Pumped-up XC race bikes like the Specialized Epic Evo, Scott Spark and Trek Top Fuel are growing in popularity across South Africa. Demand in this segment is essentially fueled by three key benefits: speed, safety and versatility. Whether you are a top contender in your race category or a weekend warrior, the enhanced capability and benefits of these bikes is undeniable.
The Titan Racing Cypher Pro Carbon is a pumped up XC race bike designed to brawl it out on any XC race track and marathon trail. Images: Gary Perkin
The 2019 Cape Epic was won on a 110mm travel (front and rear) bike and according to Nino Schurter’s mechanic, the only reason he never used a 120mm fork was he hadn’t yet figured out a way to get the stack height (bars) low enough. Nino felt the longer travel bike allowed him to charge the trails harder, faster and with less consequence when things got wild and rowdy. Now, with most brands, the difference in frame and fork weight between a 100mm and a 120mm XC bike, is tiny. Factor in the suspension lockout which race bikes have and you end up with a strong argument in support of the beefier XC or marathon race bike. But, it is very much a case of horses for courses. In fact, most professional riders still agree that with their brawn and skillset a 100mm bike is all they need for most of the racing they do.
If you are not a professional with access to a quiver of race bikes for any given weekend, then success in finding the right bike for your racing and riding boils down to understanding exactly what your racing goals are and where your current skill level is. The question you must ask yourself is: What bike will YOU be faster on? That could be a 100mm front and rear bike, a 120mm front and rear bike or a hybrid of that which would be a 120mm front and 100mm rear. Ode to capitalism and a free-market economy, as consumers we are indeed spoilt for choice in South Africa. The latest offering from Titan Racing, the Cyper Pro Carbon is a 120mm race bike that slots straight into this category of ‘XC race bikes with an attitude.’
INTENDED USE The Cyper Pro Carbon is a race bike built for the gnarliest race tracks the country has to offer. Marathon and XCO racing can and often does run over very technical trails and this bike is designed to help you hit all the A-lines on those race tracks and still perform on the climbs.
BUILD KIT A 125mm Manic dropper post is the big enabler on the Cyper Pro Carbon race bike. A Rockshox SID Select fork in 51mm offset and a Rockshox Deluxe Ultimate rear shock take care of damping while the Onelock Full Sprint remote suspension lockout system ensures efficiency under power. The drivetrain is an all SRAM GX affair, in the 12-speed Eagle iteration. The cockpit has a Promax stem and 760mm carbon riser handlebar with SRAM Level TL brakes. The carbon wheelset from TR is 28 hole with 25mm inner diameter and they have 2.35 Vittoria Barzo tyres. The saddle is a Fizik Taiga.
The flip chip alters the BB from a high setting of 342mm to a low setting of 336mm. This same adjustment simultaneously tweaks the head angle by half a degree. The benefit of this easy adjustment is you can tweak the bike to suit the way you race and the tracks you are racing on. he higher BB helps you pedal through technical terrain and the low BB improves corner traction and overall stability at speed.
STANDOUT FEATURES As with the Cyper RS 100mm bike, the Cyper Pro Carbon has slightly larger reach numbers across the size curves. These longer reach numbers couple with marginally shorter stems produce a more dynamic and controlled feeling on the mountain. The flip-chip incorporated into the linkage system allows riders to customize their BB height and head angle. The three bigger frame sizes have sufficient space for two water bottles inside the main frame and the small frame size takes one water bottle.
SET UP Running around 20% sag I ran the fork at 105psi and the rear shock at 180psi. Fork rebound at 5 clicks from closed and the shock rebound at 7 clicks from closed.
RIDE FEEL There is no need to ride the B-lines on an XC or marathon race track anymore as the Cypher Pro is one badass race bike. The bike descends with the same feel of a short travel trail bike. It is calm and composed. There is a distinct lack of sketchiness when catching air and popping up over obstacles. The 180mm front brake rotor is a nice touch as it pumps up the modulation and brute stopping power. The bigger volume tyres and dropper post have a significant impact on rough technical sections and allowed me to nail some lines that I would otherwise not attempt.
For an XC race bike the Cyper PRO is incredibly calm and controlled in technical terrain.
The carbon wheelset stood up to some pretty rowdy trails and are the kind of wheelset that a racer wants: stiff and fast! There is nothing soft or compliant about these race wheels and certainly no feel of energy loss. I found the bike sits into the travel a little which aids cornering. The bike is anything but nervous in the turns, in fact it’s one of the tamest and more capable XC race bikes I have ridden through switchbacks and corkscrews. On high-speed corners and tighter 180 switchbacks, the generous reach number provides plenty of space to move about in the cockpit, stay comfortable and carry speed.
The bike climbs beautifully and whilst not as fast as the top-spec and lighter wheeled 100mm Cyper RS, it is really efficient. With the compliance that the bigger volume tyres provide and the good anti-squat numbers, I actually used the lockout less frequently when climbing.
On loose terrain the bigger volume Vittoria Barzo’s provide good traction under power and braking.
The chief designer at Titan Racing, Cliff Beckett, tells me particular attention was paid to the design, carbon layups and manufacturing process to yield a bike that is laterally stiff and responsive under power. That stiffness also translates into an ability to hold lines and generally track the terrain better. All in all the ride feel can be summed up as a blend of race bike speed with a touch of light trail bike versatility.
AGAINST THE CLOCK With a dropper post and wallet-friendly build kit the Cyper Pro Carbon tips the scales around 1kg more than the SRAM AXS Cyper RS model but as we found out in our 100mm Vs 120mm XC bike test that didn’t translate into much of a difference under simulated racing conditions. On a section of trail used by the Cape Epic we set up a short XC loop and did some back to back testing of these two bikes. The bottom line is that on the day and in the order that we ran the test, there was only 2 seconds between the bikes over the 5.4km / 20minute race effort. See the video:
HOW DID THE BUILD KIT PERFORM The 2.35 Vittoria Barzo are a good robust option for technical trails. The corner grip is good but not exceptional. Where the Vittoria’s excel though is on very rough terrain. I was honestly very impressed with the casing and overall strength of the tyre and throughout the test I never flatted once. Traction under power and braking is excellent. The middle of the range 1×12 SRAM GX drivetrain punches above it’s status, is reliable and stout. I never missed a shift or dropped a chain during the four week test period, even when hammering some pretty rough trails. If you wanted to tart up the bike, moving to the smoother X01 shifter would make quite a big impact on ergonomics and shift actuation. As another optional upgrade the GX freehub will take a lighter cassette from the SRAM Eagle range which will reduce the overall rotation weight. The fork and shock is super easy to setup and there were no issues with performance. The compression tune feels quite light and there is decent support towards the end of stroke. The Fizik saddle, Titan Racing bars and stem are all on point and without flaw.
The ability to carry speed right the way through technical sections gives this bike an X-Factor which very few XC bikes have.
SUMMARY The bike is incredibly capable as a race bike. I highly recommend it to newbies or weekend warriors and the real bonus about this 120mm race bike is the versatility it offers. Already incredibly capable across a broad spectrum of riding terrain it also affords you the opportunity to dress up or dress down. Add some faster rolling tyres and some lighter bits and pieces for even more speed or go with a 130mm fork and beefier tyres and you have yourself a light trail slayer.
If XCO World Champions with their incredible skills need more than 100mm from time to time when racing then surely we do. This Cyper Carbon Pro never flinched once during the four week test period. It’s a rad XC race bike for all.
Images: Gary Perkin