Designing a ‘do it all’ six-inch travel trail bike is the hardest challenge in mountain biking. Adrian Carter (Mr Pace himself) reckons the new 506 frame is the best he’s ever built, and if you’ve ever tried to shake him off your wheel on a technical climb you won’t be surprised that it's deﬁnitely more of a cross-country rider’s long-travel bike than the 'FR' (freeride) in the name might suggest.
A slack head angle, stout front end and extra inch of suspension over most trail bikes does help on descents, but the 506 is deﬁnitely more suited to clawing its way up crags than clattering down them with abandon.
Ride & handling: Confidence-inspiring long travel rig for cross-country riders
The lightweight kit fitted to our test bike definitely brings out the best of the ride. At well under 30lb in this guise, the Pace is an impressive climber for a 6in travel bike. The ‘Freeﬂoater’ suspension system and tightly controlled DT Swiss EX200 rear shock allow you to pedal without a trace of bob unless you’re really stomping. Short chainstays reduce unsprung leverage to keep the rear end fast and responsive, so the rear wheel stays communicative over the most random boulder sections. All this means you can push hard when you need to rather than juggling acceleration against geology.
A tall ride height gives loads of ground clearance on rocky terrain, while the short top tube lets you bend your elbows and get far enough over the front wheel for less wander and lift than we expected, although it will start to feel cramped if the climb drags on.
The downhill-inspired 66.5-degree head angle would suggest an Alp-annihilator and supersized frame tubes form an impressively stiff and solid-feeling front end. There’s no danger of being thrown over the front on steep, slow descents, and it makes the Pace a natural nose-high launch and drop machine, which is useful for cross-country riders who tend to hide behind the bike in the air rather than get over the front and style it.
While the extra travel undoubtedly lets it hit bigger drops and rocks than you would normally do on a cross-country bike, it never seems as gravity focused as other 6in options. But for cross-country riders, it’s a great and conﬁdent-inspiring match.
The long 723mm front-centre (the distance between front axle and bottom bracket) and super-short back end mean you’re sitting a long way back in the wheelbase, which can be unnerving on loose, rocky terrain. The tall bottom bracket and high riding suspension (even with a lot of sag) leave you feeling perched on top when you’d rather feel sucked down and sitting in the bike.
Frame: Beefier version of Pace's proven all-rounder
The chassis layout follows that of Pace's excellent RC405 5in travel all-rounder, and Pace have even curved the top tube to keep standover clearance the same. There are signiﬁcant differences in the detail though. A longer upper linkage squeezes an extra inch of travel out of the damper stroke. The mainframe is also reinforced. with thicker tube walls throughout, twin gussets behind the head and a reinforced seat tube gusset.
With 2.4in rubber, tyre clearance is quite close, and the chain runs close enough to the swingarm uprights to cause chip and chatter issues at speed. The RC-506 has got a rear-facing seatpost slot too, so check for water inﬁltration from the back wheel.
More practical pluses include Crud Catcher mudguard bolts under the down tube and a cable guide for light leads. The option of a tougher, lighter satin anodised ‘au naturale’ alloy (£1,495) ﬁnish alongside the gloss metallic ‘slick grey’ (£1,395) painted ﬁnish is a nice touch too.
Equipment: Lightweight kit brings out best of ride
Our pre-production test bike was equipped with a lightweight kit selection based around DT Swiss's ‘XC/ AM’ parts, which Pace distribute. You can buy the frames with various build kits with either DT Swiss or RockShox forks and with a choice of DT Swiss wheelsets - a ‘rolling chassis’ deal can save you a couple of hundred pounds over the separate costs.
Pieces such as the Easton EC70 seat post and fat but feathery Continental Mountain King 2.4in tyres also minimise mass to create an impressively light bike.
“I didn’t get on with Pace’s 506 the ﬁrst time I rode it, with big RockShox Lyrik forks and Avid Code brakes stiﬂing its style. With a lighter, more trail-orientated spec it feels a lot more balanced. But even though it’s relatively light and pedals impressively, you still pay in weight and agility terms for that extra inch of travel.”
Adrian Carter founded Pace 20 years ago and also designed the RC506. We quizzed him on its birth...
What inﬂuenced you during the design of the RC506?
It was inﬂuenced in part by Pace and part by Honda! The 506 retains the climbing efﬁciency and speed of our five-inch bike, the RC405. By transferring the ‘Freeﬂoater’ system and redesigning it to work in conjunction with a longer stroke shock it came as a revelation how the 506 would climb.
The Honda inﬂuence comes from my CRF450. It got me thinking why it was that dirt bikes had evolved to the point where the suspension travel/geometry/chassis package was pretty much deﬁnitive. If you wanted a dirt bike to travel at speed in mixed off-road terrain there was no hardtail/short travel/single speed option — just the best design for the job. And that’s what I wanted to achieve with the 506 — just the best overall package design for riding in the mountains. Because in my mind if you can’t ride a mountain bike both up and down a gnarly mountain, is it really a mountain bike?
Who did you design it for?
Mountain bikers who like to ride just one bike which can climb a mountain, like to ride technical terrain once they’re up there, then like to pull the pin for a high-speed descent.