What is downcountry?

Rotor Bike Components
15th July 2020

Like it or not, the terminology that we use in the mountain bike world is anglosaxon in absolutely everything. That is why, if you hear of a new modality called downcountry, you will go to straight to the dictionary to look up what it means. They are not new, but they are more fashionable than ever. From the ROTOR blog, we tell you all about downcountry.

The influx of downcountry models presented in recent months, has made many of you ask us about this modality, which although not new, it is true that it now makes more sense than ever with the current boom. Specialized Epic EVO, Cannondale Scalpel SE, Yeti SB115 or Transition Spur, are some of the models that best represent this type of super capable cross country bikes.

Downcountry are dual suspension mountain bikes, with less than 130mm of travel (120mm maximum), which combine the short travel with a progressive, modern or in other words quite aggressive geometry for a short travel bike. The travel should never exceed 120mm, neither front or rear. The norm in many of these models is 100-110 or 115mm rear, combined with 120mm of fork travel. More than 120mm, would normally no longer be considered downcountry and are more a trail or an all mountain model, depending on how the particular brand classifies it.

In fact, in the last two years we have seen many trail models with 120-130mm of travel that look essentially the same as a downcountry, but with that extra travel and more versatile builds. They are undoubtedly models that also make a lot of sense, but they lose the essence of cross country and pedaling with maximum efficiency, that is why they are not classified as downcountry.

Geometry. In a downcountry bike, we want to pedal well, with a vertical saddle angle, but not excessively (74.5 in the Specialized EVO, 74 degrees in the Cannondale Scalpel SE, 74.1 in the Yeti SB115), but especially with a super slack head angle, if we consider the short travel we have and how until now the slack steering angles were left for much longer travel bikes. Taking the example from before, the Specialized EVO has a steering angle of 66.5 degrees, the Scalpel SE 67 degrees and the Yeti SB115 67.6 degrees. All in size M, for reference.

In general, there are not many changes regarding the reach or the angle of the seat tube as I mentioned before, or even the height of the bottom bracket, but if you make an extra effort in that the steering angle is so slack, so that when descending the bike gives an extra level of confidence.

Another aspect of downcountry bikes, is that they usually derive directly from the original cross country model. And for this, in addition to varying the geometry to make it a more capable model in technical areas, some of the main components are adapted so that this greater versatility is not limited by brakes or wheels. It is common to see this type of bike with four-piston brakes, larger disc rotors, forks with larger diameter stanchions and tires up to 2.5 ”(especially the front) depending on the model. In addition, 29” is the chosen wheel diameter in almost all downcountry models on the market. Another detail on many of the downcountry models, is that many of them, especially in high-end builds, come with a telescopic seatpost. If we see them more and more widespread among conventional cross country, it is a very logical step to take in this modality with more travel and more aggressive use.

You are a downcountry rider if: you ride cross country in very technical areas and you need slightly more travel and security; if you want a more versatile bike, but you do not want to go for more than 120mm travel; if you are a marathon rider who does very long training and competitions in which you want comfort and safety to prevail; or if you simply want to have a single mountain bike at home with which to do good cross country training, but that does not limit your rides too much because of the travel or the geometry.

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