Stanton Sherpa 853 - MBUK long-term test bike

Trail-taming steel 29er hardtail

Most of the machines we test here at MBUK are available off the shelf – or rather, the floor of your local bike shop – as complete bikes, but JCW, the magazine's operations editor (translator of our wild-eyed crew of bike nuts' expert team of reviewers' enthusiastic ramblings into readable articles), decided to do things slightly differently with his first MBUK long-term test bike, getting hold of a Stanton Sherpa 853 frame and building it up himself. Space is too tight in the mag to go into much detail about his kit choices, so here's the lowdown...

The frame

Why the Sherpa? JCW wanted a 29er hardtail and – at 6ft 2in and with a penchant for wide bars, short stems and fast downhill singletrack – had some pretty specific requirements:

  • XL frame with decent reach and effective top tube length
  • 'Trail friendly' geometry – slack head angle, shortish chainstays, decent standover room
  • Compatible with a 120mm (4.7in) travel fork
  • Direct but not super-stiff frame feel
  • Not too heavy 

With its 648mm effective top tube, sub-68° head angle (with 120mm fork), 435mm chainstays, Reynolds chromoly tubing and sub-2,500g (5.5lb) frame weight, the Stanton was just about the only bike to fit the bill. It didn't hurt that it looked sweet as, too, even in the XL size – and that can't often be said. (Check out our Facebook page for more images of the frame.)

Stanton sherpa 853 frame: stanton sherpa 853 frame
Stanton sherpa 853 frame: stanton sherpa 853 frame

Stanton sherpa 853 frame: stanton sherpa 853 frame
Stanton sherpa 853 frame: stanton sherpa 853 frame

The bits

Stanton offer the Sherpa as a complete bike with RockShox Reba fork, Mavic Crossroc wheels and Shimano SLX/Race Face Ride drivetrain for £1,850 (with various upgrades available) but JCW decided to call in a frame and build it up himself in order to try out some alternative options and test some review kit we already had in the office.

We set a nominal budget of £2,000 (including the £500 frame) but JCW 'overspent' by a couple of hundred pounds. Now that's a lot of cash for a hardtail, especially when you can buy a complete alloy bike with a half-decent fork for a grand. But bear in mind that we've priced the parts at their full RRP – you'll find many of these components or equivalents a lot cheaper online or on sale at your local bike shop. There were also a couple of instances where we asked a distributor for a certain product but were given a more expensive version instead due to it being out of stock. 

Here are some of the key bits of kit:

Marzocchi 320 LR fork

The 320 looks suitably burly with its chunky leg castings and 15mm axle, can be converted between 100 and 120mm of travel via internal spacers, and is well priced too, at £399.95 for the 29er version.

Marzocchi 320 lr fork: marzocchi 320 lr fork
Marzocchi 320 lr fork: marzocchi 320 lr fork

Hope Tech Enduro wheels

Stiff wheels are vital on a 29er. Hope's Tech Enduros combine decently wide (23mm internal, 28mm external) and stiff rims with their classic Pro 2 EVO hubs. Gotta love that freehub whirr!

Hope tech enduro wheels: hope tech enduro wheels
Hope tech enduro wheels: hope tech enduro wheels

Onza Ibex and Canis tyres

Onza's new tyre range looks promising. JCW opted for an aggressive-looking 2.4in Ibex up front and a fast-rolling 2.25in Canis out back.

Onza ibex and canis rubber: onza ibex and canis rubber
Onza ibex and canis rubber: onza ibex and canis rubber

Shimano SLX brakes, right-hand shifter, rear mech and cassette (not pictured)

SLX kit is affordable and reliable, making it a no-brainer for a winter-ready UK hardtail. 

Shimano slx brakes, rear shifter and shadow plus rear mech: shimano slx brakes, rear shifter and shadow plus rear mech
Shimano slx brakes, rear shifter and shadow plus rear mech: shimano slx brakes, rear shifter and shadow plus rear mech

Race Face Turbine Cinch cranks and BB

Shimano don't offer a single-ring XC/trail crankset below super-pricey XTR level, so JCW has subbed in Race Face's new Turbine Cinch cranks, complete with direct-mount narrow/wide ring.

Race face turbine cinch cranks: race face turbine cinch cranks
Race face turbine cinch cranks: race face turbine cinch cranks

absoluteBLACK 40t sprocket and custom lockring

He's also added a 40t absoluteBLACK sprocket to the cassette to give an easier gear for the climbs, along with one of their nifty custom lockrings. This replaces the 11t sprocket, reducing the overall range of gears but ensuring smoother shifting than if he'd ditched the 17t sprocket (or replaced the 15 and 17t sprockets with a 16t sprocket) to make room for the expander cog.

absoluteBLACK 40t sprocket and custom lockring: absoluteblack 40t sprocket and custom lockring
absoluteBLACK 40t sprocket and custom lockring: absoluteblack 40t sprocket and custom lockring

Gusset headset and Magnum stem

Sticking with the affordable and reliable theme, a Gusset headset takes care of things up front, topped with a 50mm Gusset Magnum stem complete with neat internal steerer clamp.

Gusset magnum stem and headset: gusset magnum stem and headset
Gusset magnum stem and headset: gusset magnum stem and headset

ODI Flight Control II bar and AG-1 grips

ODI's Flight Control II bar is perfect for the indecisive. Instead of hacking it down to your preferred span you can add or remove Wingtip extensions to alter the width between 750mm and 788mm. Some of Aaron Gwin's signature AG-1 grips set it off a treat.

ODI flight control ii bar, wingtip bar extensions and ag-1 grips: odi flight control ii bar, wingtip bar extensions and ag-1 grips
ODI flight control ii bar, wingtip bar extensions and ag-1 grips: odi flight control ii bar, wingtip bar extensions and ag-1 grips

Race Face Turbine seatpost

With no room in the budget for a dropper post – for now, at least – JCW has opted for a trusty Race Face Turbine rigid post with a secure, easily adjustable twin-bolt clamp.

Race face turbine seatpost: race face turbine seatpost
Race face turbine seatpost: race face turbine seatpost

Full specification

The bike

Every bike build has its complications, but save for a couple of hiccups – struggling to find a spanner for the BSA 30 bottom bracket (thanks Silverfish!) and forgetting to call in a QR skewer with the rear wheel (thanks Hope!) – this one went pretty smoothly, and JCW is rightfully pleased with the end result. Check out MBUK each month to find out how he's getting on with the bike. You can buy digital editions of the magazine on iTunesGoogle Play and Zinio.

It takes a lot of bits to build up a bike these days, even if it's a 1x10 hardtail: it takes a lot of bits to build up a bike these days, even if it's a 1x10 hardtail
It takes a lot of bits to build up a bike these days, even if it's a 1x10 hardtail: it takes a lot of bits to build up a bike these days, even if it's a 1x10 hardtail

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Mountain Biking UK

Mountain Biking UK (MBUK) Magazine
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine – for everything that is great about mountain biking. Try your first five issues for £5 when you subscribe today.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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