In the automotive world, redline is a term meaning about as far as you want to push an engine through each gear without risk of it going kaboom. In the bicycle business, Redline is a company with a reputation for creating fairly unique niche models (such as single-speeds and 29ers- before they became all the rage).
The D-series represents the brand's departure from the niche-world and while a hardtail 29er is still a bit of anomaly in a market that tells us 26-inch wheeled dual suspension is the hot setup of late, the top-of-the-line D680 is as "normal" as it's going to get.
The Redline D680 starts with an aluminum frame mated to a Fox 29 RLC FIT fork. WTB Laser Disc wheels come wrapped in Kenda Small Block Eights (width of 2.10 inches). Drivetrain is all SRAM (X9 shifters, front derailleur, X0 rear derailleur, SRAM chainrings, cassette and hubs). Truvativ X9 cranks provide the go and Avid Elixir 7s the stop. Pedals are not included and ours came in at 26.79 pounds total weight.
A unit identical to ours could be purchased for $3,099
Even though marketed as a do-it-all bike, the D680 has a feel very reminiscent to dedicated cross-country hardware from a standstill. In particular the saddle puts the rider in a position that feels very far to the rear of the bike/ away from the bars. However, unlike a genuine cross-country rig, the Redline's top tube isn't all that long (23.5") so the actual riding position is fairly upright and relaxed.
Additionally the claim to fame for most 29-inch wheeled bikes is that when compared to a 26er, you feel more "inside" the bike than you do atop it. This is not the case with the D680. Because the rear triangle is fairly short, the riding position feels remarkably un-29er like both at a standstill and (especially) in motion.
Setting up the suspension is as simple as pressurizing the Fox fork to the recommended sag for your weight.
The days of 29-inch wheels being synonymous with sluggish acceleration and dead steering are certainly behind us and the Redline D680 is right there leading the new school charge. Acceleration is brisk and popping through the gears reveals a nice head of steam- especially via standing efforts.
In action the bike feels quite slim and controllable but the larger wheels and additional frame material required to support them keep it from ever achieving the type of nimbleness one might find in an aluminum 26-inch hardtail of similar spec. This isn't a bad thing however, as too wispy a handling bike can be trouble on descents. The D680 makes use of its bulk in the form of stability and the steering is way sharper than any 29er has a right to be with none of the "flopping over" sensation one might expect with razor sharp leverage at the bar. Our best means of making the most out of the Redline D package? Pedal as hard or as smoothly as you want to get up to speed then let the 680 carry all the momentum you can control. The 15QR front axle assures your front wheel will stay planted and the Avid Elixir 7s are totally up to the task of bringing you back into your comfort zone should the next corner come up on you quicker than expected.
Odds and Ends
There really isn't much we would consider changing were we laying out the D680's spec sheet. The close spacing of the Kenda Small Block's knobs make it a great choice for hardpack (and even pavement) rolling but do the chassis a disservice in the technical stuff; especially the slippery roots that make up a majority of our east coast testing grounds. The move to a more aggressive knobby can turn the D680 into a much more capable trail bike.
Glancing at the hard facts alone really makes the Redline DSixEighty appear average in all categories. At over $3000, it isn't the most affordable aluminum 29er hardtail out there by a long shot and weighing in at close to 27-pounds, it is nowhere near the lightest either. The specs, though solid, are all workman-class bits with no carbon fiber or shiny polished bling to get your friends drooling. But in operation, the D680 provides quite a unique riding experience; one that took even our jaded test riders by surprise. We were only a tire swap away from a trail bike that begged to be pushed along some of our favorite technical loops. While some would argue that rear suspension would only take away from the bike's purity, we liked the geometry and feel of the Redline enough to say that slapping a Fox Float onto a proven linkage on a future variation of the D680 could very well be the formula for the ultimate do-it-all mountain bike.