Evans Cycles sells so many bike brands that it’s easy to overlook its own keenly priced Pinnacle bikes. The Iroko Two has been reduced from £1100, however, and its undiluted spec makes it stand out clearly against the backdrop of £800 bikes, whoever they’re made by.
As a do-it-all hardtail, the Pinnacle is a sound choice. It’s light, the groupset is great, and the fork is actually better than those of most mainstream brands. What it lacks is focus: it claims to be ‘bred for pure performance’ but we’d dispute that. With a supple air fork and some fast tyres, this could be a real singletrack whippet.
Ride & handling: Climbs and accelerates well
The Iroko rides like what it is: a crosscountry hardtail. Its spacious reach and low weight mean that it climbs well and can easily be whipped up to speed. What it doesn’t do so well is carry that speed. Partly it’s the tyres, but a lot is down to the coil fork. Its stiffer spring doesn’t react as well to small bumps so it doesn’t ripple over them and so squanders momentum. It’s more jarring on your hands too, which are supporting more of your weight because of the riding position.
Fork travel is limited for bigger hits. It’s 100mm anyway and we didn’t get near that. Leaning forward on a bike that biffs off bumps instead of swallowing them makes it feel precipitous on technical descents. We had a nervous moment on a rollable drop with a rough run-out. On the plus side, the Shimano M575 brakes have good modulation for budget brakes, so you can easily keep you speed under control.
With its neat chrome finish and modestly oversized round aluminium tubes, the frame looks similar to Merlin Malts we have tested in the past. The top tube flares wider at the head tube, while the down tube is reinforced with a gusset. It’s ample support for a short fork. The default riding position is more cross-country than trail. The handlebar doesn’t sit as high since it’s on the top of a 100mm fork, and the top tube and stem are both on the long side of average.
Unlike some XC bikes, it’s not rock-rakingly low at the bottom bracket either. The fork is a Recon Gold TK coil with a standard 9mm axle. Any Recon fork is normally a cause for celebration at this price. This coil one is decent but you will only get sufficient travel and a nice small bump response if you’re heavy enough for the spring. Many XC riders won’t be. In comparison with other budget coil forks it’s quite plush and well controlled. But once you have backed off the preload as far as it’ll go, there’s nothing else you can do to free up the spring. Available travel is thus weight dependent.
Equipment: SLX throughout, 30-speed and nice wheels
Where the Iroko Two really scores is with its groupset, which is SLX throughout and 30-speed to boot. An extra gear will help you keep your pedalling cadence constant. It doesn’t change the range any more than a volume knob that goes up to 11 makes a speaker louder. This cassette is 11-34, although Shadow rear derailleurs will cope with a 36T bottom sprocket.
Wheels have Shimano Centrelock hubs and nice Mavic rims. It's good to see lock-on grips ― cheap grips can come off in your hands, especially when they start to wear and the handlebar is lubricated by heavy rain. These will stay put.
If you’re prepared to turn your back on bike shop brands and buy direct, your money does go further. However, don’t forget that your local bike shop provides services that an own-brand retailer might not. The Pinnacle Iroko Two is a lightweight and keenly specced XC hardtail whose neutral ride and singletrack pace would benefit from an even better fork and some livelier tyres.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike