It's taken Yorkshire suspension and frame fanatics Pace nearly two decades of development to finally get their XC full suspension bike honed to their satisfaction. Yet it seems the best things are worth waiting for.
The new frame looks very similar to the superb RC303 hardtail, but every tube is altered in thickness or dimension to handle the bigger hits and higher speed of flat-out full suspension riding. It's slightly longer and higher than the hardtail and the head angle is also a degree slacker than the prototype bike we got to ride earlier this year. Plus the BB comes up 10mm for pedal clearance.
The top linkage has been deepened for maximum stiffness at the shock top, while the lower link is reinforced with a plate web-welded vertically inside the down tube. All cables and hoses route under the BB for easy access. The 303's top practical touches like 2.5in tyre clearance, Crud Catcher bosses and light cable guide are all retained, while the sealed SKF bearings are further protected by preloaded, O-ring sealed caps to keep Brit grit out. At 6.2lb for the frame it'll build up light enough to race or tough enough to steam downhill depending on your priorities.
All the years of fine tuning and suspension fettling certainly haven't been wasted either, as the RC405 feels totally sorted as soon as you sit on it. Long enough to leather it up climbs but short enough to throw your weight around and pump, jump and manual it all over the trail. We also found steering is spot on for aggressive riding. Sharp enough to surf for traction or snap 'n' steer through singletrack - several gears higher than normal - but stable enough to hit random rockeries flat out.
All the work on core strength and stiffness is obvious on fast cobbly sweepers, off-camber drops or washed out step sections. However sketchy we were riding or big the terrain became, the RC405 just stayed totally calm and controlled while delivering all the information you needed to get out safe however stupid we'd been.
The twin Free Floater linkages create a surprisingly supple initial feel with smoothly progressive track for superb control and clarity over mid-to-big hits. Early chain feedback for traction and firm pedal response morphs into a tall curved comeback for plush, kickback free end stroke as well. Impressive complete bike weight and the integrated head tube keeping the front end low, means it climbs really well whether it's a long spinner or a sudden rat-up-a-pipe trail moment.
There are a whole load of fantastic do-it-all 5in trail bikes around right now, but there's no doubt that the new Pace comes in right at the top of the heap. It's involving, encouraging, smooth, sharp, alert, agile, raceable, raggable with perfect techy handling manners, but most of all it's just got that rare and elusive 'Every ride is a riot' character that separates the best from the rest.
Look out for the 6in and 4in versions, plus rolling chassis Pace fork plus DT wheel packages soon.