Six Months of Stoke on the Retrotec 27.5+ Funduro

Say what you will about hardtail mountain bikes. Die hard park rats think they’re antiquated, beginners often times think they’re hard to ride and the most common complaint I hear is that it’s hard getting bucked all over the place without rear suspension. Granted a lot of those common conceptions can have some truth to them, yet with the advent and availability of new rear spacing, dropper posts that work really well and bigger tire sizes, a hardtail can be pretty damn capable and even a lot of fun. For the past six months, I’ve been riding what I consider a new benchmark in hardtail mountain bike design: a 140mm travel, slack and low, 27.5+ hardtail, complete with a dropper post and a 1x drivetrain. This one in particular was built by hand in Napa by Curtis Inglis of Retrotec. So what does the creator of this beast call it? Well, what else? It’s a Funduro.


Six Months of Stoke on the Retrotec 27.5+ Funduro-5

Funduro?

Fun what? Come on, it’s a joke. Enduro racing has grown to one of the most popular forms of mountain biking, across the world. Curtis wanted to make a hardtail that is capable for all-mountain riding, with a bit of fun injected into it. He chose a slack n low geomtery with a big, plump 3″ 27.5″ tire, slammed way in there with a 425mm rear end. That formula, combined with a dropper post, gives the rider more confidence to go faster into corners and roll right over the rowdy line. With such a large diameter wheel, you’re getting close to a 29’r wheel diameter, so if you get tired of the 27.5+ platform, you can still rip with your other wheels and you’ll have a 140mm travel 29r. The short rear makes manualing and wheelies second nature and its confident stance makes it easy to tackle both familiar and new trails.

Retrotec

Curtis Inglis builds bikes both under his name and the Retrotec moniker. Most people are familiar with the latter and their swooping lines, hot rod inspired powder coat and gorgeous head badges. They’re always show-stoppers at NAHBS and have long been on my top 10 list. In a world where just about everyone is tig welding the same kit of parts, Retrotec stands out as a truly unique brand. I’d place Curtis’ work in the lineup with Black Cat and Hunter, two other NorCal builders who share a similar love for curvalicious frames.

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This Bike is a Show Bike

A few months before NAHBS, Curtis emailed me, wondering if I’d be interested in reviewing a bike of his. Turns out, we’re kinda close to the same size, or close enough for a MTB frame anyway. I agreed, especially after hearing his description of the Funduro. Months passed and NAHBS reared its head in my calendar. I had no idea what to expect with this bike. All I knew is it would have the new Chris King 40th components on it, as well as Shimano XTR. The unveiling blew my mind. The colors, the build kit and the geometry of the Funduro had me and the entire attendance at NAHBS in awe. It was perfect, which can be a bad thing with a MTB. I mean, it’s hard to want to thrash the shit out of something so beautiful! Yet, it didn’t stop me.

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About the Build

Since it’s a show bike, a lot of companies wanted to get their new technology under my butt for review. At the time, the XFusion McQueen fork was brand spanking new. In fact, it was so new that I was the only one that had a working fork. It’s still technically a prototype and perhaps this review is coming a little bit later than they had anticipated, but in my opinion, you really need to work something over (and over and over) before you can write a comprehensive review. Next up, Shimano’s 1x XTR kit, Cielo’s tig welded stem, the Thomson Elite Dropper, Derby wheels and WTB’s 3″ Bridger tires. Some of these aren’t necessarily new, but they were to me.

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XFusion McQueen

Technically, this is the MCQUEEN RC HLR trail fork. This beast is boosted for plus tires, features 34mm stanchions, even though they look dwarfed by the tires, rebound adjustment, high / low compression HLR damping, and weighs around 4.5 lbs. It’s stiff, reliable and has given me zero issues.

While there’s no lockout, if you turn the adjuster dials all the way in it will be firmer. That’s because the McQueen has High and Low speed compression only, it’s basically a DH fork damper in a trail bike fork. Typically you would only make small adjustments by turning the adjustment knob one or two clicks, depending on the terrain and trail type. This results in a high-performance damper and more of a set it and forget it type of thing.

While the fork isn’t the same in terms of adjustment as say a Pike, it is a couple hundred dollars cheaper. My take away: the McQueen is a fork for someone looking to save money, without sacrificing performance and is plenty stiff, especially for a hard tail! From what I can find, the retail is around $700 or so.

