Iron Horse is truly one of the sleeper bike brands in the industry. Though their low-end bikes are more at home at big box sports superstores, their high-end bikes are in high demand by mountain bike connoisseurs–mostly due to the amazing ride quality provided by the DW-Link suspension design.
With World Cup champion, Sam Hill as their ambassador, Iron Horse has gained a huge following in the DH crowd. The use of this suspension design has been a home run for Iron Horse as they have utilized it on the DH-specific Sunday, the freeride 7Point, long-travel trail 6Point, MKIII trailbike and the Azure XC racer. Active, efficient, smooth and seemingly-bottomless are all adjectives used to describe how the DW-Link feels on the trail. I tested and loved the Iron Horse 6Point6 earlier this year, would I feel the same about the MKIII Elite?
About the Iron Horse MKIII Elite
The Iron Horse MKIII Elite is the workhorse of the lineup. With 5-inches of travel front and rear (130mm), it has just enough squish to scare away the leg-shaving crowd, but not so much squish to make it Whislter Bike Park-friendly. This particular incarnation of the DW-Link is built to be smooth enough to power through technical terrain, yet still climb 2000-ft. ascents without flinching–sounds good to me!
Billed as one of the most versatile bikes on the market, the MKIII can be found on endurance races, Super D courses or Dual Slalom–yup, it’s that capable. Tipping the scales at 28 lbs., the MKIII is light and snappy with a top-shelf parts spec built for years of abuse.
MKIII Elite Highlights
- Rear Suspension: 5-inch travel DW-Link via Fox Float R
- Fork: RockShox Revelation 426 Dual Air
- Drivetrain: Full XT top-to-bottom
- Wheelset: DT-Swiss XR 4.2D Rims and 340 Centerlock Hubs
- Tires: Maxxis HighRoller 2.35 front and 2.1 rear
- Sizes: 15, 17, 19 (tested), 21
- Weight: 27.8 lbs (17)
- MSRP: $3699
Iron Horse MKIII Elite Review
After a month of trailriding, I’ve got in ample miles to get a good feel for the MKIII. Compared to the 6Point6 tested in May, the MKIII feels much more XC-oriented. Maybe it’s the stretched-out cockpit (23.75-inch top-tube) or the relatively steep head tube angle (69.5 degrees), or maybe it’s just the ultralight build? All those specs would typically lean the bike more towards XC than all-mountain, but it seems that Iron Horse has this bike dialed because the only thing truly XC-ish I felt in the saddle was its climbing ability.
Ascending up tight, twisty singletrack, I felt just a titch stretched out, which translated into a little more front-end wandering than I would expect. Swapping the stock Easton EA70 stem for a stubbier Titec El Norte didn’t make much difference, but I did notice a little more tendency for the front end to raise on steep climbs. The bottom line is that this is a climber and a darn good one that that. I couldn’t find anything that phased it. Up, up, up it goes with rock-solid traction in soft, tacky dirt, over loose rocks and sand.
Of course, consistent, seated climbing is the way to go with all bikes–especially DW-Link bikes–but the MKIII responds pretty well to standing climbs when you’re caught in the wrong gear (yeah, we all do that), provided the incline isn’t too steep.
On long up-and-down trails, the MKIII feels like it’s on rails. Thanks to its light weight, momentum is easily maintained and the bike continues to feel light and flickable on rolling terrain.
Descending, this bike definitely feels like it has much more than just 5-inches of travel–the beauty of the DW-Link suspension design. Supple enough to absorb small bumps, yet squishy enough to absorb larger drops and rock gardens, the MKIII is fun on the down. I did notice a lack of braking traction due to the narrow 2.1 width rear tire. If it were up to me, I’d stick with 2.35’s on both front and rear wheels for a better balance of climbing traction and descending ability. I also couldn’t quite get the rear shock dialed in for small bump sensitivity, but the Fox Float R isn’t really all that adjustable, so maybe that’s a small sacrifice I’ll have to make.
Though the suspension can absorb plenty of stuff, you can’t just point it through rough sections–you do have to pick your line. Leave the rock-gardens for beefier machines.
The DT/Swiss wheels tracked pretty well, but are definitely more XC-oriented hoops. They are a tad flexy for my tastes. I prefer a little heavier-duty wheelset and don’t mind pedaling around the extra wheel weight in exchange for rock-solid stability. Many people prefer a lighter wheelset and these wheels are excellent performers for their weight. Elsewhere, all the components performed flawlessly. I was especially stoked on the XT disc brakes, which performed like vice grips under single digit compression. The XT shifters are also a huge improvement over LX, believe me.
The RockShox Revelation provides smooth and controlled suspension throughout it’s travel stroke. I found it to be surprisingly supple and very torsionally stiff–a nice attribute for a standard quick-release axle design. Ride quality is easily maintained with the stellar adjustability of this fork. The test bike lacked the PushLoc handlebar-mounted lockout switch, but I never use those anyway.
The only other items worth pointing out is the lack of a quick-release seatpost clamp and the pathetic grips. Do yourself a favor and pick up a quick-release seatpost clamp and swap out the grips.
- DW-Link suspension is super-smooth both up and down
- Solid, workhorse component spec
- 180mm front rotor (nice touch)
- Excellent climber… comfortable and efficient
- Predictable descender… you can push it pretty hard
- Shines on fast, rolling terrain
- RockShox Revelation fork is supple and smooth… a nice fork for this bike
- No quick-release seatclamp
- Ditch the stock grips
- Wheels are a little flexy for my tastes
- Odd 2.35/2.1 tire width combo… stick with 2.35 front/rear
The Bottom Line on the Iron Horse MKIII Elite
Very impressive indeed. Going into the test, I didn’t think I’d like the MKIII as much as I do. Yeah, I do have a couple of minor complaints, but they are minor. The overall performance of the bike has been outstanding–and at 28 lbs., you’d be hard-pressed to find another bike with this kind of performance at such a light weight. This bike is solid and fun as a single-quiver, do-it-all kind of bike for most riders.