HALF FAT, HALF FULL

THE AVANTI COM­PETI­TOR PLUS 2

Australian Mountain Bike - - Tested - PHO­TOG­RA­PHER: LACH­LAN RYAN TESTER: MIKE BLEWITT

Avanti are as Kiwi as they come, and the bike brand that is syn­ony­mous with mak­ing great value and great rid­ing bikes was launched in 1985. Two years af­ter they brought out their 10-speed road bike, Avanti sent the Rev­o­lu­tion to mar­ket, which was their first foray into moun­tain bik­ing. From there it was a story of growth, with unique de­signs com­ing out of New Zealand to the lo­cal mar­ket and to Aus­tralia from 1990. Nathan Ren­nie raced on Avanti in the late 90s and since then, Avanti’s bikes have won na­tional, world and Olympic ti­tles across var­i­ous cy­cling dis­ci­plines. With Avanti’s moun­tain bike fo­cus lean­ing mostly to trail rid­ing, they were quick to jump into plus-sized bikes - with a 2.8” (or larger) tyre on a 27.5” rim. The Com­peti­tor range of bikes was the per­fect fit, and Avanti have full-sus­pen­sion and hard­tail op­tions in alu­minium frames. The Com­peti­tor Plus 2 that we re­ceived to test is their top-specced Plus hard­tail, with two full­sus­pen­sion op­tions as the Plus S1 and Plus S2 that both of­fer a trail-eat­ing 130mm of travel, com­pared to the 120mm travel front end that the hard­tails have. Avanti state that when rid­ing the Com­peti­tor Plus 2, “trac­tion and control are taken to new lev­els”. Which is a mighty claim. But given our pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with plus-sized bikes, it’s not an out­ra­geous state­ment of in­tent. We just needed to prove it with this bike, and see how it fared in the com­pet­i­tive (ex­cuse the pun) mar­ket of $3000 trail bikes.

INI­TIAL IM­PRES­SIONS

I picked up our test bike from Avan­tiPlus in Bris­bane. It was all set and ready to roll. The al­loy frame is cus­tom shaped 6061 alu­minium, with all the mod­ern stan­dards you would ex­pect. From an in­te­grated head­set in the ta­pered head tube, to rout­ing for an in­ter­nally ac­tu­ated drop­per post, 148x12mm Boost spac­ing and in­te­grated disc mounts. There are a few handy fea­tures that you might miss, but that me­chan­ics around the world (or at least in Aus­tralia and New Zealand) will ap­pre­ci­ate. The stan­dard thread (or BSA) bot­tom bracket is no-non­sense and the ex­ter­nal brake hose and gear ca­ble rout­ing makes ser­vic­ing and main­te­nance much eas­ier. While the drop­per housing shoots into the base of the seat tube, it’s one straight line and easy to thread, without need­ing to re­move the crank set or bot­tom bracket. That means greater ser­vice­abil­ity, and faster ser­vice­abil­ity too. So it’s ei­ther eas­ier for you, or faster for your me­chanic, which is lighter on your wal­let. Drop­per posts on hard­tails are ‘a thing’, and espe­cially on Plus bikes with trail ge­om­e­try. The X-Fu­sion HILO post has a thumb lever that in­ter­feres a lit­tle with the brake mount, but it de­pends how you mount it, for your er­gonomic choice. It has 100mm of drop, which is about right for a bike like this. There is a quick re­lease lever too, which seems a bit odd but it does make it very easy to get your seat height right. As noted by Plus afi­cionado Adam Mac­beth in a pre­vi­ous is­sue, much of the joy of Plus bikes comes down to get­ting the rim and tyre com­bi­na­tion right. Or, more specif­i­cally, the rim width. Avanti have cho­sen the Wein­mann X-A40 for the Com­peti­tor Plus 2, and its in­ter­nal vol­ume is spot on for the WTB Ranger Comp 2.8” tyres that come stock on the bike - al­low­ing pres­sures around the mid-teens for the test pe­riod. The Shi­mano group set, al­though it’s a bit of a pick’n’mix of parts, is a smart choice. The bet­ter parts are in key lo­ca­tions with some non-se­ries se­lec­tions to keep the to­tal price down. The Shi­mano SLX 11-speed shifter and cas­sette are matched with an XT 11-speed rear de­railleur, and a SLX crank with a 30T chain ring that fea­tures the up­dated tooth pat­tern. There’s a generic guide on the bike, which is a smart move as an al­loy hard­tail with trail ge­om­e­try and a drop­per is go­ing to be rid­den hard. The chain is from KMC, and brakes are Shi­mano’s M506 se­ries, which lack a lit­tle bit of bite com­pared to some­thing higher up - but a switch out to sin­tered pads will change a lot of that. The levers use the older style clamp which takes up a bit of room on the bars, but at 730mm wide there is enough real es­tate on the han­dle­bars for clamps that are 5mm wider. Up front, the Rock­Shox Reba RL runs a Solo Air spring, and has re­bound ad­just­ment and low speed com­pres­sion op­tions to tune your ride. It’s a re­li­able fork for XC to trail rid­ing, but it’s not in the realms of stiff­ness of a Lyric or Pike which some higher specced (and priced) Plus hard­tails come equipped with.

ON THE TRAIL

The real test of any bike is al­ways go­ing to be in the ride. The num­bers on the Avanti were promising. A 69 de­gree head an­gle and low 100mm head tube meant that the ride wouldn’t

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