Lowdown: Canfield Brothers Riot 29er Trail Bike

Crested Butte's Green Lake Trail is not a place for piggish bikes. Yes, the rip down is classic Colorado rowdy, with a mix of steep, high speed chunder, plus a few tight techy turns, all of it littered with ruts, roots, and loose rocks. But to enjoy the descent, you must first conquer the climb. And that means ascending that same precipitous trail, as this adventure is a simple up and back that starts on the southwest side of town, and gains 1700 feet in just 4.4 miles. Peak elevation is 10,629 feet. It's a magical spot with a stunning high mountain lake as backdrop, but not a place I expected to visit aboard the Canfield Brothers Riot. With its super slack 66.5-degree head angle, 140mm of front and rear suspension, toothy Maxxis tires, and chunky 32-pound weight (size large), the Riot appears better suited for less climbing-heavy excursions. Then I tried it anyway... Read the full review below to see how things turned out.

Frame: 7005 series aluminumBars: RaceFace 6C 800mm
Fork: DVO Diamond 140mmGrips: ODI lock-on
Shock: Cane Creek Double Barrel Air 140mmHeadset: Cane Creek
Wheels: Canfield Brothers 29erDropper post: RaceFace Turbine
Hubs: Canfield Brothers 2 (142x12mm rear)Saddle: SDG Bel-Air
Tires: Maxxis Ikon 2.35 rear/Minion DHF 2.3 frontBottom bracket: 73mm threaded
Brakes: Shimano XTHeadtube angle: 66.5 degrees
Rotors: Shimano 180mm front/rearChainstay length: 414mm
Shifter: Shimano XTSeat tube angle: Effective 77 degrees, actual 69.8
Front Derailleur: Not applicableStandover: 719mm (size L)
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTSizes: Small, medium, large, XL
Cable routing: ExternalWeight: 31.9 pounds (size L)
Crankset: Canfield Brothers 30t narrow/wideFrame colors: Raw (tested) or Ano Black
Cassette: Shimano 11-36Link colors: 7 options including green (tested)
Chain: ShimanoMSRP: $2100 (frame and shock)
Stem: RaceFace Atlas 60mm Upgrade option: Push ElevenSix shock ($900)
Rating:
4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
4.5 out of 5
Stat Box


Pluses

Minuses
  • Exceptional descender
  • Heavy
  • Stable at speed
  • Tall gearing
  • Eats up rough terrain
  • Complex rear shock
  • Snaps through turns
  • Abundant pivot points
  • Slot car feel
  • No topside water bottle cage
  • Awesome head badge
  • Not boost spacing
  • Durable construction
  • Very wide bars
  • Great braking
  • Minor wheel flex
  • Reliable dropper post
  • Can develop creaking
  • Reliable shifting
  • Front derailleur not possible
  • Highly tunable suspension
  • Not currently sold as complete bike
  • Climbs better than you'd expect
  • No carbon frame option
  • 27.5+ compatibility (2.8" max tire width)
  • External cable routing
  • ISCG tabs
  • Bike park capable
  • Backcountry ready
  • Push ElevenSix upgrade available
  • Short and fun 414mm chainstays
  • Built-in frame protector
  • Tapered headtube
  • 15mm pivot bearings
  • No lateral flex
  • Anodized and factory raw frame options

Review: Canfield Brothers Riot 29er Trail Bike

You don't buy a bike like the Canfield Riot because it climbs well. Or… maybe you do. Here's the reasoning: Most would agree that there are two primary beefs with aggressive trail-oriented 29ers, which the Riot most certainly is. No. 1, the chainstays (and wheelbase in general) are too long, making it hard to get the front wheel off the ground or whip the bike through turns. No. 2, the bike climbs like sh*t because the head angle is so slack it's nearly impossible to keep the front wheel planted during steep ascents, especially slow speed, techy affairs.

The reward for suffering up the Green Lake Trail is a spectacular view of Green Lake, and one seriously awesome rip back down to Crested Butte.

The reward for suffering up the Green Lake Trail is a spectacular view of Green Lake, and one seriously awesome rip back down to Crested Butte.​

But the Riot is a different animal. Its 414mm chainstays are about as short as you'll find among the current class of playful 29ers, while the seat tube angle is a steep 77-degrees (69.8 actual), which helps keep your center of gravity further forward, and thus the front wheel planted when climbing in the seated position. If you think that's too steep, remember that when you sag into the travel the seat angle slackens a couple degrees. This modern take on trail bike geometry delivers a ride that is about as close to best-of-both worlds as I've experienced on a longer travel 29er. Here's the complete geometry chart (click image to enlarge).

Canfield Brothers Riot Geo Chart

That trip up to Green Lake? I can't say I cleared everything on the way up. But that was more the fault of tall test bike gearing (11-36 cassette paired with a 30t chainring). In fact, before the legs got overcooked from pushing such a big gear, I cleared several steep, techy sections that I hadn't previously, which included attempts on a 27.5 Pivot Mach 6 and Specialized Stumpjumper 29er. And because of the steep seat tube angle and forward cockpit, I didn't have to slide onto the tip of the saddle.

