Cove Handjob (custom build) £1699

Svelte mile-munching maverick

BikeRadar score 3/5

Born on the steep, forested slopes of Vancouver’s North Shore, Cove’s evergreen Handjob has been around for a couple of decades. The latest incarnation uses a quality Tange Prestige tubeset and offers great ride quality for cross-country purists, but it's not cheap and the geometry looks a bit dated.

Ride & handling: Superbly springy and comfortable ride feel for smooth riders

The Cove’s slender, tapered stays and sloping top tube profile are uncannily reminiscent of Kona’s genre defining, Prestige framed Explosif of 20 years ago – and that’s no bad thing.

Thin tube walls and a noticeably resilient rear end put a spring in the Handjob’s step that burlier frames simply can’t match, taking the edge off everything from high-frequency vibration to square-edged stutter bumps in a way that has to be experienced to be believed.

It’s odd, though, that a bike from the world centre of long travel is so hampered in fork length. Cove recommend 100-120mm forks with the Handjob and we’d go along with that – our test fork’s max travel setting of 130mm resulted in noticeably slack geometry.

We’d probably run it with a 100mm fork for the best all-round handling, but that makes it more of a pure cross-country race machine and rather less versatile than the more trail-friendly competition.

Still, with its sublimely comfortable ride and a fit, fluid rider aboard, there’s no doubt that the Cove is capable of devouring smoother terrain at a seriously impressive rate. It would make a superb enduro race bike.

Frame & equipment: Expensive and lacking in versatility

Tange Prestige breathed new life into mountain biking when it first arrived in the early Nineties. Hailing from Japan, Prestige was heat treated to allow thin walls, came in beefy diameters suited to off-road applications and introduced the bicycle world to complex profile tubes.

The Handjob’s custom drawn complex teardrop profile top and down tubes demonstrate that Tange’s engineers haven’t been resting on their laurels, although it’s not clear what benefit the profiles offer other than looking different.

As you’d expect from a ’Shore-bred bike, there’s a reinforcing gusset at the head tube junction – though, curiously, it’s welded at the end rather than being open-ended. The remainder of the frame is classic sloping top tube trail fodder, with tidy socket dropouts and stays that curve subtly away from ankles and heels.

Cove's designers haven't made any attempt to extend the Handjob's appeal beyond pure cross-country riding, so you won't find any rack mounts, chainguide tabs, mudguard eyelets or replaceable dropouts – which makes a refreshing, and clean-lined, change.

Our test Handjob arrived decked out with a set of mid-range trail riding components from the likes of Race Face and SDG, topped off with a RockShox Recon fork and a Shimano SLX transmission.

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