Stevens are a big name in their native Germany. They’ve been building bikes since 1991 and offer a vast range of mountain bikes. The simply-named 6S is part of the entry-level Allround range. It's light, with a balanced spec and an air-sprung fork.
Ride & handling: Lighter than you'd expect for the money; demands attention at high speeds
The Stevens is clearly inﬂuenced by traditional cross-country geometry, although the demands of more leisurely riding are accommodated by a relatively short cockpit and a riser bar. It has a distinctly different feel to the more trial-orientated bikes at this price – sharper up front and lower to the ground.
Direction changes are immediate, which is great at low speed in the twisties, but you’ll need to pay attention on steep or fast trails. The low overall weight for the price (12.7kg/28lb) can be felt on climbs or under acceleration, giving the Stevens an enthusiastic feel that you can’t always take for granted on mid-range bikes.
The Suntour Radon air fork works surprisingly well – and quietly. It saves weight over a coil-sprung alternative and has stouter construction than the usual RockShox Dart found at this price, leading to less ﬂex and binding. On the downside, it pushes more lubrication oil past its seals than the RockShox unit so you’ll want to keep on top of maintenance.
It also lacks rebound damping adjustment, although you do get a lockout lever. That looks like a rather glaring omission, but if you’re in the middle of the weight range it actually works perfectly okay. Particularly light or heavy riders using extra-low or high spring pressure respectively may have issues though.
Frame: Low-slung top tube and compact frame boost rider confidence
This might be an inexpensive bike, but Stevens clearly haven’t been shy of spending the euros on frame development. From a distance the 6S’s frame looks straightforward, but get up close and the complex cross-sections of the main tubes become apparent. The top and down tubes have corners, ridges, creases and ﬂares aplenty.
The top tube slopes dramatically, giving lots of standover height. At the back, the seatstays meet the seat tube above the top tube, a look that used to be quite commonplace but is unusual these days. In case anyone was in any doubt as to the provenance of the Stevens frame, the dropouts have the company logo forged into them and there’s a little S forming the middle of the seatstay bridge too.
It’s good to see a full-length protective sticker under the down tube, hopefully keeping stones away from this easily-damaged area. At the front is an hourglass-shaped head tube with semi-integrated headset bearings.
Equipment: Well-balanced, thoughtful spec
Stevens have taken an interesting approach to speccing the 6S. Plenty of manufacturers aim to attract buyers in shops by up-speccing the bits that people glance at, including a ‘name brand’ fork and an upgraded rear mech. Better bits in some places tends to mean worse in others though. Stevens have gone for a balanced spec, which means nothing particularly stands out, but there are no obvious weak spots either.
Transmission is pretty much Shimano Deore throughout, which is ﬁne by us – it might be at the budget end of the market but it’s smooth and reliable. You don’t get an outboard-bearing crank, with a Shimano Octalink unit ﬁnding its way into the frame, but if you’re not coming off an outboard setup you won’t notice a difference. The actual shifting is indistinguishable.
Shimano also supply the brakes in the shape of their M445 units. They offer good feel and adequate power, with Stevens bumping the front rotor to 180mm for a bit more poke. Stevens’ use of different tyres front and rear is evidence of thoughtful speccing. The front Continental Mountain King is complemented by a fast-rolling X King out back. It’s a combination that’s best suited to drier trails but, if conditions are right, it rolls along a treat.
The ﬁnishing kit is Stevens’ own Oxygen gear which is all sound, although we wouldn’t mind an extra inch or two on the bars, and the Ergo grips are a little on the chunky side.