Based on the Instagram-fueled hordes of tourists, many Westerners think of Bali as a hip, first-world island destination. Heading off the beaten tourist track reveals that Bali is truly still a third-world island, and Indonesia as a whole is undoubtedly a third-world country. Traffic is a lawless every-man-for-himself affair, even though accidents are surprisingly rare. Farmers still break their backs in rice paddies, and poverty—especially in the countryside—is widespread. Don’t drink the water. Be sure to get the right vaccinations before you go. And realize that if you’re in a shuttle van that runs on diesel driving up the flanks of a volcano, you may not be able to find fuel as easily as you thought!
Patrol Mountain Bikes is an independent division of United Bike, a family-owned company founded in Indonesia in 1964. United’s roots in a third-world country still inform Patrol’s philosophy today. “The goal is […] to provide the bike that an average Joe could have fun on. We don’t want to provide a complicated [product],” says Arifin Tedja, Director of Patrol Mountain Bikes and grandson of United Bike’s founders. “Especially in Indonesia, it’s really hard to find a really good bicycle store that has deep knowledge of complicated suspension design.”
In order to operate within the reality that many bike shops, both in Indonesia and abroad, aren’t actually equipped to work on the most technologically advanced suspension and components, Patrol has consciously designed their bikes to be easy to understand and easy to maintain. This ethos permeates the new 691 enduro bike.
Previously, all of Patrol’s full suspension mountain bikes came with 27.5” wheels and tires. For 2020, that all changes as Patrol jumps on the big-wheeled bandwagon, updating their 5-inch and 6-inch travel bikes with 29er wheels.
In my opinion, the standout bike from Patrol’s new lineup is easily the long-travel 691 enduro bike. With 150mm of rear travel and 160mm up front, this burly bike is designed to keep up with some of the biggest trail bikes on the market… and yet Patrol is managing to sell it at a very reasonable price.
Read on for the full scoop.
Patrol 691 specs
For 2020, Patrol is simplifying their naming convention and parts specs. The first two numbers in the name deliver key information: the “6” refers to six inches of travel, and the “9” refers to the 29” wheel size. So, the new 6-inch-travel 29er is named the 691.
All new models of mountain bikes will be available in two builds—essentially XT and SLX. The highest XT build is referred to as an “S” build, so the 691 with XT is labeled “691 S.” A few other components see upgrades from the standard build to the S build, such as the fork jumping up one model nicer.
I tested the standard SLX version of the 691 which comes specced with a new 12-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain, Fox 36 Rhythm fork, Fox DPX2 3-pos rear shock, Magura MT Thirty 4-piston brakes, an SDG Tellis dropper post, SUNringle Duroc 40 rims with Shimano M7130 hubs, and Maxxis Minion DHR II 29×2.6” WT 3C/EXO+/TR tires front and rear.
This full build weighs a claimed 35.7lbs in a size medium, but the 691 I tested only retails for $3,199 from your local Patrol retailer. The higher-end 691 S-Spec retails for $3,999 MSRP.
Patrol 691 geometry and design
Patrol’s suspension platform is based on a Horst Link design. This provides a linear spring rate from the beginning of the stroke into the mid-travel, with a more progressive spring rate at the end of the shock’s stroke, according to Patrol.
The full geometry chart is pasted below for your reference, but generally speaking, the 691’s geo is squarely in line with other 150/160mm 29ers that I analyzed across several different brands. The 65° head tube angle appears to be the standard for 2020. The 691’s 446mm reach falls smack in the middle of the spectrum. The 76° seat angle thoroughly embraces the trend toward steeper seat tubes, measuring a touch steeper than some other bikes I checked. The bottom bracket height, however, measures a fair bit taller than most other bikes I compared it against—around 10-13mm taller. The chainstays on the 691 also measure about 10mm longer than most other 150/160mm 29ers, and that number translates directly to a lengthening of the wheelbase of the same amount.
