on bigger hits, but the BB height is also too tall, which feeds into the motion sickness when things get rough. Packing the air can on the rear shock full of volume spacers and running more sag is one way to reduce the BB height. A better way would be to have some sort of flip-chip in the upper link, like the one YT has on the Jeffsy. With this and some minor spec changes the DMR Sled would be back in the mix rather than at the back of the pack.
Identiti Mettle GX
Verdict: Identiti has done a great job with the Mettle. The proportions and angles align perfectly, and even with three frame sizes, it offers a great fit. With 160mm travel, it’s unashamedly a big-hit rig. It carries its 14.63kg heft well too, with more muscle than fat, so it’s solid without ever feeling sluggish. Timing has helped too, as the newly released GX Eagle drivetrain enables you to spin, rather than grind, up every climb. It can’t compete with YT’s pricing though, so even though the sizing is better, the complete package isn’t as good.
YT Industries Jeffsy CF Pro Race 27
Verdict: You can agonise over geometry, travel and sizing, but it’s not until you actually ride a bike that you really get the measure of it. With the YT Jeffsy CF Pro Race 27, it’s the weight that defines it. At 12.56kg (27.69lb) it’s bloody light for a sub-£4k bike sporting 160mm travel. As such, it’s not the stiffest 160mm bike we’ve tested, so it feels much more like a long-legged trail bike capable of turning its hand to anything, than a full-blown enduro rig. That’s not meant as a criticism of the Jeffsy CF Pro Race 27, it’s just good to know which side of the fence it sits on.
To make the testing process as fair as possible, we fitted folding bead Maxxis High Roller II 3C 27.5×2.3in tyres to all of the bikes in this test. Price £64.99 each.