When you first clap eyes on the Bolinas Ridge, you can't help but be impressed by its classic cross-country hardtail looks. This bike is just begging you to take it for a long blast.
Slim octagonal main tubes are strengthened by a throat gusset at the head tube and fatten at the bottom bracket to resist pedaling twist. Forged dropouts include mudguard/rack eyelets as well as disc mounts and 'straight through' brake cable routing means it won't look messy if you do upgrade to disc brakes later. There's plenty of room for very muddy or much bigger tyres in the wide stance A-frame style back end, and crotch clearance across the top tube is good as well. It's also available in a 'women's geometry' 15in size.
The increased frame quality means kit is equal to rather than better than some cheaper bikes, but the oversize bar and stem keep the keen handling feedback-rich. The Truvativ chainset is also a good looking, smooth shifting piece although it's another fixed ringer where chainring wear will eventually mean complete replacement. Acera rear, C050 front changers work dutifully through the EZ Fire shifters and the Pro Max V-brakes are fine.
You get disc ready hubs as a real bonus for future upgrades, and we rate the chunky, comfy and reliably trail-ready Kenda tyres too.
The ride position is an immediately friendly balance of medium height front end and top tube reach, giving you enough room to breathe but still keeping you upright and relaxed. The multi-butted tubes are tuned for each frame size which is something you would usually expect on a much more expensive frame.
Hit the trails and this pedigree is noticeable immediately in an enjoyably responsive rather than leaden feel on the trail. It smoothes the sharp edges off trail obstacles nicely, and it's no slouch under the hammer either: you can pick up speed quickly even on steep climbs, despite the drag of chunky tyres.
Handling is keen too, flicking in and out of turns easily, but not nervously so that you wander off line or start twitching at speed. Push the tyres too hard through corners and it'll just slip into a nicely controlled tail-out slide that's really fun to surf once you realise it won't snap out suddenly. Pushing hard also gets the best from the initially reluctant RockShox J1 fork too.
While the rebound can get a bit lairy, a full 100mm stroke means it flattens big-ish obstacles, letting you ride offensively rather than defensively. The high-ish front end and bouncy fork mean the front wheel is easy to pop up too, and at under 30lb it's light enough to feel spirited all day.
The Bolinas Ridge is exactly the bike it looks like - an eager responsive trail hardtail. You pay a bit extra for the really cultured frame, but you're investing in ride quality. Superb upgrade potential.