Our Rides: Leif's Avanti Torrent CS

The Avanti Torrent CS frame built up to my preferred spec.

For the first look at what we at Spoke and other industry insiders' ride, Leif Roy runs us through his Avanti Torrent CS.

For four months now I've been promising Brett that I would write a post on my personal bike (the Avanti Torrent CS), but I've been putting it off and putting it off. It's hard enough to be objective with the review bikes that we get here at Spoke let alone with a bike that you own. I was struggling to figure out how to write something meaningful and informative about a product that I am quite clearly going to be biased towards. I've come to the conclusion that  I probably can't . . . so to hell with it. Here are some words on why I chose the Avanti Torrent CS as my personal ride, and how I chose to build it up.

Last year when I decided it was time to buy a new bike I started looking around at possible options. We're pretty bloody spoilt currently with the number of quality bikes available in the market and so there was no shortage of choice. At the time I was riding an alloy Avanti Torrent that we had as a long term review bike and as I considered all the possibilities I kept coming back to the fact that I was really enjoying the Torrent. It wasn't perfect, but it was very very good and there were few other bikes that I had ridden over the last three years or so that I had enjoyed as much. I realised that if I put aside superficial considerations like brand appeal and just focused on how much I enjoyed riding the bike the Avanti was pretty much at the top of my list. I'd had a few gripes in the past with the some of the component spec and weight, but the availability of a frame-only carbon version meant that I could iron out these wrinkles by building the bike up exactly as I wanted to. So after some careful deliberation I decided to bite the bullet and go with the Torrent. Six months on I'm happy (mostly) that I did.

I've been testing and reviewing successive iterations of the Torrent for five years now and am conscious of the fact that those of you who are regular readers of the magazine might be a little tired of hearing me give this bike props. So I'm not going to say anymore here about the frame itself other than if you haven't ridden one you really should take the opportunity to as almost everyone who does seems to come away impressed by the ride. Now, let's have a quick look at how I chose to build it up and why.

The RockShox Pike . . . .  setting the bar.

The Fork

I've never written a review of the RockShox Pike and so have had the pleasure of riding one for over a year and half now before having to voice my opinion. It's rare as a reviewer to get the opportunity to do this with a product. Too often we have to write a review after only a few months of testing and before we've had a chance to do a proper shakedown on durability. There is not much that hasn't already been said about the current incarnation of the Pike and my experiences haven't deviated from the consensus. It not only feels great on the trail stock (thanks in the most part to it's Charger damper), but can also be easily tailored to allow riders to tune the spring characteristics to suit their personal preference by adding or removing Bottomless Tokens (I'm currently running three). After a year and half of considerable riding and reasonable punishment my Pike is still going strong and feels almost as good as it did when it was only a few weeks old. In my opinion the Pike represents everything that is right about new product development. It is well engineered, easy to use, and provides an experience and performance that is a noticeable improvement over previous products.

Easton Havoc 35 800mm bars mated to a 50mm stem.

Bar & Stem

I've been a fan of the Easton Havoc bars for a few years now. I'm not sure exactly what it is about them but they have always felt reassuringly comfortable to me. I've been running this set at the stock 800mm for about a year. I'm not sure what's going on ergonomically, but this width seems to allow me to find the most comfortable riding position for both climbing and descending (I think I might have narrowish shoulders but long arms?). Despite my initial concerns I've had very few incidents of clipping trees etc.

Fox D.O.S.S dropper post and Shimano XTR Race brake levers

Seatpost

Despite the Torrent frame coming stock with an internally routed stealth seatpost I've chosen to revert to my old favourite the Fox D.O.S.S. For those who are not familiar with this post, it has three set heights rather than being infinitely adjustable like many others. This feature I think put many off the D.O.S.S but is exactly what I like about it. When I'm dropping into a technical section I don't want to be thinking about whether I've got my saddle at just the right height or even worse having to adjust the height a second time to get it just right (which I see people doing all the time on trail). The predetermined positions suit me just right and I know that they will be consistent every time. I'm also running a little more air in my post than I probably should so that it rises super quick. You have to watch your nether regions a little but again it means less dicking around out on the trail.