On the way down? Segment PRs across the board. This bike rips. Period.

Continue to page 2 for more of our Canfield Brothers Riot 29er trail bike review »



The Riot also benefits from what Canfield calls its Balance Formula (CBF) suspension, which was seven years in development and is designed to deliver pedaling efficiency via optimal anti-squat throughout the entire range of travel.

Utilizing a parallel link design, the idea is to "balance" driveline forces by pointing them through the center of curvature. This, claims Canfield, differs from most other multi-link suspensions, which migrate over a larger area. The result is that the Riot has an efficient, but also active pedaling platform, independent of sag, travel, drivetrain, and braking forces.

"Most suspension designs focus on the instant center," explained Chris Canfield. "That means they are only efficient in a small portion of the bike's travel when chainline forces are balanced with that point. That's why you have recommended sag."

The short chainstays deliver a quick, and nimble ride, especially when darting in and out of corners. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

The short chainstays deliver a quick and nimble ride, especially when darting in and out of corners. Photo by Dave Kozlowski​

Without going too far down the suspension rabbit hole, Canfield believes that while there are a number solid current suspension designs (DW-Link, VPP, etc.), most sacrifice performance at one or the other end of the spectrum, meaning either you lose pedaling efficiency or sacrifice small bump performance.

CBF attempts to minimize those sacrifices by balancing the center of curvature on the chainline to create an instant center that travels from a high position to low, forward to back, all the while mirroring the rear axle and keeping the distance between the two more consistent, lessening chain growth and pedal kick throughout travel. As the wheel moves up, the instant center moves down, avoiding unnecessary interruptions to the pedal stroke. The chainline pivots with the suspension around the same point, providing isolation of drivetrain and suspension forces, claims Canfield. CBF is also designed to decouple suspension and braking forces, allowing the rear wheel to track terrain even under hard braking. [Editor's Note: For more on CBF check out this more in-depth tech talk post.]

The external cable routing isn't as clean as internal set-ups, but there's been no rattle issues and when the time comes it's far easier to maintain.

The external cable routing isn't as clean as internal set-ups, but there's been no rattle issues and when the time comes it's far easier to maintain.​

I'm not going to turn this review into a comparison of all current suspension designs. But I will say that the Riot definitely strikes a solid balance between its ability to absorb bumps and hits of all sizes, minimize the negative forces of braking, and pedal on flats and uphill with reasonable efficiency while maintaining traction. The rear suspension felt very linear in the early part of travel, with a slight ramp-up kicking in near the end of the stroke. Bottom outs were all but non existent.

The stock Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock has a climb switch, but honestly I couldn't feel much discernable difference with it on or off. The pedaling platform was universally stable unless you were out of the saddle hammering, in which case you're probably on the wrong bike to begin with.

Seated climbing was a far more efficient venture than we expected. It was not hard to keep the front wheel under control.

Seated climbing was a far more efficient venture than we expected. It was not hard to keep the front wheel planted and under control.​

Obviously this bike is not a KoM killer. But given its descending acumen, it's truly surprising how little squat or bob there is when heading uphill. It's efficient on smooth climbs and fire road grinds, and sticks to ground well on techy, loose terrain.

My lone gripe of significance is the complexity of the Cane Creek shock. It's a great option if you love tinkering and tuning with finite precision. But for the 80 percent who prefer to set and forget, all that adjustability can be overwhelming. I had one person with extensive experience with the shock say, "It takes the hands of a surgeon to really get it dialed in."

Depending on your persuasion, the Cane Creek shock is either highly tunable or too complex.

Depending on your persuasion, the Cane Creek shock is either highly tunable or too complex.​

I know a few doctors who ride, but I am certainly not one of them. The good news is that Riot framesets ship with the shock pre-set to the recommended factory settings, so you can just set sag and go ride. And Cane Creek just released a handy trail tuning app that is sure to make the adjustment process a little more user friendly. Alternatively, you can make a strong argument for the Push ElevenSix coil shock option, since you don't really need the climbing switch on this bike anyway.

There are also no provisions for a front derailleur and cable routing is external, which makes servicing easier, but is not in line with the current trend to more stealth aesthetics.

Continue to page 3 for more of our Canfield Brothers Riot 29er trail bike review »


The bike just begs its rider to seek out air time. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

The bike just begs its rider to seek out air time. Photo by Dave Kozlowski​

Enough About Climbing

As the name indicates, this bike's purpose in life has nothing to do with Strava. At least not in the traditional aerobic sense. The actual Canfield Brothers (Chris and Lance) are a couple of adrenaline junkies. Lance is a four-time Red Bull Rampage competitor. Chris was once a regular on the World Cup downhill circuit. These guys like it fast and loose - and the bikes that bear their name reflect that.

