I bought this frame for €640 off ebay midway through 2008 and I’ve slowly built up the complete bike since then. This is my first true downhill bike so I have nothing to compare it to except other non-DH mountainbikes. I am not an expert on downhill riding, so this ‘review’ is mainly to give my impression of riding a dedicated DH bike for the first time.
First things first, this frame is designed to offer up to 9.5″ or 240mm of coil-sprung rear travel. That’s exactly how I set it up. To give you an idea of just how much this is, one short decade ago, 6 and 8″ bikes were almost unheard of. Yet the shockwave has a long heritage, the 8″ version dating back to around 1999. The monocoque frame design has not changed much since then, apart from the rear shock linkages. This is a single pivot frame although Mountain Cycle uses a separe shock linkage they call “Reactive Link System 2″ to make the rear suspension rate more progressive. That means it won’t bottom out as easily – not that that’s likely to happen unless you’re dropping off stuff. Anyway, one of the main reasons I decided to write this article is to convince readers that provided you live on a mountain, I don’t consider this amount of travel to be overkill.
I previously read other reviews which said that anything less than dual crown forks would not do this frame justice & I completely agree. Hence, I test rode this bike exactly as pictured with a set of ‘cheapy’ inverted SASO carbon forks. I am 180cm tall and decided early on that the Large sized frame would probably suit me best. I do not regret this decision. With the telecopic seatpost almost fully extended, I get a decent pedalling action for flat ride sections (although getting on the saddle is a bit difficult until the suspension compresses under my weight). Having said that, when the seat post is as low as it can go, the bike does not feel big at all. For my style of downhill riding, I normally set the seat as pictured for a good comprimise.
From the moment I started pedalling up to speed for the very first time, I immediately noticed was just how well-suited the geometry is to descending. With the 200mm SASO carbon forks installed, it has an extremely looooong wheelbase of 118cm! That gives the Shockwave 9.5 an extremely stable ride. With these particular long-travel forks, the head tube angle sits at about 67°. At speed, steering this beast feels somewhat lazy, but you still retain perfect control. It really likes to carve through corners – whatever that means. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that you won’t be able to flick this bike around on single track though, because you can do that too (provided you know how to countersteer)!
Seat tube angle is an incredibly slack 58°. But keep in mind that when you’re going down a 15 or 20% slope, the seat tube angle also steepens by a corresponding amount. So you can remain seated over some incredibly rough stuff while the bike soaks up everything underneath you.
If it isn’t clear already, this bike yearns to be pointed down hill. Obviously that’s where it shines because that’s what it was built for. Having said that, it doesn’t require too much effort to ride a few kilometres on flat offroad tracks; riding up brief uphill sections is entirely possible too provided the gradient is less than about 5%. More than that and you’ll probably want to get off and walk.
How does it ride? In a word, it’s AWESOME. It is extremely confidence inspiring. I’m not one for any sort of dropoffs, but you can hit grapefruit-sized volcanic boulders for instance and your line is not deflected much at all. That would surely send you off on lesser bikes. Perhaps that is more to do with the front fork, but if anything the rear end completely gobbles up anything in it’s path. I can now do stuff on this bike at age 31 that I wouldn’t have had the balls to do when I was a crzay 16 y.o. teenager – that’s how good it is. Just point, let go of the front brake and the bike does the rest.
The frame is deceptively light – only 5.5kg. I didn’t bother with the floating disc brake kit because I wanted to set this bike up like a semi-lightweight downhiller so I can’t comment about that. My only gripe lies with the old obsolete(?) Fox vanilla shock that came with the frame, which doesn’t really provide a fast enough rebound rate for my kamikaze downhill speed runs. In fact the rebound adjuster doesn’t seem to do anything at all *Correction* I’ve just realised the shock has separate rebound and compression knobs but the former was hidden down near the bottom of the bike.. heh… no wonder… so that has solved that little problemito. Other handling traits I disliked were completely the fault of other inadequate equipment not associated with the frame such as a partly worn rear tyre, etc.
All in all, I know instinctively that this was a good frame to be introduced to downhill on. I’m aware that not all frames are created equal but I simply can’t fault this one. If you are lucky enough to live close to a mountain and steep paths abound, don’t look past this bike, you won’t regret it. With downhill trails, there’s no such thing as too much suspension (well at least that rule seems to hold true up to about 10”). On the other hand, if you live in Holland or some other flat country or intend to get this bike for showing off riding around flat city streets like some kind of reject poser, I’d say it’s not for you. This bike was meant to be used and abused.
I simply cannot understand why these frames are not more popular. This frame is very well priced, and from a total of 27 reviews on MTB Review, it got an average score of 97/100!! I think that speaks volumes about the downhill capabilities of this frame.