The Pyga Stage is available in three variants: There is the endurance racing orientated Stage (as reviewed) and the longer travel more trail inspired (although still stage race ready) Stage Max. There is also a lesser talked about in-between model often referred to as the Mini-Max.
The Pyga Stage frame is an all carbon affair designed by South Africans with the specific needs of local racing firmly in mind.
At the time of its launch, the Stage was ahead of the curve in terms of geometry design. Cross-country bikes were one of the last class of mountain bikes to embrace the longer, slacker geometry trend. Since then, many large brands have found the courage to take the leap. Pyga’s vision was to create a stage racer with confidence inspiring angles so that the average rider (you and I) could be more confident and comfortable on a bike while still capable of racing endurance events.
Looking back, the Stage launched at a tricky time for bike designers. The Boost hub axle spacing standard had yet to be widely adopted. Pyga made a decision to stick with the 142 rear axle spacing but with the implementation of Plus Five. Plus Five re-engineers the rear end to correct what Pyga sees as a flaw in bikes: the chainline offset. What they have done is offset the whole rear end of the Stage by 5mm on the drive side and in doing so reducing the chainline offset from 49mm to 44mm. The result (simply put) is better shifting thanks to a more centred chainline and a stronger rear wheel as the spokes can be more evenly dished.
There is provision for a combination of internal and external cable routing. I have the brakes going externally with the rear derailleur running internally, popping out at the bottom bracket area briefly before entering again at the chainstay. My dropper post followed the brake hosing down the underside of the down tube around the bottom bracket and into the seat tube after the shock mount.
The Stage has a direct mount for a front derailleur. As an acolyte of the single chainring drivetrain, I did not test the bike with a double chainring configuration. On Pyga’s own builds, they currently only specify the bike with a single chainring and with the introduction of SRAM’s 12-speed drivetrains, the reasons to go 2x are becoming sparser. I would not be surprised to see a future model of the Stage going one-by specific to make space for an improved frame and suspension design.
Our Stage features components from the GX SID build kit. There is also a top specification XX1 Eagle build with carbon cockpit parts.
The imaginatively named GX SID build features a full SRAM GX drivetrain with Guide RS brakes, a RockShox SID fork and Monarch shock with SRAM Roam 40 wheels.
I firmly believe that unless you’re overly weight conscious, the SRAM GX groupset offers the best value for performance in SRAM’s 11-speed and 12-speed range. The SRAM GX platform performs just as well as the X01 and XX1 drivetrains, with the slightly increased weight and reduced bragging rights being the most obvious drawbacks.
The new RockShox SID RLC, with the Charger damper technology used in the Pike, has been a revelation. The changes to this latest iteration have resulted in a fork that is set and forget, providing smooth and reliable travel.
The SRAM Guide RS brakes have been known to struggle in the South African heat, but the set on the Stage have proved to be reliable. On one occasion, they required some cleaning to get the piston to reset correctly.
The now discontinued SRAM Roam 40 wheels have proven to be more than up to the task. The Onza Canis tyres round off a sensible build, providing good grip and reliability.
Changes over the year
Pyga did very well to put together a component package that leaves no single part unworthy of its place. But even the most ingenious build selection can not account for personal preferences. I have made a few adaptions to the Stage to suit my taste.
I’m dependant on a dropper seatpost to pilot a mountain bike over anything but the most manicured trails. I’ve tried re-adapting to a rigid seatpost but I simply cannot descend comfortably with a saddle in the way. As the GX-build Stage arrived with a fixed Kore seatpost, I swiftly ordered a Lyne Contour dropper seatpost to replace it. I easily routed it through the port in the seatpost and under the bottom bracket. The cable path does mean that there is rub on the bridge connecting the chainstays. I simply placed a protective pad to prevent any harm to the carbon frame.
I also replaced the Kore Durox saddle with my preferred width Specialized Power saddle. Depending on your taste, the white saddle could be considered an eyesore but it is what I had, plus you can’t really see it when using the bike.
I made use of two sets of tyres, Specialized’s FastTrak and the Onza Canis tyres that the bike arrived with. The Onza Canis tyres deliver a bit more grip which better suited my riding style and the bike’s capabilities.
After a few hours in the saddle, my hands and the RaceFace Half Nelson grips generated friction. Although not a huge issue, the prospect of long days at Cape Pioneer Trek finally got me to change them for a pair of Supacaz Siliconez XL foam grips. While we’re talking comfort, I also tested the Spirgrips for a couple weeks on the Stage.
