Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sarto Tenax 650b Complete Bike Review at

Part I - Love at First Sight

Love at first sight - that's precisely what Sarto did for me with their Ampezzo, now called the Tenax for 2014. Even before learning that Sarto united 100mm of full suspension travel with a pair of 650b wheels, I was first drawn to this bike because of its revitalizing classic horst-link design. These days you find mountain bike manufacturers having to resort to odd tube junctions and pivots to accommodate the suspension design they decided to utilize (i.e. DW-link, Virtual Pivot Point, single pivot, four-bar / horst link, etc.). Sarto's aim with this full suspension world cup design was to simply allow the rider to excel everywhere - to be able to attack the descents without falter all while being able to climb untethered. Oh, and don't forget about this bike's roots - Sarto is designed and hand made in Italy, therefore the Tenax must weigh little and be attractive at the same time. With their performance and good looks requirements laid out before them, Sarto had but only one suspension design in mind to get the job done.

Through the years I was always captivated by Dave Turner's first generation of frames using Horst Leitner's improved four-bar design mated to a seat tube based rocker pivot. While appearing quite simple and not too eye catching alongside other designs at the time, the 'Horst Link' came down to being a simple yet very effective design. It allowed for unhindered independent rear suspension functionality that combated unwanted suspension compression during braking (brake jack) and pedaling force (pedal bob). Critics of the four-bar / Horst link design have always accused it of not reducing pedal bob enough. Through the years suspension manufacturers have been able to perfect the Horst link design by producing shocks that can counteract the power-sapping suspension tendency without impeding full suspension travel when needed. However, here in the U.S. the Horst link design has always been plagued by patent law and politics due to one of the largest bike manufacturers acquiring several of Leitner's patents in the late 90's. Fortunately, patents have expirations and we shall now have access to some previously intangible European gemstones.

I always thought the perfect mountain bike formula has always been inevitable as it was just a matter of time for the convergence of three special ingredients. First, Sarto, a bike company known for hand tailoring some of the best quality bike frames out of Italy and now with their new full suspension cross country mountain bike mission. Second, we have the most proven rear suspension mountain bike suspension design now liberated from one-brand penitentiary. The third ingredient, icing on top to complete one very sweet cake, the utilization of the 27.5" or 650b wheel dimension. Hallelujah! Time to order a couple of frames and start brainstorming some builds.


More details on the Sarto Tenix 650b frameset.