THIS MONTH WE ARE TESTING FOUR HARDHITTING HARDTAILS FOR AROUND A GRANDThis month we are testing:
STEPPENWOLF Twixter, £1090 (Frame £258).
CANNONDALE Chase II, £899
PLANET-X ARMADILLO, £999 (Frame £399)
IDENTITI Mr Hyde FRX, £1100ish (Frame £299)
In many ways, this was a test of two bike genres... two genres coming increasingly closer together. We did the same thing two issues ago, but with bikes at half the price.
These four up the status-ante, and they all performed well, but a couple of them felt restricted by low bottom brackets. One had so many other advantages that we almost overlooked this one disadvantage. As the tests continued, there were times when weight became an issue on both the Freeride Hardtails and the Huckers (for that's the way the test started to split). Weight will always be an issue on bikes that beg to be pedalled hard and fast, less so on bikes that are blatantly aimed at the jump market. While all of the test bikes offered big enough gear ranges to encourage go-anywhere ability, only one felt like it could seriously build bridges between the jump and XC markets. And that was the bike that became the test team favourite..
It's interesting to see how the manufacturers are dealing with an increasing cross over between jump bikes and hardcore XC bikes. Every rider will have their own preferences, but it's becoming increasingly important to look at geometry, particularly top tube length, seat angle and bottom bracket height. Get it wrong for your style of riding and the bike just won't feel right. And these four bikes showed four completely different ways of getting it wrong... or right, depending on your needs.