The Devinci Kobain Hardtail is a Premium Ride at a Sweet Price [Review]

Pictured with a Michelin test tire, not stock Maxxis DHRII. Photo: Matt Miller

The 2021 Devinci Kobain stood out for a few reasons when they released it earlier this year. The hardtail benefitted from a revision, as the angles on the previous generation grew stale. The new Kobain would still fit in the entry-level mountain bike slot but it gained fresh, aggressive geometry, a 12-speed drivetrain on the higher-end build kit, and the aluminum frame is made in Canada.

Even better, the hardtail comes with quality Shimano 12-speed drivetrain pieces, a dropper post, and a Marzocchi Bomber Z2 fork for under $2,000. Paint us interested.

Other notable details include a threaded bottom-bracket, frame protection, clearance for a 29×2.6 tire in the rear triangle, and a lifetime warranty on the frame.

Devinci sent us a test sample of the Kobain SLX 12S in early April, and we’ve been enjoying the hardtail quite a bit, despite some wet spring weather. Devinci offers this build for $1,850 – unfortunately they had to raise the price from its original $1,700 retail price due to Covid complications. Devinci also raised the price by $100 on the Kobain Deore 11S, to $1,400.

About the Kobain SLX 12S

Photo: Matt Miller

The top-shelf Kobain is still an entry-level build by full-suspension standards, but considering how good the components are these days, it’s a pretty sweet deal. Devinci uses a reduced offset Marzocchi Bomber Z2 with 130mm of travel to soften up the front end.

There’s a Devinci saddle and stem, a 780mm-wide RaceFace Aeffect R35 handlebar, and though Devinci touts that size medium frames can fit a 175mm dropper post, this build is equipped with a 125mm post from TranzX.

Stopping power comes from a set of 2-piston Shimano Deore hydraulic brakes, and Devinci went with an appropriate set of 180mm rotors.

Go power comes from a Shimano 12-speed drivetrain, although the only SLX component on the bike despite the model name is a rear derailleur. The rest of the drivetrain is made up with a Shimano Deore shifter and chain, and an M6100 cassette.

The wheels are made from Devinci’s in-house component brand V2 rims laced to Formula hubs with steel spokes, and they are wrapped in a dual-compound set of 2.6″ EXO tubeless-ready Maxxis Minions. My size medium test bike weighs 30.5lbs.

The geometry should also be a strong selling point for the Kobain. The head angle is 65.5° which is reasonable considering it’s a 130mm-forked hardtail, and the seat tube angle is on the steep side at 75°. On my medium test bike, the seat tube is stubby at 420mm, reach is 445mm, the chainstays (across sizes) are 435mm, and the wheelbase is 1,191mm.

On paper, the numbers suggest that the Kobain should be fairly stable considering the reach and wheelbase, and easy to maneuver through the trees and in the air, thanks to its sharp head angle, reduced offset fork, and the short seat tube.

On the trail

With a quick assembly, and a fork and tire pressure check, the Kobain was ready to roll. The first thing I noticed about the Kobain was its quite upright seating position. At 75°, the hardtail puts the rider in a square, comfortable and efficient pedaling position. Paired with a reasonable reach, I’d say the cockpit is quite comfortable, but again, noticeably upright on anything that isn’t too steep.

Being that the Kobain is 30.5lbs, the bike is obviously not a snappy XC machine, but the assumption that any hardtail is an XC bike has dissipated a bit these days. Hardtails now come in all shapes and sizes, from “enduro” hardtails with 150mm forks and 64° head tube angles to XC hardtails with HTAs five degrees steeper with two inches less fork travel. The Kobain fits nicely in the middle of this spectrum, and I suppose I’m of the school of thought that slacking a hardtail and speccing a bunch of fork travel still doesn’t make it an enduro bike.

And just because there’s no rear suspension, doesn’t make it an XC bike. The Kobain chugs along smoothly uphill, but it’s not the most responsive feeling bike with regards to pedaling input. The stock wheels and heavier weight explain this, but it’s still a comfortable climber. The geometry also aids out-of-the-saddle climbing and the rear wheel is well-planted considering the rigidity.

Descending, the Kobain feels sharp and confident. The 65.5° HTA makes for quick handling characteristics which gives the hardtail some snap navigating tighter singletrack, but enough confidence down steeper and chunkier trail. This is also where you notice again that this is an aluminum hardtail. The Kobain, while not overly harsh, doesn’t have a very forgiving ride quality to it, and I needed to ensure that my tire and fork pressures were just right. Overall though, the Kobain was a blast down swoopy singletrack and over jumps, stable at high speeds, and pleasurable pedaling through the woods.

Component check

Photo: Matt Miller

There are some choice components on the Kobain, and they add to the hardtail’s ride quality and characteristics. The 12-speed drivetrain and Bomber Z2 are the prized components, and I believe they justify spending a few extra bucks over the $1,400 Deore 11S model. Per usual, the Shimano 12-speed drivetrain hasn’t had a single issue.

I like that there are 2.6″ tires front and rear, for some added grip on the suspension-less rear. Some folks might want to swap them to a more robust casing, especially in the rear, but the Minion DHF and DHRII are an obvious choice for success.

The two-piston Shimano brakes are scant on most modern bikes, but I feel they work just fine for a hardtail – at least for me. My threshold for adrenaline dropped a few ticks riding without rear suspension, and thus lost some overall descending speed, which is why the Deore brakes felt A-OK, and newer riders buying a Kobain should be pleasantly un-surprised with their reliability.

The Marzocchi Bomber Z2 is another sweet touch for the hardtail. For an “entry-level” fork, the Z2 balances support and sensitivity very well.

Closing thoughts

Devinci brings a near-trail bike capability to a more approachable price point with the Kobain. With only two build kits available on the Kobain, both with more affordable components, the bike feels aimed at newer riders, rather than more experienced nitpickers who would want a more adjustable fork or a more crisp drivetrain. That means that buyers get a rig that could likely be a gateway into the sport, and the Kobain has great looks, good geometry for both climbing and descending, and a choice build kit. It’s also suitable for riders of any skill level who want a sweet hardtail that’s ready to take on anything.

  • Price: $1,850
  • Available at evo (out of stock)

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