Silverback isn't a big name in the UK, but the German company are looking to make an impact on our shores with the 650b wheeled Slade 1. With a solid spec and predictable handling, it's a decent trail all-rounder.
Frame and equipment: modern trail hardtail features and a Shimano drivetrain
Despite its understated graphics, the Slade's 6061 alloy frame doesn't need to hide away. Silverback has incorporated most of the features we'd expect to see on a modern trail hardtail: a tapered head tube helps with steering precision, a large diameter down tube carries that stiffness through to the bottom bracket, and the seat tube accepts a 31.6mm post, giving plenty of dropper options should you wish to upgrade.
The bottom bracket shell is threaded rather than following the press-fit trend, but that's no bad thing in durability terms. Mud-friendly, full-length outer cables run along the top tube and should help keep shifting smooth through the winter months.
The Slade's drivetrain is an exclusively Shimano affair, with the 24/38T double crankset and rear mech coming from the XT range, while the rest, save for the 11-34T cassette, comes with the SLX badge.
The result is crisp, accurate shifting with minimal chainslap thanks to the clutch-equipped rear mech. Shimano has also provided the SLX brakes and hubs – the brakes' finned pads helping to resist heat build-up, and the hubs providing reliable cup-and- cone bearings and Center Lock rotors. Up front, there's a RockShox Revelation RL fork, with a 15mm axle and remote lockout. A disappointingly narrow 680mm bar is held in place by a 65mm Truvativ stem.
Ride and handling: best suited to twisty, fast trails
We found the best way to maintain the Slade's momentum was to ride over the front of the bike, working the fork hard through every undulation in the trail and letting the rear end simply follow in its tracks.
With the short head tube and flat bar, getting into a low and aggressive stance over the bike is easy, though a wider bar and possibly a shorter stem would give a bit more control in the turns.
The 68-degree head angle gives an agile feel more suited to fast, twisty trails than technical terrain. When things get steep or tight, it's essential to get weight over the back wheel to keep things controlled.
The Revelation RL is a solid fork and comes with RockShox's simple to set up Solo Air spring. Without the high- and low-speed compression damping found on pricier forks, we found we had to be careful with the air pressure to strike the right balance between big hit capability and small impact suppleness.
The wide tyres can be run at low pressures, especially if you make use of the rims' tubeless capabilities. This gives plenty of grip at the front end, even in mucky conditions, while at the back the high volume rubber adds comfort to what's a reasonably stiff frame.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.