Part 3 – Antidote Review
words: Toni W.
It was fairly late in the season before I was able to start riding this rig. Perhaps that was a good thing, as I wound up compensating by riding it almost constantly for a couple months. If I was on a gravity line of any sort, I grabbed the Lifeline and proceeded to wring it out. As luck would have it the Canyons resort in Utah opened their new bike park this summer. This gave me the perfect opportunity to make back to back laps on the same course to sort the suspension. After a bit of fiddling with the Fox RC4, I settled right in the middle of the recommended 25-30% sag range at 28%. Anditode’s FDS suspension design includes quite a bit of bottom-out resistance so I did my best to tune the RC4 to let FDS do its thing. Up front, I didn’t end up far from my established settings on the Boxxer WC, but I did note that getting rider weight up over the front end is critical.
The 63º head tube angle puts the front tire out in front of the rider and by the time you’ve sagged well into the 220 mm of rear travel, the net is quite a long and slack feel. It’s brilliant on the steeps but the front end can be a bit vague on the low angle. On the lower angle sections, I never quite got to the feeling of complete confidence in the front end. For those looking to steepen the bike up, you could install an angled headset to steepen the head angle. To compensate however, I played with pressure and damping settings in the Boxxer but ultimately went back to my base line. I wound up with the fork crowns dropped 18mm and ran 23 mm rise Enve DH bars at full 800 width to pull my weight forward.
All in, suspension setup was fairly straight forward, despite having to pull the shock for each adjustment as there isn’t much room for manual adjustments without removal. Once setup, the FDS design delivered consistent performance. Over continuous rough terrain the rear end tracked well, maintained a balanced feel, and was active under braking. Hard on the gas, FDS is fairly active but never with excessive wallow. The RC4 has quite a bit of bottom-out control built into it and even with the external settings backed off, there was a bit of a sensation of hitting a ramp-up wall before getting full travel on the hardest of hits. I had a CCDB on hand to try, which I suspect could be a better match to this linkage but there’s not quite enough room to fit the Cane Creek unit to this version of the Lifeline. Antidote has informed us that the latest update to the Lifeline does allow for the fitment of all mainstream dampers, including the CCDB.
The Lifeline employs a proprietary chain guide device that attaches directly to the lower suspension link on the drive side. The guide wraps around the chain ring in almost a full sandwich, similar to a traditional guide but is fixed in place like a half-taco.
Because the guide rotates with the suspension linkage as it actuates, there is no lower roller assembly. Instead, the chain exits under a small amount of tension from a pivoting guide. After having used it for a few months, I can appreciate the amount of effort that Antidote put in to solving a very tricky problem with their suspension design. The proprietary guide however isn’t a standard interface so this will make it harder to find a fix should something go wrong if you don’t have a backup handy.
Installation of Antidote’s chain guide is slightly more complex than a normal guide but still quite straight forward. Instead of spacing the guide out from it’s mount points, Antidote provides several small shims to adjust your drive side crank spacing for alignment. This is unlike the typical adjustment method of spacing the guide out instead. There are also a few extra loose parts involved in installing the outer piece to the guide. At first sight, I had my reservations about this guide and its departure from conventional design. Out on the hill, this was all laid to rest as the guide worked well. I did not have a single dropped or jammed chain and it took a couple solid hits without complaint. My only lingering reservation is the availability of spare parts but to that point, the guys at Antidote were quick to react when I ran into a bent derailleur hanger so maybe it’s all good.
Up on the hill for a session on the Canyons the jump trails, the feather light weight of the Lifeline was a blast. All of the trails at the Canyons were new this season and most were a bit soft and running a hair slow. The acceleration afforded by a 35 lb build sporting lightweight wheels kept things lively where soft dirt was trying to hold me back. It was immediately apparent that the Lifeline is not the kind of bike that you ride lazily down the hillside. The Lifeline rewards the rider who gets up over the front end and drives it straight to the loose lines. Being a new resort with some polished, high quality jump trails, I found the Antidote balanced in the air but tended to suck up the lips. The same character that helps it to gobble up the roughest lines leaves it feeling a little reluctant to fly. Once in the air, tables and whips happen with little effort due to it’s light weight and botched landings were shrugged off without drama. The dedicated jump line addict might look else where but it does fine for a rip.
