DMR need no introduction really, they’ve been in the game forever. I’ve sworn by their pedals for years and I’m not the only one. It could be argued that they started the whole hardcore hard tail movement with the Trailstar way back in the day (certainly here in the UK) and their bikes can be seen at any dirt jump session you’ve been to ever since.
Anyway, enough history for now. Recently I got the chance to spend a bit of time aboard DMRs first foray into the mid-travel trail bike category. The Sled is an aluminium framed, 160mm travel rig aimed at the Enduro racer and all mountain rider. The back end uses DMR’s own Orbit Link Suspension system; their take on a virtual pivot system with the main pivot around the B.B. shell. Damping duties on our test rig were taken care of by a Rockshox Monarch Debonair, matched with a 170mm travel Lyrik up front. The rest of the spec included TRP Slate brakes, a SRAM Eagle GX drivetrain, a mix of DMR and FSA finishing kit and wheels were DMR hubs laced to RaceFace Arc rims, shod with my personal favourite Maxxis Minions front and back. More on that later.
Numbers-wise, the Sled isn’t as out there as some of its rivals in the long-and-slack stakes. A 65 degree head angle and 635mm (virtual) top tube on our Large size bike is pretty average these days. With pretty a pretty slender frame for alloy and a low slung top tube, unboxing the bike I was reaching for the tape measure to make sure I’d received the right size! Do numbers matter that much on the trail though?
Built up, the Sled looks the part, to say the least. I won’t dwell too much on individual parts as DMR offer a couple of different complete builds and a frame only option. Spec wise we had no worries though, SRAM 12speed drive worked faultlessly throughout the test period. A neat touch is the inclusion of a Praxis Works chainguide for that extra security when things get proper rowdy. The finishing kit is solid enough, 800mm bars with a comfortable sweep had us feeling right at home. The TRP brakes have a very progressive feel but bags of power when you need it; as someone who likes a more on-or-off feel to their brakes it took me a while to get the Slate T4 dialled in but they’re very capable stoppers and, as I’ve said already, there was no shortage of power when I needed it. Suspension- the new Rockshox stuff is just great. Once dialled in the Lyriks did everything asked if them and never missed a beat. Lastly RaceFace rims built into a stiff, solid wheel set. DMRs own hubs had an impressively fast pick up and Maxxis Minions I get on well with so no need to get used to these, I could get on with the job in hand straight away.
Down to business. Out on the trail, initially the Sled does feel a tad shorter than some. Not that the cockpit is cramped by any means, but not as stretched out as a lot of bikes in its category. I did worry that this might translate into a nervous or unstable feel at speed but one run down a local track put that idea to bed. As we know, DMR’s roots are in dirt jump and slopestyle bikes so it’s no surprise that some of that DNA has come out in the Sled. Once pointed downhill you find yourself in the centre of the bike and right on the sweet spot of the rear suspension. That shorter (or notmassivelylong) top tube makes the bike feel super agile and last minute direction changes are handled with ease. It still requires a bit of body language it corners and tight tech stuff though, an armchair bike it definitely isn’t, it’s doesn’t reward passenger, you’ve got to RIDE it to get the best out of it.
Whether it’s down to the linkage or the rear Shock I’m not sure but under power it accelerates pretty rapidly with minimal feedback and when things get rough, feels super plush on small to medium hits- the tracks I tested on spend most of the year field with braking bumps- It’s one of those bikes that has you deliberately seeking out the gnarlier lines and looking for stuff to jump off. It’s stable in the air (I guess they know a thing or two about jumping) and just inspires confidence whatever you’re doing. The alloy frame is plenty stiff enough without being unforgiving. One heavier tester reckoned there was a little give in the back end when hitting turns hard, “but in a good way, like a steel hardtail flexes a bit”…
On the climb back up it’s no slouch either. It’ll happily spin uphill without complaining, not XC racer quick, but if that’s your thing, you’re probably looking at the wrong bike anyway. I wouldn’t say it’s the most efficient climber but then one tester KOM’d a Strava segment on it so what do I know!
Would I race it then? In short, yes. I’d happily take the Sled enduro racing. It’s fast, confidence inspiring and reliable, and that’s exactly what you want in a race bike. Whether it’s as fast as it’s longer, slacker counterparts, we’ll that depends partly on the pilot. Only a stopwatch and back to back runs with something like a Mondraker Dune or Pole Stamina maybe.
In conclusion then. The Sled is a bike that wants to party. All the time. Cruising along at a ready pace it’s not the most animated bike, almost as if it isn’t really interested, but put the hammer down, point it at some rocks, roots or drops and like all the best bikes it comes to life. It’s happiest going fast and getting airborne. It’s like that slightly unhinged mate that you go out for a quiet pint with, and before you know it, it’s 5am and you’re at an illegal rave up to your eyeballs in blow.
As I’ve touched on already, it’s not a ‘sit on it and plough’ type of bike, it does require some rider input to get the best from it, but ride it right and it’ll reward you in spades.