When you’re one of the most iconic, pioneering mountain bike brands releasing your first new bike in a while, it’s a big deal. Especially when you’re releasing it into a mountain bike gene pool that’s recently been changing its DNA faster and more radically than at any other time in the MTB timeline.
In fact we’ve actually featured previous ‘final prototype’ versions of this bike before, but now fastidious Pace designer and ferociously fast rider Adrian Carter promises us this is definitely the full production version of the long awaited RC127.
One thing that Carter has stuck with throughout the RC127 design process is tough, taut but still forgiving Reynolds 853 steel alloy. It’s long enough to be short stem-friendly now though, with a 67-degree head angle and low chainguide-tabbed bottom bracket.
The skinny tapered head tube uses external bearing cups but the 38mm down tube and 35mm top tube and seat tube are a bigger diameter than normal with a throat gusset and further reinforcement on the chainstays, so they can splay wide enough to accommodate 2.4in treads.
Adjustable dropouts give singlespeed capability
The ‘Slideout’ dropout moves the 142x12mm rear axle backwards or forwards 13mm, micro adjusting frame geometry and/or taking up chain slack in a singlespeed transmission setup. All brake and gear controls are routed externally and are “easy to portage, easy on the knees and easy on the eye” according to Pace.
Controversially, the bike is only rigged for external dropper post lines rather than internal, but there are mounting bolts for a four-point rack on the rear stays. You get three different paint finishes over an anti-corrosion ED black base coat plus five different decal kits and even colour-coded fork arch splash guards. Considering the level of detailing, prestige name and premium plumbing, it’s competitive with similar bikes from Cotic, Onza and Ragley.
ISCG05 mounts are there for aggro riders
Pace offers full builds for the RC127, with the £2300 setup coming with a crowd-pleasing Pike RC fork, Mavic Crossrock tubeless ready-wheels and a full SRAM X1 drivetrain. SRAM also takes care of stopping, with the Guide R brakes.
But as much as steel frame buyers tend to be better schooled riders who are into their details, the bottom line with any bike – whether it’s of impeccable pedigree or just from this month’s latest pop-up shop – is how it rides. In the case of the Pace it’s obvious straight away that it’s built for riders who want to attack the trail, not waft along it apologetically.
Whatever we threw at it, the Pace's frame held its authority
Those big 853 tubes mean a stiff and solid connection between ground and pilot that you can really drive hard into corners or carve across random roots, rocks and off-camber lines with determined commitment. It’s certainly stout enough to make full use of the 140mm Pike fork and we were pleased that our sample had a Maxxis High Roller front tyre not the harder-compound, more slippery Mavic Crossroc rubber listed.
The 45mm stem and 785mm bar from Race Face mean no shortage of reaction speed or leverage between brain and bike, so its brawn can be targeted immediately and accurately. We even switched to stickier tyres and wider wheels for some of the testing to see if we could find a point where the frame started to flutter and flex. It was having none of it though, just railing round with even more surefooted authority thanks to the increased cornering grunt and grip. They made the Pace noticeably slower on climbs and out of corners though, to the point where even plus bikes were giving it a hard time.
Decades of development show in this ride
Otherwise, considering the frame alone weighs 2.6kg – which is relatively heavy even for steel – our large complete bike was a usefully responsive 12.6kg and we were surprised by how much time we spent at the faster end of the SRAM X1 11-speed transmission. That’s because even with the bolted dropout sections there’s solid power delivery right through the frame to get your wattage into the stiff wheels and its ability to carry speed through chaos is consistently impressive for a conventional (rather than plus) hardtail.
While the front end is all elbows out, accentuated weight shift, bar bullying attitude, the back end is, thankfully, a bit more supple. It’s still solid enough to convey clear and accurate traction information but the curved steel pipework definitely takes the edge off potentially bone-jarring impacts and landings compared with a typical alloy hardcore frame.
It’s still definitely on the aggressively direct, rather than flexy and vague side for a steel frame. This syncs naturally with the speed-confident but still on-point handling, making the Pace a great choice for riders who want to give a nod to the past while still being able to drop their shoulders into corners and send it off kickers in true cutting-edge style.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.