Bionicon's unique approach to the all-mountain bike works brilliantly, bringing a bike for all reasons in under 28lb. But how will it survive in the real rough-and-tumble of the long-travel category?
No one has really decided what all-mountain bikes – with their go-anywhere, tackle-anything ethos – actually are. Weights vary enormously, as does suspension travel and adjustment potential. Most try to incorporate both climbing and descending prowess without pricing themselves out of the mass market.
This is where the Bionicon approach scores highly. While the vast majority of All-Mountain bikes have easy-reach levers to independently adjust the front and rear suspension, or different shock mounts to adjust the suspension, Bionicon offers a big button on the handlebars that adjusts everything. That means you can instantly set yourself up for radical descents, climbs, and every terrain type in between.
Chassis: One button to rule them all
The system relies on two air lines inside the down tube linking the fork and the shock. The button on the bars opens the system and allows air to ﬂow between the fork and the shock. Press the button, lean back, and the back end drops and the fork lifts, slackening the geometry for drops. Press it again, lean forward, and the fork compresses and the back end lifts, setting you up for steep climbs. Let it settle in between for hammering the singletrack.
While you can move the head angle between 68° and 73°, the bottom bracket height and the supple feel of the suspension remain almost constant. You use the air valves for initial fork and shock set-up to suit your needs.
Ride: dial it for the situation
This four-bar linkage frame is set up to offer 120mm of suspension travel out back, with the fork adjusting between 70mm and 140mm. The vertical axle path Horst Link back end and surprisingly light triple clamp air fork results in a complete bike weight of 27.6lb. However, because the geometry can be instantly adjusted from steep to slack, the bike can keep up with both lighter bikes on most climbs and heavier bikes on all but the gnarliest drop-offs.
The fact that you can run 70mm to 140mm of fork travel without upsetting the bottom bracket centre of gravity makes for a stable handling character.
There are lighter bikes that tackle all types of terrain well, but not many that handle steep ups ’n’ downs as well as the Golden Willow at this price. It takes a while to get used to the push-button geometry shifts, but we suspect Bionicon buyers will quickly learn to love it.
Equipment: excellent and fairly light
A SRAM X.0/X.9 and Truvativ drivetrain are on par for the price. The rest of the kit is all excellent quality – and fairly light – with the Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25in treads emphasising both comfort and fast rolling efﬁciency.
Formula Oros are among our favourite disc brakes, and we like Bionicon’s own fore/aft/ height-adjustable Barﬂy bar and stem.
Verdict: great function, but will it find a place on the trails?
We really like what Bionicon has done here, and the Golden Willow’s rides really well. Its user-friendly design approach places it among the most adaptable mountain bikes on the market.
However, a new generation of light and adaptable big-brand bikes are ﬁghting for a piece of this particular cake – and there are bound to be riders who aren’t keen on the idea of a frame and fork package with air hoses linking them.
As weights drop and suspension performance and adaptability improve on the big-name rigs with big-name forks and shocks at similar prices, Bionicon could ﬁnd it tougher to push its unique selling points.”