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Tested: Conway RLC FS 7

Tested: Conway RLC FS 7

22.10.21 10:57 2.122Text: Luke Biketalker (translated by Carola Felchner)Photos: Erwin HaidenEver since the introduction of their WME, Conway has been on the rise: the bike featured smart concepts, pleasing shapes and impeccable technology. The latest addition is the RLC FS, a real race bike with resources22.10.21 10:57 2.123

Tested: Conway RLC FS 7

22.10.21 10:57 2.123 Luke Biketalker (translated by Carola Felchner) Erwin Haiden Dieser Beitrag ist auch in Deutsch verfügbarEver since the introduction of their WME, Conway has been on the rise: the bike featured smart concepts, pleasing shapes and impeccable technology. The latest addition is the RLC FS, a real race bike with resources22.10.21 10:57 2.123

While marketing departments of other manufacturers spend their nights thinking up exclusive names, Conway relies on German sobriety in the classic style of a BMW 345i or Mercedes C 200 CDI. Accordingly, the bike's abbreviation immediately tells the connoisseur about its family and area of use. At Conway’s, RLC promises racing fun on a lightweight carbon frame; the fine RLC hardtail we got to test some time ago kept this promise. The abbreviation FS signifies that rear suspension found its way into this product line, the number at the end of the bike’s name tells how fancy specs are. Our Conway RLC FS 7 is the product range’s race fully. It offers 100 mm suspension travel, 29" wheels and the top model “7” boasts a RockShox SID SL Select+/SID Luxe Select+ and Sram XX1 Eagle drivetrain as standard. Apart from the technical details there’s something else that makes this bike refreshingly appealing in comparison to competitors’ models: at an SRP of €4,599 the top model easily stays below the 5,000-Euro threshold.

Pivot, frame, and rear triangle – Conway doesn’t compromise on components which are all made of carbon. The combination of a flat top tube, a strong and distinguishingly bent head tube, an elegantly suggested “seat dome” and angular down- and seat tubes blend together nicely and make the bike look like no other. Yes, it is not everybody’s cup of tea, but the big part of our editorial staff liked the unique style very much.
The frame’s front triangle accommodates two bottles if needed – which I did during the test period. The rider’s needs were also kept in mind when choosing the bike’s light saddle post with a diameter of 27.2 mm ex works, though it needs to be fixed with a reduction sleeve as the seat tube is large enough to also accommodate 31.6-mm seat posts. The perfect concept for a wide variety of dropper posts, which does not only fit in with the increasingly progressive cross-country development, but also with down country riding and the fact that this Conway bike is approved for forks with up to 120 mm of travel (standard: 100 mm).

The development team placed the shock parallel to the top tube and chose a real horst-link (aka four-bar) suspension for the rear triangle which is rather unusual for a cross-country full suspension bike, i.e., instead of flexing chain stays which are often used on similar lightweight constructions, those of the RLC RS have a real bearing.
This means minimal additional weight that Conway’s engineers put up with for the sake of a presumably better performance. It will probably remain a question of philosophy, whether one of these concepts is superior to the other considering the bearings’ minimal deflection in this area.

Geometry

Small Medium Large X-Large
Seat tube (mm) 425 465 505 545
Top tube (mm) 575 600 625 650
Chainstays (mm) 445 445 445 445
Steering angle 69.5° 69.5° 69.5° 69.5°
Seat angle 75° 75° 75° 75°
Reach (mm) 424 449 473 495
Stack (mm) 586 595 604 618
Wheelbase (mm) 1,119 1,147 1,175 1,203

449 mm reach, a sporty stack of only 595 mm, 75° seat angle and 69.5° steering angle – these are the key data for our test bike, the RLC FS 7 in medium size. Apart from the angles, the length of the chain stays remains the same for all sizes. At 445 mm, they provide the medium-size bike with great climbing characteristics and are a tad longer on paper than those of competitors that circle around 435 mm.

Overall, at 180 cm body- and 75 cm seat height, the medium-size bike is quite a sporty ride but does not call for an overstretched position. It is quite touring-friendly in fact. For races or specced with the optional 120 mm fork which shortens the reach, size large would probably have been the better choice for me. For sporty touring rides and on varied downhill trails, I felt very comfortable on the medium-size bike, and above all I remained pain-free even on long-distance rides.
We recommend a test ride at your local dealer to find out what size you prefer.

