This year marks the sixth birthday of the Dark Angel and it's been evolved and tweaked constantly by a string of top dirt jumpers. Its combination of strength, agility and high value makes it an excellent hardcore bike for tuning your jump skills.
The 24in wheeled Slacker is pretty much as close to a BMX cruiser as a mountain bike gets, so the frame is super compact. The top tube blends into the down tube just as it plugs into the back of the head tube and there are wrap-around gussets top and bottom here for extra strength. The steeply sloped top tube extends through the short seat tube to the wishbone seatstay junction, and a fat stub tube creates a similar wishbone set-up behind the big BMX bottom bracket shell. The heat-treated stays are snaked to maximise heel clearance and the dropouts are thick BMX style slabs of steel with disc mounts sat on top. The frame also has short chainstays and a short wheelbase, which really help its chuck-around character.
We do have some grumbles, though. The weight of the frame and overall bike (15.9kg/35.2lb) is very high considering it's a relatively small rig. The bottom bracket is also very low, which meant we regularly caught the pedals when powering out of turns. On the up side, this means a massively secure, anchored feel in the turns. The frame comes in a range of rich colours (black, red, electric blue, baby blue, lime green and flip brown), so despite the Slacker's popularity, you're unlikely to see too many other riders with the same finish as you.
The Slacker has the same Marzocchi Dirt Jam Pro fork as the Flow, but the topout wasn't nearly as bad because 24seven tune all forks prior to fitting them. But even after you've tweaked the rebound, it's still pretty clunky after you launch off lips - we'd definitely take up their cut-price fork upgrade option.
The fairly low price means the front brake is a cable disc, but the rear one is a Hayes hydraulic disc and a really nice touch. It's a cheap and snatchy single-pot model in the grand scheme of things, but the hydraulic line gives a much more positive and controllable feel than a stretchy, weather vulnerable cable (the cable is routed through the stem for easy barspinning).
24seven have forged a great reputation for no-nonsense, well priced kit that performs as well as much more expensive gear, and the Slacker showcases most of it. The high-rise handlebar, stem and seatpost are alloy to keep the weight down. The securely bolted Stealth wheelset is singlespeed specific rather than a converted freehub build, and the fast moving Kenda K-Rad tyres are perfect for smooth jump or street work. The use of short 172mm cranks, a tiny 24-tooth front chainring and a 12- tooth rear ring provides some grind clearance for the low belly, and the cranks themselves feel impressively stiff and smooth.
The Slacker is a classic compact and aggressive jump bike that communicates its enthusiasm immediately. The small size means the bike feels very agile in the air, and as soon as it's off the lip you'll have no trouble chucking it around. Rider position is also weighted to the rear, which means the front wheel is naturally high. This will help beginners and, as one rider commented, "it feels like you're sitting off the back and reaching forward". The compact shape means you'll have no trouble pulling the rear up and nosing the bike into the down ramp once your hang time runs out.
The ease of movement around the bike also helps you keep the tyres glued front and rear when you're pushing through corners or railing berms. In fact, flow as a whole is boosted by the ease with which the bike can be moved around underneath you, although beginners who like the rearward weight balance might be intimidated by the sharp steering, which can feel almost too twitchy on the floor. Once you get used to it, however, the fast steering means you can really push the bike through the hardest, sketchiest lines with ease and most riders thought the overall geometry was pretty much ideal.
In fact, the whole bike was universally liked by everyone who rode it. The super responsive steering can be scary at first but, combined with the compact build, this makes it very easy to tweak and throw the bike around once you're airborne, and the rearward weighting makes it a naturally safe flyer even if you're a natural dead sailor! Apart from the slightly clunky fork, the stock bike provides everything you need for the foreseeable future too.