[Opinion] The Bike Industry is Sleeping on Mullet Enduro Bikes

[Opinion] The Bike Industry is Sleeping on Mullet Enduro Bikes

Ian Collins, 13/07/2020
Whatsapp
Ian Collins, 13/07/2020

Mullet bikes are very much worth serious consideration by the bike industry, but I’m not entirely convinced that they’re being given the attention they deserve – at least in the single crown world anyway, and at least not yet. However, there could be some quiet development secretly going on behind the scenes…

Much like Joe Exotic, there is a lot to be charmed by – up front, a 29” wheel improves roll over and traction, where impacts first occur and grip matters most. The dramatically better cornering of a smaller 27.5” wheel out back lets you manhandle the rear end, which is generally where longer travel bikes tend to feel most negatively affected by bigger wheels.

Hinting at the possibility of a “best of both worlds” setup, both World Championships and World Cups alike have been won on mullet bikes. Hell, Brendog even blew everyone’s mind on a mixed wheel bike at Rampage. In recent weeks, a few brands started to release mullet DH bikes to the consumer world, now that they’ve passed the development phase and have been proven on the race circuit. Commencal, Specialized, Santa Cruz all have production mixed wheel downhill bikes ready for consumers at this point. Some 29” bikes with a good range in adjustment also seem to work well with both wheel sizes or a combination. The Scott Gambler and GT Fury come to mind…

But what about enduro bikes? And mid-travel trail bikes for that matter? It isn’t a stretch to imagine that if a mullet DH bike can win races on the DH circuit, it could also perform well at EWS rounds, many of which have sections so gnarly that they rival infamous downhill tracks. So what gives? Why haven’t we seen any prominent mullet bikes on the enduro race circuit, much less at a consumer level?

Well, it could partly come down to the pesky issue of climbing. Compared to an enduro bike, it’s less of a stretch to modify a 29” wheeled downhill bike to work with a smaller rear wheel since it doesn’t need to be pedaled back up a hill after a lap.

Now that we’re finally seeing such incredible gains on the geometry front, we don’t want to go backwards. With longer reaches, and much steeper seat tube angles on modern bikes, it’s totally manageable to ride (and race) 160-180mm travel bikes for long hours due to their forward and upright climbing position. Unfortunately, dropping the bottom bracket by jamming a smaller wheel into a 29” enduro bike undoes some precious geometry improvements by slackening the seat tube angle and shortening the reach substantially. That gives the bike a pretty aggressive rearward bias, which can be part of the appeal on the descents, but converted mullet bikes are a bit tough to power through a big day.

A while back we ran an article in which our editor Simon Silver converted a GT Force 29 to a mullet by running the bike in the high setting and using an offset bushing. With trunnion mount shocks, you can only get so much BB height and seat/head angle correction out of an offset bushing though. They can also do some funny things to your suspension kinematics and may also result in clearance issues. On the other end, slapping a 29” front wheel and fork on a 27.5” bike is a bit too pervasive as you’re not just getting the increased front end height of a taller wheel, but you get even more additional height from a taller fork, which really whacks the geometry out.

So far, to the extent of my knowledge, the only bike on the market that’s available as a mullet in stock form is a variant on the Forbidden Druid, which sees its conversion via a new lower link. But as far as I know, at the moment there hasn’t been any top down developmental efforts which specifically design a bike and, more importantly its geometry, around a mixed wheel setup.

How long until we see some in the future? Are the big brands listening? This seems like a huge market opportunity. Why haven’t any of the big players taken the leap? Sure carbon molds are expensive, but perhaps a brand like Commencal, who only manufactures bikes from Aluminum, thus saving not only money, but also precious time, will take the first step. One thing is for sure, I’m not alone in saying I would love to spend some time on a fully dedicated mullet enduro bike – surely it would be an absolute blast. Time will tell…