Field Test: Contra MC – The Steel Steamroller

Date:

PINKBIKE FIELD TEST

against MC


Words by Mike Kazimer; photography by Dave Trumpore
The Contra MC (MC stands for Magic Carpet) is the home-brewed creation of Evan Turpen, a former professional downhill racer and mechanic who taught himself how to use engineering software to create bikes that fit his needs.

The MC is aimed at the enduro/gravity crowd, with 29″ wheels and 164mm of travel paired with a 170mm fork. The frame is a sight to behold – it has a sort of steampunk vibe to it thanks to the thin steel tubing coupled with shiny machined aluminum links and a large idler pulley.

The MC’s suspension design gives it an axle path that moves the wheel back 22mm during travel. The idler pulley is quite large, a conscious design decision made to reduce the amount of drag in the system – with a larger pulley wheel the chain doesn’t have to bend as sharply on its way. Seb Stott’s First Look article does a great job of explaining exactly how the dual link suspension design works – you can check that out here.

Contra MC Details

• Travel: 164mm / 170mm fork
• Steel frame, aluminum links
• Wheel size: 29″
• Head angle: 63.5°
• Seat tube angle: 78°
• Reach: 480mm (L)
• Chainstay length: 438 mm (L)
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL, XXL
• Weight: 37.25lb / 16.9kg
• Price: $4,500 USD (frame with EXT Storia shock) / Approx. $11,379 USD as tested.
• contrabikes.com

For such a small business, Evan has taken off and will offer the MC in 6 sizes, from XS to XXL, with range numbers ranging from 420 – 520mm in 20mm increments. The smaller two sizes get 27.5” rear wheels (the XS has 27.5” front and rear wheels), while the rest have a full 29” setup.
As for geometry, our large test bike had a 63.5-degree head tube angle, a 78-degree seat tube angle and a reach of 480mm. The chainstays measured 438mm, a number that varies depending on frame size – they grow 6mm as sizes increase.

With a steel frame, a high-pivot suspension design that delivers 164mm of travel, and a build that leans toward the gravity-oriented end of the spectrum, it’s not entirely surprising that this ended up being the heaviest bike we’ve had during testing, tipping the scales at 37.2 pounds.

The Contra is only offered as a frame and shock only; the frame with an EXT Storia costs $4,500 USD. That’s definitely on the higher end of things, but keep in mind that the frame is handmade in California.

to climb

The Contra’s weight cannot be overlooked, but judging this steel machine by that one figure would be doing it a disservice. Actual pedaling performance was quite impressive – that big EXT coil shock remained remarkably unaffected by weight shifts on climbs, with minimal bobbing even during out-of-the-saddle effort.

The overall position is comfortable and upright, thanks to the steep 78-degree seat angle. I ended up going with a 40mm stem versus the 35mm stem it came with, and while 5mm may not seem like much, that increase helped calm the steering a bit during climbs and descents.

Compared to the other bikes tested, I’d put the Contra in the same realm as the Commencal Meta SX. Both have pedaling positions that work well for sitting and turning up steep inclines, but neither feels particularly energetic – they’re quiet cruisers through and through. The Contra offered slightly more traction than the Meta SX on rougher, firmer climbs, probably due to a combination of the larger rear wheel, high-hinge suspension design and coil shock.

Compared to the Deviate Claymore, the other high-spindle bike in this field test, the Contra has more understated climbing manners. The Deviate’s head angle is slightly steeper and weighs a few pounds less than the MC, factors that make it a bit easier to handle on tighter, slower climbs.

As for the noise and drag of the idler wheel, the MC remained refreshingly quiet despite being exposed to a whole lot of mud and grit. High-pivot bikes require more frequent chain lubrication – essential to keep chain noise to a minimum.

Descending

The Contra has a sense of calm that is reminiscent of what it feels like to ride with a full-face helmet versus a half shell. With a half scale, the wind and trail noise are clear indicators of how fast you are going. With a full face, those indicators are muted, making it easier to go even faster. That same feeling prevails with the Contra MC – it dampens the trail in such a way that releasing the brakes and plowing straight on usually seems like the best course of action. The EXT Storia coil shock has excellent bottoming resistance, making it easy to throw the Contra MC into a rough part of the trail and confident that everything would be fine.

I wasn’t surprised to get my fastest timed lap on the Contra, and Matt Beer had the same experience. This is a bike that comes alive at higher speeds and on rougher trails, with plenty of traction that will keep the rear wheel sticking to the ground, no matter how slimy the conditions. However, that stuck feeling doesn’t mean he can’t jump, it just means he’s most at home on bigger hits rather than jumping and jumping over small mid-trail hits. It would make a great park bike, especially for riders who like to mix it up one lap fat DH tracks and the next floating jump lines.

At slower speed, steep trails it remained manageable, although a few times I did feel like there was a slight disconnect between the controls on the front of the bike and the rear. It’s hard to articulate accurately, but it almost seemed like it took longer for the rear to respond to steering input. The rear wheel does get further away as the bike goes through its travel, though I haven’t experienced anything like this on other bikes with a high pivot point. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a negative trait, but it was different from what I’m used to.

I would classify the Contra as the most gravity-oriented bike of this bunch, closely followed by the Commencal Meta SX. They’re tall, floppy machines that have a devilish appetite for steep, rough trails, and can feel a little underwhelming on softer terrain. That’s different from the Fezzari La Sal Peak or the Santa Cruz Megatower, bikes that are lighter and livelier on a wider variety of trails.

Would the Contra be a good enduro race bike? It depends on. I can see it doing well somewhere like Whistler, where the stages are rough and on the steeper side, without too many really tight corners. It’s less suited to tighter, more clumsy tracks, where the weight and nature of the ground would make it more of a handful.

Over the test period, we noticed a few paint scuffs where the cranks get close to the chainstays. As mentioned, it was muddy most of the time we were on the bike, but whatever the clearance from the crank arm to the chainstay, it would be nice if there was a little more clearance to prevent dents and chips from appearing. According to Evan Turpen, production frames will be powder coated, which should significantly improve paint durability, and a change has been made to the chainstays to allow for a tighter radius bend, reducing tire, bead and chainring clearance. is enlarged.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

Popular

More like this
Related

U.S. officials order Nvidia to halt sales of top AI chips to China

Technology company Nvidia's logo is seen at its headquarters...

Warriors’ Stephen Curry feted in Davidson ceremony

19:28 ETKendra AndrewsESPN After his fourth NBA title and...

2023 NFL mock draft: C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young in Top 5

No, it’s not too early. And, yes, we’re doing...