Insolent but inspired Yorkshire bike designer teams up with legendary Chattanooga titanium frame artisans. A recipe for disaster, or the biggest fox among the chickens sensation of 2008?
We never thought we’d give a run of perfect marks to every aspect of bike. After all, nothing’s perfect, surely? However, when we’ve been riding something that climbs, descends and rips through singletrack better than anything else we’ve ridden in its category and costs less than half as much as it could or should, then we were left with no other option.
Ride & handling: perfect balance of shock absorption & agility
Don’t think of this as a silky-smooth, willowy titanium hardtail of the old school.
Lynskey will be producing exactly that sort of bike based on other On-One designs shortly, but if you want to be able to properly use a bigger fork and hit technical terrain hard, you need a stiffer frame to do it on. However, if we didn’t tell you to be prepared for the bike to chatter and clunk more than you expected over small stuff, we’d not be giving you the full picture.
Start to get some speed into the situation and the alchemy begins to happen, though. That curved top tube, the slim stays and Lynskey’s artful double/triple butting all come together in as perfect a balance of shock absorption and inspiringly sprung agility as we’ve ever ridden.
Keep off the brakes and stay relaxed and it’ll ﬂoat, skim and glide through the most technical rocky trails with the legendarily silk-road sensation of titanium. As soon as you need to make a sudden direction change or ﬁght against a rock ricochet, though, and the reaction is both instant and razor-sharp.
Want a hardtail that’ll take the game to 5-6in travel full-suspension bikes on the most technical descents, and dive inside them through rocky stepped corners that they’re drifting wide on? Then this is your perfect bike.
Want to open a can of climbing whup-ass that can surge out of totally stalled step edge situations that you’ll refuse to believe are savable? Then brace against the bars and rip the ring pull on that Special Brew can rear end to experience an astonishing shotgun blast of acceleration.
When we took it on our most technical local test trails we left others cursing in our wake, and ﬁnished each section in deep shock at what we’d just managed to clean.
The 456 Ti isn’t just some sawn-off short-wheelbase special, restricted to crag-ratting round the local woods: the top tube on our 18in is a generous 23.5in length. This means you can run a short stem for rapid handling and an inline post in the relatively steep seat tube to keep the front wheel locked down without your breathing feeling cramped or your back bending in half.
In fact, while it might take a while to get used to the slightly forward weight distribution, overall balance is spot-on for tearing through the singletrack with the front end biting hard.
Plus, while it’s perfect for scruff-of-the-neck technical playing with the Pike, we’d be perfectly happy to race it with a shorter, lighter fork, or head for proper mountains with a 150/160mm set.
Frame: perfectly constructed & totally functional
With its curved top tube, ‘lager-can’ wishbone arrangement and slab dropouts, this isn’t the prettiest bike. However, it’s the best-riding hardcore hardtail we’ve ever slung a leg over, partly due to the geometry, but also thanks to the frame construction.
For a start, that cold-worked curved top tube is not only far stronger than an extended top tube design, it also works like a leaf spring to absorb shock and boost rider comfort. The tube wall thickness is deliberately butted back out again in the centre to prevent it being damaged if your bars swing round and clobber it in a crash.
That twin span pipe wishbone design allows for massive mud clearance while totally locking down the back end in terms of power delivery. The subtly twisted double-butted down tube exerts the same vice-like grip on head tube and bottom bracket, so you really can run a 150mm fork without it ripping the head tube clean off or wandering about all over the place.
The cable and hose routing will be changed on production bikes so it runs under the top tube (not above, as on our test bike) and gear lines can be run straight through.
The titanium tubes are as beautifully joined as you’ll ever ﬁnd anywhere. That’s not surprising, given that they’re made by Lynskey, the ﬁrm with 25 years’ experience of building titanium frames with Litespeed and later under its own name.
In fact, the slab drop-outs are the only concession to cost-cutting anywhere on the frame, but they’re still totally functional (right down to disc compatible carrier/mudguard bosses). Given that the frame costs £999.98, not the £2,300 it would cost to get Lynskey to custom-build your own version of On-One’s 456, then we reckon most folk will put up with function over fancy!
Equipment: take your pick
Our test bike came as a proper hardcore ride with full Shimano Deore XT bits, some prototype On-One All-Mountain wheels and coil-sprung Pike forks. Just by switching to non-U Turn air-sprung Pike forks, you’d save a pound in weight, though, and with a 3.5lb frame weight there’s easily a 23-24lb bike in here.
Whatever you fancy, it’s worth checking On-One’s website, because they run some amazing deals – such as the Deore XT 2008 groupset for £299 it was offering when we went to press.
Verdict: Best. Hardtail. Ever.
Given that we’ve ridden the cream of alloy, steel, and carbon bikes too, the fact that we believe this is the best all-round hardtail frame we’ve ever ridden is a big, big deal.
In geometry terms, it gives astonishing versatility but manages to retain a real edge in every guise. In feel terms, it might not be outstandingly smooth, but the way it tackles serious technical terrain has to be experienced to be believed. Add a peerless build quality and unique detailing brewed from Yorkshire testing and designing, and this unlikely transatlantic titanium-up really is the hard rider’s perfect hardtail.
On-one designer & head honch Brant Richards on the 456 Ti
After a decade of bike testing for MBUK and others, Brant Richards swapped from poacher to gamekeeper and launched his own On-One bikes.
BikeRadar: What’s the obsession with making your bikes so cheap?
Brant Richards: They’re not cheap, they’re great value — there’s a difference! When I was testing bikes I got tired of ﬁnding cheaper frames with bad geometry. Someone has to weld the tubes together, so why couldn’t they be welded into a decent geometry with decent tyre clearance, and nice cable routing, with reinforcing gussets to stop bits falling off? After all, good design doesn’t cost any more than bad design.
BikeRadar: Did you ever think you’d make a bike that would be described as the best in the world?
Brant Richards: No. Why, who said that?
BikeRadar: We did.
Brant Richards: About this one?
Brant Richards: Really? Cheers! It’s funny, if someone asked me what the best bike in the world was, I’d say it was the bike they already had, cos that was the bike they could ride whenever they wanted. One of my best rides ever was on a Halfords Apollo Forma, over the Devil’s Staircase into Kinlochleven. So you don’t have to have a great bike to have a great ride.
BikeRadar: How is the titanium 456 so cheap?
Brant Richards: We do it a few ways. Firstly , tiny overheads — my ofﬁce is a £185 shed in Todmorden. Then, Lynskey can batch-build stuff at their end to reduce costs but keep the same top quality. And we sell it direct to the customers, so there’s no shop or national distributor margin.
BikeRadar: So what next for the On-One/ Lynskey tie up?
Brant Richards: Next sample is 29er slotted dropout singlespeeds. It’s what I ride myself, so I’m really looking forward to them. We’ve got a titanium Pompino being tested, and there’s going to be a cyclocross frame, titanium Mary bars and… oh, possibly something with, er, suspension. But that’s a secret.