The Malvern Star Switch 27.3 is a 27.5in/650b mountain bike that comes at an entry-level price point. While Malvern Star haven’t discontinued either its 29in or 26in options, the 27. series claims to combine the benefits of both. We may not agree that’s it’s the best of both worlds, but the Switch 27.3 is still a promising ride.
Ride and handling: confident and capable, disadvantaged by parts choice
The Switch 27 is a top handling bike that we quickly grew to trust and, more importantly, enjoy riding. It is confident off-road confidence and respectably efficient on-road, making it a great do-it-all starter bike.
The mid-sized wheels and short stubby stem help to create a nimble feeling ride. The top tube is marginally longer than the Avanti Montari we recently tested, and we found this put us in a comfortable position for extended pedalling, such as on long climbs.
Proportionately wide, low-rise handlebars give plenty of leverage when tipping the bike into corners and accelerating back out. Through the corners the bike feels natural, with easy steering and little sign of over or under steering.
When it comes to suspension forks, there isn't much choice at this price point
Much like we experienced with the Giant Talon and Avanti Montari, the SR-Suntour XCT fork is underwhelming and limits the bike's ability when it's off-road. It's with this in mind that we say if you're looking for a bike to start mountain biking with, spend a little more and get something with a better fork – it was truly shocking how much the fork hindered the bike’s otherwise capable handling.
Frame and equipment: impressive performance given the price
The frame is simple, making use of now common tube manipulation techniques. Clever tube curvature created a stiff frame that was still aesthetically pleasing, for example, the diamond shaped down tube, which provided plenty of stiffness all the way down to the cranks, without adding weight.
Many testers noted just how good the matte black and blue colour scheme looked. With a few anodised blue highlights thrown in, the Switch has a subtle style.
Full length cable housing to the rear derailleur was a practical addition
Having clearly been designed to handle a little mud and grit, the frame guides a full length cable housing from the shifter to the rear derailleur. The front derailleur is slightly less sensitive than the rear and has open cabling and so is exposed to contamination.
The non-branded tyres had a great compromise tread
The wheels feature narrow rims and basic hubs, yet are up to task and suitable for the price-point. The non-branded 2.0in tyres are fast rolling, handle dry conditions with confidence and are a compromise for road and off-road use – just be careful with wet riding.
Mechanical disc brakes are easy to adjust and reliable, but don't offer the same lever feel, power or sealed durability of a hydraulic brake. While there is power on tap, the hand force required is far higher than that of even a basic hydraulic brake, leading to fast hand fatigue. Integrated brake and gear shifters add an additional cost if you ever upgrade to hydraulic brakes.
The contact points of the bike are all uninspiring. The grips tend to twist on the bars, the quality saddle is too firm for such a recreational bike and the basic plastic pedals offer little traction or durability once off-road. Luckily all these parts are reasonably cheap to replace and are often the first items to change when personalising a new bike.
The SR Suntour cranks surprised us
The eight-speed gearing is basic and has a plastic feel during shifting. A chainstay protector is highly recommended for protecting the frame from the soft sprung Altus rear derailleur. Basic SR-Suntour cranks surprised us with fast and smooth shifting – they perform better than the most basic cranks from Shimano.
With a better fork, gearing and hydraulic brakes, the more expensive Switch 27.5 looks to combine the easy handling we loved with appropriate parts for off-road use. If you want a bike to ride casually with occasional off-road use, the Switch 27.3 is a fun, capable ride at a stellar price.