NS Bikes Surge (frame only) review£239.99

Superb value playbike

BikeRadar score4/5

NS bikes are firmly rooted in street riding and dirt jumping, so it’s no surprise that the Surge is a super-agile, compact aerial combat take on the freeride hardtail genre. What did surprise us was how great it felt on the singletrack.

Ride & handling: Superb value for money, with a tight, responsive feel

Our Surge came equipped with dreadful tyres and an underwhelming fork, but that couldn't stop us having a huge amount of fun on it. In fact, the constant chasing of traction and catching repeated rear wheel slip showcases the impressively immediate reactions inherent in the frame.

With a short-travel fork, stubby stem and super-wide bar you’ve got instant reactions for twisting the tyre right on the contact spot at slow speeds or stirring it about to find traction on loose or wet trails.

The steepened seat angle focuses your bodyweight right over the front wheel too, pinning the Michelin onto the trail as far as possible. With the frame capable of taking a fork up to 160mm (6.3in) you can set it up slacker and more steady though.

No matter how you set it up, the tight feel delivered by the mainframe and chunky seatstays is obvious. However much the fork twists and the tyres slide, your reactions are processing very clear snapshots of the situation.

The low slung frame (both in terms of the top tube and the bottom bracket) makes it easy to tip or twist into corners or rip off-camber sections. Despite feeling snappy under power it doesn’t sting unduly on big landings either with the smooth steel flow making the weight penalty over alloy worth swallowing.

The skinny seatpost, with its extra long extension, provides extra comfort in the saddle, but heavy riders should probably drop the seat low on serious descents to avoid levering the frame apart.

NS bikes surge: ns bikes surge
NS bikes surge: ns bikes surge

Frame: Oversize chassis with steel's naturally sting-reducing feel

NS are tight-lipped about the tubing of the Surge. What we do know is that magnets stick to it, so it’s definitely steel. It’s lighter than the previous Surge and feels very lively too, so there’s almost certainly some tube butting creating the clean-lined chassis.

A straight-gauge head tube with graphic head badge keeps things simple up front, while a short throat gusset allows use of forks with up to 160mm (6.3in) of travel.

While the tubes look skinny due to the super low layout, the down tube is seriously oversized. The seatpost is skinny though, and its 394mm (15.5in) length penetrates the super-low top tube for huge standover clearance. Plump seatstays sprout from the outside of the top tube/ seat tube intersection with an A-frame brace.

It’s the same layout for the ovalised chainstays, while flattened ends onto thick plate dropouts keep the rear end simple and strong. A replaceable dropout sits on the outside to take it for the team if the bike crashes or gets crushed, while straight-through cabling keeps the gears sweet. The Surge also now has an ISCG mount.

There are no bottle cage bosses here, so you’ll need to Camelbak up for a long ride. The Surge hasn't got great tyre clearance but it will take 2.35in rubber fine. The welding isn’t flawless, but the overall finishing is very good and the tolerances tight. The minimal logo (just one under the down tube) on black or blue paintjobs gives it a really classy look, in line with its dirt heritage.

The super low top tube gives huge clearance  and great turn and burn agility: the super low top tube gives huge clearance  and great turn and burn agility
The super low top tube gives huge clearance and great turn and burn agility: the super low top tube gives huge clearance and great turn and burn agility

Equipment: Pick your own, but we can't recommend this fork or tyres

The Surge is a frame-only deal, but UK importers Hotlines rigged our sample up with some other products from their portfolio. The super-wide Warhead bars, machined ‘Thomson twin’ stem, twin bolt seatpost and Generator hub from Nuke Proof are really good kit.

Hayes Stroker brakes are super-reliable and Shimano’s SLX groupset delivers outstanding drivetrain performance for the price.

We really wouldn’t recommend the Manitou fork though. It doesn’t get full travel, adequate tuning takes hours of patience and the bolted 20mm axle is a right pain.

Michelin’s AT tyres never fail to astonish us with how little grip or predictability they provide and we pinch flatted the rear twice despite the heavy ‘reinforced’ carcass.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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