Downhill Bikes

Antidote Darkmatter. Top dog?

Fully stunning DH bike


Downhill is as primitive and unrefined today as it has been for many years. In many areas it’s a sport considerably further away from the Formula One game that many people perceive it to be. Yes, its much more exciting than F1 but the equipment and the mindsets are a mix of madness and insularity and not necessarily in that order.

Let’s not make grand generalisations here though. There IS innovation and there IS athleticism aplenty that mixes with the feral beasts and machines. Yes the machines. Air and coil has ebbed and flowed between Fox and RockShox for many years on the top ten machinery. For 2017 the Swedes at Ohlins look set to march into this territory and they’ve already upset a few people.

Carbon is still vying with aluminium as the material of choice but real performance is difficult to prove with so much marketing involved. Both materials are presented in chassis designs of wildly differing flex and stiffness characteristics. Stiff has come to be associated with fast but that’s much further from the truth than many care to believe. Dig deeper into the body of fine design and you’ll find heart’s way more elastic than the tense marketing would have you believe.

Wheels will continue to cause argument for the rest of the season but the bigger battle seems to be the Western Europeans taking on the Americans head first. 2017 will be all about YT, Canyon and Mondraker taking on Trek, Santa Cruz and Specialized. The best bike in the world will from one of those brands right? Quite probably the series winning bike will come from one side of the Atlantic yes. Whether it is the best bike, then possibly not.

See, until this moment in time we fully believed that one of the aforementioned brands to be the best. But a visit from Poland has changed all that.

Why so? Because the Darkmatter had us looking to the cosmos for answers as to its pace, balance and chassis unity. This bike is fucking sensational.

Geometry, frame material and construction, anti squat and axle path, shock absorber and sizing are just some of the elements that make this bike that little bit better than everything else. Yes there’s a need for a degree of prudence here but the balance in pretty much every circumstance from flat roots and corners to bottomless breakers and hideous rock sections is unparalleled on this bike. So we believe. So we feel.

Designed and made in Krakow Poland by a team for whom making bikes is only part of their income, the Darkamtter is made of a mix of Torray fabric, with Kevlar and Vectran reinforcement. Rearward axle path, semi floating rear brake which controls geometry under braking, low a centre of gravity which is centralised in the frame with a super light rear end are some of the frame details.

On the hill the bike is silent. It’s the very delicate and smooth transition through the travel and terrain that stands it apart.

The Darkmatter is a benchmark bike, it brings into focus is how unstable so many bikes that shout about having a stable midstroke are. The Antidote works with and manipulates its way through root and surface conditions yet muscles up to g-out and big breakers in a seamless transition, one that almost senses the impact before it has happened. Maybe it’s simply because the bike allows the rider a fraction more time to prepare. No other downhill bike on the market offers the level of poise that this bike gives you. Franco Fratton has nailed the damper, the guys have built some real feeling into the way the chassis reacts, the fork has been properly prepared with an Ohlins cartridge. All the guess work has been taken out of the riders hands. It has been presented ready to roll.

On this Antidote there is no mismatch between front and rear centres and even though the reach number appears quite small for a large, the actual system works as a unit. There is perfect harmony between suspension design and shock absorber, there is no overly stiff front end that leads to fatigue, no tight rear end which has the tyre stepping out, no wild rear end traits requiring massive adaption and anticipation by the rider, there is neither too much nor too little progression in the chassis, and the front man in this bike, the Ohlins operated in the golden fashion we’ve become used to. No antibiotics.

In a market stacked with insignificant bikes the Darkmatter is a bike loaded with energy and precision. This is a GREAT bike.

Darkmatter Frame: With EXT Shock. €5550

Words. S Jones  Images. C Philpott

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