Lynskey is one of the biggest names in titanium. It's well known for its own high-end frames, but other companies also use its expertise – Lynskey has built chassis for Cove, Ragley and On-One, among others.
Frame: compliant and corrosion-free
Titanium alloys can create light, extremely compliant frames with a real spring in their step and zero chance of corrosion, and when steel ruled the world they were a major step forward. They haven't got any cheaper since then, however, because titanium remains as hard as ever to work with.
The Pro650 frame is short. Measuring up we found our size medium has a 584mm (23in) top tube, which is at the shorter end of the scale. This results in a rather perched feeling, which isn't helped by a bottom bracket that's 318mm (12.5in) off the ground and only 30mm lower than the axles – quite high for a hardtail with this travel.
The steep 69-degree head angle is only slightly softened by the slightly-bigger-than-26in wheels too.
It's to the Lynskey's credit, that this bike feels lively and active without ever edging into nervous or confidence sapping. Still, we recommend looking at the larger sizes (L and XL) to get a longer front centre, and go as large as the standover allowed.
Equipment: does the job well
The Pro650 VF is sold as a frame-only option, but our test bike was built up as follows.
The wheels were Sun Ringle hubs laced to WTB Frequency i23 rims, and they do a good job of staying stiff. The WTB Wolverine 2.2in tyres work well on hard-packed trails, but their shallow tread lacks bite on natural winter terrain.
The largely X0-level SRAM componentry found elsewhere is predictably excellent, if generally not quite as long-lived as its Shimano equivalents. Once bedded in, the XX brakes stop squealing like stabbed pigs and offer plenty of power and modulation. The cockpit is pretty much spot-on, with a middling 75mm Answer stem and 720mm Answer Pro Taper bars.
Ride and handling: fast and comfortable, if flexy
Is the Pro650 as smooth as we were promised? In the end it's still a hardtail and it's always going to transmit the hits and smacks back to you, but the high frequency buzz of rough trails – especially rock-based trail centre ones – is noticeably dampened.
It's a more comfortable ride than most carbon or aluminium frames, and usefully friendlier on the lower back. It's helped further by Lynskey's own titanium seatpost, which combines very comfortable give under stress with enough stiffness to resist unwanted twisting under pedalling.
Unfortunately, you can't say the same for the frame itself. That titanium flex that's so comfy under vertical forces allows the bike to bend laterally, leading to imprecise responses under pressure. Pushing hard through corners and berms results in a fair bit of twang on the exits, and the rear end lacks the direct taughtness of other materials when sprinting.
The frame's got a fair bit to deal with in that 130mm travel RockShox Revelation fork – it's a fairly long, stiff lever to twist all that titanium. It's a proven fork, though, and the quality Motion Control damper inside ensures impressively controlled performance.
The upcoming 2014 version will get a 12mm axle and Lynskey's impressively-twisted Helix down tube, though the stiffness benefits of the latter is less well known than the former. As it is, the Pro650 is a flexy, fast and comfy XC flier.