Long Fantom 29 ProSL Review- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Long Fantom 29 ProSL Review

    Warning. This is long….

    I purchased my 2010 Fantom 29 ProSL May of this year, and after six months and about 600 trail miles, I figured it was time to give a review of the bike.

    Now, this is my first 29er and first HT (I was previously a dedicated rigid rider), so keep that in mind. My bike is the XL (21”), and it fits my 6’5” frame pretty well. I have a very short inseam (34”) for my height and a long trunk and arms, so my reason for buying the XL was for the longer ETT to keep the cockpit from feeling too cramped. As it is, I have about 1.5” of standover clearance while wearing riding shoes. In other words, just enough! However, the cockpit is just about right with the stock 110mm stem that came with my bike.

    I’ve kept the bike mostly stock, with just a few changes due to personal preference. I found the Ritchey bars to be a little narrow for my tastes, so I swapped them out for a wider and lighter 680mm FSA XC281 bar. I also swapped out the grips for Ourys, which have been a favorite of mine for years. I replaced the stock pedals with Deity Decoys, as my bad knees led me to giving up clipless pedals back in the 90’s. I only ride this bike on trails, so I have no need for the big ring (especially with the stock gearing, more on that later…) so I replaced it with a BBG bashguard. The weight of the bike as it is now is exactly 29lbs.

    My first riding impressions of the bike were that it felt kind of like a freight train. My previous bike was a “vintage” 22lb Cannondale rigid 26er that was twitchy as hell, accelerated like a rocket, and transferred every bump in the trail to your body, so riding the Fantom for the first time was….different.

    However, after a few hours on the bike my unfamiliarity started to melt away and I began to enjoy the aspects of the trail this bike handled so well. That “freight train” feel became a blessing in rock gardens and root-filled climbs; where my old rigid would bounce me all over the place, the 29er just tracked straight through, with minimal input from me. I also like how the big wheels make it feel like it’s impossible to endo the bike on big drops. And the ability to roll over big logs without much body English is great at the end of a long ride.

    But, it hasn’t all been wine and roses. The “long” feel of this bike (and 29ers as a whole, I’m sure) mean that a different cornering technique is required that I’m only just now getting the hang of. The old point, shoot, accelerate technique I was used to on tight corners doesn’t really work with this bike. It takes longer to get the bike back up to speed, you tend to check trees, rocks, and other inside line trail obstructions with the back wheel, and you just lose too much momentum. Rather, I find it’s best to hit the outside line, maintain your speed, and let the big wheels soak up trail chatter even when that’s not the smoothest line. I am convinced that the big wheels allow you to corner faster and lean farther than you could on a 26er before losing front end traction, but it takes a while to learn to stay off the brakes and just let the bike do its thing.

    I also think the idea of putting a 32 tooth cassette on this bike is a little strange. Even without the big ring, the bike is capable of over 20mph, and I find that I’m sometimes searching for a lower gear on technical climbs without wanting to drop to the granny ring. Then again, 34 and 36 tooth cassettes are becoming more common, and I may indeed put one on over the winter and convert the bike to a 1X9, which would be plenty for my purposes.

    The XTR/XT drivetrain has been completely issue-free. It just works. Every time.

    The Kenda Small Block 8 tires work really well on hardpack and rocks, but I think a front tire with a little more side bite would be a good upgrade for more aggressive riders. I weigh 165lbs and have been running 30lbs with good results. I still use tubes.

    The Reba fork seems to work great, though as a rigid rider I have little to compare it to. I run 100lbs positive and negative, and it’s super comfy in 100mm travel mode.

    The Elixer CR brakes are also fantastic. My first hydro disk brake, and the modulation and power is incredible. They do warble a bit in dusty conditions, but they’ve yet to fade on me.

    Well, if you’ve read this far I commend you. I apologize for the long-winded nature of the post, but I hope this can answer some questions for those considering this bike, or those considering their first 29er. After six months of fairly hard riding, I’ve had no major mechanical issues. The bike has simply been rock-solid, and I feel that it’s helped me up my riding to a new level. I don’t think I could have gotten a better ride for under a grand.

  2. #2
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    Thanks for the post, great review!
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  3. #3
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    I figured I'd chime in with a continuation of my review 10 months later. I've been able to ride a lot this year (for me) and the Fantom now has over 2000 trail miles on it.

    First off, the frame has been solid as a rock; absolutely zero issues. Now that I've gotten used to this whole 29er thing I have absolutely no desire to go back to smaller wheels. Even the 32 tooth cassette I complained about last year has stayed on. My solution? Get stronger. 1X9 is fine; after all, singlespeed dudes never need a gear that low.

    The only other changes I've made since my initial review was going back to clipless pedals. My knees have been solid so far, and I forgot how much faster I could ride with them. If you haven't tried them, you really should.

    The only issue I've had is with the brakes. The Elixr CR's are plenty powerful, but I haven't been able to get them to shut up despite changing pads and cleaning and resurfacing rotors. If I can't find a way to get rid of the turkey warble soon I'll probably just shelve them and get BB7's. This is no fault of Bikes Direct, though so I'm not blaming them!

    To recap: I was originally on the fence about getting an "internet" bike, but so far I've been totally satisfied. Despite what the brand-name lackeys say, my frame hasn't broke, the geometry is just fine and no puppies have died. Not bad for under 1000 bucks.
    Everything in moderation. Including moderation.

  4. #4
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    Pics!

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    I'm thinking about getting a new wheelset for this bike, but I am very confused about everything and can not find any information on the hubs on the bike. Are they 135mm hubs? That seems to be the common size.

    I'm thinking about getting some stans crests with the stock stans 135mm hubs.

    would they work?

    Thanks.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the Review. My 2 bikes from BD should be here tomorrow 4-17-2012 They are the X-7 and -x-9.

    It's nice to know how you have adapted and got used to certian condition that were different from your previous bike as well as your first post.

    I am also happy to know that purchasing over the internet and especially with BD, that it is possible to get a fine product and still get a good price. I feell they are doing what they can if there is ever a problem. I am eager to have a great relationship with them...

  7. #7
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    I agree with this review and have had largely the same experience... A great bike

    This is what finally fixed my elixir cr's:

    http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=768036

    Don't be shy filing the rotor either, I just have to occasionally re-sand the pads but other than that no sounds, no vibrations + still the same power and modulation.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the review.

    I'm still contemplating waiting for the newer models in a few weeks or just spending a bit more on a used Niner. Every bike I like on BD is sold out and I'm not sure I can wait!

  9. #9
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    I pretty much have the same 29er impression as well, I couldn't have written a better description myself.

  10. #10
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    Reputation: CuzinMike's Avatar
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    Thought I'd dredge this thread up from the catacombs since I've had the bike about 2 and a half years now. Short version: everything still works great.

    Longer version: truth be told, I haven't ridden ye olde Fantom quite as much this season simply because I got bit hard by the singlespeed bug last year and have been riding a SS rigid Cannondale most of the time since last fall. However, recently the EBB on it has been giving me fits so the Fantom has been pressed back into regular use over the past few months. No complaints, no major upgrades since last time (just tires, brake pads, etc). The bike is still rock-solid. Yeah, it's a little heavier than most aluminum bikes, but I don't think I could break it, and it's always ready to go when pricier bikes give me fits. I still have nothing but praise.
    Everything in moderation. Including moderation.

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