A great thing about banging around in a bike park to sort out a new ride is all that beating and banging brings problems to the surface quickly. I stumbled on my first issue with this frame about the time I started whipping the back end around. Antidote has done a pretty good job of solving a complex cable routing problem by bring the lines in below the BB, passing through the suspension linkage and then along the chain stays. Unfortunately, the lines were able to migrate to the inside of the chain stays which caused tire rub. You can see my low-tech trail-side remedy in the pic above, which stayed place for the duration of the review and let me get back to whipping. A couple additional cable guides would solve the issue completely but clearance is tight and there’s not a lot of room for mud buildup.
Zip ties in place, the Lifeline was back to flying. The jump above was right out of a rough, rocky, and sandy corner, a real tricky spot to cary speed. This line seemed to bring out the best of the ability of the Lifeline to charge through the loose yet still be thrown around in the air out like a smaller bike. Stiffness on the Lifeline, especially for such a light frame, is impressive. Press hard in a chopped up corner and you’ll find yourself exiting on the same line that you entered on. The rest of my days in the bike park pointed out fun facts like, the Lifeline is easy to just roll into manuals or that the seat post has to be fairly high minimum height to avoid tire buzz. Overall, the more time I spent on the polished jump lines of the bike park, the more it became obvious the Lifeline was designed with a rougher kind of riding in mind.
And then it snowed… I’d been spending more time getting to know the Lifeline in it’s preferred setting of steep terrain and had been it rewarding my effort with smokin fast lines. In early October a small snow storm blew through and turned a local favorite track into a slide for life event. This, as it turns out, was just about perfect for putting the Lifeline to the test for which it was clearly designed.
The storm turned our trails to into a combination of perfect snow covered gaps up high and the nastiest soup you can imagine down low. I regret not dragging along a dedicated camera man for this day, conditions were down right dreadful. This was without a doubt the best day I had on the Lifeline. Pointed down steep, slick-as-snot lines, the uber-slack front end inspired confidence and the active suspension kept my rear tire hooking up.
The bearings in the Antidote are a bit exposed to the elements and one of the most typical areas for mud collection near the bottom bracket has bearings that are a bit exposed. If you constantly ride in wet / muddy conditions this is something to keep in mind.
We made a few laps and despite being cold and wet, it was hard to stop. The Lifeline just felt right in its element and absolutely confidence inspiring. I don’t consider my self a “plow” style rider but it is notably effective to point the Lifeline down the meanest lines to shave a second here and there. The FDS suspension simply gobbled up everything in sight and feels somewhat deeper than other similar travel bikes.
When I did get in over my head, the incredibly light weight of this rig changed the way I dealt with being squarely off line. Often, it was easy enough to just pickup the bike and force it back on line. Even farther in over my head, the super slack front end all but made endos impossible. Stellar. By now you’ve no doubt had a glance at the muddy shock image above and can probably guess the one big concern I’m about to point out. Without any sort of integrated fender your spendy rear shock is directly in harm’s way. In this worst case scenario the shock was absolutely caked with mud. I’m sure an old tube and a few zip ties would work well to add some protection but at this level, I expect to see something well refined built into the frame design. It’s a steep-tech beast, it just would be better with a fender (editor’s note – Antidote now will be offering a carbon guard as an option for 40 EUR).
