Bike Test: The Motobecane Fly Team 29 Ti XX

Motobecane U.S.A. has a reputation for delivering a lot of bike for the bucks. The Fly Team 29 Ti XX is going to cement this reputation, coming in way below $6000 and loaded to the max with the SRAM XX group.

The Fly Team 29 Ti XX is made for racing cross-country, short track and endurance events, but due to its large wheels and titanium frame, it is far more versatile than 26-inch-wheeled, carbon fiber, cross-country race bikes. This bike could be pressed into service as a high-speed trailbike for the right rider and terrain.

The Fly Team 29 Ti XX’s traditional double-triangle frame is made from butted 3AL/2.5V titanium tubing. Its sloped top tube design offers a nice standover height (especially for a 29er), and the bends in both the seat stays and chainstays allow for great heel and tire clearance.

A titanium strut is added between the seat stay and chainstay near the left dropout, adding rigidity in an area susceptible to the forces of the rear brake. A replaceable derailleur hanger holds a SRAM XX rear derailleur.

The same bike with Shimano XTR components, FSA cranks and a RockShox Reba Race fork is available for $4295.

This is the first production bike to come through the MBA stable that is equipped head-to-toe with the SRAM XX group, and it is a sight to behold. The XX group with the 2×10 drivetrain heart is further complemented by Avid XX brakes and a RockShox Reba XX fork that sports a hydraulic, bar-mounted PopLoc button that controls the fork’s advanced FloodGate low-speed compression-to-lock-out damping.

New to the wrecking crew is the Fly Team’s top-of-the-line Vuelta XRP Team wheelset. It is claimed that each wheelset is stress relieved at least three times and then trued and tensioned each time. The set alone would put you back $800. Motobecane didn’t cut any corners.

It doesn’t take a lot to get the Fly Team up and running. Set the fork’s air pressure to the recommendation on the side of the slider; adjust the brake levers, triggers and PopLoc lever (with a Torx wrench) to your preference; and set your saddle height. Ready to go.

Moving out: The foam grips, flat bar, firm Selle Italia SLR saddle and stretched out riding position remind the rider that the Fly Team is intended for raging, not joy riding. This is serious business, and clicking through the SRAM XX drivetrain reminds you that you picked the right business to be in. 

Hammering: If you like to attack out of the saddle, give a thumb tap to the PopLoc button to lock out the fork and choose a gear one lower than you think you can push up to speed. Don’t worry; this bike doesn’t pena-lize big-gear mashers. The Vuelta wheels get rolling so fast you’d swear somebody mounted 26-inch wheels on there as a joke. That said, we had even better results staying in the saddle using the 39-tooth chainring with the appropriate rear cog to rocket away.

Cornering: We have always liked the Kenda Small Block Eights for racing (or to save weight on the rear wheel of a trailbike), and the 29er version doesn’t dampen our enthusiasm. These folding-bead tires and the Fly Team’s geometry work together to keep you hooked up. The Fly Team steers light and neutral. The bike has the ability to change lines with cross-country racing agility and still offer stability in high-speed cornering situations.

Climbing: While the Fly Team handles all of its responsibilities with ease, it is climbing where it pulls ahead. In the saddle, spinning with the fork active worked best 90 percent of the time. On paved climbs, however, we locked out the fork. The bike’s light weight rewards hard efforts when you are trying to close a gap or open one up.

Descending: The Fly Team will hang with any hardtail in its class on the descents and will gap an equally skilled rider on a 26-inch-wheeled hardtail. The guy on the dual-suspended bike will be a little harder to hold on to, but that is what uphills are for. Special thanks go out to Motobecane for not being tempted to shave a few ounces by spec’ing a light fork that doesn’t perform. The RockShox XX Reba 29 still allows the bike to hit its weight goals while offering true damping performance and durability.

The XX drivetrain: One experiment we conducted during testing yielded interesting results. A short cross-country course was laid out where a rider could finish seven laps in an hour. There were a few steep, short climbs on the course. Riders found that dropping to the small chainring for the climbs (usually around lap five when the legs were starting to burn) hurt their lap times and flow. Keeping the bike in the big ring (only 39 teeth, remember), hitting the climb fast, and then struggling over the crest was faster.  

Converting the wheels and tires to tubeless would be a logical race modification. That’s it for racers. Motobecane delivers a race-ready bike with the Fly Team 29 Ti XX.

If you live where the trails do not require a dual-suspension bike, the Fly Team 29 Ti XX would be an excellent choice for high-speed trail riding. Just swap the flat bar with a riser bar and the saddle for something like the WTB Pure V. Larger volume tires with a more aggressive tread pattern would clinch the deal.

The Fly Team 29 Ti XX levels the playing field for many racers. The 29-inch wheels give it a rough-rolling advantage over a similarly equipped 26er. The titanium frame offers more comfort than almost all aluminum hardtail race bikes and many carbon fiber race bikes. The SRAM XX drivetrain is inspiring. And Motobecane put the package together for a great price. The Fly Team 29 Ti XX has got you in its sights.

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