Six Months of Stoke on the Retrotec 27.5+ Funduro-16

Shimano XTR

There was a time when XTR was the best of the best and while it still may reign supreme in some circles, the competition has gotten a whole lot better. Honestly, this was the first time I’ve ridden the modern XTR 1x setup, after years of riding SRAM’s 1x mountain range and yes, I did miss that crisp Shimano shifting. XTR is still an amazing riding experience. You can shift under load and not have to worry about any delay or malfunction. It’s smooth, quiet and predictable. Since Shimano has gone 11-speed, their cassettes have gotten wider in terms of range with their 11-40t, but still not as high as SRAM’s standard 10-42t cluster or Eagle’s ridiculous 10-50t 12 speed setup. Now, the difference between two teeth on a rear cassette might not seem to be that much, but as I found with the plus tires, often at lower pressures, I wish I still had them. Sure, some will say I need to be more macho and harden up, but I’m used to riding my trails, with a camera pack, with a 42t cassette. It took some getting used to for sure. If I were to keep this setup, I’d go with one of the many step up add-ons, putting the rear cassette a little bit higher in terms of range.

Six Months of Stoke on the Retrotec 27.5+ Funduro

While the drivetrain was a smooth operator, the XTR brakes left something to be desired, especially since my memories of earlier versions were so positive. Now, I don’t know if the SRAM Guide brakes I’ve been riding got better or if the modern XTR brakes got worse, but there is a noticable difference. I had to bleed the rear twice to get it to feel equal to the front and even then, it’s still a bit crunchy. Even my other XTR brakes that are a few years old and have never needed maintenance feel a lot better than these. Fluke? Maybe, but it’s worth noting.

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Other Bits

Wide rims make all the difference and as I’ve said before, carbon wheels on a MTB, especially a hardtail, really improve the ride quality of a bike. In this case, the Derby rims, laced to King Boost MTB hubs. These new 148mm spaced, thru-axle hubs are developed for bikes with wider rear ends. This allows you to tuck your plus sized tire closer to the bottom bracket, without the chainline getting all funky. On a bike like this, the short rear is super shreddy. Lower pressure tires love wide rims and the Derby’s 50mm outer width makes for a fat, chunky tire. Even the WTB Bridger actually measures 3″ on these, whereas I’ve found their MTB tires to be a little on the small side on “normal” rim widths. Speaking of the Bridger. Wow! Finally, a real tire in a plus sized offering. If you’ve ridden them, you probably agree and if you haven’t, you should.

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Thomson Droppers are great. They’re cable actuated so you don’t have to worry about contaminates in the line, are durable and I’ve never had an issue with them. This makes the third Thomson dropper I’ve ridden for an extensive period of time and I am sold!

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Cielo’s tig-welded stems are made in house by the same capable hands that produce their frames. They’re available in a number of lengths and you can even have your faceplate anodized. This one matches the rest of the 40th anniversary parts. Joined with a killer bar like the ENVE SWP, it makes for a solid, cockpit.

Funduro!-1

Enough with the Specs!

Trust me, I hate technical jargon. Onto the good stuff! As I said way back there behind all the techy stuff, this bike shreds. It prompted me to sell my full suspension trail bike to be able to buy something like this. For Los Angeles and beyond, I felt like this was all I really needed. If there’s something super crazy on the trail, I’m fine walking it but there’s only been a few moments where that has happened in this review period. Once I got the tire pressure where it felt right under me and the fork dialed, I really vibed with the bike. Since I’m tall, the 140mm head tube and 140mm travel fork put me in the right spot for steep descents and I felt like I was riding in the bike on everything else. The plus-sized tires make rock gardens and drops fun, while root bumps and trail jumps got even bouncier. Literally everything on the trail became something to engage with. The short rear end makes it lively on turns and allows you to slalom down and around corners with ease. Just point it and go!

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Critiques?

I’ve really only got a few points. First of which is the front rotor spec. I’d like to get a bigger rotor under there for the long descents like we’ve got in Los Angeles. Another is just a by-product of this being such a damn handsome bike: the brake and shifter hit the top tube. Sure, they’ll hit most top tubes, but most aren’t hand-bent bi-tubes that wrap so elegantly around the seat tube like this. Curtis says they’re straight gauge, so they’re pretty unlikely to dent and even with a few spills, I’ve yet to chip the powder coat, but that doesn’t mean I don’t cringe when I see the bike rolling down a hillside.

