Pace 506 FR-AM review£1,395.00

Promising but conflicted all-mountain machine

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Pace’s new six inch travel all-rounder has some excellent aspects, but the overall balance of its performance just isn’t as sorted as its superb five-inch stablemate, the 405.

The Free Floater linkage design of Pace’s 506 FR-AM offers superb traction on rocky climbs, and Pace has a wide range of options in the ‘rolling chassis’ configurations it offers. But it feels like a downhill bike up front and a cross-country rig at the back.

Ride & handling: a bike of two halves

With its tall mainframe and high rear subframe, the Pace looks slightly high heeled and nervous to start with, but it’s certainly not once you’re aboard.

The Free Floater linkage design compresses the DT Swiss air can from both ends for a fluid entry into a buoyant sag position. With the slack forks raked right out in front by the downhill-style 66.5 degree head angle, it’s impressively confident.

It plants the fork with impeccable precision, dropping it into the perfect line and holding it whenever we were way off on entry or too late on the brakes.  

The 14.5in bottom bracket didn’t spoil slow speed confidence and the extra ground clearance emphasises the superb pedalling dynamics of the Free Floater system, too. Lack of power lag means instant drive in any situation, and the fluid feel gives outstandingly smooth traction up rocky, technical climbs.

Unfortunately, the back end struggled noticeably as soon as we started working it harder.

Despite working through every platform damping position on the shock, we never managed to totally remove a sharp ‘spike’ on landings. It regularly clunked or hung up through successive bigger hit sections no matter what we did with rebound.

Rear wheel tracking was much more mushy and slurred than the front end too, creating a frustrating ‘bike of two halves’ character.

We love the aggressive gravity geometry and stiffness of the 506 front end, and the back end pedals superbly, making this an initially likeable long travel trail bike. Unfortunately though, the downhill front/character rear character split becomes more frustrating the harder you push it.

Frame: slacker & more downhill-orientated Free Floater

The basic ‘Free Floater’ layout and internal strengthening baffle, Crud Catcher and light cable mount details are all shared with the Pace 405, but the front end is three degrees slacker, the top tube is kinked for extra standover, the bottom bracket height increases to 14.5in and rear travel is up 20mm to 150mm (5.9in).

The driveside seatstay to chainstay brace stay still runs very close to both the tyre and the chain, and we’d definitely recommend the optional Maxle rear dropouts to reduce noticeable rear end flex. It comes in painted metallic slick grey (pictured) and satin anodized 'Au Natural' alloy (£1395) finishes.

Equipment: good deals on sorted spec

Pace offer some good ‘Rolling Chassis’ options with DT Swiss or Pace forks, Hope headsets and DT Swiss wheels. This Lyrik Solo Air and DT EX1750 option comes in at £2,371.49 compared to full retail of £2,634.99, saving you £263.50.

Overall weight is also pretty good, although the super light seatpost and light tyres offset hefty kit like Avid Code brakes.

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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