Pole Machine EN first ride review£6,010.00

Pole’s self-proclaimed ‘superbike’ is built like a plane, but does it fly on the trails?

This is surely one of the most innovative bikes around. Made in Finland with techniques and materials more associated with aerospace than bicycle frames, and with proportions that take long and slack to the next level, Pole’s Machine is touted as a new way of thinking about high-end bikes.

Pole Machine EN specifications

  • Frame: Machined 7075 T6 alloy, Ti hardware, 160mm travel
  • Fork: 2019 RockShox Lyrik RC2, 180mm travel
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 Eagle 1x12.
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss EX1501
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5in / Minion SS 2.3in
  • Brakes: SRAM Code RSC, 200mm rotors F&R
  • Bar/stem: SRAM Descendent 800mm/ 40mm
  • Weight: Around 15kg in Large with Doubledown tyres and Huck Norris insert

Pole Machine EN frame

The raw aluminium frame is bonded, not welded, from machined parts. Together with the stretched-out geometry this makes for a striking silhouette
The raw aluminium frame is bonded, not welded, from machined parts. Together with the stretched-out geometry this makes for a striking silhouette

The frame is CNC machined (hence the name) in seven parts from pressed billets of high-strength 7075 T6 aluminium. These are bonded and bolted together down the frame’s centreline.

Pole says the glue is all that’s needed to hold the parts together, but it leaves the bolts in place as an added precaution. The machined finish on the frame looks almost like wood-grain and must be seen in the flesh to be fully appreciated.

The front triangle is made from two halves that are glued down the middle and bolted in place
The front triangle is made from two halves that are glued down the middle and bolted in place

There’s 160mm of rear suspension travel provided by a pair of short, co-rotating links. The RockShox SuperDeluxe RCT3 shock is mounted off-centre and the body is rotated through 90 degrees to make room for two (yes, two) full-sized water bottles within the front triangle. A third water bottle, or tool storage keg, can be bolted underneath the down tube.

There’s room for 29x2.8in or 27.5x3.0in rubber in the rear. The frame’s claimed weight is 3.3kg in Medium without shock.

The reliability of a bike that’s glued and bolted together may worry some, but similar techniques are well-established in aerospace and automotive applications, Pole claims to have several well-ridden prototypes which have yet to fail.

The CNC-machining process leaves a unique, wood-grain-like finish
The CNC-machining process leaves a unique, wood-grain-like finish

Pole Machine EN kit

The Machine will be available with two build kits. I tested the top-spec Machine EN, but a slightly more affordable build, the Machine TR, is also available for €5,500 (approx. £4,757 / $6,712).

As you’d hope, for such a pricey piece of kit, the Machine EN’s componentry leaves very little to be desired. A 180mm-travel RockShox Lyrik RC2 smooths things out up front better than virtually any other fork, while top-end SRAM Code RSC brakes and a XX1 Eagle drivetrain handle stopping and going with authority — though I should mention that one of the bike’s SRAM Code RSC brakes felt a little spongier than I’d expect and was soon swapped out.

That aside, I have no complaints about the components.

The shock is mounted strikingly off-centre. This is not noticeable when riding
The shock is mounted strikingly off-centre. This is not noticeable when riding

Pole Machine EN ride impressions

The Machine is very easy to ride fast. The reach is very long (510mm in large) and the stack is tall. This puts you in a confident, comfortable position. The head angle (63.5 degrees) also helps to provide downhill-bike stability when hitting rock sections at speed and reduces the chances of the front wheel tucking under or fighting in steep, technical sections.

Pole recommends setting the moderately progressive rear suspension with a tick under 30 percent sag when measured seated. This provides loads of support, and when combined with the long chainstay (455mm) makes it easy to lean on the front wheel to keep it sufficiently weighted, despite the long front-end.

The Machine carves up corners once you learn to keep your weight central or slightly forward
The Machine carves up corners once you learn to keep your weight central or slightly forward

The supple beginning stroke of the Lyrik fork also helps keep the front-wheel stuck to the trail. As a result, the Machine generates impressive front-end traction in corners, arcing through turns like a modern carving ski.

