Paul Brodie, one of the few frame designers in the MTB Hall of Fame, started building custom frames more than 20 years ago and is said to be the Vancouver BC originator of the sloping top tube that has become the MTB norm. He sold his company in the '90s but his fresh approach to design and build quality lives on in the name.
The Mettle is one of seven medium travel options in Paul Brodie's Marathon range. Tipping the scales at just under 28lb, it straddles the fine line between efficient all-round XC ability and forays into terrain that challenges hardtails and XC race-tuned rigs.
The design detail of the Mettle is superb. The steep seat angle (74 degrees) sits you well forward for efficient pedalling, and you can really work the fork, while shortish chainstays and the very stable suspension feel out back produce excellent climbing ability. The sloping top tube is braced across to the extended seat tube and the top tube length on the Medium bike is 23in, ideal for efficient posture on fast cross-country rides.
There is plenty of room around the 2.1in Wilderness Trail Bike ExiWolf tyres, but we're surprised that the seat clamp slot doesn't face forward in order to help keep it away from the rear-wheel spray. The head tube is bridge-gussetted across to the biaxially ovalised down tube. All the pivot points use quality cartridge bearings, the headset is integral and there are two sets of bottle bosses.
The finishing kit is all decent quality. The Rapidfire shifters and rear mech are Shimano XT, there's an LX mech up front and power comes from Truvativ's lightweight Stylo GXP cranks. Mavic CrossRide rims keep wheel weight reasonable and Avid's Juicy 5s are great brakes.
The Marzocchi Bomber MX Pro Lo fork has decent rebound damping control and a lockout, while the rocker mounted Fox Float R shock on the four-bar linkage back end keeps things tight, to the point of feeling constipated on smaller bumps, but consequently controlled on climbs and manageable on bigger rocky, rooty stuff.
All contact points, including clipless pedals, add to precise control and comfort, and that's exactly what comes across when you're hammering through the sort of twitchy high-speed singletrack that brings out the Mettle's best characteristics.
The handling boasts a balance of stability and nimbleness that's hard to achieve on longer travel bikes without compromises in shock function and bottom bracket height. While the lack of sofa comfort out back may tempt some to go for one of the slightly longer travel 125mm (4.9in) bikes in the Marathon range, that has to be weighed up against the tighter climbing abilities of a shorter travel bike like the Mettle.
For XC riders, especially recent hardtail convertees, who simply want a lively bike that can take a bit of punishment from time to time, the Mettle is a good value, well sorted machine.