K2 Razorback Team|
Monday, November 17, 2003
This was the year I decided to see how the others are living — you know, those people who have suspension on both ends of their bikes. I had the opportunity to purchase and race a K2 Razorback Team without having to sell my trusty Merlin Mountain, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
I must admit I was concerned that the bike wasn't going to perform as well as I was accustomed to. In some ways my apprehension was justified; but mostly the K2 did not disappoint. If you like reviews short and sweet here it is:
If you are a mere human and are looking for a bike that is going to put you on the podium in the most competitive cross-country races, the Razorback (or any full-suspension bike) is not for you. However, if you are looking for a bike that handles well, climbs well, and absorbs enough shock to allow you to ride for many, many hours, this is a great bike.
Before I go on, I must say straight out that the comparison with the aforementioned Merlin is not fair. I would quite frankly be upset if a custom built nearly-no-expense-spared hard-tail didn't out perform a manufacturer spec'd full-suspension – even a high-end one like the Razorback Team. It just isn't fair. Having said that, I must also say that the more I ride the K2, the more I like it.
On a recent ride I got to really test the climbing ability of this bike. Five miles of fire road with a 3500' rise was just about enough. Guess what? The bike climbs. With all suspension locked out, the bike has a good climbing feel. Sure, I was carrying a couple extra pounds of bike, but most of us have a few extra pounds of non-bike that we carry up the climbs too. K2's particular flavor of aluminum with the carbon fiber seat stays made for a nice stiff climber.
This bike corners like a dream on descents. It hooks up and holds a line even through bumpy turns. After riding this bike a few times, I hopped back on the Merlin for comparison. I climbed like a gazelle then, turned downhill and almost immediately put myself into trouble. After 2 or 3 more near disasters, I finally figured out that I was treating the Merlin like the K2. With a comparable level of control, I was much faster on the K2. I assume that at a comparable speed I would have more control on the K2; but that's not the way I tend to ride so I didn't test that. Part of the great control was the impressive braking power provided by the Avid mechanical discs. Of course, braking is only good as long as the tires are in contact with the ground. The Fox Float RL rear shock and the Rock Shox SID Team really helped keep the rubber in touch with the dirt.
About the only thing I really don't like about the components is the width of the handlebars. It turns out they are about 3 inches wider than the Merlin's, a fact that I discovered when I tried to ride through a gap between two trees that was about 2 inches narrower than the bars. I was quite surprised when the bike suddenly stopped dead in its tracks, and I didn’t. This brings me to another superlative for this bike. So far, it has taken all my abuse without complaint. It is obvious K2 spent some time thinking about which areas could be light and which needed strength. The seat stays of this model are a single-piece carbon fiber build-up. Chain stays are much beefier in cast aluminum; but with material removed where it wasn't needed, giving it a honeycomb look. The rest of the frame is oversized Al with obvious reinforcement around the head tube. The only strange component choice, in my opinion, is the Race Face Prodigy cranks. Perhaps the product planners were thinking more free-ride than cross-country when they spec'd it; but these are probably overkill. The nice thing is that it is an obvious opportunity for lightening the load.
If you want a bike that is fun to ride, immediately improves your technical abilities, and doesn't require a mortgage to buy, the K2 Razorback Team is a great bike. While not an all-out XC racing machine, it is light enough to race and comfortable enough to ride until you run out of food and water. It is a lot like buying a high-performance sports sedan instead of a full-on sports coupe. It is almost as fast all around, faster in a few situations, more comfortable, and less expensive. The K2 Razorback Team is a smart choice that you won't have to make excuses for.