And we’re at it again with 650B. Committed. The performance attributes and the versatility of the 650B wheel size are just too good to ignore for the sake of standards. And what better platform to bolt a set of ‘tweener wheels to than a Dragon? A new immediate sell-out after it’s introduction last year, the 2013 version – with American Classic tubeless wheels, Crank Brothers cockpit and Schwalbe Racing Ralph rubber – is sure to repeat.
Strengths: 650B. Steel frame. Head angle. American Classic wheelset. White Bros Loop fork.
Weaknesses: Elixer 3s. Crankset and drivetrain could be better for pricepoint. Cable guides on top tube (see review).
I ride a variety of trails from "all mountain" to dirt roads. Wanted a new hardtail and was intrigued by both the steel frame and the 650b wheel size. I've had this bike for about 8 months and it's definitely my favorite bike for 90% of the trails I ride. The steel frame and 650b wheels handle the rocks and technical features quite well. Climbs great (as you expect a hardtail to do so) but the head angle makes the descents fun too. The White Bros Loop was great from the first ride - little to no break in needed. Might feel a little "soft" for some - but I'm more than pleased. The Syncros bars are wider than anything I've run before and felt odd the first very time, but I see the advantages of that width now. Even when they want to grab bushes and trees....
Steel certainly is real. On tight snappy trails at speed I feel some of that flex, especially from the back. But I love the ride quality overall. The 650b wheels are fantastic - very easy to get up/over/around things with some of the rolling benefits of a 29er. In my opinion - best of both worlds. When I get a new full suspension it will absolutely be a 650b.
Some niggles - you are paying a lot of dough for a 27lb hardtail. Some of that is for the steel frame, but it's also part of being an early adopter of 650b maybe. I noticed the 2013 Dragons are priced the same as the 2012s - with perhaps some better components (not sure). I HATE HATE HATE the cable guides on the top tube. The are offset just to the side and are digging a perma-hole into my leg. This bike can tackle a lot of terrain - terrain on which you move around on the bike. I can wear longer shorts or cover them with electrical tape I guess. Just poor design in my opinion. Not a fan of the Avid Elixers - read reviews on those brakes and decide for yourself. Doesn't come with a quick release seatpost clamp and I believe (I could be wrong) that the seatpost diameter keeps you from running a dropper post.
Overall, I consider this a great bike. Geometry is spot on for anything you want to throw at it. The SLX drivetrain isn't sexy - but has performed admirably. No complaints yet. The wheel size is PERFECT and I'm really enjoying the feel of a steel frame. This bike capably handles a wide variety of trails - from burly to groomed. From up, up, and more up to ass sitting on the rear tire descents. It's not a racer bike - it's a mountain bike. I love it.