FOES MIXER ENDURO TEST
Brent Foes is the kind of guy who likes to tinker. He’s a fabricator at heart and loves to get his hands dirty making cool stuff out of metal. The Mixer, his latest creation, is an enduro bike with a unique feature. The wheels of this bike are not the same size. The bike rides on a 29er front wheel and a 27.5-inch back wheel. The bike is very reminiscent of the now-discontinued F275, another enduro bike Foes made that rode on 27.5- inch wheels front and rear. After years of development and testing, the Foes crew decided that the mixed wheel size has benefits that cannot be ignored. Brent believes he can build a bike with the rollover benefits of a 29er combined with the quicker acceleration of a smaller rear wheel. We picked up one of these mixed-wheel-size creations (hot off the welding table) from the Foes Fabrication headquarters and put it to the test on our home trails.
True to size: Foes builds the Mixer with a fairly standard geometry that will easily fit most riders. The long top tube felt roomy and allowed us to run a short stem that made the handling quick and nimble.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Mixer is available in two different versions: one for trail riding and one for enduro riding and racing. The Trail version sports less travel and a quicker-handling geometry. The Enduro version (tested here) is burlier, with geometry and travel that are as comfortable on long adventure rides with technical descents as pulling laps in a bike park.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Single pivot love: Foes uses their signature linkage system on the Mixer, which is a modified single-pivot suspension design. It’s slightly progressive and delivers excellent small-bump compliance and big-hit control.
Big shock, big performance: The Mixer’s low-leverage ratio gives the suspension a unique feel and also makes it very easy to set up.
The Mixer is an aluminum bike built around Foe’s signature 2.3:1 progressive-link suspension. The bike sports up to 178-millimeters (7 inches) of travel and is adjustable down to 160 millimeters with the swap of a single shock-mount bolt. The bike comes with a geometry that’s optimized for the mixed wheel sizes. Brent claims that by using a taller front wheel with an axle higher than the rear one, the Mixer is able to deliver a stable feel that allows the rider to weight the front end of the bike for better traction without fear of going over the bars. The smaller rear wheel also allows Foes to keep key geometry numbers, like chainstay length and bottom bracket height, in check without the compromises required by a long-travel 29er. The bike also comes with all the modern features, like a tapered head tube, Boost 12×148-millimeter rear-axle spacing and simple but elegant external cable routing.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Boost compatible: The Mixer comes with the modern amenities, including the new 12×148-millimeter rear axle.
Obviously, the mixed wheel size is what sets this bike apart; however, Foes’ craftsmanship is another eye-catching feature. The Mixer’s hydroformed shape combined with the beefy tubes gives the bike a look that’s uniquely Foes. The build kit is a smart mix of SRAM, Fox, Stan’s and Magura components. The Vyron electronic dropper post works exceptionally well but will take some time to get used to. The Magura MT Trail brakes are a perfect match for this bike, with a four-piston front caliper and two-piston rear caliper to deliver plenty of stopping power and excellent modulation in a quiet brake package.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
DVO Magic: Once the setup is dialed, the DVO Diamond fork gobbles up trail chatter easily and makes the front end of the Mixer even more confidence-inspiring.
Our test bike came equipped with the super-adjustable Fox Float X2 shock and DVO Diamond fork. Both of these components are air-sprung, which makes them able to suit any rider’s style; however, the big ranges in compression/ rebound damping and air volume mean they require some expertise to set up properly. We started with the shock set to roughly 30-percent sag in the long-travel mode, which requires slightly more pressure than the short-travel mode. We then set the fork to roughly 25-percent sag to achieve a balanced feel. Both components can be dialed firm or super plush, so plan to spend some time tinkering before you find your ideal setup. As an added bonus, the new version of the X2 shock features a quick-dial knob that allows the rider to dial in a pedaling platform on the fly, which meant we could run the shock on the soft side without sacrificing pedaling efficiency.
