Bike Test: CORSAIR CROWN
It’s only a few years since Pablo Montoya and his colleague appeared at that most intimidating of mountainbike events, Eurobike. Even then their products, early prototypes, came across powerfully both visually and mechanically, a small company setting out to do things different. They impressed a lot of people.
Corsair started from a blank piece of paper with a mission to create five unique hardcore high performance bikes. Judging by the literature they appear to have done this with an impressive and refreshing range of bikes, from four inches to ten. They have even managed to carry the strong pre-production image into the final builds, this is something not every company achieves when costs are brought into the equation.
Whilst the ‘never seen before suspension systems’ of the Corsair range does have a touch of big talk about it, it’s true that each bike does have a different system to its stable mate. None of the suspension designs come from licensed designs or do they use open technology. So compared to other companies they are a bit special.
Idler pulleys have been quite common on bikes featured here lately, basically this technology neutralises chain pull and is said to improve pedal efficiency, Corsair also say
that they are the first to offer a ‘floating’ idler pulley and point out that when mounted to the swingarm it gives great improvements on pedal ability.
The adjustable head tube is a bit different, featuring a deeper 20mm insertion depth, 30% larger bearings, and including +/– 1 degree headset cups. Essentially the Crown doesn’t use headset sleeves, thus reducing frame weight. Bearings? All ‘Pinch bolted’ or ‘clam shelled’ nothing is press fitted, in fact the bike has a very solid feel overall. Paint is ‘wet’ type compared to powdercoat, which can save up to a pound in weight. Corsair use ‘water’ type decals applied underneath the clear coat.
Featuring two shocks the Crown is super– tunable, comprising a coil Marzocchi Rocco for the first eight inches, and an X Fusion air can for the last sector should you choose to run this super long travel configuration. 260g of extra shock doesn’t seem like a lot of extra weight given the increase in travel. A key feature of the Crown is that even though you can alter the travel this is achievable without altering the geometry. The Crown’s ‘Dual shock’ system features travel configuration from 7.5” up to 10.5” and riders are able to use 9.5” or 10.5” dampers. We used the 9.5” shock with secondary blow off shock to give 10” travel, but later removed the air can and ran the bike in single pivot mode. We were very interested tosee how this worked out on the track.
One of the key features of the flagship downhill bike is the low leverage ratio suspension design. This they say leads to an increased range of compression and rebound
damping, improved longevity and durability of shock, lighter weight spring and improved small bump sensitivity. We had already been very impressed this year with the low leverage on one of our favourite bikes, the Morewood, so comparisons would doubtless follow.
Secondly the rearward axle path, now we covered axle paths in the mag a few issues ago and so you’ll know the benefits particularly on absorption of square edge and its effect at creating a better stable wheelbase. How much the 60mm plus rearward path, when in long travel mode, has an effect on stability was something else that had us head scratching
Overall the Crown is definitely well thought out, with its simple single pivot design based around a low stand over and centre of gravity. The guys at the company tell us its ‘Centre balance’ and consequent rider weighting – with ‘instant centre’ (IC) close to the bottom bracket makes the bike super manoeuvrable with the rearward IC making the bike particularly easy to manual. I wasn’t so bothered about that, but I was pretty keen to see how it ‘skid’id like’.
With around half a dozen shock position/travel configurations, depending on shock length and settings, the Corsair was always going to take a dose of homework, but with the bike in long travel (including blow-off shock) position we were instantly taken with its steadfast manner at speed. It provides stable angles, straightforward understandability and excellent performance on the rear up to the transition into the secondary shock.
For the test we used the 241mm Marzocchi unit to begin. Even though the shock was too soft at first (300lb) nevertheless the Rocco’s compression adjuster allowed for a large range of adjustment to compensate for this. With the correct spring it was very straightforward. A big plus mark heading the Italian companies way from our time on the Crown. In the longer setting, and no doubt a lot of people will use ten inches, the feel when the travel transfers from end of stroke coil to hard air bump stop is a bit strange. It’s all very unsubtle as the chassis activates the air damper. Obviously a number of factors will be affecting the chassis when you move deep into the travel: wheel path, pivot point and centre of gravity being some of them. Good for hucking possibly, but all a bit unnecessary for riding downhill. It’s not a massive issue, but we decided that as a downhill race bike, or one for this country, that the air shock had to go.
Let’s not get too distracted though and concentrate on the positives, because this is a good bike. The Corsair (still in long travel) enables you to cultivate a very definite riding style quickly, very much a ‘stand in the middle and hold on affair’ and once you have set off the bike rarely does anything really unexpected, something you’d expect in a bike with this amount of travel, but rarely found. The nature of this bike certainly lends itself to chairlift type locations and steeper longer type tracks. As an Alpine bike it would be very good. Pedalling is not one of the Corsairs stronger points, in fact it’s pretty bloody sluggish in the long setting, but when we rode it later in single pivot, eight inch mode, there was an improvement.
In the shorter travel mode without the secondary shock the Corsair was as expected pretty straightforward, although we had to start again with shock settings. The Marzocchi forks were faultless throughout, but that’s another story. Still not the liveliest of bikes, but pretty steadfast, and without any strange quirks it simply allowed the excellent suspension to get on with the job in hand.
THE WAY AHEAD?
As mentioned, it’s arguable if you need this amount of suspension for racing, maybe you do, but this two–shock configuration seems a very complicated way to achieve this. One of the issues is transfer of riding position when the axle moves so far backward really quickly in last tiny bit of travel, you have to almost second guess what happens during bottom out. The single shock setting was just so much easier to ride with, but even a large comes up pretty short in terms of wheelbase simply because of the massive chainstay lengthening in the long travel configuration.
The Corsair definitely has a lot of potential, but a few other fundamental things let it down. We noticed serious bearing wear after only a few days riding in the lower pivot and the paint work became flaky after only a few uplifts. I’d argue that it’s not super manoeuvrable as they say, and doesn’t compare to the equally low leverage Morewood. As an uplift and Alpine bike it’s solid rather than super quick, which might be just what you are after. z