What it does well: A hardtail? Hold on: We included the Zaskar Carbon Expert in our test for a few reasons. First, the price. Take this bike as evidence that you don’t need to drop seven grand to get a quality bike. If you live near smooth track or like to race shorter distances, this light, stiff bike with 100mm of front shock travel will not disappoint. We certainly didn’t have a hard time hanging with the longer travel bikes on Carbondale’s loamy XC network just outside of town. The 27.5-inch wheels and rigid rear triangle make for blistering acceleration off the line. And the tuning of the modern carbon frame is surprisingly plush. Which is a point worth emphasizing about all modern carbon hardtails: Builders can now “tune” carbon, allowing for vertical compliance while maintaining lateral stiffness. Most of this happens in the seat and chain stays. As for descending, it does still feel like a hardtail, but adding tubeless tires and a dropper post would go a long way to boost its trail worthiness. Oh, and the second reason svelte carbon hardtails like the Zaskar are relevant? If you own a 28-pound trail or all-mountain bike with 6-inches of travel, you probably need a fast and light racer like this in your quiver to train for the weekends—you can rip up climbs.
What it does poorly: On extended rough sections of trail, you’ll remember you have a back. And there are certain trails you just wouldn’t want to take it to.
So who’s it for? Any of the Zaskars make great race bikes for high school league racers. But it’s also an affordable quiver bike if you have the appropriate trails to whip around on. 23.7 lbs.