Azonic's Extension Saber Mountain Bike Frame|
Thursday, July 03, 2003
"This Freerider can climb the steepest hills and still keep up with the big boys on the downhill."
This is the add line from Azonic for their new "freeride" frame – and the advertising doesn’t disappoint! The best word I could use to describe this bike is FUN. With all the categories of bikes & frames available today, the Azonic Saber sits squarely in the middle - not a win at all costs downhill sled, not a something you’d want to launch off a 20 drop, and absolutely not a gram counting cross-country race bike. Depending on your personal setup, this frame is simply a great mountain bike or light freeride bike.
The Details –
The Azonic Saber is sold as a frame only for a MSRP of $1,295.00. It features 7005 Alcoa® tubing, gusseted head-tube (top, bottom, and sides), replaceable derailleur hanger, sealed bearings at all pivots, and adjustable travel from 5"- 6". The bike uses the FSR 4-bar rear linkage – meaning that the rear suspension is fully active all the time, active breaking, and very little pedal induced suspension movement. The finish is top notch, polished aluminum with what looks and feels like a thick clear coat. Attention to detail is apparent with the rubber chain slap guard, rubber derailleur slap guard, and the very cool disc brake line clips. A Romic rear shock is used (7.5" eye-to-eye & 2" stroke), but more on that later. I’ve owned three Intense frames and can honestly say that the quality and attention to detail on the Azonic is on par (and that’s saying a lot).
The Build –
My Saber is built for freeride. The most obvious step in this direction is the 7" travel Rock Shox Boxxer fork. Downhill tires, a beefy wheelset, and disc brakes round out the freeride package.
Component highlights include: Truvativ Hussefelt cranks, Azonic seatpost and pedals, Avid Straight Jacket derailleur cables, and a FSA headset (shameless plug for a few of our Team Dirtworld/Second Ascent sponsors, but they do produce some of the best components available).
The great thing about the Azonic is its versatility – I could have just as easily put a five inch single crown fork on the frame and had a more than capable trail bike that I’d be comfortable riding on all but the nastiest trails and biggest drops.
The Ride –
I’m not sure if it’s because my last year’s freeride bike was older Intense M1 DH frame or if it was my off season switch to Baked Doritos – but I can climb better on the Azonic than any other freeride bike I’ve owned. This bike can climb! The frame design allows for fully raising the seatpost for the climbs, and still slam the seat for the descents. The riding position, FSR linkage, and the Romic anti-bob shock all combine to provide a great pedaling bike. Just raise the seat, find a comfortable gear, and the Azonic get you to the top of the hill before you know it.
Technical climbing and on the flats, the bike just motors through the rough. With my setup, the weight and long travel front fork will keep me from setting any speed records, but you’ll make it through with a smile on your face. In terms of pedaling efficiency, I wasn’t able to tell the difference between the 5" and 6" travel setting – both delivered the same smooth and efficient ride. I’d be completely comfortable taking this bike a 2-3 hour cross-county ride and not worry about holding up the group.
On the descents, performance is just what you’d expect from a bike with 7" in front and 6" in back. With a steeper head angle than a full downhill bike, the Boxxer does work a little harder than I’m used to, but still delivers flawlessly. The bike tracks very well and feels balanced front-to-rear, although when pushed the Boxxer will out perform the rear suspension. On the bigger hits the rear end does bottom, but the landings are not harsh and control is maintained. The frame is very stiff and I haven’t noticed any unwanted flex.
Any Concerns? –
This is my first experience with a Romic shock, and as delivered the shock was valved and sprung for a lighter weight trail rider. Changing the spring weight is not a big deal, and to be expected when you’re over 200lbs – no problem, purchased a heavier weight spring from Romic for $50 (750lbs). In the 6" travel setting, the shock still bottomed easily, even with the heavier spring. Romic suggested that I have the shock custom valved to improve its "big hit" capability – another $50. With the heavier spring and the custom valving, the shock does perform very well. It resists bottoming much better, and still retains its small bump compliance. The anti-bob feature of the shock does a great job making the climbs easier (although a lot of the credit goes to the FSR linkage). In summary, I like the Romic but wish it would have been delivered with the "big hit" valving (after all, the Saber is advertised as a freeride bike).
Minor complaints – there were no water bottle bolts included and no owners manual for the frame or shock. Minor stuff, but would have been nice to have. Also, it would be nice to have a longer stroke shock and a lower leverage ratio for the rear suspension. Same amount of travel, but a lower leverage ratio to allow for a lighter spring rate and more controlled damping.
Final Verdict –
The Azonic did their homework and delivered a great frame. The bike has survived the punishment of Vancouver’s North Shore, the local dirt jump park, and even the after work cross country rides. The Saber’s climbing ability has made the descents even more enjoyable. Versatility is the name of the game with the Azonic – it would make a great sport class or mild-course downhill rig, dirt jump bike, freeride bike, trail bike, or whatever you can think of… And at a MSRP of just $1,295.00, it has the many of the other frame builders and even the large manufactures beat. The Azonic Saber is what mountain biking is all about: FUN!