Durango Blackjack Trail Bike Reviewed – Wow!

Durango Blackjack 2015

Owner Jeff Estes rigs up my demo ride at the Outerbike festival in Moab, UT in October 2015.

I’m trying to remember when Katya and I first met Jeff and Wendy but I think it was at the huge Sea Otter Classic bike festival a couple of years ago.  At the time they didn’t have a trail bike.  All mountain was as close as they could get for us.  After a few beers we felt like we knew them forever.  You have to meet these folks!!!!

At Outerbike 2015 in Moab I walked into their area and Wendy said that they had something for me.  And they did!  The Blackjack can be configured with 27.5″ or 29″ wheels and Jeff quickly set it up as a 29er for me.   I took it to my van and it weighed in at 29 pounds – and it is aluminum alloy!  I rode it out to the Bar B trail and tested it in some gnar that is way over intermediate in places.  OK, I walked parts of the trail because it is too scary but I rode some challenging shit and the bike was outstanding!  (I’ve rode this trail many times and it is one of our favorites but parts of that wash area on the south end is a bitch.)

Frame geometry:  I’m disclosing the specs for a large frame and I’m focused on only those specs that I think matters for us intermediates.

  • Frame material:  Aluminum alloy.
  • Wheel size:  29″.
  • Headtube angle:  67.5 degrees, dead-on.
  • Bottom bracket height:  350 mm / 13.8″.  A bit higher than most but right in the range.  Hey, it is built in Colorado and has to be ready for the big rocks!
  • Wheel base length:  1186 mm / 46.7″.  Right in the trail bike range.

Component package:  This bike was setup with a Rockshox Pike 130 mm fork, Scram 1-11 speed gears, Rockshox Monarch RT3 rear shock,  Scram hydraulic brakes, and our favorite, the Thompson Elite Dropper Post.   I was excited and forgot to get the travel for the rear shock.  Whatever, it was a dream ride over Moab rocks!

Safety, stability, and control:    I rode it hard and it performed excellent.  Very stable in the gnarly rocks.  It was agile when I needed it in the steep drop down to the wash on the south end of the trail.  I didn’t fall or do an end-over so that says something because I wasn’t all that conservative on a familiar trail.

Comfort for longer rides:   I only rode it about 5 miles but the geometry and setup was comfortable.  I was able to climb through some loose rock / gravel for a few hundred feet with good control.  I would take this bike on any trail.  I would love to ride the Downieville Downhill on it!

Design:  The Blackjack has a mix of organic and geometric design.  I like the front triangle but I wish the swingarm was more organic and matched better with the front.  The swingarm looks a bit alien on the bike.  Other than that it is a beautiful bike with some distinctive lines.

Conclusion:  Can you safely ride at a higher skill level with this bike?  Yes.  It is stable and can be rode aggressively.  Hit stuff and it rides right over the crud.  This bike performs very much like a carbon bike. However, to really understand the engineering you need to chat with Jeff.  I can’t possibly remember everything he says about his selection of components and unfortunately he doesn’t get into this on his Website.  Seriously, his choice of small and large components, not the Scram stuff, but the nuts and bolts, is a compelling reason to buy the bike and be very proud of riding a highly engineered bike!

There is only one way to buy this bike.  Visit them at their factory in Durango, CO, ride the bike on the local trails, listen to Jeff’s pitch about his engineering, and if you like it then buy it there.  These bikes are handmade in Durango!  For pride of ownership it doesn’t get any better.

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