Mondraker launched the new, all-alloy version of their Summum downhill bike with all the wheel size options and updated geometry and suspension.
Pete had a chat with Mondraker’s product manager Israel Romero to find out who they went about updating one of the most successful downhill bikes of the last decade.
What was the inspiration for updating the Summum?
It was just about time…
Once you had made that decision, what happens next?
-We wanted to improve the previous model in everything way we could. We’ve updated the geometry, improved the kinematics and we offer the new Summum in 2 different wheel diameters to suit every rider’s demands.
Who is involved in that process and what do they do?
There are many people involved. Once we decide what we want to do (bike concept, new geometry..) we have 2 engineers working on the new kinematics, industrial designers working on the new look of the bike, product managers and other people involved in the development, all working in the same direction trying to make a better Summum compared with the previous one.
What did you know you did and didn’t want to do with the new Summum?
Improving geometry, updated kinematics and offering 27.5 and 29 inch wheel sizings were the main concerns. We didn’t want to do a mullet bike as that’s something we don’t like, or think we don’t like, although some of our MS-Mondraker team riders are riding it and some of the top World Cup contenders are racing too.
Eventually we had to give in and offer the Summum RR frameset mullet 29 front 27.5 rear as an option along with Summum RR 29 and Summum RR 27.5 framesets too.
How do you convert pro rider feedback into a production bike?
This is always tricky as they are very personal with their setups and individual likings but their feedback is always very valuable. They were already very happy and completely satisfied with the bike we had up until now and, as soon as they first tested the new one (the day after Lenzerheide World Cup in Switzerland in 2019), they were blown away with the great performance of the whole package showing same race speeds since their first run and great positive comments from Greenland, MacDonald and Jones.
Do you have to consider all the suspension changes simultaneously, or can they be isolated while you’re trying to achieve certain characteristics?
This is also very tricky to analyse and/or explain as well. Here it was just a matter of finely tune the existing suspension design adding some more suppleness off the top with slightly more ramp up towards the end of the travel as well. It’s just a calculation of where the suspension pivots should be placed along with the rear shock and linkages. It might sound simple but it’s a lot of work and downhill testing too.
How did you nail down the geometry and sizing?
Sizes are larger compared to the ones we had for Summum to date. The geometry is as extreme as it can get for a downhill race bike but cannot be too extreme either specially with the head angle being too slack as you would compromise front tire grip in corners so everything as a whole has to be proportional. We’ve had 10 years of experience riding the Summum to date so we knew what we wanted.
What made you want to focus on alloy-only frames?
Aluminium is back at DH racing somehow, we are all aware that some of the top World Cup contenders are racing on alloy bikes, and Mondraker has always been very strong with the aluminium models as well. Having said that, it’s no secret that we are also working on a new carbon Summum that will be introduced sometime in the future.
How many prototypes did you have before you settled on the production chassis?
We had rideable prototypes since 2017. We built prototypes back in the day just to test new kinematic options, something you cannot test on the computer, and although it’s just something to begin with, you have to build a complete bike to test it.
How many? I don’t know. Back then (in 2016-2017) we were happy with just updating the kinematics and geometry a bit somehow (to try to improve the existing bike back then) but the different wheel diameter options it’s truly been a mess to try to meet any rider requirement these days.
Beyond prototypes, what form did your testing take?
Along the road we’ve been testing suspension a lot… mainly suspension, but also wheels and tyres. Different tire compounds and casing options also play an important role on how the bike rides. This is key and something not to be overlooked when working on a new model like this. We also run test on different tracks or testing grounds to compare rider feeling as well.
At what point did you think “yes, that’s it”?
As soon as we were testing at Lenzerheide last year with the team and they were so satisfied they even wanted to take those prototypes to the Worlds in MSA a couple of weeks later. We couldn’t allow that… as it was too soon for that anyway… but they were really impressed on how the new bike rode in the same track they had raced the day before.
Maybe testing with MS-Mondraker at Lenzerheide was one of the highlights of the whole development process no doubt. And also, of course, testing repeated runs in the same track and realise how much faster this new bike feels compared to the previous one…
How easy it is to ride fast, how confident and planted it feels at speed, how much grip it has in corners. For me personally having ridden the prototypes since the beginning and testing the Summum since day one in 2009, witnessing this evolution is very satisfying.
Perhaps the very first prototypes we were testing back in 2017 were not working as good as we thought they would, and maybe the development process has also been longer than expected but, somehow, it’s also meant an advantage to release a more refined and better performing Summum today.
Anyone to thank?
Of course everyone involved in this project and later on, every rider that consider riding or racing a new Mondraker Summum for 2021 and beyond.