Field Test: Contra MC – Steel Evaporator

Field Test: Contra MC - Steel Evaporator
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vs. MC

Lyrics by Mike Kazimer; Photo by Dave Trumpore
The Contra MC (MC stands for Magic Carpet) is the homebrew of Evan Turpe, a former downhill racer and mechanic who taught himself how to use engineering software to create custom bikes.

The MC is designed for the enduro / gravity crowd with 164mm of rear travel paired with 29″ wheels and a 170mm fork. The frame is a sight to behold in person – it’s got a sort of steampunk vibe thanks to the skinny steel tubing paired with polished aluminum links and a big freewheel. .

The MC’s suspension design gives it axle travel that moves the wheel 22mm rearward during travel. The idler sprocket is fairly large, a conscious design decision to help reduce the amount of friction in the system – with a larger sprocket, the chainring doesn’t have to be as sharp as a pivot. Seb Stott’s First Look article does a great job of explaining exactly how the double link suspension design works – you can check it out here.

Against MC Details

• Travel: 164mm / 170mm fork
• Steel frame, aluminum links
• Wheel size: 29″
• Head angle: 63.5°
• Seat tube angle: 78°
Reach: 480 mm (L)
• Chain length: 438 mm (L)
• Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL, XXL
• Weight: 37.25 lb / 16.9 kg
• Price: $4,500 USD (frame with EXT Storia shock) / Approx. $11,379 USD as tested.

For such a small company, Evan is up and running and will offer the MC in 6 sizes from XS to XXL, ranging from 420 – 520mm in 20mm increments. The two smaller sizes sport 27.5-inch rear wheels (the XS has 27.5-inch wheels front and rear), while the rest run a full 29-inch setup.
As for geometry, our oversized test bike had a head angle of 63.5 degrees, a seat tube angle of 78 degrees and a reach of 480mm. Chainstays measure 438mm, which varies by frame size – increasing by 6mm as sizes increase.

With a steel frame, high-revving suspension design that delivers 164mm of travel, and a build kit that leans toward the gravity-oriented end of the spectrum, it’s no surprise that it’s the heaviest bike we’ve tested. scales at 37.2 lbs.

The Contra is offered as a frame and shock only; Frame with EXT Storia is priced at $4,500. It’s certainly on the higher end of things, but keep in mind that the frame is handcrafted in California.


The Contra’s weight can’t be overlooked, but judging this steel machine by that number would do it a disservice. Actual pedaling performance was quite impressive – the shock of that big EXT roller was noticeably unaffected by weight shifts on the climb, with minimal slippage even out of the saddle.

The overall position is comfortable and upright thanks to the 78-degree upright seat angle. I went with a 35mm stem fitted with a 40mm stem, and while 5mm doesn’t seem like much, the increase helped calm the steering a bit when climbing and descending.

Compared to the other bikes in the test, I’d put the Contra in the same realm as the Commencal Meta SX. Both have pedaling positions that work well for sitting and spinning on steep climbs, but neither feels particularly energetic – they’re quiet cruisers. The Contra offered slightly more traction than the Meta SX on rougher, tighter climbs, likely due to a combination of the larger rear tire, high-revving suspension design, and coilover shock.

In this field test, the Contra has smoother climbing behaviors than the Deviate Claymore, another high-revving bike. The Deviate’s head angle is slightly steeper and it weighs a few pounds less than the MC, factors that make it a little easier to handle on tighter, slower speed climbs.

When it comes to idle noise and drag, the MC remained refreshingly quiet despite being exposed to a lot of mud and sand. High revving bikes require more frequent applications of chain lube – key to keeping chain noise to a minimum.


The Contra has a sense of calmness reminiscent of riding with a full-face helmet versus a half-shell. With half a shell, wind and trail noise are clear indicators of how fast you’re going. With a full face, these pointers are silent making it easy to go even faster. The same sensation prevails on the Contra MC – it chokes the trail in such a way that letting off the brakes and driving straight ahead usually seems like the best course of action. The EXT Storia coilover shock has excellent low resistance, making it easy to squeeze the Contra MC into the rough parts of the trail and trust that everything will be fine.

I wasn’t surprised that I set the fastest lap in Contra and Matt Beer had the same experience. It’s a bike with plenty of traction that comes alive at higher speeds and on rougher trails, keeping the rear wheel glued to the ground no matter how slimy the conditions. That grippy feel doesn’t mean it can’t jump, it just means it feels more at home on bigger hits than it does on small mid-lane hits. It would be a great park bike especially for riders who like to mix it up, hitting big DH tracks one lap and drift lines the next.

At slower speeds, on steep trails, it was manageable, although a few times I felt a slight disconnect between handling at the front of the bike versus the rear. It’s hard to put into words, but the rear almost took longer to respond to steering inputs. As the bike travels, the rear wheel moves further away, although I haven’t experienced this on other high-revving bikes. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a negative feature, but it was different from what I was used to.

I would classify the Contra as the most gravity-oriented bike of the bunch, followed by the Commencal Meta SX. They’re long, lean machines that have a voracious appetite for steep, rough trails and can feel a bit underpowered on softer terrain. It’s different from the Fezzari La Sal Peak or Santa Cruz Megatower, bikes that are lighter and livelier on wider trails.

Would the Contra make a good enduro race bike? It depends. I can see him doing well somewhere like Whistler where the stages are rougher and steeper, not too many tight turns. It’s less suited to tighter, more awkward tracks, where its weight and over-the-ground nature will make it more of a handful.

During the test period, we noticed a few paint scratches where the cranks came close to the chainstays. As mentioned, it was muddy most of the time we were on the bike, but no matter how tight the chainring clearance is – it would have been nice to have a little more room to keep scratches and chips from showing through. According to Evan Turpen, the production frames will be powder coated, which should greatly improve paint durability, and the chainstays have been modified for a tighter radius bend, increased wheel, heel and chainstay clearance.

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