The 29er front wheel is noticeable right away; the front end of the Mixer feels on the tall side. We felt like we were riding behind the fork rather than on top of it. This gave us confidence on steep stuff and made the bike feel stable in situations where other bikes might pitch you over the bars. Nevertheless, we wouldn’t want it any higher, and the low-rise Thomson bar and stem help keep this measurement in check.
With the shock’s low-speed compression knob dialed in, the Mixer feels firm and efficient. The slightly smaller rear wheel accelerates nicely and gives the bike a snappy feel. The WTB tires are certainly on the beefy side, and this would be the first place we’d look to find more pedaling speed out of this machine.
Climber-friendly: The smaller rear wheel makes the Mixer accelerate quickly, an attribute that will be appreciated on the climbs.
The big front wheel plows up and over big obstacles remarkably well, and the quicker rear wheel gives you enough acceleration power to charge up nearly anything. With the front end feeling relatively tall, it’s critical to shift rider weight forward to keep the front end from wandering on the steepest, most technical climbs.
As in climbing situations, the Foes begs the rider to shift his or her weight forward in the corners. This, coupled with the huge rubber footprint of the 29er front tires, makes this bike rail through corners with ease. The smaller rear wheel helps keep the overall wheelbase in check, but the relatively long chainstays keep this bike feeling more stable than snappy in tighter turns—a trait more aggressive riders will love in high-speed cornering efforts.
Fun and flickable: The Mixer isn’t afraid to find the fun lines on the trail. It’s happy staying stuck to the ground to plow over rocks, but also happy coming off the ground to find some style.
Sit behind that big wagon wheel up front and hang on. The Mixer takes every advantage of the big tire’s rollover confidence, which is particularly beneficial on steep descents. The relatively slack head angle feels right for the bike’s intended use and lends confidence on the steepest and most technical trails. This is far from a downhill race machine, but we’re confident that with the dialed geometry and added bonus of the shifted body position, the Mixer could pull daily driver duty as a bike-park bike and ride nearly anything the downhill sleds could.
The notch: Rock drops, jumps and technical chutes are no problem on the Mixer. This bike is built to handle the gnarly stuff with confidence, thanks to the big front wheel that won’t pitch you over the bars.
Foes designs its bikes with a low leverage ratio that’s slightly progressive. The Mixer sports a suspension feel that resists bottoming nicely on big hits and drops, but isn’t afraid of small chatter thanks to very adequate small-bump compliance. Whereas other bikes have more sophisticated dual-link designs, it’s tough to poke a hole in what is essentially a well-executed single pivot that works predictably and allows the rider to use every millimeter of the available travel.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The first question we were asked about this bike was, “Don’t you have to carry two different inner tubes in case you flat?” The answer is, no, you don’t. It’s pretty easy to stretch a 27.5-inch tube into a 29er tire in a pinch. We’d recommend sticking with this strategy and possibly swapping to a 29er tube when you get home—although we’ve been running a 27.5-inch tube in the front of this bike for weeks with no problems.
The WTB Vigilante tires stick to the trail like duct tape on a balloon, but they’re a little on the heavy side and roll fairly slowly. Our test tires were the heavier versions. Thankfully, WTB makes a lighter version that’s the same size but without the sidewall heft. If you’re looking to save some grams and you ride smoothly enough to get away with a thinner sidewall, this is the first place we’d shave weight.
The Mixer successfully employs the unique concept of mixed wheel sizes. Although other companies have tried this in the past with 26er/29er combos, this bike seems to work better with the 27.5-inch rear wheel. We probably won’t see the big bike companies jump on this bandwagon yet, but this bike is different and, in many ways, better.
The geometry is conventional on the surface, but Brent Foes’ claims that the bigger front wheel rolls over obstacles better and the rear wheel accelerates quicker hold up. The chainstays are slightly longer, and the taller front end takes some time to get used to. That said, though, the handling is supremely confidence-inspiring, especially when the trail gets steep or technical. Foes has once again created a unique bike built with the artisan craftsman- ship that Brent Foes demands for all his projects.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345.
Contact us via email at [email protected]