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Take Away

This bike lives up to its name. The Funduro is an all-around capable trail bike with Retrotec styling that shreds as hard as you’ll let it. While it’s easy on the eyes, don’t let it fool ya, this beast means business! If you’d like a Funduro of your own, holler at Curtis!

  • Owen Cunningham

    John, you mentioned your height in here. How tall are you? I have a hard time finding bikes (mountain and road) with a high enough stack height, and it’d be helpful to know your height for takeaways from these reviews

    • I’m 6’2″ with a 36″ inseam and long arms.

  • Devin Kyle Mattson

    Really stoked on this review. Sold my road bike and ordered a Breadwinner Goodwater a few weeks ago. Can’t wait to get it on the trails here in the Bay Area.

    • Kevin

      You won’t be disappointed! I have a special 1-off 29er Bad Otis with very similar geometry to what became the Goodwater and it’s perfect for the trails here in the Bay!

  • Mark McGrath

    Any idea of the bottom bracket height on this thing? It looks pretty tall from that last photo.

  • Tom Urquhart

    http://imgur.com/8SEBr0m

    Curtis built a bike for me recently and I could not be more satisfied. I’m 6’8″ and have a history of breaking things. Those days are over.

  • CTDSAC

    John,
    Is their any issue with stand over clearance with the top tube? I have always wondered about the upward bow of the TT.

    • The bow was made with my measurements in mind. Stand over is great on this bike.

  • John, what trick do you use to prop up bikes when photographing them?

    • I have a stand or a stick and then I clone stamp it out in Lightroom.

  • Chris Valente

    The look of Retrotecs never really resonated with me, but hot damn that thing is mean looking!

  • Smithhammer

    That’s is truly a sweet bike – manages to blend classic lines with “all business” real performance.The resurgence of the mountain hardtail – not in a “retro” way, but as a fully viable, versatile mountain bike with modern spec and the significantly improved capabilities of plus tires, is something I’m so glad I’ve lived to see.

    And i hear you on the rotors – I don’t know why any real mtn. bike is spec’d with less than 180mm rotors minimum anymore.

  • Kurt Barclay

    Yep, this bike rips! Been throwing mine around since spring and I couldn’t be happier!

  • Curtis Inglis

    Thank you John Bike looks great dirty.

    • That’s dirt from all over California too. All it’s missing is Napa!

  • Jimmy

    How’d you keep the sidewalls on your Bridgers so intact through rocky, sharp, scraggly trails? I’ve been riding mine about 2 months in Boulder, and they are pock marked with nicks and cuts, some of which are pushing the limits of Stans. It’s a problem I’ve been having consistently, front and rear.

    • I just take smooth lines. ;-)

      Honestly, I have no idea. It’s way sandier here than rocky, at least in my trails.

  • Sretsok

    I’m sure you know this but Shimano makes an 11-42 cassette that fits on a standard 10 speed free hub body. A nice alternative to those of us who can’t go all the way for 11 speed.

    Hate to get all “actually” on you, this bike is rad as fuck! You mentioned selling your trail bike, is 650+ that good in the rear? I’ve been playing around with jamming one in the back of my karate monkey.

    • I did not know they made a 42t! Rad. I do have a 10 speed 11-42t Sunrace on my tourer though. Yeah, I think the 27.5+ platform, with a dropper is awesome, although I do think a 2.8″ tire might be the sweet spot. 3″ is a lot of rubber to climb for an hour on.

      • Pablo

        The xt m8000 cassettes ”actually” got three sizes: 11-40, 11-42 and 11-46. Though I’m not sure if xtr mechs reach the 46tooth.

        • FYI: The XTR M9000 rear derailleur has a rated capacity for the 11-40t cassette. XT’s M8000 has a GS and SGS rear derailleur option to be paired with the 11-40t or the 11-42t. Shimano’s b2b has the 11-46 listed under XT M8000 with no ETA on arrival. I do know speaking with my rep the thought is that XTR M9000 is to be the race set up limited to 40t max in the cassette and XT is meant to offer that wider range. As an aside, it’s a fine balance though with how short you can go with chain stay length before it begins to negatively impact shifting performance. Really a beauty of a build though. Hats off to Curtis Inglis and for the great write up and pics from John. Nice work and thanks for sharing.