What you get

For a fair SRP of 4,599 euros, Conway’s RLC FS 7 is exquisitely specced. The carbon frame is complemented by an extremely comfortable RaceFace Next carbon handlebar in 720 mm width. It is held by the matching RaceFace Turbine stem, and the 27.2 mm carbon Next Carbon post is also made by RaceFace.
Rock Shox furthermore provides the suspension, a SID SL Select+ fork with 100 mm travel and a SID Luxe Select+ shock. The mix of Sram XX1 Eagle trigger and rear derailleur, X1 carbon crank with 32-tooth chainring and 10-52 Z XG 1295 Eagle cassette as well as the Level TL brake with 180/160 mm discs were all made within the same corporation.
DT Swiss’ XR 1700 Spline wheels are not super light at 881 g and 791 g, but a very solid choice for training and everyday use. With carbon wheels some weight could be dropped, but then the price for this fine set-up could not be kept as fair as it is. Rims unfortunately are only 25 mm wide, but they accommodate ex works nice and 25 mm wide Schwalbe Racing Ray/Racing Ralph tyres that provide good grip. They’d probably have deserved 30 mm rims as sparring partners. But this is complaining about first world problems. All in all, the bike is a fair offer that weighs 11.06 kg in seize M.

Tech Specs

Frame Conway Fully Carbon RLC Wheels DT Swiss XR 1700 Spline
Front Suspension RockShox SID SL Select +, 100 mm Tires Schwalbe Racing Ray, EVO Addix, Tr. Skin, 60-622
Schwalbe Racing Ralph, EVO Addix, Tr. Skin, 60-622
Rear Suspension RockShox SID LUXE Select + Handlebar Raceface Next Carbon, Ø 31.8, 720 mm
Crankset Sram X1 Carbon, Boost DUB, 32 Z Stem Raceface Turbine, 31.8 mm
Brakes Sram Level TL 180/160 mm Saddle Conway 1489 super light
Trigger Sram XX1 Eagle Seat post Raceface Next Carbon, 27.2 mm
Rear derailleur Sram XX1 Eagle Weight 11.06 kg (w/o pedals)
Cassette Sram XG 1295 Eagle, 10-52t Price (SRP) € 4,599.95

Uphill and flat passages

As already mentioned above, at 180 cm body height the RLC FS in medium size is extremely comfortable for a race bike, no muscle tension or butt hurt. The medium-sized bike is agile, if I had wanted more running smoothness or an even sportier riding positions, size L would have been the better choice.
The 720-mm RaceFace Turbine handlebar appears almost slim compared to those of other test bikes, it is comfortable, stiff and, in combination with its thin grips, doesn’t cause numbness or pain even after many ours on the bike.
And mark my words, newbies as well as experienced riders: Just because wide handlebars beyond 780 mm are trendy at the moment, they are not the right choice for any body type. If your shoulders or wrists hurt on the bike, first alter the rotation of the handlebars and thus the angle of your wrists. If this does not help, try to shorten your handlebars centimetre by centimetre which is possible with many models. Give it a go. With some bodies narrower handlebars simply make for a more comfortable ride. And you will have better control of the bike as a bonus, which is already noticeable with Conway’s 720-mm handlebars. Just give it a try …

On flat passages, the RLC FS 7 is a fast ride, it accelerates well and maintains speed. What the bike is really good at, and equally potent in as some big brands’ models is uphill riding. 180 psi in the shock – that's what ShockWizz and I finally agreed on to be best for my body weight of 85 kg – render reaching for the lockout redundant as long as you are neither sprinting nor riding out of the saddle.
Also with open suspension Conway’s bike is a willing and efficient climber that only slightly bobs when the rider pedals rather unevenly or at an extremely high cadence (and therefore also unevenly). The remote lever on the cockpit works convincingly and – unlike those of other manufacturers – precisely, crisply, and intuitively.

Speaking of precise, crisp, and intuitive: XX1 trigger and rear derailleur do a great job and allow for gear changes on point.