Despite the huge 1,340mm wheelbase, it’s surprisingly easy to handle even in tight, flat switchbacks once you have the right technique and timing.

The support offered by the rear suspension also makes it easy to push into berms and hop the back wheel over trail obstacles. To compensate for the big wheelbase you can, with practice, easily lift the rear wheel mid-corner to tighten the line when negotiating awkward turns.

My bike came with no volume spacers in the shock. Despite this, the suspension rode high in its travel, but the full 160mm was accessible only when it was appropriate to bottom-out. I felt no need to alter this setup.

Even flat, loose switchbacks are no problem with the right technique
Even flat, loose switchbacks are no problem with the right technique

The rebound damping works best when set towards the open end, as the internal high-speed rebound valving is firm. This means the suspension response is controlled and safe when returning from deep in the stroke, but it still tracks repeated hits well. A lighter, high-speed rebound tune might help it recover from high-frequency bumps even better, but would compromise big-hit composure.

When hitting square-edged bumps at speed, there’s just a touch of pedal-kickback which can be felt through the cranks as the suspension pulls on the chain. This could be reduced by replacing the 32-tooth chainring fitted to my test bike with the stock 34-tooth.

To learn more about the compromises involved in suspension design check out this in-depth feature on the subject.

A steep seat angle results in a comfortable, upright climbing position; making light work of technical ascents
A steep seat angle results in a comfortable, upright climbing position; making light work of technical ascents

Even so, the suspension does a superb job of taming trail chatter and keeping the bike calmly connected to the ground. The slack head angle and high bar allow the fork to be set up softer without fork-dive becoming bothersome, resulting in better tracking up front too. Combined with the stable geometry and 29in wheels I’d wager it could embarrass most downhill bikes on the right track. It loves to be ridden fast over gnarly terrain.

When pointed uphill, the Machine feels stiff and taught under power. Suspension bob is kept under control too (this is the flip side of that pedal-kickback mentioned earlier), making for a surprisingly spritely sprinter. It’s a bike-review cliché, but there’s little need for using the lockout.

The steep seat angle (79 degrees), results in an extremely comfortable climbing position when seated, especially when things get steep and technical. The slack head angle is a non-issue here and climbing is relaxed, surefooted and efficient.

This bike revels in rough and fast rock gardens. It's totally in its element here
This bike revels in rough and fast rock gardens. It's totally in its element here

Because of the long wheelbase it takes skill and some strength to get the front wheel aloft, but the high handlebar offsets this to some extent by providing more leverage over the bike. I added 10mm of spacers under the 20mm rise bar, which made things easier.

On the other hand, the tall head tube (135mm in Large) means some short-legged riders may struggle to slam the stem enough to get into an aggressive position.

The long geometry may not be for everyone, but if it suits you, the Machine is frankly superb. Both uphill and down it makes riding fast easy. But they say when it comes to riding bikes, it does not get easier, you just go faster!

Pole Machine EN early verdict

Yes, you could buy carbon for less cash. But forget about frame material: the Machine makes no apologies and needs no excuses when the going gets rough.

Seb Stott

Technical Writer, UK
Seb is a geeky technical writer for BikeRadar, as well as MBUK and What Mountain Bike magazines. Seb's background in experimental physics allows him to pick apart what's really going on with mountain bike components. Years of racing downhill, cross-country and enduro have honed a fast and aggressive riding style, so he can really put gear to the test on the trails, too.
  • Age: 24
  • Height: 192cm/6'3"
  • Weight: 85Kg/187 lbs
  • Waist: 86cm / 34in
  • Chest: 107cm / 44in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep!
  • Current Bikes: Focus Sam 3.0, Kona Process 111, Specialized Enduro 29 Elite
  • Dream Bike: Mondraker Crafty with Boost 29" wheels, a 160mm fork and offset bushings for maximum slackness.
  • Beer of Choice: Buckfast ('Bucky' for short)
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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