Longer-travel bikes from German direct-sell brand Radon have made a big impact in our tests recently, with their top-value kit and impressive ride characteristics. The mid-travel Slide FE certainly offers the former, but does it feel like a killer deal on the trail?
Radon Slide FE 9.0 frame
The Slide frame follows the classic ‘seat tube rocker-link driving a vertically-mounted shock’ layout, with chunky pivots on the asymmetric chainstays creating a true four-bar suspension set-up.
Wide-spaced seatstays give plenty of tyre clearance even with the stock 2.6in rubber. The gear cable is routed internally, while the dropper post and rear brake lines run along the side of the down tube for easy servicing.
There’s plenty of room within the tall frame for a conventional bottle cage. In other areas, the chassis looks a little dated. All the Slide FE bikes come with single-ring SRAM Eagle drivetrains, but there’s still a front mech mount on the kinked seat tube.
The press-fit bottom bracket (BB) is the older GXP standard, not one of SRAM’s latest DUB units, and the short-stroke RockShox Monarch rear shock is imperial, rather than metric.
Radon Slide FE 9.0 kit
The obvious kit headlines here are the GX Eagle 12-speed transmission and RockShox Pike RCT3 fork, which are outstanding for the money.
Also worth shouting about are the Sun Ringlé Duroc wheels and Schwalbe Nobby Nic ADDIX Speedgrip 2.6in tyres, which combine easy speed with high-volume float and protection.
The 35mm-diameter Race Face bar and stem add car park kudos, and their 760mm width and 60mm length suit the bike’s geometry. While the Magura brakes have plenty of power, their blunt feel reduces control.
Radon Slide FE 9.0 ride impressions
Compared with the YT Industries Jeffsy 29 AL, Whyte T-130 SR and 2019 Canyon Spectral AL 6.0, which were also on test, the Radon Slide had the lowest weight and relatively light wheels, which were shod with large but fast-rolling tyres, and felt the fastest 650b bike on smooth terrain.
SRAM’s Eagle transmissions always feel clean and efficient too (though the gears weren’t correctly set up when the bike arrived). The short-stroke rear shock is tuned to give a firm feel at the start of the stroke, and while there’s visible movement when stomping out of the saddle there’s no sensation of power loss.
Although the long rear-end presses your power into the ground, the firm suspension means you need to run low tyre pressures to get good small-bump absorption and traction.
Compared to the other bikes mentioned above, the Slide FE is on the back foot in terms of geometry. While Radon quotes 67.6 degrees for the head angle, I measured it at an XC-steep 68.5 degrees, and that’s combined with a relatively long (by modern trail bike standards) 60mm stem.
The reach and wheelbase are short, which makes the front end feel twitchy and reduces confidence. In contrast, the long stays tend to scuff the back tyre against rocks. It’s not the easiest machine to manual or wheelie either.
Even with just 20psi in the tyres, the Radon rattles and chatters rather than flowing seamlessly. Once the shock starts moving, it blows through its travel easily, so there’s not much to push and pump against.
The fork behaves similarly, so I added volume spacers to both for a more positive feel. The fact that the rear wheel is moving 10mm less than advertised means the bike still doesn’t carry speed well over bigger blocks and drops even when tweaked, and the shock felt the most hassled and least consistent on test.
The rear end hanging up on bigger hits and flatter faces also throws your weight forward onto a front end that’s much more likely to tuck under than those on the other bikes previously mentioned. Add the uncommunicative brakes, mid-width bar and long-ish stem, and this becomes even more of an issue. I found myself tiptoeing nervously down sections I was lobbing the other bikes into without a thought.