"We are a downhill company at heart," said Chris, noting that the official name of the Bellingham, Washington-based company is Canfield Brothers Downhill Bikes. "The guy who likes slow, smooth trail is not our guy. We like things fast and rowdy and that's how we design our bikes. We build them tough and built to last."

There's reportedly enough clearance that you can swap on a plus set-up and keep the party going.

There's reportedly enough clearance that you can swap on a plus wheel/tire set-up and keep the party going.​

In the case of the Riot, it's also built to be, you know… a riot. Thanks to the stubby chainstays, the rear wheel is tucked tightly into the back end, meaning instead of dragging it around corners, you can really shove it through turns. The harder you push, the greater the sensation of steering from the rear.

It's a blissfully snappy ride that will make you forget you're rolling on wagon wheels. Indeed, this bike is quick and nimble like a race car, not slow and Cadillac sluggish like the first gen of longer travel 29ers. The only time I thought much about wheel size was when I was blasting through high speed chunder or clawing over wheel-stopper rocks on slow, techy climbs. In both instances, I was smiling.

The size large frame has a somewhat short effective top tube length of 599mm, but reach is a roomy 457mm, which really determines fit. And with a low 30.5" standover, 13.8" BB height (that's below the axles), and low, slack geometry, the Riot delivers a stable in-the-bike feel, yet pedal strikes were rare.

The alloy Canfield wheels were solidly reliable, standing up to a fairly hard four-month thrashing.

The alloy Canfield wheels were solidly reliable, standing up to a fairly hard four-month thrashing.​

Lifting the front end was also virtually effortless, making it easy to pop up and over trail obstacles or manual off ledgy drops. During the last couple months, I've taken this bike everywhere from bike parks in Crested Butte and Snowmass, to high desert chunky gnar in Grand Junction and Gunnison, to various alpine odysseys in the Colorado high country. Not once have I felt outgunned or overmatched. And that goes for most of the climbs, too.

The Test Build and the Future

I wont spend too much time talking about this bike's spec because currently Canfield only sells the Riot as a frameset ($2100 with Cane Creek shock, or $3000 with the Push ElevenSix shock upgrade). The good news is that Chris told us they'll soon be offering complete bikes, and that they'll look a lot like the one we spent the last few months on. That means Shimano XT 1x drivetrains and brakes, RaceFace cockpits, RaceFace Turbine dropper post, Maxxis tires, and suspension options from DVO, Cane Creek, MRP, or RockShox.

Among our favorite places to ride, in the shadow of Mount Crested Butte.

Among our favorite places to ride, in the shadow of Mount Crested Butte.​

Chris guessed that our test bike would sell for around $4500 brand new, including Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock, the superb DVO Diamond fork, reliable Turbine dropper, 1x Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, and Canfield Brothers branded cranks and alloy wheels, which have proven exceptionally durable. (Yes, we've crashed this bike a few times. And no, the wheels have not come out of true or otherwise betrayed us.) Canfield currently sell these wheels aftermarket for $449. You can also pick up Canfield branded cranks, pedals, and seat clamps.

"We just released a new pedal," said Chris, adding that pedals and cranks are the company's primary component focus, and that while they feel like they offer a solid 6000 series aluminum wheel with reliable hubs, ever changing industry standards are likely to push them out of the wheel business. "It's just such a headache with all the changes, so I think we're going to tone it down."

Bars on our test bike were 800mm wide, which was great for handling but a little tough in the trees.

Bars on our test bike were 800mm wide, which was great for handling but a little tough in the trees.​

However, in much bigger news, Canfield does intend to enter the carbon frame fray, though it's at least a year away. "We have plans to eventually offer everything we make in carbon," Chris revealed. "We just got a deal done with the factory we want to work with, so now it's a matter of getting everything signed off and rolling. I'm hoping we'll be there in the next 14 months (or roughly by Interbike 2017)."

Boost spacing is also in the works, and it's also worth noting that the current Riot can be converted to 27.5+ (2.8" is max tire size). We haven't tried this yet, but if we can talk the Brothers into extending our test session, there is a pair of plus-width Atomik Carbon 27.5 wheels in the garage that need to be put through their paces. We'll post a separate review after we make the conversion and log some more ride time. But it's safe to say the riotous times will continue.

The Riot was right at home at the Crested Butte and Snowmass bike parks. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

The Riot was right at home at the Crested Butte and Snowmass bike parks. Photo by Dave Kozlowski​

Bottom Line

If you have leanings toward the rowdy side of riding, dig the significant benefits of big wheels, and don't want to rely on a pick-up truck to get you to the top of the descent, the Canfield Brothers Riot is a top-notch one-bike solution that can do everything from bike park sessions to backcountry epics. On descents it's plush and controlled, providing ample confidence to tackle big hits, burly chunder, and steep sketchy chutes. Yet it also climbs well enough that you won't be cursing under your breath any time the trail heads uphill. The idea of a boost-equipped carbon version is almost too much to handle. Sign us up for another test session pretty please.

For more info please visit canfieldbrothers.com.