Yorkshire-based On-One has carved itself out a niche based on completely one-of-a-kind concepts and solid, practical and trustworthy engineering in an industry full of 'me too' bikes and components. The prices aren't bad, either.
The steel-framed Inbred is a well-established On-One classic that's firmly grounded in British trail riding, but we've not ridden it in this format before - with rigid carbon forks, a Shimano LX transmission and On-One's very different 'are you sure this isn't off a ladies shopping bike?' curly-shaped handlebar.
There's not a great deal you can do to change the fundamental layout of a steel hardtail, but the Inbred's loyal following is partly down to the attention to detail that's gone into its design. The workmanlike welds, thick plate dropouts, full length cable housings and capped seatstays won't win any awards for aesthetics, but this isn't supposed to be a bike to look at. It's a bike for riding, on British trails, in typically British conditions. So there's ample mud clearance courtesy of the wishbone seatstays and bridgeless chainstays.
The shifter-to-derailleur cable housings aren't pretty, but they do offer extra clag protection by keeping grit and water out, keeping shifts sweeter for longer. Slotted dropouts - including a special mount for the rear disc calliper - make a singlespeed conversion a quick and easy no-brainer, at the expense of slightly fiddly rear wheel fitting and removal. A pair of open-ended gussets up front at the head tube joints gives this stressed area a bit of extra protection from big crashes or clumsy riders.
There's even a set of rack bosses at the rear for riders with a touring bent. The whole lot's crafted from On-One's proprietary DN6 chromoly tubeset, which - in true On-One tongue-in-cheek style - takes its name from the unique brand's warehouse postcode.
You could happily plug just about any single crown suspension fork into the front of an Inbred, but ours came with On-One's own carbon rigid fork. It's very light, tracks accurately, and although it doesn't have springs, the carbon's natural ability to absorb shock and vibration definitely helps take the sting out of the trail.
No one could accuse On-One head honch and designer Brant Richards of being conservative in his approach to bike and component design. The combination of retro steel frame, rigid carbon fork and those wildly swept bars is bound to raise eyebrows and prompt questions out on the trail. But it actually all works rather well together, in a 'we build it this way because we tried it and liked it', real-world testing kind of a way.
The carbon fork does a remarkably good job of filtering out high frequency chatter and buzz. It's no substitute for suspension, and any rider who's grown accustomed to even a shortish travel fork is going to be in for a rude awakening at the first poor line choice or section of stutter bumps, but it's smoother than any rigid fork has a right to be. And it's damn good at forcing the rider to pay attention and 'float' the bike, rather than make like a sack of spuds in the saddle. You're most likely to emerge from a few months of riding this bike a much better rider.
The bars? They're sublimely comfy, with the bonus of extra hand positions for climbing and cruising, at the expense of slightly less assured front wheel lifts and plants. We think it's something to do with the elbows-in stance that the bars' sweep encourages, but a bit of trail time soon changes that. They look weird, but they work if you give them a fair trial. Which just leaves the frame. It's fairly basic steel, it's strong, it's got loads of mud clearance and it's single-speed friendly if you're that way inclined. The cautious build and wishbone rear end contribute to a feel that's just the right side of harsh in the rough, but it's easy to see why this bike has attracted such a strong cult following.
On-One's individualistic approach won't suit everyone, but that's part of the brand's appeal.
A Shimano LX transmission made our test Inbred go and Avid's Juicy Three brakes hauled it to a stop, but all attention was focused on the odd-shaped bars. There's method in On-One's madness, because the radical forward-then-backward sweep turns the rider's wrists to a far more natural angle than regular bars. Yes, it's a bit like your mum's shopping bike. But yes, it works.