Since we are already in praise mode: the RLC FS 7 is an amazing ride in demanding terrain, i.e., when the forest road turns into a hiking trail. Conway may proudly count their bike among the best technical climbers available – no matter whether there are steps, rough scree, narrow bends, or steep root carpets to conquer. The manufacturer’s outstanding signature rear suspension offers great traction, the balanced riding position allows for very controlled riding and the slightly longer chain stays do the rest. This means that there is always enough room to try out more creative lines, and technical terrain can be explored with unimagined ease.

Schwalbe’s Racing Ray/Racing Ralph tyre combination rolls fast and offers excellent grip. The latter at least as long as conditions are dry. Wet roots quickly become very slippery and tricky to ride, wet rocks and stones, however, are quite rideable. On tubeless tyres air pressure should be really low. At 85 kg body weight, I ended up at 1.5 bars for 2.35” tyres – despite the narrow 25 mm rim.
A World Cup mechanic recommended for my body weight 1.3 bars with 2.4" tyres and 30 mm rim. And yes, with every tenth the grip increases noticeably, also in wet conditions.

Downhill

As in the technical uphill, the RLC FS also benefits from its balanced position above the wheel when going downhill. Whether the rider shifts behind the saddle, sits centrally on the bike, or leans a little over the handlebars – there’s always some traction, the sweet spot thus is large, and the bike is surprisingly forgiving when it comes to wrong decisions considering its small suspension travel. Thanks to the great rear suspension this bike rather is a fun allrounder that also likes speeding up a little than a nervous race diva. Suspension works well, as always with Conway, it responds immediately, does neither get awkwardly stuck on steps or roots, nor bottoms out even after small jumps and gives good feedback in the mid-travel range. Someone has definitely done their homework here.
The rear triangle also provides a lot of riding stability, which makes the bike glide through technical downhill passages more smoothly than suspension travel and steering angle theoretically would suggest.

The low cockpit requires a little more use of physical strength to do bunny hops and the like. Nevertheless, the bike masters blocked root carpets on the level of the next higher suspension category. What is also nice on rough terrain: There is no noise to be heard apart from the smacking of the fork and some chipping gravel. No rattling, no banging, no creaking that distracts you from focusing on the trail. We like.

We immediately made use of the option to install a dropper on the test bike. Thanks to wireless technology, Magura’s Vyron eLect does not require any cables and is quickly mounted. That's why we use it on one test bike after the other. For traditionalists droppers on XC bikes may seem preposterous. We think: You deprive yourself of a lot if you don’t mount them. You’ll get more than compensated for these few grams of extra weight by a lot more reserves, safety, and riding fun.

The performance of Sram’s Level TL is absolutely sufficient for an XC race bike, but for long descents you might consider an upgrade. A Level TL tuning tip: Stick a small strip of sandpaper on the lever. It improves the grip as small hands tend to slip off the lever when conditions are wet or damp. Furthermore, the sandpaper strip allows the hands to relax, provides better control, more riding fun as well as keeps the forearms relaxed.
Another little reason for criticizing the Sram/RockShox combo: We don't know how many kilometres the RLC FS 7 test bike had already been ridden on in other editorial offices. When we got the bike, the SID fork’s bushings already were quite worn. RockShox's accommodating customer service would surely have taken care of it, but still it was annoying.

Conclusion

Conway RLC FS 7
Model year: 2021
Test duration: 1 month
Price: € 4,599.95 SRP
+ Price/performance
+ Climbing skills in technical terrain
+ Surprisingly fun to ride for a 100 mm bike
+ Great rear triangle
+ Understatement
+ Nice to look at
o Brakes only ideal for XC use
- Narrow 25 mm rims
BB judgement: Fast, agile, massive reserves and no macho behaviour whatsoever.

Understatement is a virtue. When it comes to this Conway bike, however, it is almost a sin. Considering the performance of their RLC FS 7, the German manufacturer may well promote their fast race rocket a lot more.

This race fully is on par with its high-priced competitors. What’s more: the great rear and the well-engineered geometry probably make the bike one of the best technical climbers available on the market. If you are not racing, there’s no need to reach for the lockout even on slippery ground. Efficiency is absolutely sufficient when it is left open. The bike’s masterful downhill performance almost makes you believe it has more than 100 mm suspension travel.

Distinct design, great performance, fair prices: If your main criteria when buying a bike is ride quality and not the brand name on the down tube, ask your local dealer for a test ride on the RLC FS.