Swarf Contour Prototype first ride review

Forgiving, supple and confidence-inspiring short-travel speed machine

The 29er market is hot at the moment and Swarf is right on the money with its 115mm-travel Contour. Don’t let the lack of rear bounce fool you — this bike is ready to take a beating!

Swarf Contour Prototype specifications

  • Frame: Steel (Reynolds 853 DZB top and down tubes, Reynolds 631 seat and head tubes, Dedacciai chainstays, 4130 seatstays), 115mm (4.5in) travel
  • Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3, 130mm (5.1in) travel
  • Shock: Cane Creek DBAir IL
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Deore XT with Race Face Next SL cranks (1x11)
  • Wheelset: Light Bicycle 29C14 carbon rims on Hope Pro 4 hubs
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Magic Mary 29x2.35in (f) and WTB Breakout 29x2.3in (r)
  • Brakes: Shimano Deore XT, 180mm rotors
  • Bar: Renthal Fatbar Lite Carbon 35, 760mm
  • Stem: Spank Spoon 2.0, 40mm
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth 125mm dropper
  • Saddle: Fabric Scoop
  • Weight: 14.5kg (32lb), large size without pedals
  • Price from: approx £2,000 (frame & shock)*

* Price will depend on shock model specified and will be higher with the DBair used here

Swarf Contour Prototype frame and kit

Outstanding attention to detail gives the Contour the feel of a highly polished product, making it easy to forget that my sample was just a prototype (Swarf hopes to have the finished product ready early summer ). 

The mainframe and swingarm are lovingly crafted from various types of steel tubing (Reynolds 853 DZB top and down tubes, Reynolds 631 seat and head tubes, Dedacciai chainstays, 4130 seatstays), and the frame has amazingly clean lines, with a built-in seat clamp and neat and well-thought-out external routing for the rear brake hose and gear cable.

I particularly like the way the top tube and seatstays form a single straight line along the length of the bike.

Swarf has opted for a single-pivot suspension layout combined with a linkage-actuated shock. The swingarm has 6mm of vertical flex built in, which eliminates the need for a pivot above the dropouts. 

Ady, Swarf’s owner, says he spent a long time engineering the design so that it worked with the smallest amount of flex possible. He’s also configured the suspension to be exceptionally progressive.

Buyers can choose between a Cane Creek DBair shock (seen here), the coil version or a RockShox Monarch
Buyers can choose between a Cane Creek DBair shock (seen here), the coil version or a RockShox Monarch

The rocker link on the prototype was machined from 6082-T6 aluminium, but production bikes will lose the seatstay brace to improve tyre clearance and use a carbon-fibre link instead to maintain stiffness. 

A range of rear shocks will be available, including the Cane Creek DBAir IL fitted here. The frame itself weighs a claimed 3.35kg (Large, without shock).

Vital statistics include 115mm of rear wheel travel, a 67-degree head angle and a steep 75.5-degree seat angle. My large sample had a long 465mm reach and 1,210mm wheelbase, plus 445mm chainstays.

The Contour will only be available as a frame, but I can see a lot of buyers opting for a similar build to this one, which included a RockShox Pike RCT3 fork and Reverb post, and Shimano XT brakes and gearing. 

Light Bicycle carbon wheels with a 31.6mm internal width give a nice wide tyre profile and felt neither especially twangy nor overly stiff.

Swarf Contour Prototype ride impressions

Swing a leg over the Swarf and, even in the car park, you’d think it’s got more than 115mm of travel, thanks to the plush shock and impressively progressive rear end. 

On the trail, it’s a blast. The suspension fills you with confidence that it’ll handle anything you throw its way. Put rock gardens, roots and massive compressions in front of the Contour and it’ll chomp through them without making a fuss. 

As a bonus, it’s got great small-bump compliance too, because the progressiveness of the rear end means you can run lower shock pressures than normal.

Despite its smooth, plush feel, it’s no blancmange on the trail. The steel frame is forgiving and takes some of the harshness out of washboard ripples and trail chatter, but it still goes exactly where you point it. 

The steel frame goes exactly where you point it
The steel frame goes exactly where you point it

That bump-dulling ability doesn’t translate to twanginess either. It’s stiff, strong and supple. While the 67-degree head angle sounds steep compared to the latest 650b enduro bikes, it’s relatively slack for a short-travel 29er.

Even when ragging down rough straights or steep sections, I didn’t feel like I was getting pitched forward or that the front was tucking under.

If you’re in the market for a handmade trail bike that punches well above its weight, the Swarf 29er’s special ride and well-thought-out details mean that it needs to be on your radar.

Swarf Contour Prototype verdict

A UK-ready do-it-all trail bike that you can razz hard and it will take the harsh hits like a champ.

Alex has been riding bikes since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He first raced back in 2003, winning the Juvenile category on a sketchy hard tail Planet X bike. Alex lived in the Alps for seven years so isn't shy of a climb or two and loves getting out in his bike in all weather. His favorite thing to ride is steep loamy tracks with loads of opportunities to slam the bike into turns and really give it some frame bending welly! He's broken his fair share of frames, so any bike between his knees is going to get a right seeing to.
  • Age: 29
  • Height: 182cm / 5'10
  • Discipline: DH, Enduro, XC, BMX, Road
  • Preferred Terrain: Epic descents covered in the world's finest loam and hero dirt
  • Current Bikes: Nukeproof Mega 275 / Giant Anthem Advanced 275 1 / LeMond Reno / Deluxe Pro 2 BMX
  • Dream Bike: Giant ATX 1 DH (1999 model)
  • Beer of Choice: Teetotal
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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