Radon might not be the best known brand out there but we think this is likely to change. For starters, it's signed downhill superstar Manon Carpenter, which certainly won’t do it any harm when it comes to getting noticed. But, crucially, it’s the bikes that’ll be grabbing headlines. After a good few months of hard riding, here’s what we thought about the Radon Swoop 170 8.0.
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Sorted geometry is the foundation of a great bike and that’s where the Swoop really stands out from the off. It feels like Radon really has hit the nail on the head here.
The reach feels just right with my 18in frame offering up 460mm (considerably bigger than many manufacturers' size large) while the aggressive angles mean you can confidently charge into whatever might lay ahead.
The triangular chips situated at the lowermost shock mount allow you to switch between the three different geometry settings, altering the head and seat angle by 0.5 degrees at a time, and the bottom bracket height up to 13mm in total. That means in its lowest setting, the bottom bracket sits at just over 430mm off the ground with a huge 21mm drop. But what’s key here is that each setting is usable.
It’s also worth noting that in the lowest setting (and with the replacement rear tyre I had to use) my head angle measured in at a slack 64 degrees. Thankfully the seat angle remains close to 75 degrees so doesn’t feel particularly inefficient on the climbs.
Radon offers the Swoop in four frame sizes, and the largest 22in option offers a 487mm reach. The Swoops don’t have the longest effective top tubes though so don’t feel overly stretched out when seated and pedalling along, though I had no real issues with this throughout testing.
Radon Swoop 170 8.0 kit
Considering just what the price is here, the Swoop 170 8.0 comes with some fantastic kit. A RockShox Lyrik RCT3 fork is easy to tune and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with these over the last couple of years in terms of reliability.
At the rear, Radon has taken the bold move to spec the meatier RockShox Vivid Air R2C shock. This damper offers up beginning and end stroke rebound, and low speed damping adjustment — which does make a difference when getting the bike dialled in on the trail. Just after we finished testing I did notice a small amount of top out from the shock when static, though this was completely unnoticeable when riding.
Punchy Magura MT5 brakes delivered on power and feel, even in the monsoon-like conditions we experienced throughout testing, while the Race Face bar and stem felt stiff without being harsh and comfortable enough even on particularly brutal runs, though a 780 rather than 760mm wide bar would increase appeal.
The only real let down in terms of spec here is the tyre choice. The Schwalbe Fat Alberts simply don’t do the bike justice. Though the front tyre gets the relatively grippy TrailStar compound, the thin casing just isn’t enough to handle what this bike can do. OK, they’re not terrible in most circumstances but it didn’t take me long to tear the rear tyre beyond repair.
The fact that the DT Swiss E1900 Splines come set up tubeless does help things a bit here though. Regardless, a tougher casing and some tackier rubber certainly wouldn’t do the Swoop any harm.
Not everyone will be into the wide, heavily padded Selle Italia Nepal saddle either.
Radon Swoop 170 8.0 ride
While it may seem like I’ve highlighted some faults here, thanks to the Radon’s ride feel, spec and price I think they’re more than easy enough to overlook here. This bike just deals with the terrain in such a confident, composed manner it’s hard to fault.
And though the Swoop will happily eat up chunder when you do point in at root spreads or boulder fields, equally, it remains agile and playful where the more than 14.26kg weight certainly doesn’t seem to hold it back, even when you do want to throw some shapes in the air or hurl it from line to line.
In the lowest setting, I had no real issues with crank strikes and really appreciated the big bottom bracket drop and low slung feel. Even on properly fast, loose Italian trails where I was initially a little hesitant due to the tyre choice, those worries were soon cast aside thanks to the position the Swoop encourages you to be in on the bike.
Things simply feel stable and confident and speed seems to come effortlessly. Corners are railed rather than negotiated thanks to the planted, secure feel the Swoop encourages and if you do screw up a line or drop, there’s enough travel to deal with any miscalculations should things start to go wrong.
Of course it helps that the easy to tweak suspension is fantastically well synchronised. Supple when it counts but with more than enough support when it’s needed, and all the while delivering the travel in a measured, well-damped manner that tracks the terrain well and handles the hits with ease.
There’s a decent amount of feedback fed through your hands and feet too, though just enough to get a feel for what’s going on beneath your tyres and no more than feels necessary.
It’ll climb well enough too and considering the amount of travel on tap, it actually pedals really quite well, though the lack of climb switch or low speed compression lever on the shock does mean it’s not quite as efficient as others on really lung busting steep pitches.
As an overall package then, the Radon is really quite superb with just a few little niggles that, considering the price, are easy to cast aside.