Bike Test: Warphen M160C

Warphen M160C

The story behind Warphen Bicycles is not a typical one; however, in our industry, the tales behind the brands rarely are. Warphen Claro is an ICU nurse in Southern California by profession and a bike designer by passion. Born in the Philippines, Warphen could be found tinkering in his father’s metal shop, helping him fix tractors or whatever else rolled into the shop. He even had a passion for designing and crafting weapons, such as swords and knives. Warphen told us he had wanted to be an engineer all his life and recalled a memory of the time he tried to fit the rear spring off a motorcycle on his BMX bike. The dream of becoming an engineer was set aside when Warphen followed his mother’s advice to become a nurse in the United States. Warphen still had the passion to design and manufacture, so in his free time, around 2009, he aimed to develop his own line of bikes.

Today, almost anyone can purchase an open mold and slap his or her name on a bike with a proven design. In fact, many suspension systems are currently free to adopt; however, Warphen wanted to create something unique. It was important to him to have his own patented suspension design, so Warphen sought the help of a patent lawyer in Orange County, California, and was granted a patent for Intelifloat suspension in 2015. Warphen currently offers just this one model seen here, but he has plans to continue to grow his brand while enjoying the process of designing mountain bikes.

FRAME

Most engineers begin the process of designing a frame using a CAD (computer-aided design) drawing, which then helps them craft an aluminum test mule. Warphen took his own approach and designed his very first frame out of wood in a 1:1-size scale model. He then located a company in Los Angles called Montenegro MFG that specializes in handmade carbon fiber frames. This factory quickly become too expensive, so Warphen packed his bags, along with his wooden frame, and booked a trip to Asia. The factory he met with was skeptical, considering they had never produced a mold from a wooden frame before, but they liked the idea of having a physical product in their hand as opposed to a computer drawing.

Warphen soon got his first round of pre-production samples and searched for shredders in his area. His bike was put to the test by two racers who both claimed top-five podiums in expert category races at the Sea Otter Classic.

The M160C frame features modern design throughout. The cables are internally routed. The bottom bracket is threaded, and the rear end features Boost spacing. This Warphen offers tire clearance up to 2.8 inches and boasts a long, slack and low geometry.

COMPONENTS

As we write this review, the M160C is only offered as a frame retailing for $2500. That price includes a Fox Float X2 shock with Kashima coating. Warphen told us that by the time you’re reading this review, complete bikes will be offered.

Our test bike sported components from Shimano, DVO, Renthal, Hope and OneUp. Some of these parts are likely to be used on compete models for purchase, but those decisions are still being made. For that reason, we’re not going to dig too deep into our build.

SUSPENSION

By now you must be wondering what’s the deal with Intelifloat. Well, most will accuse Warphen of stealing VPP and copying the rear of a Santa Cruz or Intense; however, anyone who knows the patent process is aware that you need a unique design to be granted approval. If lawyer-speak is your thing, here’s the patent number: US9145185B1.

Intelifloat uses an upper link similar to VPP’s, but the lower link is quite different. Whereas a VPP system places the bottom link behind the seatpost, Intelifloat positions it in front. This causes the lower link on the Intelifloat to move forward and up, while a VPP system moves down and forward. Of course, pivot placement, along with other factors, will play a part in overall suspension feel, but for Warphen it was important to have a unique suspension design that he could patent.

DOWN AND DIRTY

Climbing: The M160C utilizes its 160mm of Intelifloat travel well. We initially tested the bike with 30-percent sag in the rear, but due to the suspension’s more linear feel, we opted to add some air pressure, reducing our sag to 25 percent. This change improved climbing performance without sacrificing small-bump compliance. In fact, in the open stock position, the Warphen grabs traction with ease, propelling the rider up the hill. It’s not exactly a punchy suspension feel where you notice every pedal stroke, but considering the travel, our tester had no gripes when the trails pointed up.

On steep sections, the front end had a light feel that we attributed to the short chainstays and stem. The seat tube likely played a role in this sensation as well, considering it’s not as steep as other bikes on the market. The easy fix here would be to run a stem just a touch longer or to adjust the saddle position forward.

As far as suspension is concerned, the system worked quite well, allowing us to pedal up long climbs in the open position with minimal pedal bob.

Furthermore, the frame feels light, making you forget you’re pedaling an enduro bike up the trail.

THE FLOW

Once it’s time to hammer down the trails, the Warphen charges ahead with authority. Its slack head angle, comfortable reach and supple suspension platform come together to provide confidence and control. Our testers did notice the platform was quite linear near the end of the stroke, causing them to bottom out on larger features such as jumps or drops. Some riders will appreciate the ability to more easily use full travel, while more aggressive riders will need to pack the shock with volume spacers for a more progressive feel.

In the corners, the M160C has a quick feel thanks to its 27.5-inch wheels. Although the head tube angle is slack, it never felt floppy at slow speeds, nor was it twitchy at high speeds. The bike offers a balanced and intuitive feel riders will appreciate.

MODS AND UPGRADES

The first thing we would do if we planned to push this bike hard would be to add volume reducers to the shock to give it a more progressive feel. This would aid in cornering and would help prevent harsh bottom-outs. Warphen told us he approves the use of a coil shock on this bike, but stated that a heavier spring is recommended to keep the rider higher in the travel.

During our early testing, we noticed the pivot bolts came loose after a few rides. We pulled them out and reapplied Loctite, which prevented them from coming loose throughout the rest of our time with the bike.

BOTTOM LINE

Warphen built his company with passion and is proud to say his bikes are 100 percent designed in California. He knows there are numerous brands on the market, and while he of course wants to see his company grow and succeed, he’s happy that he gets to design bikes he loves to ride. We’re sure this isn’t the last we’ll see of Warphen bikes, and we’re curious to see what the future holds for this small company.

www.warphen.com

 

 

 

 

 


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