Pace RC305 XCAM - First ride review£499.00

Brilliant new hardcore hardtail is in its element on UK singletrack

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Pace’s new 305 hardcore hardtail has evolved from the 303 into a lighter and even more responsive singletrack specialist.

The 303 frame was a big departure from Pace's previously handmade-in-Yorkshire race rigs, but the Far Eastern-manufactured five-inch forker proved an instant hit. This lightened successor takes the adrenaline level up a notch and should prove a winner too.

Ride & handling: lives for tight & technical trails

Going for a lighter fighter rather than a bombproof bruiser with kit choice this time round has produced a surprisingly light bike that’d shame most race rigs.

The low weight is obvious as soon as you press on the pedals. The stiff front end lets you put your shoulders behind any drive, and the 305 absolutely launches up climbs, or out of corners. With fast-rolling tyres you’ll certainly be rippling through the upshifts if there are any straight sections on the trail. The fast-clearing Continental tyres help it rip out of muddy sections with immediate snap.

Pace has also worked hard to put just enough compliance into the back end to keep it connected. You still know it’s a direct-feeling alloy bike, as opposed to a softer carbon, titanium or steel option, but there’s enough compliance to keep the rear wheel hooked up on clattery climbs and stepped ascents.

It should help you keep the chiropractor off your speed-dial list in the long term, although a relatively flexy seatpost and a comfy saddle certainly make sense.

This is a compact bike to aid agility through the tight stuff, which means there’s not much breathing space, but you can size up if you want a more classic cross-country feel. The low weight helps on longer rides, too, and we’ve hit up some proper epic adventures on it and still come back as firm friends.

Where the Pace really shines, though, is on the tightest, most technical and challenging singletrack. Whether you’re fighting understeer on sandy post-flood riverside trails, surfing wide on slimy wood runs or hitting the only survivable slots in savage rock gardens, the front end never flinches or fouls up.

Of course, we were having to float and hop more with the lighter kit than just plough through like we did on the previous version with fatter tyres, a 28in downhill bar and RockShox Pike fork, but the basic architecture is superb. Despite the relatively steep seat angle and a very definite ‘ride over the fork’ character, there’s just enough compliance to keep the back end on the ground rather than kicking up around your ears.

Its compact nature makes it easy to push ahead and ride out the really rough/steep stuff from behind the saddle, with the excellent compression damping of the DT Swiss fork proving a big help here.

Frame: lightened & tweaked for UK conditions

The front end is still the same seriously oversized, multi-butted set-up as the 303, with a short integrated head tube to keep the bars low for climbing even with a five-inch travel fork. Pace has reworked the seatstays and dropouts to lose grams, dropping the overall frame weight to 1996g (4.33lb) for our medium model.

The top tube slopes down steeply on the compact frame for maximum meat clearance, while the saddle gusset over the seat tube/top tube junction stops a long seatpost snapping the top corner.

While it looks neat when everything is routed neatly underneath, clearances are so tight you can’t even squeeze a hose through with the ferrule still in. That means you have to pull the brake completely apart, fit a new ferrule and re-bleed it, which is a pain in the arse.

Details include Pace’s traditional replaceable dropout plates (Maxle versions are available), while Crud Catcher mudguard mounts and even a guide for a bottle battery light cable show it’s been designed by proper riders who know that many UK rides happen when it’s filthy and dark. There’s loads of mud room for the same reason.

The painted Autobahn silver of our sample is also joined by an anodized Sirius black finish for £559.

Equipment: light but effective

Pace has introduced the idea of rolling chassis deals, using kit mixes from DT Swiss, Hope and RockShox. Seeing as Pace has shaved weight out of the frame, it seemed rude not to do the same with our build-up, so we opted for the lightest DT Swiss XMC130 fork and XR1450 wheels pack.

Not only does this £1507.49 deal (including Hope headset) give a £210.51 saving over separate bits, but it’s the baseline for a seriously light yet tough and tight complete bike.

The XMC130 iss a perfect match for ‘our float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ build-up. We’ve also complemented DT’s superlight wheels with similarly light Continental Speed King Supersonic tyres. There’s no shortage of grip from the toothy Black Chilli compound tread, and the acceleration they add is inspirational.

SRAM gears are as snap-reactive as ever, and Hope’s Mini Pro brakes are the lightest anchors around, but with just enough power for flat-out stop/go singletracking.

Easton’s Monkey Lite SL bars are a bit narrower than we normally run, but they suit the lighter, flightier feel well, and we’ve stayed with a 90mm stem for a bit more speed stability.

Verdict: spendy but worth it for accuracy & balance

Pace’s frame is at the top end of the price spectrum for an alloy hardtail, but its performance more than supports that, and it’s simply an absolute joy to ride. Totally accurate and beautifully balanced whether you want to build it up light or beefy, this is a superb UK singletrack bike.

It’s an ideal hardtail for riders who love to make the ‘unrideable’ look easy and come back from a trail centre with as many full-suspension scalps as possible – but if you’ve got the budget, you can build it up light enough to prove a predator on more technical race/enduro courses too.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK
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