Shops producing their own bikes isn't a new phenomenon - check the ads in MBUK and several shops specify, brand and build bikes to supplement the big manufacturers they also stock. Building bikes under their own name enables shops to offer exceptionally good deals on bikes, with many models featuring up-specced parts at lower price points. So, if you're prepared to forego a big name on the down tube, you can often get more bike for less cash. Enter stage left the Edinburgh Bike Coop Revolution Scandium, their lightest, most performance-orientated model.
With Scandium in the name, the super light steel is obviously the material of choice for this 1.25kg (2.75lb) XC hardtail. To break the 3lb barrier on a hardtail frame, you have to use thin-walled tubes, but how thin? Flick a fingernail on the top tube and you get a nice highpitched 'ping', so don't drop the bike, OK? At a glance the plain matt black frame looks neat and well put-together, with ring reinforcement on the head tube, a small neat down tube gusset, zip tie-friendly hose mounts, twin bottle bosses and a pretty one-piece wishbone seatstay yoke. The whole shooting match is neatly welded, painted and presented, not at all what you'd expect from a frame that costs so little. We'd have liked another half a degree in the head angle to slow, but not kill, the steering.
The frame is available on its own, if you're just looking to transplant your existing running gear, or as tested here with a Shimano XT/XTR build. There's little to complain about where parts are concerned - even the budget (but very tidy) Guizzo carbon bar and seatpost look and feel the business, not something that's often said when budget and carbon are used together.
The Velo Ti railed saddle started off hard but seemed to get more compliant as the test progressed. The air-sprung Manitou Scareb fork has external compression and rebound adjustment and, like other Scarebs we've ridden, felt too linear, moving swiftly through its stroke even when pumped up hard. We like the easy-to-use lock-out though.
We wanted to love the Scandium, we really did, but we couldn't. Every tester who rode it complained of a feeling of flexibility throughout the frame, especially when jammed through tight, rooty singletrack trails. 'The rear wheel feels like it's going to fall out,' was an often-heard comment. We checked the spoke tension and the QRs and both were tight. It wasn't just a feeling either, because the perfectly adjusted gears persisted in ghost shifting during the test, especially in high torque situations.
Don't get us wrong, a degree of compliance we can live with, but this amount of fl ex is too much. If likened to another bike for comparison's sake, it would have to be an early model Proflex, as both made us glad to come to the end of the ride. Compared to the way the bike felt, the fact that it suffers from minimal rear tyre clearance (with Tioga 2.1in XC tyres) is hardly worth mentioning. This bike is aimed at racers on a budget; both will be lured by the promise of a sub-3lb frame for under £300, but ultimately no racer will stand for a flexy bike.