If you’re looking for serious speed for your money, look no further than this French flying machine. The big box rectangular down tube and rear stays might not look as subtle and sculptural as a lot of hydroformed frames, but we were really surprised with the ride quality.
Ride and handling: impressive levels of composure
With skinny-even-by-2.1in-standards Hutchinson Python rubber sheathing the wheels, we hit our first section of rooty singletrack expecting a proper beating.
Yet while there’s the usual amount of chatter and clatter you’d expect from a hardtail, overall composure was impressive. This suggests the bluff exterior hides some pretty thin and refined tube walls to soak up micro vibration and disperse bigger impacts without making the frame soft and flexible. There’s plenty of room in the frame to add some fatter boots for a more ‘floated’ ride too.
Vibration and impact transmission is well tempered but there’s no dilution of power transfer, so whatever wattage you can put through the stiff (for this price at least) integrated axle Deore chainset you’re going to get the back wheel turning. Together with the fast rolling, low tread Pythons the Big 8 is a natural speed machine that riders with a competitive or epic ride interest will immediately love.
Frame and equipment: tooled for the fast and straightforward
While it’s no lazily confident hardcore hooligan in this case, the 90mm stem/680mm bars cross-country cockpit feels appropriate to the fast and straightforward rather than twitch and turn focus of the rest of the bike. Getting a tapered headtube (with a large lower steering bearing to increase stiffness) isn’t guaranteed on bikes around this bracket so it’s a definite bonus now.
Even with a QR skewer rather than a 15mm screw-thru axle the 32mm diameter stanchions on the eponymous RockShox fork make a noticeable difference in steering accuracy compared with 30 or 28mm legged forks. The air spring makes it easily adjustable for different rider weights and it smoothes out most smaller sized trail trauma pretty well.
Even when you’re pushing the fork to its limit for a prolonged period it’s the rebound that gets inconsistent and a bit rowdy, but there are no obviously painful compression spikes. Sprinters and stand up fire road hill climbers will appreciate the remote control lockout on the bars too.
The only (literally) big downside is that there are no small sized options, just medium through extra large, so you’ll need to look elsewhere in the B’Twin range if you’re under 166cm tall.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.