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[REVIEW] A Year with Antidote Carbon Jack – Part 1

Part #1 Presenting the bike

Antidote Carbon Jack has been my personal bike for over a year by now. I’ve ridden it mostly on my wet local trails around Gothenburg in Sweden, but it has also seen the vicious rocks and ecstatic jump lines of Norway, single tracks in Poland and Czech Republic. We went through a lot in this time when I am coming back to “regular life” as my small kids are growing more manageable. It has proved itself to be an excellent friend, eager to snap a fast ride after work, laps in the bike park as well as an all day ride in the mountains. Here’s the story of our relationship.

Antidote is a mall company based in Krakow, Poland that offers 4 different high end frames. The owners, Pawel and Jurek are working with Antidote but also design frames for other companies as well. Pawel is a former Polish DH Champion and Jurek is no stranger to riding bikes fast either. They came on the radar with a unique Lifeline and right now produce one of the sexiest and most advanced DH frames out there, the Dark Matter.

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I bought the Carbon Jack straight after a rather bumpy romance with a Blur TRc a short travel bike that I jumped on after owning a progenitor of most modern AM and Enduro bikes, the Santa Cruz Nomad. As many people these days, I thought that getting something with less travel will provide me better pedaling efficiency, more feedback and more excitement out of everyday rides. To my surprise I noticed that not only I am not exactly getting ahead of my friends on big bikes on climbs and in undulating terrain, but I am staying far behind them on downs, especially during a visit to a bike park. So I started beefing it up with a big fork and fat, heavy tyres, ending up with “big bike” parts on a small bike. It improved the descending a bit but while the bike made me feel confident by slacker geometry, the little bike couldn’t cope with what I was able to throw at it, or at least it wasn’t providing me with any margin of error. Being on the edge of ordering an “old guys rule” T-shirt, and having two small kids, I realized that I really need a forgiving bike. At least if I were to stay in one piece, considering my appetite for progress. My observation with modern short travel bikes having all the business in the front, party on the back, was later confirmed by trying other “aggressive” short travel bikes like Kona Process 111 and that is: “Go for it!” followed by “Oh crap…” I am not saying they are bad, they do have their place, they just didn’t match what I expected from a do-it-all full suspension bike. Initially I was a bit worried that CJ will be a hard hitting bulldozer, making me too lazy to move around over the bike on descends and forcing me to work harder on climbs. As it turned out, it wasn’t the case. It was the opposite.

Geometry:

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Here’s the spec list of my custom build:

Frame: Antidote Carbon Jack – Large
Shock: Cane Creek Double Barell Coil CS with Super Alloy Racing spring 500lbs
Fork: Rockshox Lyrik RCT3 2016, 160mm
Brakes: Sram Guide RS
Rotors: XTR Ice tech 160 – local/ 200 bikepark
Wheels: DT Swiss 350 36poe straightpull/ DT comp/ DT EX471
Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5″ EXO maxxgrip, Minion SS 2.3″ EXO dual compound with Huck Norris
Crankset: Hope with spiderless chainring 36t
Derailleur: XTR 11sp
Shifter: XTR 11sp
Cassette: XTR M9001 11-40t
Chainguide: MRP taco
Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb 125/420
Bars: Renthal LiteBar 740mm
Stem: Holzfeller 40mm
Pedals: Time Atac MX4

 

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Fort his first part of the review I will keep the riding description rather short. Carbon Jack redefined my idea about what one mountain bike can do and made me question the existence of a rather big part of the market – all from my own perspective off course. It appears to me that a modern long travel bike with excellent shock hasn’t pushed the downhill prowess that much since 2010, at least in 27,5″ wheel size, but it definitely tapped into the area of 120 bikes as far as climbing and mileage are concerned. If you went to a decent bike shop at Lake Garda to rent a bike, and asked for something to ride for all day, in a genuine Alpine terrain, they would insist taking a 120-140 rig, as long as you can handle the descents. Being into descents, I didn’t listen and ended up suffering a bit on never ending climbs. But taking my CJ to the mountains for all day riding, and to local tracks around Gothenburg where too much squat is never good, made me think that something ground braking is going on here. With low speed compression set quite high, there was little squat and yet more than enough plushness for harder hits. It has it’s impact on rear tyre grip when climbing through a rock garden, it just glues to the ground. The LSC valve seemed very sensitive and opening when needed. Another new experience for me was the confidence on downs, at some point I felt endorsed to brake less. I followed my fast friends in the bike park and I saw them letting go off brakes in rather crazy places – I thought, I hope I won’t die, but I’ll try to let go too. And the scariest part was that it went more than fine. I was just hungry for more, especially that I had a few scary moments and the bike clearly saved my ass. So it definitely surpassed my expectations.

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My choice of components felt quite spot on, but there were a few bits and bobs. Initially I had Sram Guides RS brakes and while modulation was out of this world, allowing me to use front brake on wet granite slabs, they lacked a bit of power for long descents and in the end one of the master cylinders died. Then I put on XTs and the inconsistent feel of the lever, along with need to bleed it all the time, was just terrible. The Hope Crankset turned out to be a bad match for BB92 due to 30mm axle. In this setting the bearing balls are so small that they will start creaking sooner or later. Then the spiderless chainring was getting loose a few times. Over complicated mounting interface makes it impossible to tighten it on the trail. So I got the latest SLX M7000 and so far it’s doing good. The wheels left me with mixed feelings as well. The rims are absolutely excellent and after a few lift days and riding all year in bumpy terrain they remained quite straight. Truing them took me 5 minutes and they are perfectly straight, despite having 28 spokes. So the durability is definitely there, and they feel very compliant. I could not expect more durability out of any rim. The problem was building the wheel with straight pull spokes. I cheaped out on DT Competition spokes instead of Aeros and it’s a real pain in the ass to build a straight pull wheel with round spokes since they rotate with the nipples as you try to tighten them. Picking the right coil spring was pricey, I went for what calculators suggested and it felt too soft. So if you want this bike with a coil, which I strongly recommend, take at least 25lbs harder spring than what spring rate calculators say. Lyrik came out as a decent fork, although not as good as Fox 36 RC2 VAN that I had on the previous bike. I just couldn’t get the balance of stability to plushness that I was used to.

In the next part of the review I’ll cover the riding aspects in detail. Until then… Cheers!

 

Wacek Kipszak

insta: @wakidesigns

antidotebikes.com

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