NS Bikes has launched itself from the DH tracks and dirt jumps of Poland to create a rock-hard reputation, and the Snabb T1 certainly smacks you between the eyes visually.
Frame and equipment: quality undermined by compromise
But even the neon graffiti paint job can’t blind you to the fact that there are some big changes needed to let the Snabb live up to the obvious potential of the frame.
The chassis is more boutique brand than mass produced big name or direct sell machine such as Canyon, YT, Vitus or Commencal. It’s certainly well engineered, with the option of either neat internal routing for the control lines or running them down the outside of the down tube for easy servicing and swapping.
The bottom bracket is a trustworthy thread-in style, and there’s a neat security grub screw to stop accidental loosening of the 142x12mm through axle. There are even cowls around the axle to keep the wheel in place while you install it.
We’d rather be seeing 1x11spd at this price
The quality at the heart of the Snabb explains the compromises you’re confronted with elsewhere, starting with a wide range 1x10spd hack using a 42t expander cog on the back of a modified cassette and a 32t narrow wide tooth chainring on the front, not the ‘proper’ SRAM 1x11spd setup you’ll find on a lot of bikes for less money.
Unfortunately our setup had repeated ghost shift issues as well as the obvious hole in ratios you get from the missing mid range cog that makes room for the crawler cog. The Guide R brakes are downgraded with the cheapest rotors Avid offer too, and while it lasted OK on our bike the X-Fusion dropper post has a dismal reliability reputation.
On a brighter note, the colour coded Magneto stem with its sealed top and hidden wedge tightening system takes some getting your head round, but it looks great. The low rise NS Bars and coordinated mushroom grips put plenty of control into your hands.
NS also provides the 23mm internal width Enigma Lite rims that build into usefully light wheels. The firmly padded wipe clean saddle gets titanium rails to drop a few grams too.
Ride and handling: capable chassis crying out for more to work with
While we can see why NS went with a Revelation RL fork to save weight and clarify its trail categorisation, it’s not a good match to the Snabb’s clearly combative character. The chassis is stretched to the limit at 150mm travel and there’s a definite sense of fumbling for feedback rather than tyre testing clarity.
The stumpy own brand stem and wide bars are decent
The simpler RL internals mean there’s obvious stammer and choke jolting through the bars well before the 142mm travel back end is getting close to its limits. You’ll need to wait a while for the mounting hardware on the Monarch shock to free up anyway as it’s tight enough to really slow down rebound at first.
The Performance grade Schwalbe rubber, meanwhile, needs to go immediately. Teaming the new more aggressive Nobby Nic front with a semi slick Racing Ralph rear for more speed is a good idea. Unfortunately the compound is so hard and slippery the only way you’ll survive wet rooty or rocky corners is riding them as though you’ve got a glass balanced on the bars and you’re trying not to spill your beer.
While they’re not as treacherous in the dry they’re still horribly stiff, clattering and thumping over stutter bumps and debris even at pressures that feel compliant and communicative with a half decent replacement.
Once you’ve got treads on that’ll let you push hard, the frame is impressively stiff and solid however hardcore the line you’re hunting. There’s a ton of stretch in the top tube for running a fashionably short stem and the 67 degree head angle is stable enough to trust on fast and loose sections but still keen when it’s tight and techy.
We’d still probably fit a 160mm Pike or Fox 36 if we were building the bike up from a frame ourselves, as it’s definitely tough and capable enough to make use of a bigger fork and slacker head angle.
The high-quality frame is impressively stiff and solid once put to the test
The heavily kinked, bulged and pinched asymmetric seat tube kinks backwards dramatically and there’s a broad forged and machined horseshoe at the head of the chain stays. This allows them to be made super short for excellent hop and pop agility, which stops the long front end from creating a totally barge like character.
It also has powerful drive transfer with twin sided pivot sections keeping everything stiff. The four bar linkage back end is very well balanced in terms of pedalling and braking stability too so you can get on with just reading the trail rather than having to translate your finger and foot reactions to suit it.
The progression of the rear shock means the 142mm of travel can tackle serious hits without getting bounced off line and there’s a stable mid stroke to push through corners or pump rollers from. Building up from a frame also gives you a stealth black option not just the mental neon of the complete bike.
Like many mid travel bikes there’s a definite shadow cast by its bigger brother. The Snabb E1 packs an extra 20mm of travel, Pike up front, a degree slacker head angle and larger, tougher Schwalbe Hans Dampf and Rock Razor tyres. It’s only 500g heavier too, so it’s still no slouch under power.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.