“The time to hesitate is through, no time to wallow in the mire…” I doubt Jim Morrison was singing about cross country racing, but his timeless words should ring a bell with competitors when the skies open up on race day. While most riders don’t mind getting a bit messy, it can become a serious problem when mud packs into your drivetrain and creates a mechanical issue while the clock ticks away…
With reliability (especially in poor conditions) as a top priority, Curve engineering decided to create a race ready 29” MTB based around a Rohloff 14-speed rear hub and Gates belt drive transmission. Their newest model is called the 296 C3, and like all of Curve’s bikes is crafted from titanium and comes with customizable options.
Curve’s Olivier Ollagnier says it’s been a rainy year in their home country of France so he’s had ample opportunity to get this bike dirty, and apparently it’s performing very well…
The titanium 296 C3 features Curve’s new flattened seatstays, which were redesigned to improve traction and comfort while optimizing the bike’s lateral stiffness. With racers in mind, the frame’s slim rear end can fit tires up to 2.2” wide. The bike’s 29” wheels are driven by a gear ratio of 20/46t, and Curve says the 14 speed hub achieves the same gear range as a 26/36 crankset paired to an 11-42t cassette.
Here’s where an interesting option comes in- The 296 C3 frame comes in two different versions: The STD (standard) and WLD (welded yoke). The WLD model uses a chainstay yoke to allow for more gear options with a shorter rear end. The WLD’s frame fits a 113t belt, and the chainstay length is 438mm with a 20t rear cog, or 440mm with a smaller 19t cog. The frame will accommodate a 50t front ring if you have strong legs, but Curve says 46t would be ideal for most riders. The WLD’s head tube angle is 69°.
The STD version forgoes the welded yoke and uses a reinforced chainstay design that Curve has used on a few previous bikes. This design sacrifices a bit of length, as the chainstays grow to 448mm and require a 115t belt. The head tube angle is also one degree steeper than the WLD at 70°. The advantages to the STD frame are weight and cost- both go down as it’s a familiar design for Curve that’s less complicated to produce than the welded yoke model.
The company does note that as a custom option they can make a STD frame with shorter 438mm chainstays, but it would only accommodate up to a 46t front ring.
A complete bike is available with a Suntour Werx 100mm fork and a custom built Rohloff version of Asterion’s Edition One wheelset. The bike also features Rotor cranks, Hope XC2 Race brakes and Tune components’ handlebars, stem, seat and seatpost. The complete build costs $6,239 for a STD frame, or $6,272 for the WLD model. With medium frames, an STD weighs in at 22.9 lbs, and a WLD hits the scales at 23.6 lbs.
Alternatively you can purchase a few different frame kits- Kit 1 includes the frame, Rohloff hub, drive belt and sprockets at a cost of $3,627 USD, but you can also add a Suntour Werx fork which brings the price to $4,189. Kit 2 is the same as above but adds the Asterion wheelset. This kit sells for $4,393, and again you can add the fork to this kit for $4,955.
The 296 C3 is currently available online, so check out Curve’s website to place an order.