USA-based Carver Bikes is still looking for a UK importer, and we're amazed that no one is selling its bikes yet. Still, even with import duties, it won't cost you much to get a frame from the USA.
We previously tested a larger version - the 96er (29in front wheel, 26in rear) - and we loved it. This is the smallest version. Double cantilever brake bosses on the seat stays and an adjustable eccentric bottom bracket shell mean you could run it with 26in wheels - or a 26 up front, 24 out back. The eccentric BB will also take up chain slack if you want to run a hub gear or one-geared setup. The frames are hand-built in China, and nicely finished.
Carver says that a bigger front wheel and smaller rear gives you the best of both worlds: fast acceleration and smooth rolling through bumps. The theory's good and we love the frame's adaptability, as we've rarely seen a frame available in so many sizes. The Mini (12in) is for riders under 5ft 2in, but with 24in wheels fitted will fit kids from just over 4ft, while the XXL has a 25.2in top tube and a 44.75in wheelbase, emphasising the advantages of the 29er approach for tall riders. The design is extremely well sorted, making this frame a true multitool. And the 29/26 combo idea is catching on - even Trek are making one for 2007.