Bionicon’s Edison Grace women's frame is identical to the regular men's version, featuring the same adjustable travel system that takes the bike from 70mm cross-country steep to 150mm all-mountain hammer at the push of a button.
No changes to the bike’s shape have been made to accommodate shorter riders. Instead, the Grace has shed a few grams by fitting a lighter wheel package – courtesy of DT Swiss and Alex – and the usual contact points have been altered.
The thinking seems to be that female riders interested in riding the sort of terrain demanding the Grace’s 150mm front end will want to hang onto the travel without incurring the weight penalty of a burlier build. Add a SRAM drivechain and Bionicon’s quirky suspension ideas and you’ve got one unique ride.
However, while the Grace is capable of facing all sorts of challenges, it’s not the ultimate solution to any of them yet.
Ride & handling: Deceptively sprightly ride, but needs Alpine terrain to make the most of adjustablility
Out on the trail, Grace has a light, lively ride, which we attributed to the DT Swiss wheel package and fast-rolling Scwhalbe tyres. Shedding rotating mass means more than dropping grams elsewhere and for female riders, who have less power to play with in the first place, the effect is doubly dramatic.
Bionicon’s selling point is their rather unusual suspension design. The air chambers in the shock and fork are linked via a central air reservoir. Press the bar-mounted switch to open the connection between the fork and rear shock, then either lean on the bars to drop the travel up front or sit back to lengthen the fork.
Each action has a corresponding effect on frame geometry, giving two different rides at the extremes of travel, but the system also enables you to pick any point between the two for the sake of versatility.
It takes a serious weight shift to shuttle between the two travel settings, though, and we discovered that unless you’ve got a few seconds of dead trail with few demands, it’s nigh on impossible for lighter riders to get from short to long in one hit.
This means that while the adjustable travel system works well on the long climbs and descents of the Alpine terrain where the Bionicon was spawned, it isn’t so effective for thrashing around the woods.
If you’re prepared to stop at the top and bottom of each section to switch the travel, or are willing to tolerate the wallowing and wander of the longer travel mode on flats and climbs, it’s an interesting and worthy ride.
However, it doesn’t do anything a well designed 5in travel bike can’t manage (and that wouldn’t need to be spoon-fed its adjustments). Don’t even think about using the 70mm setting as the default, either – it’s hair-raisingly steep and twitchy if the terrain’s not flat.
Frame & equipment: Dubious tyre and saddle choice demands swift upgrading
There are a number of spec issues that cause concern. The lightweight Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres don’t sit comfortably on a bike that’s this capable on fast, technical descents. They’re fine in a straight line, but as soon as the going gets twisty, fast or loose, they spit both ends all over the place. This leaves you with the questionable options of slowing right down or crashing your brains out.
The own-label saddle was another bafling choice: the long, broad nose bears a fair resemblance to a triathlon perch and while it’s slim enough to get right off the back without hindrance, it isn’t comfortable for any length of time – a problem compounded by the significant change in geometry at the two extents of travel.
Set the seat angle at the long end of the spectrum and you’ll find yourself working hard to keep your ass in the right place while hammering the pedals in cross-country mode. Set it with the fork and shock locked down and you’ll find yourself sliding off the back once the setting swings back to shred.
Moreover, it takes time to get the contact points in the right place on the Grace, and having a bar clamp integrated into the Double Agent fork limits your tweaking options.
There isn’t much space in the cockpit once the fork’s wound out and we advise you watch out for your knees when climbing out of the saddle. We also found the two frame struts that form a ‘shell’ around the shock protrude enough for pedalling legs to pose a problem, and the shock’s rebound knob was so deeply buried that we needed to use pliers to alter it.