An orange bike bullet, a UFO on wheels, a bike unlike any other I have ridden. To be honest, I have only ridden a limited number of real hardcore XC bikes, (I’m more of a fully kind of guy) but the comparisons I have, and that of a bike buddy of mine who is a real XC-rider, favor this slightly hyperbolic conclusion after two weeks of riding the American Eagle Atlanta 2.0.
American Eagle is not the most well-known brand, but there is a cult-like following and a lot of emotion around the brand, certainly in the Netherlands. That dates back to 1996 when Dutchman Bart Brentjens became the First Olympic Champion on the newly introduce MTB discipline during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. (This feat is commemorated with the #FOC on the seat tube of the frame of our test bike.)
“…the bike I rode on for two weeks was blisteringly fast”
After that highlight, the brand had a couple of good years, but around the turn of millennium it went down, only to lift its wings in 2017 with the new American Eagle Atlanta 2.0 The resurrection of the brand is thanks to the same Bart Brentjens and his partner Henk Schipper who bought the rights to the brand.
At the moment American Eagle does not actually sell mountain bikes, they sell mountain bike frames. Our test bike had that hart of the MTB, the same frame that Barts own CST-Sandd-American Eagle MTB XC team rides on the UCI world tour. The drivetrain was a Shimano Deore set, so not very high-end, the rims/wheels and tires were very good (Stand NoTubes and Maxxis Valor tires). If you buy the frame you can trick it out with the most high-end components you can get, and even without the higher-end drivetrain, the bike I rode on for two weeks was blisteringly fast.
So this review will focus solely on the frame because the component set-up is not as indicative of what you would buy from American Eagle. In everything, this frame is a designed for racing. Aiming at speed and pedaling efficiency, it has to accelerate quickly, corner well and climb like a mountain goat on speed. It as quite a steep head tube angle and a short rear chainstay. An oversized BB30 bottom bracket helps with power transfer. With the carbon composite frame weighing in at 950 grams for 17.5-inch size it is very light.
The frame comes in four colors, Dutch Orange, Gun Metal Grey, Arctic Blue and Olympic Gold.
I rode the bike on XC flow trails in the Netherlands. Largely smooth trails, some parts with a bit more roots, bit bumpy in parts due to excessive rain that had fallen in the period before riding. Both on wet and cold days, and with a bit drier weather.
From the moment I stepped onto the bike, I was amazed at how light it felt. As a rider with more of an enduro taste and preferring full-suspension bikes, I always stayed away a bit from the whole kilo’s and grams discussion. But this bike made me blink and think twice about dismissing that too easily. Certainly in a race/XC discipline weight does count, and if anything I could feel how this amazingly light bike (my set-up weighed in at 9.3 kilos) just blasted away from the get-go. Clip in, pedal, and you get the feeling that every the energy and power of each pedal stroke is transferred so directly, it feels as if the bike itself adds power somehow. There were segments of moderate climbs that felt as if I was riding with an extra engine powering me on. Incredible.
It’s not only down to the weight, like I said, the feeling of incredible power transfer efficiency is what makes a huge difference. During one ride I switched bikes with my buddy, riding his full carbon XC bike, for the Atlanta 2.0. His bike felt so sluggish though the weight was very comparable; after no more than 1 kilometer I demanded the Atlanta back. He obliged reluctantly.
So it’s the power transfer that you feel, your position high on the bike, compact towards the bars, setting you up to deliver that power. On the steepest climbs coming up out of the saddle does not seem to diminish traction on your back wheel (something that happens quite often with other bikes; when you stand up on your pedals, out of the saddle, there is less weight and therefore less traction on the back wheel.) You transition from a seated to a standing and back to a seating position so easily and fluently there is absolutely no loss of power and speed as you do so.
With that body position closer to the bars its that more easier to steer the bike easily and sharply through the corners of the trail. I did notice with steeper descents that I felt I needed to shift my body weight backward on the seat so as not to feel top heavy over the bars, which can make you feel as if you can go over the bars when the shit hits the fan.
It feels quite comfortable, the slender seat stays and the beautifully crafted seat posts are stiff without being hard.
As a hardtail, the Atlanta 2.0 is obviously less comfortable than the fully’s I am used to. I did run my tires pumped quite hard, so I could have treated myself with a bit more comfort. But I didn’t want to compromise on speed too much. Bart did remind me that running tires so hard that you bounce around, mitigate that gain in speed, on the other hand, so finding that idle pressure is important. Having said that, the carbon frame is a lot less rattly than a lot of other carbon frames I have experienced. It feels quite comfortable, the slender seat stays and the beautifully crafted seat posts are stiff without being hard.
Interesting bit of news is that American Eagle will be bringing a full suspension bike this year. We hope to be able to ride it when it comes out and see how it performs. What I would add to this set-up is a dropper seat post, which, although it would add a bit of weight, would make the bike feel and handle even better on descents/downhills. With the hardtail and the high saddle position, I couldn’t do the downhill segments as flat out as I would have wanted to.
I can only conclude that this is frame/bike from another world, a whole other level. As I think back on riding it, I am still flabbergasted. I blew all my Strava segment PR’s to bits on my home trail (XC trail), and I will be hard put to ever improve upon them again without training my ass off, or riding this bike again. Which, regardless of my fully/enduro bike soul, I crave.
This bike has made me taste the sweet joy of fast XC riding, something I had not expected to happen, but did. The Atlant 2.0 has shown me new horizons! A wonderful thing for a bike to do.
If you are a performance-driven XC rider with not too tight of a bank account look no further. Climb onto the American Eagle Atlanta 2.0 and fly!