Onza Payoff review£1,600.00

Sweetly detailed big-wheeled trail fun from reborn UK brand

BikeRadar score4/5

If your ears pricked up at the mention of Onza then you’ve obviously been into biking for a while. The new Payoff, though, is a great mix of retro-referenced detail and totally modern trail bike with leftfield appeal at an affordable price.

Retro spice with modern details

Onza’s own-brand ‘Flawless’ tubing is a retro choice designed to deliver a smooth ride without rear suspension. There’s an impressive level of detailing right through the frame too.

The tapered head tube backs onto the 35mm diameter down tube with extra support from an open-backed throat gusset. The bottom bracket is an oversize PF30 setup – rare on a steel frame – and there’s an eccentric insert in the pipeline to allow simple singlespeed chain adjustment.

The chainstays sprout from a big, forged wishbone bridge box. Their flat-to-round section adds a natural spring effect to the rear end while big, angular 3D dropouts hold replaceable axle inserts set up as 142x12mm as standard.

The cantilevered post brake mount leads neatly into top tube routing. The 27.2mm seatpost diameter limits aftermarket dropper post choice but the long-levered QR clamp is easy to open and close on the fly and the single-bend seat tube means you can drop the saddle right down even without hydraulic help.

Painted Payoff frames are electroplated internally to stop corrosion (raw finish ‘Acid Bath’ frames aren’t) and are great value if you want to build up your own bike. You’re limited to just 17 or 19in sizes but there’s a 650b-wheeled Jackpot version and the Payoff will take 2.8in 650b+ tyres too.

The payoff's considered steel frame makes this a base worth building on:
The payoff's considered steel frame makes this a base worth building on:

The Payoff's considered steel frame makes this a base worth building on

The Payoff’s Shimano SLX baseline saves weight and slightly improves function and durability over the Deore kit found on some competitors. Onza provides its own usefully stiff BB30 crankset with 32t narrow/wide ring for a clean and lightweight transmission. Thankfully there’s a wider range cassette in the pipeline in case you haven’t got the power and determination to grunt the bike up steep hills with its current 11-34t block.

The wheels and Kenda tyres are helpfully light and the RockShox Revelation fork is controlled enough on descents to make it worth earning the vertical gain. Onza provides the finishing kit, including a well-shaped 750mm bar and retro Ules grips. it also offers a full custom-build programme so you can assemble your dream bike.

Worth getting to know

A dream build is definitely worth considering too, because the more we rode the Payoff, the more we appreciated just what a great frame this is for blasting the UK trails that were at hand. Larger-diameter frame tubes and the box-backed PF30 bottom bracket mean it’s stiff and easy to hustle up to speed.

The Slant Six treads are very fast-rolling too, so once you’ve heaved it through the first few pedal strokes it accelerates with encouraging responsiveness. Add enthusiastic hop-and-pop responsiveness and we were surprised by how much time we spent at the flat-out end of the gears even on rollercoaster trails.

There’s plenty of accurate, clearly communicated trail feedback coming through the grips and pedals but the carefully shaped back end keeps the frame just compliant enough for comfort and consistent connection. It’s definitely smoother than an alloy bike over rocky sections, with less sting through your shoes and a spring-and-ping, rather than clatter- and-batter, response to impacts.

Onza's payoff isn't going missing in this finish – and the tubes are internally electroplated too, to combat corrosion:
Onza's payoff isn't going missing in this finish – and the tubes are internally electroplated too, to combat corrosion:

Onza has been working on the Payoff and Jackpot frames for two years and that shows in the innovative detailing and outstanding ride quality

If you really want to push on, the tapered head tube will take a 140mm (5.5in) travel fork to slacken things up without pulling the bottom bracket too high or voiding the warranty. The steeper stock head angle does reduce the potential barge effect of the bigger wheels on tight trails though, and makes the steering less floppy and fussy at slower speeds, particularly on climbs or when you’re knackered at the end of an epic exploring day.

A more aggressive handling setup would put more load through the relatively slippery front tyre and 120mm fork than they could comfortably handle too, and create a heavier, slower bike for tamer trails.

The Onza is still a naturally rowdy, ‘pop the front wheel, slide the back end, launch that drop, make the most of every inch of trail’ bike anyway and the frame-only and custom build options let you wring maximum potential out of this top-quality ripper.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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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