Poland you don't exactly associate with handmade downhill and freeride frames do you? However that may soon change with thanks to Revolution cycles importing the Zumbi brand to the UK and I was lucky enough to be given one for a few weeks to test.
First and foremost build quality is first rate, welds are very neat and the tidy linkages are cnc'd, left raw which look very trick and the paints pretty thick on the main frame and swing arm so should hopefully hold up to some abuse without looking tatty within a short time period.
The headtube is sadly a standard 1:1/8th, which in 2008 really should be a 1.5 as most frames are going. Suspension is supplied by a lively Marzocchi roco rc which after testing I may say is fabulous, fine it might not have the platform damping of the Fox but I'd take it any day for its feel and infamous Marzocchi plushness. Back to the frame though cable routing is tidy offering full-length outers, oddly though no iscg mounts on the bb a bit of an oversight on a frame at this price point.
The bike was built with a good selection of kit, suspension upfront was provided by a Manitou Travis, brakes were interestingly Hayes Caminos even with my reservations they performed an admirable job, shifting was done with an X9 shifter mated to a Sram X0 rear mech, Saint cranks kept the power down and grip was provided by a pair of LAW pedals while everything rolled on, the fantastic Hadley hubs and Mavic rims, so build was pretty much perfect for a bike of this calibre.
Now first impressions are good with a somewhat similar (in feel at least) suspension system to that of Santa Cruz bikes and their patented virtual pivot point suspension (VPP). However VPP is different in that the linkages move differently to one another, so the upper linkage rotates clockwise whereas the lower linkage rotates counter clockwise while the FPS system rotates both linkages in the same direction, giving the two bikes entirely different suspension curves though they felt quite similar, which is in no way a bad thing. This gives the F44 a very solid stance when pedalling with only a hint of bob when you're really cranking hard on it.
When riding, the bike excels at any speed, the bikes tight geometry mean getting it round even the tightest corners is as easy as turning the bars, acceleration is good its not the quickest to get up (depends on build as well of course), but it holds it's speed very well, the bike also feels a lot shorter than it actually is so its very easy to manoeuvre through pretty much anything. Though it can be a bit twitchy at slow speeds usually this wouldn't be a problem, but it does count if you want to do anything but DH on it.
Suspension was firm but compliant taking everything within its stride. The suspension, just sucks up everything and half the time you've forgotten its even there, its not perfect though I think the FPS system numbs a little of the smaller hits such as roots and so forth not a major problem but a niggle for some me included in that but then again nothing is perfect.
The bike flows very well, smooth as most other bikes I've ridden only helped I think by the FPS system doing an admirable job. You also begin to realise when it is pushed where the geometry really comes into play, the shock feels very centred so you feel In the middle of the bike rather than dangling perilously from either end which is a great confidence booster, allowing you to push it more without fear of bailing out, either over the front or the back on very steep descents.
Now to the price £1500 with an avalanche shock, in a market flooded with frames priced similarly is it worth it? Well that's a very difficult question to answer frankly, the frames built well, it rides well and it's a nice bike and it's different with a totally new suspension design.
The important thing I think to note here is that its handmade and its different, if this appeals to you id whole heartedly recommend the bike as a purebred dh sled, the company making them is also very good, superbly helpful, which means if you want any help with it in the future be it set up and so forth they are only an email away and your going to be speaking to someone who helped create the bike, this is one of the best things when your buying a handmade frame and the reason id recommend anyone to get one if they can afford it, because usually it is the more expensive route.
But I digress to wind up this is a great bike, pricing is not as aggressive as I feel it could be, currently it puts it mid market where it feels about right in the same league as a Cove Peeler for example, so if your in the market for something just a little different which no one else has got I would recommend it.
Big Thanks to Mike at Revolutions Cycles for the loan of his F44 and the help he has supplied during the last couple of months.
© 2008 Review by Johnathan Clark