Bike Test: Tomac Snyper 140

Can it really be only two years since the Tomac brand was reintroduced (for the third time) under the control of an all-new company headed by industry veteran Joel Smith and John “Johnny T” Tomac? That seems impossible, because the latest incarnation of Tomac Mountain Bikes is already so entrenched in the mountain bike community. They offer bikes for the extremes of downhill racing and cross-country, plus everything in between. This is the second time we’ve gotten a chance to spend some time on the Snyper 140 (the first we tested back in 2007). 

The Tomac gang can make use-specific race bikes that Johnny T wishes were available when he raced, but even Johnny knows these designs have limited use outside of racing. There are a thousand miles of singletrack for every mile of racecourse, and the Snyper is made versatile enough to handle what the backcountry can throw at it.   

Don’t be fooled by the black. This is not an all-carbon frame. Tomac uses 6069 T6 aluminum for the main triangle. The Snyper’s rear suspension is a single-pivot design with a forged aluminum rocker link between the shock and carbon fiber seat stays. Proprietary, oversized aluminum hardware is used for all the pivots. The package gets nice touches that include three sets of low-loaded bearings, a forged aluminum chainstay yoke and dropouts, integrated cable guides, chainstay protectors, an under-the-downtube water bottle mount and a subtle, flat-black finish.

Our Snyper was built with a Discover Card, not a no-limit American Express Card, and we are impressed. Anyone can build a great bike if money is no object, but the Tomac gang built a great bike on a budget. The DT Swiss X1800 wheels have already earned our praise (May 2009 “Thrash Tests”) for their performance and value. The Shimano LX/XT drivetrain is proven. The Avid Elixir brakes are great stoppers. The fork is perfect in this application and offers a half-inch more travel than the fork on our first Snyper test bike. And you know we have enjoyed good results using Kenda Nevegal tires.
Moving out: The Snyper positions its rider dead center between the wheels. Rider position is classic trailbike (slight bend in the back with elbows bent and down). The low-rise FSA XC 190 handlebar and FSA OS 190 stem put the bar just where we want it, although it would be nice if the bar were a little wider.
Pedaling performance: The Snyper 140 does not need the shock’s ProPedal feature engaged to get up to speed. Pivots are positioned so very little pedaling force finds its way to the suspension. The Snyper 140 pedals better wide open than many trailbikes pedal with a platform feature turned on. Tomac runs the derailleur cables through full housing from the shifter to the derailleur, and while this decision means less maintenance and more trouble-free miles, it takes away from the Shimano LX drivetrain’s crisp shifting.  
Cornering: Steering feels totally neutral. It is not as nervous as a cross-country race bike or as sluggish as the majority of five-plus-inch travel trailbikes. The seven-inch-rear brake rotor is overkill and required a light touch to prevent skidding going into downhill corners. Johnny T wishes his old cross-country race bikes cornered with this much authority.
Climbing: The Snyper 140 is a power climber if you stay in the saddle and work on spinning along in a comfortable gear. There is no wandering or tendency to wheelie. It does not, however, respond well to out-of-the-saddle climbing because your weight is shifted too far forward (remember, you are centered while in the saddle). The rear wheel will lose traction fairly easily. The only time we turned on the shock’s ProPedal feature was on long climbs, and then only if we were pedaling in torque-mode instead of    spinning.

Descending: On paper, the Snyper’s single-pivot rear suspension has limitations. On dirt, this bike is a total blast. Its custom-tuned shock with an oversized air canister is mated perfectly to the Tomac’s rear suspension. The same shock that was so supportive on the flats and climbs now soaks up everything like it had bottomless travel. Nobody would laugh at you if you mistook the feel of this rear suspension for a coil-over shock. It has that magic, progressive feel. The Snyper is a quiet bike. Nothing smacks, pings or dings the frame, even in the roughest sections.

We believe that a lot of effort went into tuning the Snyper’s shock to match it to the suspension design. It is dead on. Don’t waste all this effort. Set the rear suspension with at least 20 percent sag with the ProPedal lever in the off position.
The only other tip is to ride this bike hard and ride it in the saddle as much as possible. It does everything better the faster you push the pace, and staying centered gives the suspension a balanced, confidence-inspiring feel. Okay, we’d throw on a wider bar too.

We shocked many riders by favorably comparing our first Snyper to a few long-standing pillars of the trailbike community (bikes from Santa Cruz, Specialized and Foes). Two years later, the Snyper still impresses us.

It is a long-travel trailbike that has enough racing in its DNA to make it as much fun on the climbs as it is on the descents. The Tomac Snyper 140 remains a trail-riding achievement and on the short list of our favorite trailbikes.

Price        $1599 (frame and shock)
Country of origin         Taiwan
Weight         28.7 pounds
Click here for the Tomac website.
Frame tested         17″ (medium)
Bottom bracket height         14″
Chainstay length         17″
Top tube length         23″
Head angle         68.5ø
Seat angle         72ø
Standover height         29″
Wheelbase         43.75″
Suspension travel (front)               5.5″
Suspension travel (rear)         5.5″
Frame material         Aluminum
Fork         Fox 32 Float R
Shock         Fox Float RP23 XV
Rims         DT Swiss X1800
Tires         Kenda Nevegal (2.35″)
Hub         DT Swiss
Brakes         Avid Elixir R
Crankset         Shimano SLX
Shifters         Shimano LX Rapidfire
Handlebar         FSA XC 190 (25.25″ wide)
Front derailleur         Shimano XT
Rear derailleur         Shimano XT
Chainrings         Shimano (44/32/22)
Cassette         Shimano SLX (11-34)
Pedals         None (weighed with Shimano XTR)

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