Lancashire mail-order specialists Merlin Cycles have always been one of our recommended sources of good, honest, high-value framesets.
The Malt 2 is the second sibling in a four-frame family that ranges from the superlight £399 Malt 4 to the What Mountain Bike Bike of the Year finalist Malt 1 (£140).
By spending an extra £60 on the Malt 2, though, you get a double-butted Kinesis frame, which not only gives a very reasonable, raceable weight chassis but also translates into a noticeably more cultured ride on the trail.
While it’s officially set up for a 100mm fork you can run a 120mm for a taller, slacker trail feel. Whether you’re climbing, descending or charging round the woods it’s obedient, enthusiastic and never feels like it’s overwhelmed, wherever you take it.
Neat machined dropouts include a replaceable hanger for easy crash repair, too. Incidentally, Malts 3 and 4 offer similarly balanced handling but in progressively lighter and stiffer race-style rigs.