Mountain Bike Action Bike Test: Sage Flow Motion Trail Bike
It isn’t often, but occasionally we get a call from a manufacturer that we are not familiar with. In this case, it was David Rosen, the owner/designer of Sage Titanium Bicycles, asking us if we would be interested in giving their Flow Motion a go. What is a Sage Flow Motion, you ask? Sage is an all-mountain, custom, titanium trail bike frame company based in Portland, Oregon. Sage started out with a focus on handmade road and gravel frames in 2014. The Flow Motion prototype mountain bike frame was built in 2017 and is now in production with version 5. The Sage Flow Motion made its debut at Sea Otter last year and was a huge hit. The wrecking crew didn’t seem too excited to test another titanium trail bike, but a few days later, a box showed up with a brand-new Sage Flow Motion inside.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
We asked David why he designed the Flow Motion. He told us that his favorite mountain bike trail was Lord of the Squirrels in Whistler, a favorite of the MBA crew as well. If you’re not familiar with that trail, do yourself a favor and check it out on YouTube. David loves titanium and wanted to make a 27.5-inch hardtail capable of shredding Lords and trails like it. Being from Portland, his favorite local trail is called the Flow Motion, which the Sage was aptly named for. After watching some point-of-view videos on YouTube, we started to get an understanding of what this Sage is all about and who will most appreciate this bike.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The entire Sage line is made of annealed, 3/2.5, grade-9 titanium U.S. tubing. The attention to detail is amazing, with attractive welds, a machined head tube and laser-cut brake mounts. Closed, Boost-spaced dropouts provide a larger surface area for welding, and this bike has one of the cleanest derailleur hanger mounts we’ve seen. The chainstay is beautifully creased to accept a 34-tooth chainring. The laser-cut and laser-edged stainless head badge caught our attention immediately. Sometimes the smallest details are the most striking. The dropper post has internal routing in the 72-degree seat tube, clean shift and brake cable guides on the downtube, and two bottle mounts, which we love for all-day epic rides. The progressive geometry includes a 65.5-degree head angle paired with a 150mm-travel fork and a long reach.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Our Sage Flow Motion is a full-blown custom boutique bike complete with an 11-speed Shimano XT build. We loved the Ti-anodized, traditional, Chris King tapered 1 1/8 × 1.5 NoThreadSet. The frame is capable of handling a 160mm-travel fork but comes stock with a 150mm Fox Factory 36 fork. Keeping it in the family, a Fox 150mm-travel (on a size large)
Transfer dropper post gives plenty of descending clearance. Our bike came with 27.5-inch Industry 9 Back Country wheels on Maxxis Minion tires. The Race Face 50mm Atlas stem and 800mm bars definitely gave us a trail feel as soon as we grabbed a hold of them. Sagebranded grips by Lizard Skins and a custom, 155mm, Owl-logo’d saddle completed the contact points.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setting sag: Since the Sage Flow Motion is a hardtail, the fork settings are crucial. We set ours up with just over 35mm (25 percent) of sag and upped the rebound five clicks from slow. This gave the Flow Motion a very poppy but level feel when it left the ground and allowed it to settle well in turns. Through rocky descents, the bike felt balanced and playful, with the titanium frame flex and 2.5 tire volume giving a deceptive sense of suspension in the rear.
Moving out: “Progressive geometry” is an overused term, but we cannot think of a better description. Our size-large test bike had a 646mm top tube, and matched with a 50mm stem, it was ideal for a 6-foot rider. Bottom bracket height is the other critical dimension, and 312mm resulted in minimal pedal strikes but a really good-feeling center of gravity while descending. We loved the 800mm-wide bars for handling and stability, and they can be cut down if you feel a little stretched out.
Climbing: The Flow Motion climbs remarkably well, but you are constantly reminded of the huge 2.5 tires when you monster truck across the sand. Tire choice will really make a difference on this bike, depending on your terrain and skill set. The 2.5 Minion tires are a great selection and allowed us to lay power down on some 30-plus-percent grades without breaking loose. Air pressure is a huge factor as well, and 18-psi front/19-psi rear seemed to be our magic numbers in this test. Although, Industry 9 recomends higher pressures for their rims. The long top tube made seated climbing comfortable and produced good acceleration when we were standing without peeling out. Most trail bike cockpits feel cramped, but that wasn’t true with the Flow Motion.
Cornering: The nice thing about the flex of titanium is the way the bike tracks and settles in the turns. With the suspension tuned up front, you can have confidence going into turns aggressively. The head tube angle is matched really well with the 150mm of travel. It is very predictable, and you never feel like you are falling over. On tight switchbacks, it feels nimble, and in wide-open, sweeping turns, it feels stable. The 150mm seatpost gives you a really low center of gravity and provides added confidence.
Descending: This bike’s descending prowess was the best surprise the wrecking crew could have been given. Typically, there is a point when you realize that you are riding aggressive trails on a hardtail, such as every time you misjudge a rock and your back tire and rim pay the price. The difference with the Flow Motion is geometry and technology. There is a great pairing of components that makes this bike far more capable of descending than hardtail training bikes of the past. First off, the pneumatics of the 2.5-inch tire, matched with the compliance of the titanium frame, give you a false sense of suspension. Of course, this isn’t going to help on big drops, but banging through rock gardens was far more comfortable than we ever expected. We took the Flow Motion way out of its comfort zone, and it never let us down. It was stable in the air, and the harder and faster we pushed in rock gardens, the smoother it rode. The limits will come from backtire and wheel failure.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
It is difficult to find upgrades for a fully custom boutique bike. Tire selection will be a big one on this bike based on your zip code and riding ability, as this bike is so versatile. For big guys (180-plus pounds), volume spacers in the fork will make tuning for bigger features way better. You can get the fork to ramp up harder and still have the plushness at the top of the stroke with less pressure. With a hardtail, getting the fork dialed in can make the bike go from good to great. Our bike was set up with 27.5×2.5 tires but can also be configured with 29×2.2 tires.
The Sage Titanium website, www.sagetitanium.com, has an interactive feature where you can pick and choose your build based on preferences and budget. Custom titanium is not cheap. The MSRP of the frame is $3400. It is completely handmade in the U.S. with U.S.-made materials. The Sage is also available through shops, so have your local dealer look into them.
The Sage comes with a limited lifetime warranty for material and manufacturing defects. The Sage Flow Motion will give you bragging rights, especially when you line up with your bros on their 150mm trail bikes and beat them both up and down the hill!