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The Frame


The biggest deviation from conventional design is what Pyga are calling Plus Five. A re-engineering of the rear end to correct what they believe is a huge flaw in bikes, the chainline offset. What they have done is offset the whole rear end of the Stage Max by 5mm on the drive side and in doing so reducing the chainline offset from 49mm to 44mm.

Why the change? Patrick Morewood explained that when the 49mm chainline offset was introduced mountain bikes were using 8-speed cassettes. The measurements then meant that the chainline was centred but as 9, 10 and 11-speed cassettes were introduced the centre chainline has shifted. The result on an 11-speed drivetrain with a 49mm offset is that the centre chainline is out by two gears. No need to worry about a new standard though, Pyga have emphasized that Plus Five is not a new standard, as all they have changed is their frames. The hubs, axle width, and wheels (aside from a change to the dishing) all remain unchanged.


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What are the advantages of the Plus Five chainline offset?

Better shifting: The centred chainline and less harsh chain angles improve shifting. Poor shifting is often blamed on the drive train manufacturers, when Pyga feel that as frame designers and engineers they should take responsibility by improving the frame design.

Less component wear: They were also concerned about excessive wear when riding on the 11th gear (the “granny”) on a 1x11 system. When riding the Stage Max in your 11th gear the chainline is equivalent to being in your 9th gear on other bikes sporting a 49mm chainline. This significantly decreases the angle at which the chain engages the front ring in the top gear.

Improved rear wheel strength: Plus Five also means that the rear wheel is no longer dished, with spoke length being equal on either side of the wheel leading to improved wheel strength.

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Heading out on my first ride, I was a surprised by how well the medium frame fit me. I couldn't find any markings and thought the guys must have made a mistake and sent us a large instead. It was only when I got home and looked at the bike's geometry online that I realized that the medium Stage Max has a healthy reach of 430mm, putting it closer to some large frames out there.

The only thing I would like to see tidied up is the routing of the cables on the underside of the bottom bracket. They seem to be quite exposed and it looks a bit untidy, especially considering the clean lines of the rest of the bike.

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Specifications


Full Carbon fiber frame and rocker
29" wheels
126mm rear travel / 140mm fork
Can take 2 water bottles inside frame
+FIVE chain line concept
Sizes: M, L, XL
Internal and external routing for all cables including a shock lock-out.

Components


Pyga have really nailed the component choice of the Stage Max "GX PIKE RC" build on our test bike. It features a full SRAM GX 11-speed drivetrain with a 32T chainring. The only personal change I would make is to swap out the fairly thin Race Face Half Nelson grips for something with a bit more squish. Other than that, every piece of kit deserves its place on the bike. Shifting was good and the impact of the Pyga's +FIVE chainline offset was noticeable, with less cross chain when in granny gear. The fork is a Rockshox Pike RC with a 140mm travel and, as one would expect from a Pike, its performance was top notch.

Full Specification List:

  • FramePYGA Stage Max
  • Rear ShockRockShox Monarch RT3
  • ForkPike RC 29 140mm
  • BrakesSRAM Guide RS
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM GX 1x11
  • ShiftersSRAM GX 1x11 Trigger
  • CranksetSRAM GX 1400 175 32T
  • Bottom BracketSRAM BB Pressfit 89.5mm
  • CassetteSRAM XG 1175 10-42
  • ChainSRAM PC1170 11S
  • WheelsetSRAM Roam 40 29"
  • TyresMaxxis Ikon 29x2.25 (Tested with Onza Ibex 29x2.25")
  • HeadsetCanecreek CC ZS44/ZS56
  • HandlebarKORE Mega riser 760mm
  • StemKORE Cubix 50mm
  • GripsKORE Ikon Lock On Grip
  • SaddleKORE Durox Saddle
  • SeatpostSRAM Reverb Stealth 125 30.9
  • Weight as testedActual Weight: 12.25kg (Size Medium as tested)

On the Trail


Bike ridden on
  • Bottelary Hills Green and Red Loop starting from Zevenwacht
  • Meerendal
  • Jonkershoek Red & Neverending Story


The 760mm handlebar and 50mm stem places the rider in a commanding position and, thanks to the healthy reach, there is enough breathing space to move around. Climbing is good with little to no sign of bob or any pedalling inefficiency, which allowed me to keep the shock fully open for most of my rides. The more enthusiastic marathon riders may opt to run some form of pedalling platform as it does firm the rear up and, perhaps more importantly, makes the bike sit a little higher in its travel.


Despite never feeling super fast, the Stage Max took some climbing PR's on my usual "review loop" around Bottelary Hills. I put that down to a bit of excitement, as I was loving my time out there on the Stage Max, which could have added a couple of watts to the mix. It also helps that the all-in weight is only 12,25 kg which is very good for a trail 29er sporting a no compromise build and only around 750g heavier than the racier Stage.

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On less manicured trails, the Stage Max continues to impress. With the pivot placed near the rear axle, the Pyga Stage Max comes as close to a split pivot as it could and in doing so does an excellent job of keeping the rear suspension active under braking through the rough stuff, helping the rear wheel to stay in contact with the trail.

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The beauty of a bike like this is that as soon as the terrain becomes varying it is happy to play the all-rounder game, easily switching between an able climber and single track slayer. The thoughtful component choice also means that the bike is not let down by any single part and as a complete package, it just gets the job done.

Single track manners are very good and the bike will be well suited to most of the trails in South Africa. The Stage Max rides like a live-wire and does not mind quick direction changes and being wrestled around. Thankfully the fork and rear suspension keep up through the rough stuff, adding to the bike's playful nature. The bottom bracket height does give the bike a bit of an "on top" feel, but results in fewer pedal strikes and with the overall balance of the bike as good as it is, I wouldn't want to start tinkering with the geometry.

Verdict


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Pyga made the Stage Max to be a "marathon bike on steroids, for trail riders that want to ride marathons" and I couldn't agree more. It must have been tempting to knock another degree off the head angle and drop the bottom bracket a few more millimetres, but the intention of this bike was never to fight it out on the EWS circuit. The Stage Max takes the speed of the Stage and adds a further dose of fun and trail confidence to the mix. The outcome of which is a 29er trail bike that will comfortably do duty at your local enduro, trail park, or marathon race.

Pros

  • A very versatile and lively ride
  • Component specification is spot on
  • As bang up to date as it needs to be
  • Great all rounder
  • Solution to carry two water bottles in the main frame is quite clever


Cons

  • Grips were too thin for my liking
  • Routing around the bottom of the bottom bracket is untidy