Patrol 691: Out on the trail
I flew halfway around the world to test the new 691 on some of Bali’s best mountain bike trails. We spent a full day running shuttle laps in the small Besakih bike park, home to entertaining hand-carved singletrack that rips down the side of an active volcano. On day two, we stitched together a web of unmarked dirt roads and local singletrack to descend from the rim of a volcanic crater all the way down to the ocean shore. Along the way, we were able to grind up a few climbs, but most of my testing on the 691 happened with the saddle slammed all the way down.
Thanks to my familiarity with Fox’s latest suspension components on my personal rig, I was able to quickly tune the suspension within a reasonable percentage of perfect. While tubes in the tires necessitated a higher-than-desired tire pressure, I was still able to get a decent feel for the 691 in short order.
After a few warmup runs in the bike park, our conga line of mountain bike journos was sending the janky drops, sniper tabletops, and kicker-style jumps in fine fashion. On day two, we had the chance to pin it down fall line rock gardens and chunder-choked chutes. The 150/160mm of travel was more than enough to absorb all the obstacles that we encountered over the course of both days of riding.
One of the bike park trails threads down a narrow gulley with sharp turns up and down the steep walls. Despite clocking a handful of runs down this trail, I had to really jam the rear end hard into the corners to carry any semblance of speed through the narrow twisties. The lack of a consistent turn radius added to the challenge, but eventually, I was able to get my body english down to the point that I could shove the rear end into the wall and have the suspension spit me out of the corner. My initial impression was, “this bike feels long,” which I originally chalked up to both the big wheels and the 691 sporting an extra 10mm of travel over my own bike.
Diving into the geo chart after the fact revealed that my impressions were quite accurate: the chainstays on the 691 are consistently 10-15mm longer than most other 29ers with this amount of travel. While the downside of longer chainstays is limited maneuverability in tight corners, the upshot is more stability when the trails are fast and wide-open. This stability served us well on day two.
While my time spent climbing on the 691 was limited, the suspension felt surprisingly firm and supportive while seated on the short, steep uphill grunts. Despite Patrol’s claim that their suspension designs are simple, when paired with high-quality Fox suspension components, a simple design can work damn well. And of course, you can lock out even these lower end suspension components for true grinds.
Two component choices did seem strange to me, though. The first was speccing Maxxis Minion DHR tires on both the rear and the front of the bike. While I love the DHR as a rear tire, what’s the purpose of speccing it up front when the DHF is readily available? In fact, the DHF is specced as the front tire on the new 591, so why not on the 691 as well?
Out on the trail, I found the DHR to perform poorly as a front tire. When the DHR is canted so it is biting near the outside of its tread, the tire does not provide the steering control I’m accustomed to from the DHF. This isn’t Maxxis’s fault by any means—it’s just a poor choice for a stock component spec, but one that can be easily remedied aftermarket.
I also found the selection of Magura brakes on an otherwise completely Shimano build to be a curious choice. While the stopping power was excellent, the plastic lever and lever body aren’t confidence-inspiring. In fact, on our second day of riding one of the other journalists crashed out and snapped one of his Magura lever bodies near the bar clamp. If you can afford an immediate brake upgrade, that’d be a good idea.
“Strong, light, cheap: pick two,” quoth the inimitable Keith Bontrager. It’s clear that Patrol opted for both strong and cheap with a 35.7lb complete build weight. This decision harkens back to the company’s stated principles, allowing them to provide reliable products for a mostly third-world market.
Indeed, the $3,199 price for this bike, which is sold only through Patrol’s dealer network, undercuts price points from some direct-to-consumer brands. For an alloy bike of this stature, Commencal’s 2020 Meta AM 29 Essential is a great comparison. Despite being sold direct-to-consumer instead of through a dealer, the Commencal still costs $100 more than the Patrol.
While it could be easy to pick on the 691’s portly weight, after considering the high-quality build kit, the great on-trail performance, and the affordable price point, a bit of extra heft can be forgiven. Also consider: if you remove the tubes from the tires, and maybe tweak the tire choice itself, you could easily drop a pound or two off this bike. Weight aside, during testing I found the 691 to be a competent performer in all manner of terrain, with a ride quality that was predictable even after just a few minutes.
If you’re considering a mid-range full suspension enduro bike but you don’t want to skimp on the performance, try to find a Patrol dealer near you!