Quick Review – Olympia’s Racy 949 Carbon 29er with Xentis Wheels
At 120 years old, Olympia certainly has some history. The brand that is now relatively unknown in the US also has some history here as well, being imported through a bike shop in New York in the 70’s and 80’s. After a long hiatus, Olympia is continuing their resurgence in North America through the hands of Stage Race Distribution. Designed and made in Italy, the Olympia 949 is a prime example of the brand’s line up which includes everything from e-bikes to road bikes.
We were offered a chance to check out this sub 18lb race machine that was equipped with Xentis Squad CC carbon wheels. How could we say no?
Our review bike was equipped with a full XX1 drivetrain, DT Swiss XRR470 carbon fork, and a combination of Ritchey WCS parts that made up the cockpit. This is pretty close to the stock XX1 build with the exception of the Xentis Squad 2.5 wheels. At 17.6 pounds with a rigid fork, there are lighter 29ers out there (mostly custom), but the weight was achieved without going to extremes for the components – and come on, it’s under 18 pounds! Of course, the 949g weight of the frame (hence the name) means you could build it up lighter if you tried.
Something most super light frames don’t have though, is a 12×142 rear axle – and at 64 grams it’s one of the lightest we’ve seen. With such a light frame, the thru axle at the rear is part of what makes the bike so efficient. Little flex or wind up is detectable in the frame even during full sprints. In order to clean up the look for 1x drivetrains, the frame features a removable e-type front derailleur mount.
Cable routing is mostly external with the exception of the rear derailleur cable routed through the seat stay. It pops out of the stay just in front of the rear derailleur for a nice line to the stop.
The frame itself is a beautiful Italian made carbon design that is laid up in a single mold without any joints using a vacuum bag technique for a true monocoque frame. Like most carbon frames the 949 is built from different types of carbon including UD M30 in places for longitudinal stiffness, Toray T700 multiaxial carbon for improved torsional rigidity, and a Kevlar/carbon twill for vibration deadening.
As the only downer we ran into with the bike, we had a bit of trouble getting the headset to stay in adjustment. We were assured this was just a fluke, and not something they’ve encountered before. The 949 has a tapered head tube that was running a reducer headset for the 1 1/8″ fork.
Olympia opts for a press fit BB92 bottom bracket system rather than a BB30 or PF30. Also note the huge tire clearance.
Also being distributed through StageRace are the beautiful Austrian Xentis Squad 2.5 CC wheels. The 949 was equipped with one of their first prototype XD driver wheelsets in order to run XX1. The production hub will have a 5° engagement for the freehub which will eliminate our only concern on the prototype which had slower engagement.
Carbon rimmed and tubeless compatible, the rims have a 19mm internal width and do have an 80kg (176 lbs) limit for the super light 1360g CCs, though the non CC model has a higher 100kg (220 lb) rider+bike weight limit. The Squad CC 29er wheels weigh in at 1,360g with QR hubs, and 1450g with 15/X12 thru axles meaning the set on this bike was likely somewhere in the middle due to the QR front wheel but 142×12 rear.
Originally on display at Sea Otter, the very bike we had in for quick review was built up for one of their racers and was built to fit her. As one of the, um, shorter members of our team I was asked to test the bike which turned out to be too small, even for me. I tend to straddle the line between small and medium on 29ers, and the Olympia 949 has a shorter top tube than most, with the small offering a very short 565mm ETT. If I were to get a bike for myself it would definitely be a medium instead of a small. The take away from this though, is that the small will fit shorter riders than most Small 29ers without toe overlap and with the ability to get the bar nice and low.
Even with the smaller size, the 949 exhibited some impressive qualities. In spite of its anorexic frame weight the frame was very stiff and the combination with the Xentis carbon wheels equaled a two wheeled rocket ship. Possibly the best way to sum up the 949 is that it handles much better than a sub 18lb bike should. It’s hard to zero in on compliance when the bike is fitted with a rigid fork, but in the saddle the 949 frame felt more comfortable than a lot of hardtails while the super stiff DT Swiss fork transmitted every root, rock, and bump.
Personally, if you were to swap out the rigid for a light suspension fork, it would be a bike that I would be happy to own. Fortunately, all of Olympia’s builds have Rock Shox suspension forks as standard equipment, with the option for the rigid or upgraded Rock Shox or Fox forks available as well. The Full spec list of all the models can be downloaded from the PDF on the 949 page, but essentially there are build kits from both Shimano and Sram from SLX and X.9 up to full XTR and XX1. A 949 Race XX1 build with a Rock Shox Reba RL 100mm and Stans ZTR/Crest wheels will retail for $6,999 which is very competitive with other similar speced bikes on the market.
Based on the performance of the 949, if the rest of Olympia’s bikes ride as well as it does, Olympia will have no problem gaining a foothold in the US market.