Hard to tell from this pic , but not quite right.

There was a comment I read in Bike magazine over a decade ago that went something along the lines of “take note of those rocks and roots on the trail – they were put there for you”. What makes us different from our tarmac surfing siblings is the varied and difficult nature of our trails, not to mention where they can take us. I enjoy cycling in all disciplines, but love mountain biking. I describe it to be people as an outdoors arcade game. The fact I might get fresh air and exercise whilst I ‘play’ it is very much a bonus.

Anyway, I digress. There is so much debate at the moment around the dumbing down of trails and which wheel size is best. A keen argument from 26 inch wheel aficionados is that they want to feel the rocks and roots on the trails. I find it interesting that no one seems to make the same argument when new bikes come out with longer travel. When the new Nomad was announced no one cried out that this was going to make their favourite trail too easy and only a barge pole in 10 foot of length could bring them in to contact with Santa Cruz’s carbon squishy goodness. Funny. But now my point – My hardtail has been reinvigorating my local trails. All those rocks and roots I had nigh on forgotten have been steadily re-introducing themselves and I’ve been delighted to make their acquaintance. The hardtail hasn’t at all removed my enjoyment from riding. It’s just changed it slightly. And right now, for the better.

I’ve had a small setback though. The Rodfather recently honoured me with his presence and although renown for spotting cracks on peoples bikes, this time he pointed out a fairly obvious mis-alignment of my rear wheel (it must be all that time he spent riding behind me). And to think I had been amazed how well I was carving right hand corners. After a short e-mail conversation with Ragley and Chain Reaction the Big Wig was packaged up and on it’s way back to Northern Ireland for further investigation.

This could have left me in a difficult situation (now I have just the one mountain bike), but truth be told I was going to buy a new frame anyway as part of this experiment. I have bought a new frame, but I’ll let you know what I chose in a later installment. I thought now I’d let you know what my short list was after some extensive and exhaustive internet bothering.

The brief: Steel, 650B, slacker geometry with long front centre, rear through axle.

Well, here’s what made the shortlist.

Stanton Switchback

Stanton’s reputation is what put me on to this one. It looks beautiful with the build on the site and in green. It even has a 65 degree head angle. It has a through axle, but earliest availability is June.

Photo: Stanton bikes

NS Bikes Eccentric

This bike looks the business in its split colour paint job, is very reasonably priced, made out of Tange tubing and all boxes ticked. Many have said it looks just like a Production Privee Shan – and they might be right.

Photo: NS Bikes

On-one 45650B

Modeled after On-one’s very successful 456 this had everything other than the through axle but made up for it by being crazy cheap. I previously had an Inbred 29er and was well impressed with its trail manners.

Photo: On-one Bikes

Surly Instigator 2.0

This one came a little out of left field. It is described as 26+ as you can run 26 inch wheels with massive tyres (2.75 inch tyres on 50mm rims). What you can also do is run 650B wheels (around the same rolling diameter). It’s certainly interesting.

Photo: Surly Bikes

Kona Explosive

This was a reboot of the Explosive but with 27.5 wheels. After the success of the Honzo, it had to be on a shortlist. Just a shame the 2014 models doesn’t have the same raw paint job as the 2013. Also available in Titanium.

Photo: Kona Bicycles

Commencal Meta AM HT

This one is actually alloy, and no through axle, so it didn’t meet the brief. Was still on the shortlist though. You can’t knock a Commencal. They certainly doing something right. And it was pretty competitively priced.

Photo: Commencal


This is a new UK company. No bike out quite yet, but a reasonable price and looked like a lot of fun.

Photo: Bird Bicycles

Then there were also a couple of bikes I found very desirable, but were too much for my budget.

Breadwinner Bad Otis

Fantastic attention to detail (but the fork looks a little too big for it in this pic).

Photo: Bread Winner Bicycles

Commencal Meta HT ti

It doesn’t come much better than this. Everything just looks right. And Titanium. Mmmmm….

Photo: Commencal Bikes

That’s enough for now. I’ll let you know more about my decision making process in the next instalment.

In the mean time, here is a great edit from Production Privee on the Porsche 917 inspired Shan paint job.

What would be on your shortlist?

14 Responses

  1. Don’t, but don’t order anything without riding the Surly first. You will be shocked at the difference those low pressure fat tyres make, yet with none of the downsides you might associate with fat bikes.

  2. great to see some good hardtails again. It seems fashionn dictates 6″ trail bikes with dropper seats but nothing takes away from good old trail feed back throgh a rigid rear end. Long live the hard tai on rough technical tacks. GoHome namby pamby riders on groomed trails and too much suspension!

  3. great piece Mark. …and a reminder for you crack losers out there…If you can’t find your crack, its just below your back!happy to help.

  4. reckon you should have a look at Chris Dekerf’s product, out of Canada. North Shore has similar riding conditions in NZ, my Tange Redemption is still going strong, purchased 1998.

  5. How about the new Cotic Soul 275? Up until a couple of months ago I was riding the latest version of the 26″ Soul – with 150mm travel up front and dropper post. Absolutely loved the way it rode. The new 650b version should fit the bill. Admittedly it has no rear thru axle but I ran mine with a 10mm RWS thru bolt and all was dandy.

    And the Chromag Stylus really looks the goods too.

  6. I’m hoping it’s the bad Otis, big fan of breadwinners philosophy. That wonky ragley reminds me of on-ones from a while back, guess not much has changed!

  7. It’s a tough one. I think that the Privee wins on the looks and video contest, although the NS had a rather nice enigmatic feel.

  8. I was very close to going BigWig, but now have lined up a Cotic Solaris – here’s hoping all the steel hardtail shiz is all it’s cracked up to be !!.Trivia bonus; That Privee 917 vid clip pays homage to the opening of Steve McQueens classic “Le Mans” movie

  9. you guys should start a “help with hemorrhoids” or “my wife has left me cause i wont cut my mullet” blog

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