Test: Redline D660 29er

Redline only offers two mountain bike models, the MonoCog and D Series. The MonoCog is a single-speed, fully rigid bike rolling on 26- or 29-inch wheels and your choice of a chromoly or aluminum frame. The MBA wrecking crew heartily recommends the MonoCog to riders who want to try the unique world of single-speed riding (or 29-inch wheels) at an unbelievably low entry fee.

The D Series adds more versatility to the original MonoCog idea of having a lot of fun for not a lot of money. There are three D Series bikes, from the $579 fully rigid D440 to our test bike, the top-of-the-D-heap D660.

The D660 is made for the trail rider who navigates rolling or flat singletrack and dirt roads and doesn’t want a lot of technology to worry about setting up or servicing. It will appeal to riders who already ride a dual-suspension trailbike and want a second bike that harks back to a simpler time. Riding a single-speed can turn well-worn trails into new experiences. Finally, it will appeal to the rider looking for a new challenge.

The D660 uses a traditional double-triangle, aluminum hardtail frame with forged dropouts and chainstay yoke. The frame has a replaceable derailleur hanger and will only accept disc brakes. Redline doesn’t go for giant or wild hydroformed tubes. In fact, the tubes are so compact that many riders asked if our D660 was a chromoly frame.

It is the missing component that makes the biggest impression. In place of the front derailleur is a shark fin chainguide. That’s because the D660 29er is a nine-speed. Up front, you get a 34-tooth chainring to spin a nine-speed cassette with a cog range of 32 teeth to 11 teeth. You can think of the D660 as a MonoCog with eight more gear choices or a regular mountain bike with 18 fewer gear choices. Redline did weld a cable guide behind the seat tube in case you want to add a front derailleur later.

Hop in the WTB Rocket V saddle (a great way to start any ride) and grab the wide bars. The lack of clutter at the bar and the in-the-middle feel of this 29er make a rider feel comfortable from the first pedal. The flat bar was the right choice, and you know its width will be welcomed, especially when the going gets steep.

Spinning along: The D660’s relatively light weight and solid chassis allow the rider to bring it up to speed with relative ease. The big wheels silence trail chatter and are a big advantage in the soft sections of the trail. The D660 rolls straight and true through sand. It is refreshing to only work one derailleur, and we found that running in the largest or smallest cog was not detrimental to the bike’s chainline. Redline did a great job of positioning the Truvativ Stylo crank in the sweet spot.

Cornering: Redline has their 29er geometry worked out so the bike feels light and maneuverable in the tight stuff and stable on fast descents. The Maxxis Ignitor tires were another intelligent spec, and running 35 psi front and back resulted in great traction and pinch-flat-free performance. Have you heard the one about toe overlap of the front wheel on 29ers? Honestly, you’d have to have size 14 shoes or your cleat mounted to the shoe’s heel to experience toe overlap on the D660.

Climbing: The lowest gear combination available is a 34:32, and that would have you believe that this bike is intended only for the flatlands. Not true. The right rider, using skill and determination, will be able to work the D660 up just about anything. This bike is designed to challenge its rider, not coddle him. The wide bar feels great when torquing up the steep stuff in or out of the saddle. 

Descending: The quality fork and big wheels will get you down the trail faster (way faster) than a similarly equipped 26er. It just doesn’t feel faster. That’s because the big wheels are not as much fun when bunnyhopping obstacles, lifting the front wheel or pumping the trail. These are all maneuvers where 26ers still hold the edge.

Braking: The wrecking crew is spoiled. We typically ride expensive hydraulic brakes, so it takes a bike like the D660 to remind us how good mechanical disc brakes have become. The Avid brakes offer plenty of power to slow the big hoops down, and it doesn’t hurt to have the traction of those 29er tires working the trail.

You could convert the tire/wheels to tubeless, but you don’t have to. Just add a packet of Gu (to your mouth, not the bike) and go ride.

Redline will never rival the big guys for product selection, but they give every bike company a run for the smiles-per-mile award. The D660 is a blast to ride, and did we mention that it comes at a great price? If you are getting into our great sport after making the mistake of buying a $198 mountain bike, the D660 will make you feel ready to enter a World Cup event (compared to your old bike). If your current bike set you back thousands of dollars and has smoothed every bump in the trail and leveled the toughest hills, the D660 can bring the challenge back into your riding. The D660 works on a lot of levels, and they are all fun.