– Efficient terrain gobbling FDS suspension design
– Weight competitive with composite frames at an alloy price
– Geometry is dialed for steeper tracks
– Anodised finish with optional link and chain stay colors
– Lack of fender to protect shock (editor’s note – Antidote now will be offering a carbon guard as an option for 40 EUR)
– Bearings a bit exposed to the elements if you ride in adverse conditions
– Proprietary chainguide system
– Using only the stock cable routing mounts can results in tire rub
– Shock removal required for adjusting the shock
The crew at Antidote has put together a high quality frame with some compelling features. Aesthetically, the octagonal tubing and simple lines make for one of the better looking frames on the market. I don’t recall a bike I’ve ridden that got quite so much attention in the lift line. More importantly, there’s no question Anitdote set out to build a bike to rule the roughest lines. It’s light weight translates into a ride that defies conventional wisdom around the feel of a suspension platform so adept at plowing down chunky lines. It’s unique and effective suspension design keeps mass centered and the super-short links keep it stiff. This may not be the best platform for those inclined towards popping down polished bike park jumps but if racing down the steepest lines around is your thing, the Lifeline is well worth a look.
Part 2 – Antidote Lifeline DH Build
Video: Shock actuation and chain guide movement
Considering Antidote has positioned the Lifeline as a light weight DH frame it’s only fitting that we wrapped it in a slick, light weight build. The FOX RC4 was questionable to fit initially but on our medium frame it worked fine. It was a little snug and not a lot of room to make external adjustments but the FOX damper paired with a 400lb Ti spring fit inside.
Up front a RockShox boXXer WC with an Elka cartridge in their medium tune. Both the RC4 and the Boxxer were well broken in already and have had ample time spent on them throughout the season. This was especially helpful in suspension setup as the shock must be unbolted from the frame to make adjustments. We chose to run the Shimano Saint crankset as they are tried and true for a reasonable weight but certainly lighter cranks could easily be fitted to this 73mm bb frame. Twenty6 Prerunner pedals with purple pins helped tie the look together and off-set the weight of the cranks.
Industry 9 j-bend hubs laced to Stans ZTR Flows make for a super fast acceleration and power transfer. The wheel set is certainly on the light side for DH but with a careful build and attention to tire pressure they held up fine. Tire choice was a Schwalbe Muddy Mary in the front and a Wicked Will rear in DH casing. Getting the tires setup tubeless was a breeze with a couple wraps of Gorilla tape, a Stans valve stem, and a bit of Stans sealant.
In the controls department Enve’s feather weight 228g DH bars are held on by a Foride direct mount stem at 50 mm. ESI chunky grips are super comfy and light but tended to rotate a bit on the smooth finish of these bars. Initially the plan was to go with XTR Trail brakes but since they were on backorder, the new m780 XT brakes with ice tech sintered pads were an excellent substitute. They’re also more affordable with only a slight weight penalty.
Shifting was handled by a 10 spd XO shifter connected to a short cage SRAM X.O derailleur, 11-28 RED cassette, and a KMX x10SL chain. A Selle Italia SLR at 135g on a cut down Thomson post and held in place by a Twenty6 clamp in purple rounds out the cockpit and keeps things light. Maybe just luck, but this saddle has been on about four different bikes and survived more crashes that I could count and is still going strong.
All in, the build was just under 35 lbs with DH tires and a coil rear shock.
Stay tuned for Part 3 next week where we’ll finish up the review and tell you what we think about how it rides, as well as some positive points and things to consider.
Part 1 – Antidote Lifeline DH Frame Details
It’s not every day you get to try out a bike from across the seas but the guys at Antidote beamed one over to us to check out. We’d have to admit that we have a bit of a soft spot for unusual and unique mountain bike products. When we got the call that about an opportunity to test out a frame from a little know Polish manufacturer, well, it was a no brainer. Antidote is small gravity oriented frame builder out of Poland. While not an area of the world that most would associate as a DH mecca, the guys behind Antidote are clearly passionate about what they do. And, in a sport dominated by just a few suspension designs, where it’s easy to mistake on frame for another, the Antitdote brings a bit of a fresh approach to design and a new weapon for riders in downhill mountain biking. All frames are hand made in Poland and carry a lifetime warranty for the first owner.