Finally, I tested SRAM’s GX Eagle drivetrain with the Stage. A straight swap with the 11-speed GX system already on the bike. The larger cassette range meant that I could upsize the chainring to a 34 tooth chainring. The 34 tooth chainring is apparently a sweet spot for the bike’s anti-squat (which is designed to accommodate a double chainring drivetrain), in theory, making it a more efficient climber.
On the trails
The general feel of the Pyga is one of stability and confidence. The bike does, at times, lack a sense of edge and urgency that many other cross-country bikes exhibit. But do not confuse this feeling for sluggishness. The Stage is a deceptively fast bike.
The suspension tune plays a big part in the Stage’s overall feel. The Pyga Stage suspension remains uncharacteristically active under pedalling, for a cross-country bike. It does not come standard with a remote lockout and that is because Pyga firmly believe that it is unnecessary to lockout the Stage’s shock. Pyga Euro Steel have apparently done their own testing and they are satisfied that there is little cause to have a remote lockout on their bikes (Don’t believe me? Then check out Phil Buys’s Cape Epic bike).
Although I did reach down for the lockout switch on occasions, I found myself doing it a lot less than I had expected. Despite the feeling and movement of an active suspension, the bike remains efficient and responsive with the added benefit of improved grip and comfort. For both fast-paced XCO racing and stage racing I favoured the open or pedal setting over the lockout. Even with tired legs on day 6 of Cape Pioneer Trek and tackling the infamous Swartberg pass after 80 kilometres that day, I happily pedalled to the top with the suspension unlocked.
On Pyga's recommendation, I set the shock at around 30% sag which worked well for me. Riding the bike with less sag meant that I struggled to get full travel while riding with even more sag when messing around on the trails produced really fun results (more like the bigger brother Stage Max).
While the Stage can climb with the best of them, it is on the descents where the Pyga spirit shines through. Pyga's practical approach to the race bike means that the Stage is composed on the descents, outshining many of its competitors. For most amateur riders, this will mean greater confidence and fun on the trails, and hopefully less crashes compared to a more traditional cross-country bike design. As a rider who enjoys the downs more than the ups, I thoroughly appreciated being able to get away with some tomfoolery on the Stage.
I’d highly recommend considering pairing the Stage with a 120 mm fork, the rear end has lots to offer and I felt like the 100 mm SID ran out of playfulness way before the rear end was done. Rumour on the street is that there might be 120 mm SID next year, otherwise, a Fox 34 or Pike is an excellent consideration for those looking for a do-it-all racer.
In terms of racing, I tested the Stage across disciplines participating in Western Cape XCO series and completed the Cape Pioneer Trek. While my results aren’t exactly stellar, I feel that my needs fall firmly within the scope of the general South African amateur racing market.
The Stage served well on the fast-paced and technical XCO courses where the Pyga approach to racing paid off with improved confidence (with the assistance of the dropper seat post) on the technical areas while being able to easily match my competitors (albeit it at the tail end of the race) on the climbs.
The Stage’s comfort and composure comes into its own in multi-day marathon racing along with its sturdiness and reliability. When the going gets tough, the Stage cockpit is a reassuring place to be. Although only a sample of one, I have not had a single issue relating to the frame. The build kit is equally up to the task performing without even the sign of a hiccup. The second bottle mount under the top tube offers an easily accessible and super important second water source.
The unassuming Stage gets on with the job, crushing miles and trails with easy making it an excellent race bike for pros and amateurs alike. The Pyga Stage is confidence inspiring and fast with levels of comfort that make it a perfect bike for long South African marathon races. It might not be the edgiest feeling race bike but don’t be fooled, the Stage is quick.
Specification list (as the bike stands now):
- FramePyga Stage with 100 mm rear travel (Extra Large)
- Rear ShockRockShox Monarch RT3
- ForkRockShox SID RLC 100mm
- HeadsetCane Creek Forty Series
- StemKore 70 mm
- HandlebarKORE Mega 760 mm
- GripsSupacaz Siliconez XL
- SaddleSpecailized Power 143mm
- SeatpostLyne Contour 120mm
- Seatpost clampDeed
- BrakesSRAM Guide RS
- RotorsSRAM Centreline (180mm front; 160mm rear)
- ShifterSRAM GX
- Rear DerailleurSRAM GX
- CassetteSRAM GX
- ChainSRAM GX
- CrankSRAM GX
- WheelsetSRAM Roam 40
- TyresOnza Canis 2.25
- Retail priceR74 999
Find out more:
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