Pace is renowned for innovation. Among it’s industry ﬁrsts are carbon legged forks and threadless headsets, but there are plenty more.
Likewise, its ﬁrst-ever bike, the legendary RC100 hardtail, was so far ahead of its time that it’s hard to comprehend now just how revolutionary some of the new ideas that went into making it were.
Although the RC405 can trace its heritage back to the RC100, it’s a different beast. While the solid, practical engineering approach of Pace’s owner and designer Adrian Carter is still clear to see, the reality of a competitive market means this isn’t quite in the same genre-deﬁning maverick mould of its illustrious predecessor.
Unlike the RC100, no attempts have been made here to rebuild the mountain bike from the ground up. Round proﬁle 6061 aluminium tubes make up the front-end plumbing, reinforced with box section gussets at the vulnerable head and seat tube junctions. Neat welds above and below the down tube around the lower shock mount are the only visible hint of the cunning reinforcing rib hidden inside.
Meanwhile, the rear swingarm is an exercise in minimalist pragmatism, using classically shaped oval proﬁle tubes – curved where appropriate for extra mud and ankle clearance – to good effect. The rear end isn’t very pretty or high-end in appearance, but we also found it pleasingly devoid of funky multi-proﬁle tube chicanery, though that’s a matter of taste.
The Pace’s pièce de résistance is the ﬂoating shock. Instead of being anchored to the frame at one end, it gets squished by two pairs of neatly machined rockers, which are driven by the swingarm. It’s a neat trick that has allowed Pace to deliver a ﬁnely-tuned leverage rate without compromising rear-end rigidity or durability.
Our test bike belongs to Pace co-owner and wife of the designer, Cathy Carter, and came outﬁtted with an upgraded DT Swiss XR Carbon shock and a wishlist of high-end components that helped to nudge the weight down to 26lb. Still, it would be easy to ﬁt more wallet-friendly components without too much impact on the weight.
Some bikes excel at one thing in particular, while others are competent all-rounders. The RC405 doesn’t sit comfortably in either of these categories. It delivers a ride feel that’s noticeably better than merely competent, but excels at nothing either.
The ﬂoating rear end turns out to be an effective answer to the conundrum of how to build a bike that doesn’t pogo under power, but still tracks over the bumps. Noticeably bob-free even without the aid of a shock that has complex platform valving, the Pace surges forward with none of the sag and wallow that can afﬂict some of the plushest full-sussers, and offers a taut feel that time-served trail riders will appreciate.
Small bump sensitivity and technical climbing traction give you enough of a helping hand to make forays out of the saddle a last resort. And when you turn up the wick and snick into the big ring, there’s plenty of travel kept in reserve to make ducking and diving down narrow singletrack a genuine pleasure. The tight handling and compact frame only adds to the feeling of conﬁdence. Stomp, go and grin. It’s an easy bike to ride.
The detractions are few – the design of the swingarm contributes to a clattery, chain bounce-driven soundtrack in the rough, and there are 130mm bikes out there that offer more in the way of instant plush. But we’re just splitting hairs. The RC405 is a very ﬁne trail bike indeed, and it’s designed for riding in British conditions.
While today’s commercial realities may have forced Pace to leave some of the engineering purity on the drawing board, the RC405’s practical, no-nonsense design and great handling make a compelling package for tackling any trail.
Proof of the Pace’s no-nonsense, practical design is in the acres of clearance between the rear tyre and the various bits of bendy aluminium tube that make up the rear swingarm. There simply isn’t anywhere here for mud to collect – and that’s something that very few suspension bikes can claim.
Maybe British mud is different, or maybe there’s just more of it. Whatever the reason, we’ve been fans of the Crud Catcher front mudguard since we saw the ﬁrst prototype a couple of decades ago. Fittingly, the Pace has neat bosses under the down tube so you can bolt a Crud Catcher right on.
We’re big fans of the concept of bikes designed in Britain for British riding, but the reality is that there are some things our Germanic cousins do better. One of them is bearings. The RC405’s pivot bearings are German-made and our experience suggests they last extremely well, even under the very worst UK riding conditions.
A mix of great handling, taut feel and predictable suspension make the Pace a compelling trail companion. It may not be as plush as the best of the competition and the rear end aesthetics are an acquired taste. But if you’re looking for a good value, British-designed trail all-rounder that’s capable of taking on pretty much anything, the Pace RC405 will serve you well.