The Balkans is not somewhere you think of looking for bike brands, but that’s where Ram come from. They were launched by a group of enthusiasts 10 years ago in Sofia, Bulgaria, and have slowly been building an image of no-nonsense dependability in the UK.
The pillarbox red HT.TWO.3 is the cheapest bike in the HT.TWO range – there’s a lower budget HT.ONE range and a more costly HT.THREE range, which includes four 29ers.
Ride & handling: Perfectly adequate but clearly a budget bike
This bike doesn’t sit far below the £900 mark, but that £160 does make for quite a difference in terms of the parts specification and overall trail performance. For a start, it’s fairly weighty, and despite the fast tyres and light wheels its overall mass drags on the ups and during initial acceleration.
While the RockShox XC fork does the job in terms of simple bump absorption, its skinny stanchions make for a more fluttery feel on rough terrain, especially when braking into corners. That’s compared to the Recons and Rebas you’re likely to find on more costly bikes.
Handling is confident and stable over all terrain but the ride feel is duller than that of pricier models. For those on a sub-£750 budget it’s a good option, though.
Frame & equipment: Decent for the money, especially in terms of the wheels
The Ram has an unfussy frame. The big down tube is suitably reinforced where it flares into the head tube, and the top tube does likewise into the top of the seat tube. Elsewhere it’s all relatively plain tube forms that simply do the job.
There’s plenty of room around the tyres and there are two sets of bottle bosses and a padded anti-chainslap wrap on the right chainstay.
The beefy head tube has an integral headset. And a basic RockShox XC28 fork offers 100mm (3.9in) of fairly stoic coil sprung suspension with a preload dial on top of the left-hand leg, an effective lockout on top of the right-hand leg and a rebound damping dial for adjustment underneath.
Some bikes around this price have 30 or 20 gears, but most have 27. The Ram is one of them, with a 3x9 SRAM drivetrain, using an X5 rear gear and shifters with a clumpy looking X3 up front and a mid-range crankset.
This all worked slickly through the test period and we were happy with the Avid Elixir 1 brakes too – for those who like to push the limits from time to time, the 180mm front rotor is a welcome bonus.
The wheels are something of a highlight for a bike at this price. They’re reasonably light, with eyeleted rims, SRAM hubs and the excellent Maxxis Cross Mark treads, which roll very fast but still grip surprisingly well on all but the slimiest trails.
A decent quality collection of finishing parts is welcome too. Fizik’s Nisene Wing Flex is a great saddle and most testers were happy with Truvativ’s twin-bolt seatpost and 27in low-rise bar and stem.