The Lifeline is based upon a proprietary mini-link style suspension platform, and while Antidote intends the Lifeline to be a full blown DH race rig, there is also a mini-DH version named the Lifeline nano-DH. And, as if a proprietary linkage system were not enough, Antidote offers each frame in either 7020 aluminum alloy or carbon vectran composite. We managed to get our hands on an alloy version of the Lifeline DH for a late season shred that you see here.
Antidote has positioned the Lifeline as an ultralight dedicated DH race platform with 220 mm of travel. The alloy version is constructed from 7020 aluminum sheet metal alloy that has been formed into octagonal tubes. Antidote claims that this results in a lighter and stronger frame when compared to traditional round tubes or even hydroforming. While we can’t confirm their claims of strength, the overall package is very light.
See more confirmed bike weights in our comprehensive weight section http://www.sicklines.com/weights
Another construction method employed with the Antidote is the full CNC machined chain stays. Besides the visually stunning look, they help contribute to the overall light weight of the frame and provide some stiffness. The CNC’d links also allow for Antidote to modify the suspension and chain stay length through the use of different links which they plan to implement in the future. The optional links will be available as an upgrade/option when purchasing a Lifeline. It will offer a lower bb, 208mm travel, and 5mm longer chain stays.
Another variance from the current DH standard design is the use of a 73 mm BB which means XTR and other lightweight cranks are a go on the Lifeline. It’s the author’s opinion that this decision was utilized to save weight and is consistent with a few other light weight DH frames that have been on the market over the past few years. With ultra light 83 mm carbon cranks hitting the market now this may be somewhat less devalued considering the trade-offs but it’s still an option. If all this is starting to sound like a bit of a science project, perhaps you’ll be consoled in knowing the rear is a standard 12mmx150mm affair, the head tube is a standard 1.5, and the seat tube also comes in at a totally normal 30.9. Back in your comfort zone yet?
In Action – Promo Video
Great, then lets have a look at Antidote’s proprietary suspension design. Antidote has named their design FDS for Floating Damping System. FDS is a mini-link style suspension system in that it uses a pair of links near the shock that happen to counter-rotate in this implementation. As you might expect based on the name, the FDS design locates the shock so that it “floats” on the suspension linkage. The shock does not directly attach to front triangle in this design. Floating suspension systems are commonly used to reduce the forces placed on the front triangle and since Antidote employs lightweight tubing, this also makes sense. Another component of FDS is that all suspension components are located near the center of the frame. This makes for very short, stiff links despite not using the largest pivot hardware and effectively centralizes its’ mass. From a performance stand point, Antidote describes their FDS suspension as having efficient pedaling without pedal feedback, remains active under braking, and very progressive.
The shock cradles inside the frame and adjusting compression adjustments in general are harder than some frames given the design.
The chain guide design and mount is another specific item on the Lifeline as a byproduct of FDS. They have an updated version of their guide from the one you see here and also have a lighter weight carbon upgrade option with help from Weeze components as well for those interested.
The lower link in the FDS design pivots around the bottom bracket and also provides the mount point for the chain guide. We’ll post up a video illustrating this so you can visually see how this system work. This means that the mount tabs do not conform to an ISCG standard and that the chain device rotates with the link as the suspension cycles. The resulting chain guide does not use a lower roller so that it can allow for the rotation but does fully sandwich the chain.
Antidote Lifeline DH Pricing:
2149EUR (alloy) and 2999EUR (carbon).
This price includes : frame with anodizing finish (alloy) or natural carbon fiber finished with tranparent paint (carbon) , integrated chainguide, titanium bolts, and rear axle.
Visit http://www.antidotebikes.com or contact [email protected] for more information and to see their full range.