          • Linh Nguyen

            I am running a GS XTR rear with XT 11-42t and it works perfect. Word is that Shimano will be coming out with a XTR 11-42 at some point. All reviews I have read also indicate it works. I think Shimano does this just to make XTR sound racier similar to when XTR cranks only came with standard rings.

          • Awesome – Thanks for that intel. Always interesting to hear what the word is out on the street compared to what the source states.

          • Brett S Kennedy

            Shimano has an 11-46 cassette which should be available now…

            http://chainslapmag.com/2016/05/landed-shimano-xt-11-46-cassette/

      • Sretsok

        2.8 is all I could fit anyway. May have to start saving my pennies… Is it lame to call these new hard tails TrailTails?

        The XT 11 speed works bitchin’ with my Sram stuff, it’s been a great budget friendly upgrade.

    • JScriv

      Pretty sure Shimano is about to or has just dropped an 11-46 in XT as well…

  • Dexter

    She’s a beauty!

  • bruto

    How much room is there between the tire and McQueen’s arch, John? An exact measurement of the wheel radius/diameter would also help for the purpose of figuring out whether or not this fork has clearance for 29×3 :) Thanks!

  • Ryan

    Had this used the Paragon slider option, that bike might have gone missing.

  • Agleck7

    What was your full sus mtb? Tallboy?

    • Yeah, I bought a Tallboy (the regular version, not the LTC) from the SCB demo sale two years ago.

      • Agleck7

        Thanks.

  • Eric Ling

    El Prieto? Awesome bike. I just picked up a Kona Honzo AL/DL recently and it’s all I’ve been riding around So Cal trails. I wanted a hardtail for days when I didn’t want to schlep my Nomad around, and I find that lately, all I want to do is ride the hardtail, on all the trails. Maybe it’s still the “newness” factor.

  • Benjamin Johnson

    Different rider, different trails, I know–but I’m still curious, where’d you end up with PSI?

    • I mostly just guessed. I’d climb with them pumped up a bit harder (since most of our climbs are 45 minutes +) and then let out what “felt” right. Sorry if that’s not much help.

  • Curtis Inglis

    I have also been running the 11-42 cassette with my XTR rear der. And it has worked flawless.

  • Curtis Inglis

    https://instagram.com/p/BI-aY-cBbsY/

    Another rad way to go is 29+ rigid only, but it takes some commitment.

    • Patrick Jonathan Neitzey

      you truly are a friggin visionary. like damn

    • fizzle

      fully the sweetest bike I have seen on this website. thats your personal ride right?

  • Guy Shochat

    This was an incredibly satisfying to read review. I have been riding a hardtail 27.5+ for the past year on technical trails in the bay area and norcal including Downieville and have been blown away by the fun, simplicity, and extreme versatility. I have the mid level Specialized Fuse, yes a far cry from this gorgeous machine, but functionally very much in the same spirit. I almost never see another one on the trail and feel like these are treated as trendy novelties. And the demo shops mostly carry only full suspension semi fat bikes and that blows me away. These bikes are such a great format and so much fun. I have been keeping up on long cross country climbs and very technical singletrack. It was only on sections of Downieville and Moab that I have felt the desire for something with full suspension to keep up the downhill speed of my friends and even then I was doing well.
    It was a revelation to go to NAHBS and see so many hardtail 27.5 plus bikes from so many small makers who clearly saw the potential. I am saving up for a better specced version of mine hopefully from a small producer so NAHBS was like a candy store for me. I really loved the Black Cat bikes but am truly a sucker for the lines on this Twin frame and on the Twin titanium frames from Oddity Cycles and Black Sheep Bikes in Colorado. Interestingly I now I see a half dozen major manufacturers are planning hardtail 27.5+ bikes for 2017.
    I noticed the difference in how the 3.0 tires sit on extra wide rims and have been amazed at how different the ride is with quite small changes in PSI. I have found 12 psi to be my sweet spot with my present tires.
    I do have one question, perhaps Curtis or you could answer. Traditionally hard tails do not have forks with travel longer than 120mm and 100mm is more standard even on say a Santa Cruz Highball. My bike has a 120mm which is very well behaved but I could not help thinking I would enjoy a fork with more travel and I noticed this bike has a 140 which you like. Is it a myth that you generally shouldn’t have a longer travel fork on a hardtail or is this an exception due to your height?
    I was also glad to hear that standover was not a problem as the lines of that frame are too good to give up and I also agree that the 11-42 is crucial. Thanks for the great piece and consistently beautiful photos and for letting me go on an on.