Review – Mondraker Dune RR
A few years ago a Spanish company called Mondraker designed its dual-suspension bikes with a peculiar geometry. They had a very long front end coupled with an extremely short stem, a low bottom bracket and short chainstays. The bikes were slack enough to get detention for slacking off. When Mondraker launched their bikes at Eurobike we were intrigued but thought the geometry was too radical to ever go mainstream. Fast-forward to 2018 and all you see on the trails are bikes that emulate the “long, low and slack” design that Mondraker essentially invented. Mondraker is located in Alicante, Spain, and has been building bikes that push the envelope since 2001. Its bikes had been absent from the U.S. market until 2017 when the Spanish crew partnered with a distribution company in Colorado.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Dune is what we might have called a cross between an enduro bike and a downhill bike had the Mondraker crew not already dubbed it a “Super Enduro” bike. This bike sports slightly more travel than most enduro bikes we test, with 170 millimeters up front and 160 in back, which makes it right at home on the most aggressive terrain you can throw at it. In fact, we’d be willing to bet that most riders who like doing bike-park laps, jump trails and steep technical lines would appreciate this style of bike more than a full-blown downhill race bike. The Dune is plenty capable when it comes to gobbling up technical terrain but is much more nimble than other downhill bikes. It’s also light enough to pedal to the top of the hill, making it a true enduro machine; however, it’s happiest when it has some help to make it to the top.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Dune sports a carbon frame with 160 millimeters of travel. Mondraker builds the bike with its proprietary Forward Geometry, which has been imitated by many other companies since its introduction a few years ago. The design is based on a geometry with a longer top tube and a shorter stem, which Mondraker claims makes the rider position more balanced, especially on steep descents. Mondraker also claims it offers more reactive steering that is precise without sacrificing high-speed stability. The Dune comes complete with a dual-link suspension system its engineers call “Zero,” as well as a 12×142-millimeter rear axle, 73-millimeter BSA bottom bracket, tapered head tube, and internal cable routing throughout. The Dune is designed to work exclusively with a single-ring drivetrain but comes with ISCG-05 mounts for chainguides.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Dune RR comes with a top-end build kit complete with top-of-the-line Fox suspension, a SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain and carbon cockpit parts to complete the package. Mondraker chose to use aluminum wheels and cranks, likely to save a bit on the retail pricing, as well as to add some perceived durability for the potential Dune rider. The Mavic wheels were a welcome surprise, as they are not spec’d on many bikes—although they should be. They sport a stiff and responsive rim paired with Mavic’s proprietary Zircon alloy spokes, a forged straight-pull design and a UST tubeless setup that does not require tape or rim strips to convert to tubeless. They are simple, stylish, effective and lightweight. They also cost much less per pair than some comparably performing carbon wheels.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Suspension setup: Mondraker makes the setup procedure relatively painless with an air-sprung shock and fork, although the suspension design tucks the shock so that it is somewhat difficult to get a shock pump on the valve. Once set up, though, the rest is very standard. We settled on a setup with roughly 35-percent sag in the shock and slightly less in the fork. This gave us a plush and aggressive feel. Those who want more efficiency or bottom-out resistance should run less sag.
Moving out: The unique geometry Mondraker pioneered can be felt as soon as you throw a leg over the Dune. The stem is remarkably short, yet the bike fits true to the large size we tested thanks to the long top tube and wide bars.
Pedaling: Mondraker’s suspension design has a relatively efficient feel that pedals quite well. The dual-link design makes for a snappy-feeling bike that doesn’t need the assistance of a pedaling platform, and that is a good thing, because the switch on the Fox X2 shock is very hard to reach from the saddle. Additionally, we felt no pedaling feedback, even when pushing this bike over very rocky terrain in low gears.
Climbing: The Dune is happiest on the descents but will climb well enough to satisfy most riders. On long and smooth climbs, it’s worth it to find the low-speed compression switch to firm the suspension. On quick, technical and punchy ascents, it’s best to charge and let the suspension help you to the top. The Dune’s Zero suspension is efficient enough that you don’t feel penalized for not adjusting the shock for the climbs.
Cornering: This is where Mondraker forced other brands to follow its lead. The longer front-center design handles better than older geometry, and this is especially true on longer-travel bikes. The Dune boasts a roomy cockpit and low center of gravity that allow the rider to carve corners, dice up switchbacks and pick his way through technical sections. The short stem keeps the front end feeling lively, and the long feel keeps it stable. Our only complaint was that when pedaling through some corners, the pedals snagged easily. This is the price you pay for a very low-slung bike, but we think it is worth it.
Descending: The Zero suspension design has a very plush and damped feel that is great at keeping the rider glued to the ground. The Dune will come off the ground easily if you want it to, but it seems to be happiest keeping the wheels connected to terra firma for speed and control. The suspension is remarkably active and makes it easy to make use of the full 160 millimeters of travel. The Forward Geometry makes it particularly confidence-inspiring to drop the Dune down a steep chute thanks to the short stem and rearward weight distribution. While the head angle may not be as slack as on some other bikes in this category, the rest of the geometry numbers more than make up for this, creating a bike that will back you up when the trail gets rough.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Mondraker also offers the Dune with a coil-sprung shock. If you plan to spend most of your time at the bike park or on downhill trails, this might be a better option. For most riders, though, the air shock will be best. It is not only easier to tune but also more than capable of handling gnarly trails. The Mondraker crew is very good at building mountain bikes. They are also very good at building electric bikes. In fact, they’re so good at the latter that they have told us they’re worried their electric bikes will eclipse their pedal bikes and Mondraker will become an electric bike company. We doubt this will happen with bikes like the Dune.
The Dune is an aggressive bike that loves the descents and will tolerate any climb—so long as it’s followed by an aggressive trail on the backside. It’s a versatile bike but is aptly categorized as a Super Enduro bike. It is a bike that’s capable on any downhill trail, but it won’t weigh you down like a boat anchor. This bike takes advantage of Mondraker’s innovative geometry; it handles tough trails with the ruggedness of a chainsaw yet still has the precision of a sharp chef’s knife.