With Shimano 27-speed gearing and a suspension lockout, the Xenon 29er disc is Reid’s first big-wheeled mountain bike and one the company proudly claims is Australia’s best value hydraulic disc brake model.
While we don’t agree that the Xenon is “built for true trail performance”, there’s no denying that Reid Cycles' factory-direct business model has allowed them to create an impressive bike for just AU$549.
If you’re new to mountain biking, a current hot topic relates to wheel size. Twenty-six inch hoops were the trail-going standard for a good two decades, and have only recently begun to be phased out in favour of larger wheels that offer a greater obstacle rollover effect, better momentum and more traction with the ground – with 29in models sitting in top place for these qualities.
Where previously 29er wheels were kept for expensive high-end performance bikes, there are now many big-wheeled options at the budget level – the Xenon included. Although the Xenon is pitched as a mountain bike, 29er machines also make for a popular short-ride commuting choice – and the Xenon's pannier rack mounts prove it aims to be versatile.
Ride and handling: will get you exploring trails with confidence, but not great speed
The big 29in wheels help the Xenon smooth out the trails and ease technical obstacles, giving you a sense of confidence and ride comfort rarely experienced at this price level. Despite the large hoops, the handling remains lively and it’s relatively easy to manoeuvre the Xenon through rougher sections.
The new edgy paint design is something we haven't seen before from the Australian brand
At 14.2kg, the Xenon carries weight like any other budget 29er – and this is felt when climbing or riding through stop-start type trails, such as singletrack. Using the wide-range 27-speed Shimano gears will get you to the top of the hill eventually, but it’s always a sluggish effort.
The sizing of our medium sample was spot on and true to most global brand bikes, fitting us quite comfortably, but with one complaint – handlebar height.
A riser handlebar isn't thte ideal choice for this bike, and makes it suffer on the hills and corners
Owing to the bigger wheel size, 29in bikes can suffer from an excessively tall handlebar height, and the Xenon 29er Disc provides an extreme example. While the Xenon’s high front end will feel comfortable to many in the store and on the road, it’s a different story on the trail. It creates a position that’s too upright for really steep climbs – and efficient use of all muscle groups – and causes the bike to behave nervously in corners, with not enough body weight placed over the front wheel.
To overcome this, the stem can be adjusted lower, but the Xenon’s use of tall riser bars remains an issue. Casual users won’t be bothered, but those seeking to get the most from the bike will want to lower that handlebar some, or perhaps even look at getting a wide flat handlebar.
The SR Suntour XCT suspension fork isn’t a favourite of ours – and its lack of dampening control and rather pogo stick-like ride causes the front wheel to skip over bumps at speed rather than keeping traction. Riders over 90kg will likely find this fork just too soft.
The lockout switch sits on the top right of the fork
Frame and equipment: solid and well-chosen componentry that defy the price
Despite our issues with the XCT, at this price-point it remains arguably the best available option and newer riders will appreciate the job it does to reduce the shock from bigger hits. Aiding efficiency on smoother surfaces is the ability to lock out the fork, though it can only be switched once you stop and unweight the bike.
Decent quality tubing for this frame
If the fork is a slightly hit and miss affair, the double-butted and hydroformed aluminium frame represents a far more wholeheartedly positive step by Reid, with modern tube shapes, frame angles and decent construction quality all present and correct. Even the paintjob showcases a relatively edgy design with less obvious branding. Little details include rack mounts and well thought-out cable routing that should avoid all but the worst of mud spray.
The Suntour XCM cranks don’t shift as crisply as a Shimano model, but are a solid option allowing for chainring replacement
The 27-speed Shimano Acera gears offers a reliable shift and generous range that’s easily controlled through the numbered trigger shifters on the handlebar.
A big selling point of this bike is its Tektro HD-330 hydraulic disc brakes, something we’ve used extensively in the past, but never before on a bike quite this cheap. While basic – and lacking lever reach adjust – the hydraulic design provides smooth, easily controllable power and requires minimal maintenance to keep it that way.
The colour matched hubs are a nice touch and add a further touch of class, though the supplied quick releases are cheap and require a fair bit of hand force and fiddling to tighten correctly. Just be careful and patient if you’re removing the wheel, as getting the wheel back to the right tension is crucial to avoid disc brake rubbing.
The Kenda Small Block Eight tyres are something we often test on performance bikes
At your rearmost contact point, the well-padded Velo saddle is a common sight on budget bikes and should suit a wide range of behinds. Further forward though, the rubber grips consistently twist on the handlebar – although easily fixed with some hairspray or cheap change of grips, this is something to beware of.
The Reid Xenon’s component list is comparable to popular big brand bikes that cost between $650 and $850. That price consideration raises a wider question – factory-direct vs traditional bike store – but as a physical product, it’s hard to deny the Reid's value for money.
If you’ve got a budget of about $500 and want to ride some trails, the Xenon 29er Disc should be high on your list.