French for mule, the hybrid of a horse and donkey, the new Zerode Mulét is also a bit of a hybrid. Starting with the Pinion gearbox equipped Zerode Taniwha frame, the new Mulét joins a growing number of bikes looking to rehash the concept of larger wheels up front, and smaller in the back.
It wasn’t all that long ago that 29″ wheels were starting to share the spotlight with 26″ wheels and brands like Trek were experimenting with the ’69er’ concept – a 29″ wheel up front and 26″ wheel in back. The concept never really caught on on a large scale, but then 26″ faded away to be replaced by 27.5″ Now, with a smaller delta between the two wheel sizes, many companies are once again trying out the MTB mix up with a 29″ wheel out front and a 27.5″ wheel in back.
The theory is the same though – the larger 29″ wheel up front offers better roll over ability and slightly longer contact patch. The 27.5″ wheel in the rear maintains the playful nature of the smaller wheels and keeps things snappy, making it easier to manual and to hop over objects in the trail.
The Zerode Taniwha Mulét is of course even more unique in that it is built around the Pinion gear box system which moves unsprung weight from the rear wheel to the center of the frame. Zerode claims this improves traction with improved suspension performance while also improving drivetrain durability since thanks to the single chainline and removal of the rear derailleur.
The Mulét can be configured into two different travels with a 140mm and 160mm version accomplished by running either a 216mm eye to eye x 63mm stroke (160mm) or 210mm eye to eye x 55mm stroke (140mm) rear shock. The 140mm travel version has the same geometry as the 27.5″ only enduro Taniwha, while the 160mm version results in a higher bottom bracket and slacker head tube angle.
While the mixed wheels have been offered by Zerode by request over the years, the brand is now offering it as a full time option in their line up partially in response to the new UCI rule change that allows for mixed wheel set ups in races. Coincidentally, the current leader of the EWS series, Martin Maes, is also riding a 29/27.5″ mix – though Martin is fast enough to probably win on just about anything.
In the U.S., Zerode bikes are sold through Cycle Monkey, and complete Mulét builds start at $6,400 – or you can opt for the frame, fork, shock, and drivetrain only package at $5,850.