Kiwi brand Avanti is known for producing bikes that demonstrate fantastic value for money and performance, or put another way, high smiles to dollar ratio. It's not without its flaws but over the last two months, the Competitor 2 Plus has provided me with nothing but smiles ear to ear.
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With an alloy frame painted up in a retro black orange and brown get-up the Avanti Comptitor 2 Plus is a great looking bike, even more so when it’s covered in a healthy smattering of mud.
The Competitor 2 is the brand's highest spec'd 27.5+ hardtail with an SLX/XT drivetrain, 120mm RockShox Reba fork, boost hub spacing and dropper post, while still hitting a relatively low price point.
The alloy frame is heavily hydroformed with hardly a round tube in sight. It’s clear these shapes are more than just for show and the Competitor 2 Plus walks the line of being unwavering when the power is down on the pedals, but doesn’t leave your body feeling like you’ve been run down by a car at the end of your ride. However, the massive 2.8in rubber does play a role in absorbing some trail chatter.
The bike rolls on 2.8in WTB Rangers and mounted on Weinmann X-A40 whose internal width of 32mm pairs nicely with the bulbous rubber. With plus sized tires getting the air pressure right is paramount, and for this particular setup and a rider weighing 155lbs / 70kg, the mid teens seemed to be the sweet spot when run tubeless, a bit more with tubes, to prevent pinch flats.
It’s clear Avanti was deliberate in the way it designed this bike to be a home mechanic's dream. The cables are fully externally routed, bar the last portion of the dropper. And, even that’s a straight shot up the back of the seat tube into the bottom of the X-Fusion Hilo, meaning there is no need to fuss with removing the cranks or bottom bracket.
Speaking of the bottom bracket, Avanti has spec'd the Competitor 2 Plus with a standard threaded BSA bottom bracket, something we are extremely happy to see given the headaches that can arise from Press Fit affairs.
Smiles all around
On the trail the Competitor 2 Plus is a ball of fun. Overall the geometry is middle of the road when it comes to a trail bike, nothing too extreme but it works. With a 69-degree head angle combined with a stumpy 100mm headtube and 51.1 degree offset fork, the bike feels slacker than it actually is. This combined with short 50mm stem and 738mm wide bar allows for plenty of leverage on the ups and downs, and the 440mm chainstays make it planted and predictable through corners, especially in combination with the big grippy tires.
The bike really doesn’t want to break traction for the show stopping roosty drifts around corners, but when the tire does break loose, as with many plus bikes it’s hard to bring it back. An unfortunate side effect of this is when the traction does give, it’s usually one of those sphincter tightening moments where your life flashes before your eyes.
When the trail goes up, the Competitor Plus 2 is pretty manageable and the 30T single ring at the front combined with the 11-42t cassette provides heaps of range. With the 30 x 42t combo on top of the traction from the 2.8in rubber the bike is surprisingly surefooted, however going uphill its portly 13.45kg / 29.65lbs waistline rears its ugly head.
Whether it be muscling the bike over technical terrain or speeding through flowy singletrack the Competitor 2 Plus is responsive at all speeds. With a decently high bottom bracket it rolls over quite a lot, and can lessen the consequence of mistakes, misjudgements, or ham-fisted riding. The addition of a dropper makes the bike that much more capable when the trail gets rowdy.
At the front, the RockShox Reba RL offers 120mm of squish, and I didn’t really need to mess with the compression or lockout. Once I had the air pressure right the fork performed extremely well. Given the Reba occupies the lower rung of the RockShox suspension offerings it’s quite supple at the top, ramping up well throughout the travel. It’s not as stiff as something a bit more expensive like the Lyric or Pike often seen on plus hardtails, but it impressed.
The Shimano SLX M7000 drivetrain in combo with XT M8000 Shadow Plus rear derailleur performed flawlessly as well. While the SLX shifters don’t feel as positive as their higher-end counter parts, the drivetrain shifts accurately whether it’s caked in mud or factory clean. While the M506 series brakes don’t quite offer the same control and power as pricey models, they still stop with confidence.
I was happy to see the Competitor Plus 2 come out of the box with a dropper, but as inspector gadget seating arrangements sometimes do, the X-Fusion post did cause a few headaches.
The post had a bit of back to font play from the get go, not so much that you could feel as you rode, but it was prone to creaking. Also, it’s really a shame the Hilo doesn’t come with the X-Fusion's Bat Remote, as the included generic lever doesn’t integrate well with the brake levers. With the mount and cable guide the hardware forces it into a place where it’s difficult to access with your thumb, without moving your whole hand. With that said, whenever it was called upon, up or down it worked — something that cannot be said for some other noticeably more expensive droppers on the market.
Priced at £TBC / $TBC / AU$2,600, the Competitor Plus 2 is an absolute steal if you’re looking for a capable trail bike on a budget. If you’re looking a bike in this price range, it’s just on the cusp of where you may want to consider a full suspension bike, even still you get a heck of a lot more for your money with a hardtail when it comes to spec.
Price and parts aside, the Competitor Plus 2 is fun, plain and simple. No, it doesn’t have the latest tech or carbon this and that, but it doesn’t need it. It’s a capable performer that has not missed a beat over the past few months, and most importantly it's a damn fun bike to ride.