Brakes

After riding a set of Shimano Deore brakes on a review bike I came to the conclusion that I preferred the feel and modulation of the non-Servo-Wave Shimano brakes rather than those with Servo-Wave (SLX, XT, XTR Trail etc). So when choosing a set of brakes I decided to go with the current XTR Race. I got the lever feel I was after with the addition of a little bling. For ninety five percent of my riding they have been great, but on occasion I have found that they can get a little overwhelmed by heavy braking and so I am now experimenting with Saint calipers mated to the XTR levers. So far so good.

Wheels

Shock horror, I'm still running alloy rims. When it came to choosing a wheelset, hubs were an easy choice. I had a set of Hope PRO 2's which have performed flawlessly and so there was never any question there. Rims I spent quite a bit of time deliberating over. I wasn't ready to commit to carbon (I'm a bit of luddite), but I wanted something which was both light'ish, reasonably wide and with a welded joint (rather than pinned). The WTB KOM i25's seemed to tick the boxes. They're reasonably priced, a good width (internal 25mm), and lighter than a lot of carbon rims on the market (438 grams). I like building wheels and so I built these up myself with DT Swiss Champion spokes (unfashionably in silver which are not only half the price but also marginally lighter than black). I've had over a year on these wheels now and although the rims have suffered a couple of dings they're still running nice and true.

Tyres

The WTB Breakouts were my pick for standout product of the year in 2015. I'm not going to regurgitate my review again here (go read the magazine), but will say that they surprised me. A little heavy, but incredible grip and super durable. I'm running a 2.5 up front and a 2.3 out back (the current Torrent rear triangle won't accept anything bigger)

Selle Italia SLR with carbon rails atop the Fox D.O.S.S seat post.

Saddle

I'm not overly picky when it comes to saddles as I seem to have been blessed (?) with an iron arse/guishe. So when I choose saddles I usually look first at the opportunity for a little weight saving. They don't get much lighter than the Selle Italia SLR with carbon rails (138 grams). If you hunt around you can get a second hand one for an absolute bargain. It's actually also proven to be pretty comfortable . . . I think.

SRAM X1 11 speed cranks and drive train (hidden behind there somewhere)

Drivetrain

When I built this bike up the X1 was SRAM's most affordable version of their 1 by 11 drivetrain (there is now a GX version available which is less expensive again). I wanted to run 1 by 11 but couldn't afford to go completely overboard with the budget and so the drivetrain was one area I looked to save a few dollars. The X1 has performed really well and I'd happily spec it again. If budget wasn't a consideration I'd lose a little weight from the cranks by going for something a little more exotic.

The only disappointment with the carbon Torrent . . . no room for a shock with a piggyback reservoir.

Rear shock

My only slight disappointment with the Torrent is in regards to compatibility with alternative rear shocks. Towards the end of our long term review the alloy Torrent I had been experimenting with a Cane Creek DB Air CS shock. Although the stock shock and setup is very good, running the Cane Creek seemed to take the bike's performance up another notch. I was disappointed when I received the carbon Torrent frame to discover that the Cane Creek shock didn't fit as the piggyback reservoir interfered with the down tube at the end of its stroke. So I stuck with the stock Fox Factory Float CTD. I'm hoping that Fox's new Float X2 will fit and might look to try one of these out when they're available.

So, there you have my Avanti Torrent CS. After six months of riding the bike as you see it, I'm still really stoked on the build. There are few things I'm looking forward to tweaking and experimenting with going forward (the rear shock for example and probably some wider rims at some stage) but otherwise I'm pleased I picked the Torrent and sitting here writing this has got me itching to get it out on the trail. See you out there.

If you have any questions on the build let me know in the comments below.