Rivette H4 Tom K Special£1,175.00

Surpisingly good Danish all-round hardtail

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Don’t dismiss this hardtail just because you’ve never heard of the Danish manufacturer. This is a refreshingly excellent race mountain bike with some tidy design touches.

Named for a Le Mans car driver, the Tom K Special has clean, cool lines and hidden cabling. The ride is   lively, predictable, fast and confident.

It takes a while to get used to the low bottom bracket height (this is a cross-country race bike after all) but it’ll make you feel like a trail superstar. If you don’t already ride with finesse, just fit a riser bar

Rivette bikes are endorsed by Le Mans 24-hour motor racing legend Tom Kristensen, who’s pretty good at racing 24 hours on a bike, too – watch out for the Rivette team at this year’s Mountain Mayhem.

Rivette’s hardtail bikes are different enough from the big-name alternatives to make them stand proud. The simple, clean lines and smart painted overcoats are nicely complemented by cross-country  racer-bred geometry and finishing kit.

Chassis:  uncluttered & understated

The first thing you’ll notice about Rivette frames is the lack of clutter, helped by routing the gear cables and rear brake hose through the frame. We used to be nervous about internal cable routing, but when it’s done as beautifully as this it’s an enticing feature.

Sheathed inner cable guides run all the way from the front side of the head tube to exit points right by the gear mechs. No crud can get in, and the frame is left completely free from lumpy guides, and with nothing to slap about over the bumps and rub the paint off. Apart from a floral flourish on the down tube panel, the graphics are nicely understated, too.

The build quality and finishing detail is professionally tidy, with neat welds and lots of clever tube profiling to improve ride feel precision and durability. We particularly like the flared wishbone seat stay, the way the big down tube flares into the reinforced head tube and the long and low-slung laterally ovalised top tube. There’s lots of mud room between the fat curvy chainstays and the seat clamp slot faces forward, out of the rear wheel mud spray.

The RockShox Reba SL 100mm travel fork has a nicely controlled action, a very effective rebound damping adjustment knob and a bar-mounted Poplock to increase compression damping on climbs and in sprints, which is always welcome on a race-bred bike like this.

Ride & handling: confidently quiet, inspiringly lively

First impressions of the H4 were that absolutely everything felt spot-on. It’s rare that we feel that on a first ride, especially of a bike that’s essentially a race-ready offering with skinny treads and a 23in flat handlebar. 

But despite this, and its steepish frame geometry, the Rivette H4 exudes instant quiet confidence on the trail. In fact, a bit quieter than usual on the raggedy descents of our regular loop, because there were no cables and hoses slapping around here.

The Reba fork is a great choice on a bike like this, with that extra 15mm of travel over the Magura fork on the Tank making it slightly easier to hit the really lumpy stuff at speed. Actually, this was where we were made aware of the Rivette’s one slight weakness: its 12in bottom bracket height. While a low BB improves stability, you need to be aware that, with the fork set plush, you risk pedal strikes if you keep pedalling through bumpy corners.

It’s no big deal, though, as the wonderfully stable overall handling character of the H4 is a potent reminder than a low centre of gravity and race-worthy geometry can benefit more riders than just race-heads.

The sub-26lb heft and fast tyres are a bonus in acceleration and on climbs, and the well centred ride posture encourages you to sit slightly forward to gain maximum advantage from the fork on technical singletrack. The Rivette is always a lively bike, but it inspires rather than ever feeling nervous.

Equipment: SRAM at heart

We’ve seen slightly better equipped bikes than this from the mainstream brands, but the componentry is pretty good when you consider the fact that you’re getting a frame that would cost £475 on its own.

The drivetrain twins SRAM X.7 shifters with an X.9 rear mech, X.5 front and medium-budget Truvativ Blaze cranks. The wheelset laces Jalco X320 rims to an own-brand front hub and Shimano Deore at the back with fast, skinny, lightweight Maxxis Larsen TT treads.

House brand Ten provides the flat 23in bar, stem and seat post. They’re basic, but they’re the right shape to suit the bike. UK distributor 2Pure fitted an impressively comfy SQ Lab saddle.

Summary: superb combo for racing & hardcore trail riding

The frame and fork are a superb combination for racers and demanding trail riders alike, a potent reminder that not all hardtails are created equal. It’s sometimes well worth taking a look outside the predictable mainstream.

If you can’t quite stretch to this machine, there’s an H4-1 that sells for £1000. It’s a little heavier this and comes with a Tora fork, so it’s well worth stretching yourself to score a Tom K Special.

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