Cove Stiffee £579

Canadian hardcore hellraiser

BikeRadar score 4/5

Well before full-suspension bikes, a small group of Canadian mountain bikers decided they needed something tougher than the average hardtail. These riders were early pioneers on Vancouver’s now-famous North Shore, and the bike that emerged was the Cove Stiffee. 

Using a radically shaped and oversized tubeset from Easton, the Stiffee delivered a strong, rigid platform on which this new breed of riders could push their limits without worrying about frame failure. Bike technology may have moved on since the first Stiffees rolled out of Vancouver’s Deep Cove bike shop in the mid-Nineties, but the current incarnation has changed surprisingly little.

Ride & handling: A super-stable choice for tough, technical trails

Relaxed angles, a long top tube and plenty of space under the bottom bracket give the Stiffee remarkably stable trail manners. Throw in a good fork, plenty of cushioning from fat tyres, wide bars and it can tackle anything. 

It can’t quite match a cross-country racer for flat-out speed, and it’s not subtle in the rough, but a well-specced Stiffee is still one of our favourite bikes for tackling tough, technical trails flat-out.

Frame: Classic Easton tubing makes for a surprisingly light chassis

The same Easton RAD tubeset used on the original Stiffee gives the main tubes on its modern incarnation their square-to-round profile, removing the need for any extra gussets while giving plenty of crash protection and torsional rigidity. 

The chainstays’ subtle ankle-clearing curve is the only evidence of tube shaping, giving plenty of clearance for 2.3in tyres. 

Meaty dropouts and chunky welds add to the utilitarian feel, while cable routing on top of the top tube and a forward-facing seat clamp help keep the crud at bay.

Subtle it isn’t; stiff and strong it definitely is. But the surprising thing about all this uncompromising overbuilding is that a bare frame only weighs around 4.5lb.

Equipment: With the right kit, the Stiffee can excel at cross-country or freeride

Stiffees are available as frames only. Our test bike arrived outfitted with a full complement of trail-biased componentry including a Shimano XT transmission, Hope brakes and hubs, and 115mm of air-sprung RockShox Revelation fork.

Impressively, this setup weighs less than 27lb all-in, making the Stiffee one of the toughest and most versatile cross-country capable hardtails around. Fit a longer fork, stronger wheels and a single chainring, and you’d have a freeride hardtail capable of taking on almost anything.

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