Titus El Guapo (frame only) - First look £1699.99

Pure all-mountain machine

BikeRadar score 4/5

'El Guapo’ means ‘The Handsome One’ in Spanish and the bike is certainly, um, extensively shaped. Titus’s heavy-duty all-mountain frame has been around for a while, but it’s been totally redone for 2010.

Ride & handling: Light but stable, with true all-mountain abilities

If you’ve got a fast, scarily steep, rock-strewn descent to tackle, the El Guapo could be your new best friend. Despite its relatively low weight (14kg/31lb for our complete build), it stays planted thanks to a stiff chassis and impressive suspension performance.

On paper, the 68-degree head angle doesn’t sound that relaxed, but on the trail you get a real 'pocket downhill bike' feel. It responds well to different riding styles – the El Guapo will point and shoot with the best of them, but if you want flick and finesse, it does that too.

Some of that impressive poise is down to the bottom bracket, which is a whisker lower than you might expect for a 6in-plus (155mm) travel bike. Still, it isn’t excessively low – climbing extremely rocky trails with the fork locked down may mean pedal strikes, but it wasn’t an issue on the descents.

The all-mountain tag demands a bike that can be pedalled uphill without too much angst, and the El Guapo delivers. Anyone on a lightweight, short-travel bike is going to leave you for dead, but the Titus delivers an entirely acceptable performance.

The front does wander a bit, but that’s easily remedied with weight shifting or by taking the Fox 36 TALAS traval-adjust fork down a notch. The plush back end benefits from a hint of ProPedal platform damping on smoother climbs, but you won’t lack traction when things get choppy.

Frame: Total redesign for 2010 with distinctive tube shapes

The seat tube is about the only straight tube here, and that’s only because it needs to fit a seatpost and front mech. Everything else has been subjected to Titus’s high-temperature Advanced Thermal Forming tube-shaping wizardry.

The flattened, humpbacked top tube is the most obvious, but our favourite bit is the one-piece seatstay. In its previous incarnation, this was made from three bits that were welded together, but the new frame has a single tube that runs up from one dropout, around the front of the seat tube and back to the other dropout.

The seatstays drive the forged linkage that pushes a Fox RP23 shock. Unusually, the El Guapo is a ‘proper’ four-bar bike – Titus are one of the few US manufacturers to license the FSR patent from Specialized. Up front is a versatile 1.5in head tube, which can fit pretty much any fork you like.

UK Titus distributors Axel Imports sell frames only, so if you live in Britain, components are up to you. Our test bike was put together with solid kit, including the ever-so-slightly ostentatious Industry Nine wheels and impressive Fox fork.

RaceFace Atlas AM cranks combined with Shimano XT shifters and mechs got things moving, while Hope M4 brakes kept them under control.

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