Hidden away near the back of the show sat one of the more impressive full suspension mountain bikes at NAHBS. Named the Fast Karl, the bike is the work of frame builder Alex Clauss of Portus Cycles and was first shown at the Philly Bike Expo in an earlier prototype form. The most recent evolution of his full suspension designs, Alex has drawn on experience from projects like the ICB 2.0 steel (Internet Community Bike) to create the longest travel Portus yet. While Fast Karl checks all the boxes for bike that are shown at NAHBS, the frame also blends a suspension system that looks like it could compete with a lot of the high end full suspension bikes from much larger companies. The result is a bike should ride like a completely modern enduro machine, but one that can be customized to the owner’s preferences…
Called the “I(ntend)-Link”, Portus’ take on a VPP suspension system is the result of a collaboration between Alex Clauss and Cornelius Kapfinger who is the engineer at Trickstuff. Alex also was an engineer in a past life for both Tune and Acros, before he founded Portus Cycles. Based around a Metric shock, the frame provides 166mm of travel through the linkage housed in the trussed structure for the 27.5″ wheeled frame. Note that this is still a prototype, and future versions might look slightly different.
Made from Reynolds, Dedacciai, and Columbus steel tubing, the claimed frame weight is 3200g for a medium without the shock. While that may be heavier than some carbon bikes, that is very competitive with aluminum bikes of similar travel. Plus you can add on completely custom geometry for another €400. Otherwise, stock frame sizes start at €2950 for the frame without a shock.
If you’re wondering about that finish – I was surprised to find out that it is just spray paint. The multi part finish leads to the crackle design over the base color for a pretty interesting look. Of course, the frame includes their signature brazed on logos.
Mated to a 160-180mm front fork, the frame is designed around a 1x drivetrain which allowed Clauss to maximize the stiffness with optimized bearing placement. Also available in complete builds, this one was built up with a mixture of matching orange parts from Box and Trickstuff. Judging by the display, it’s clear that Alex who hails from Germany also has a sense of humor regarding American politics.
The Fast Karl is actively being tested, which led Alex to say there may be some tweaks in the works to further improve the frame. By the time July rolls around, the bike should be available directly through Portus with a 29″ version and even a DH bike in the works as well.