Never before have I had so much fun on my local, typical midwestern, old school trails. It took me a ride or two on the RSD Sergeant Aluminum 27.5+ before I started to understand what this bike is intended to do. In case you missed the product preview from back in June, you can read it here. If you want to click back and forth between the build kit, specs and geometry and this article, direct your attention to this page for the Sergeant’s nitty gritty. Now that the ground work has been laid, let’s get back to the fun that I was putting between my legs for last two months.
It didn’t take me but fifteen minutes on the first ride to understand the difference between an XC plus bike and trail plus bike. My partner in crime (KBS) and I have discussed many times (on the FatCamp Podcast) this “new modern geometry” that has caught on like wildfire in the mountain biking industry. Longer, lower and slacker…modern geometry. The Sergeant fits this bill. When you climb aboard the Sergeant, you feel like you’re “in” the bike rather than “on” the bike. I missioned to find the most loose, rocky, chattery and swoopy downhills I could because the Sergeant’s geometry was begging to be ridden in these conditions. This bike handles these types of situations way better than a steeper bike. The Sergeant’s geometry numbers indicated I could go faster on steeper downhills. Guess what? I could and did!
Add to the geometry a Rock Shox Pike with 150mm of travel and the Schwalbe Rocket Ron 27.5 x 3 Addix Evolution Speedgrip tires and this bike screams, “Let’s get rowdy!”. The Sergeant took on the most demanding terrain I could find and sent me through it with speed and confidence I’ve never experienced before. This bike gave the impression of invincibility, going down hill. On the flip side (going up), the Sergeant lacks climbing prowess. This is expected from a trail bike though and was not a surprise. It’s not supposed to be a mountain goat. The front end is way out there (66° HT angle) and tended to wander on the ups. But, if KOMs aren’t your thang, then there’s no need to take this characteristic into consideration. The Sergeant takes its time to get you to the top but you’ll get there.
RSD could have gone a different route in tire selection but I’m glad they didn’t. I was super impressed with the Rocket Rons Addix Evolution Speedgrip plus tires. They provided ample grip on the uphills. Never a slip in or out of the saddle. Once the Sergeant was pointed downhill, the plus size Rons covered any mistake this part time downhill rider made.
When I wasn’t going up or down, I found myself searching for tree roots on the side of the trail on which to play around. Trail features that I normally just ride over or avoid became playful trail toys that I seeked out. The build kit may be overkill for the Manistee National Forest, but it sure was a hoot with which to get creative in the woods. I certainly would appreciate all the bells and whistles it comes with in Copper Harbor or Marquette more than I did in the lower peninsula.
The XT drivetrain is a familiar set up for me and worked flawlessly. The 10/46T 11 speed cassette provided all the ratios I needed to motor around the woods. The 46T in the back can really crank you up some super steep, sketch stuff. If you wanted to, I’m pretty sure you could switch out the 30T chainring with a 32T to provide a little more top end and yet not sacrifice gearing to get you to the top.
The Sergeant comes with bolt-on thru axles front and rear which is great unless you’re like me and use a fork mount roof rack to get to and from the trailhead. I’m used to a quick release front thru axle so it was a slight P.I.T.A. to dig my multi-tool out in order to get the front wheel on and off. I got over it after a couple rides.
Something that made me go “Hmmmm….” was the grip/shifter interference. The Shimano XT shifter has two way release shifting when downshifting (shifting to smaller rear cog) but with the Ergon GE 10 grips that come on the stock build this two way became one way. Usually you can pull or push to downshift but if you pulled, the shifter ran into the lock on portion of the grip. Luckily, I’m a pusher (don’t tell the feds) and this was a non-issue but if you’re a puller, you’ll want to replace the grips.
But back to a few more plusses for this plus bike: Tubeless set up. Lickety split! The Sun Ringle Duroc 27.5 x 50mm rims come already taped for tubelessness. I pulled out the tube, added the valve, poured in some sealant, seated the bead and Voila! We were tubeless. Kudos to RSD for spec’ing this set up. Slider dropouts. Love them for the single speed option. You’ll notice no dropper post on the one I tested but it has to be mentioned that a KS DS Dropper comes on the stock build. And lastly, RSD is boosted, front and rear (110mm and 148mm). Benefits galore.
So there’s a ton going on with this very capable hardtail plus bike. If I lived where the trails let you grind up and bomb down, the RSD Sergeant Aluminum 27.5+ would be a bike I would definitely check out. At an MSRP of $2199, you’re for sure getting a great deal. So go click around at their website investigate more. I think you’ll be just as impressed as I was.