Review – Mondraker Podium Carbon R
Mountain bike geometry has evolved over the past few years based on the philosophy that long top tubes, low bottom brackets, a low center of gravity and slack steering angles work best. You can thank Mondraker for that thinking, which has permeated every category from downhill bikes to cross-country hardtails. This Spanish-based company pioneered modern progressive geometry. Many other bike-makers have followed Mondraker’s lead, but it’s almost always better to stick with the original than to go with a copycat version. In the past, the Mondraker has only been available in Europe, but for 2018, Mondraker bikes have made the journey over the Atlantic and will finally be offered in North America. We tested Mondraker’s Foxy trail machine and were impressed with the geometry and performance. With cross-country hardtails making a bit of a comeback, our test riders were eager to get their hands on Mondraker’s Podium R. The Podium R is the company’s dedicated cross-country race bike with a modern geometry aimed at going fast and breaking records.
- 100-millimeter travel fork
- Carbon fiber frame
- 44mm offset Fox 32SC fork
- Flat mount rear brake
- SRAM GX Eagle Drivetrain
- SRAM Level TLM brakes
- PF30 bottom bracket
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
Hardtails have become more versatile with longer-travel forks and dropper posts, but the Podium is the purist’s dream with 100 millimeters of travel and an incredibly aggressive geometry. With its minimal travel, lightweight frame and sleek lines, it is clear that the Podium was designed for racers who want a bike that is all business.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Mondraker offers three levels of the Podium, each using the same carbon fiber frame but with different build kits. The Podium R that we tested uses Mondraker’s Stealth Air Carbon with fully internal cable routing and Integrated Stem Technology (IST). The IST design essentially integrates the stem as an extension of the top tube, saving riders the weight of headset spacers, and the upper cup for a very clean and aerodynamic finish. Mondraker offers four different stem lengths aftermarket so riders can dial in the fit. The Podium is one of the most unique and striking-looking frames we have had in the test fleet. The top tube has a swooping arch, allowing for a lower standover height without compromising the overall reach.
Mondraker uses a slimmed down seat tube and lean 27.2-millimeter seatpost for added vertical compliance. The rear triangle uses Boost spacing and FlatStays in conjunction with flattened-out seatstays for a smoother ride over chatter. Mondraker also uses a flat-mount rear brake with a custom caliper from SRAM that doesn’t require any adapters. Wrapping up the frame design is a PF30 bottom bracket shell for a more responsive ride. While many cross-country race bikes have gone with slacker head angles and longer fork offsets, the Podium has its own agenda. Mondraker uses its Forward Geometry, sporting a 70-degree head angle paired with a 44-millimeter offset fork.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Our test bike sits right in the middle of the lineup, with the higher-end version getting carbon fiber wheels and a slightly lighter drivetrain. The Fox 32SC fork with Grip damper worked flawlessly and gave our test riders plenty of adjustments to dial in the ride quality. The Rotor REX crank added to the Euro flair of the build and felt plenty stiff when we mashed hard out of the saddle. The SRAM Eagle drivetrain and Level brakes complemented the overall build nicely.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: Out of the box, we were seriously impressed with the unique and clean lines of the frame but slightly intimidated by the aggressive stack and reach. We found our desired saddle height and swung a leg over the bike to find that the forward position felt more comfortable than we expected. Our test bike came with an 85-millimeter stem that felt a touch shorter with the integration into the top tube. Mondraker does offer four different lengths, but our test riders were satisfied with the stock length.
Suspension setup: Fox now includes a small air-pressure- and rebound-settings guide on the back of the fork leg. We set the sag at 20 percent with two volume reducers and the rebound at 11 clicks. Our test bike also came with a remote lockout for quicker adjustments on the trail.
Climbing: Races are often won on the climbs, and the Podium is a very efficient climber. The aggressive, forward position allowed our test riders to put their heads down and charge up any hill. On rolling terrain, the remote lockout made swapping the damper settings quick and easy. Out of the saddle, the Podium was stiff and lively with a responsive feel that any serious racer would appreciate. The Forward Geometry doesn’t really allow for relaxed pedaling; it rewards riders who push hard.
Descending: It took our test riders a couple rides to get comfortable with the handling on the Podium. The steeper head angle and shorter fork offset at first gave the Podium an overly twitchy feel, but after some time in the saddle, we came to appreciate the lively front end. The Podium isn’t a bike that likes to have its wheels lifted off the ground, but it’s very agile and responds to even the slightest command from the pilot. The larger 29-inch wheels rolled over rough bits of trail comfortably, and the Fox 32SC had a comfortable amount of small-bump compliance for a smoother ride. The Podium doesn’t have a “let’s go for a casual ride” mode; it always wants to go fast.
Ride quality: Mondraker hit the mark, designing a frame that is stiff and responsive but doesn’t beat you up during long days in the saddle. The thinned-out seatstays and 27.2-millimeter post delivered a very smooth ride and muted minor imperfections in the trail for a more comfortable ride.
TRICKS, TIPS OR UPGRADES?
Our test bike sits in the middle of the lineup with a well-put together component package. The stock handlebar has 4.8 millimeters of rise and can be run in two different positions, depending on rider preference. During longer days in the saddle, our test riders flipped the bars into the positive-rise setting for a slightly more upright position. While we never felt that the Podium was heavy, riders will be able to get the complete bike under 20 pounds with a wheel upgrade. After a couple of rides, we did opt for some lighter and more ergonomic silicone grips from RedMonkey.
The Podium isn’t for riders who are testing the waters with cross-country riding and racing. It is made for racers who are dedicated to their sport and are looking for a machine that is all business. If you are serious and want a seriously efficient weapon for your local races, the Podium R is a serious contender that will deliver a fast ride.