Born and bred in
Ride & handling: Fast and smooth riding, though we'd like to see a slacker head angle
The Storm 1.0 takes off fast, transferring power efficiently thanks to its big squared-off down tube and the carbon ‘meat’ around the bottom bracket. Settle into the comfy own-brand saddle and keep the cranks turning and you'll feel the ground passing under your tyres at a pace that's hard to ignore. "Clipping along nicely" was the phrase that came to mind.
We were able to get a comfortable cross-country race style position with the wide flat bar and 80mm stem, and the Silverback has an ability to carry speed that we've only found on big-wheeled bikes. Once you're into your rhythm this means you can soft-pedal a bit more than on a 26in bike, saving energy with no loss of speed.
But this bike isn't just about straight-line pace – it offers excellent traction, too. There's an old flight of steps on one of our test routes that can be tricky to ride smoothly as each one is slightly shorter than your average 29er wheelbase. With 23psi in the rear Maxxis CrossMark, the Silverback ate them up – no slipping or spinning, just nailed-on drive.
With steeper geometry than some 29ers, the Silverback feels light through the bar – ideal for new riders looking to steer the Storm through oceans of singletrack at average trail speeds. Where it begins to show its limitations is when you're trying to go a bit faster downhill, particularly on wet or loose surfaces.
Geometry wise, the Silverback falls in the middle of the current 29er spectrum. The 73° seat angle is about par for a 26in-wheeled performance hardtail, and with an inline seatpost places the rider reassuringly between the wheels and on top of the pedals. Continuing the build-it-like-a-26er theme is Silverback's choice of a head 70° angle – not as steep as some, like Felt’s uber steep 72°, but not quite the forward thinking, trail bike chasing 68° that we've come to like.
There’s plenty of precision from the tapered head tube and 15mm fork axle, and there’s grip in the low-profile rubber too. But when the front starts to slide the lack of front end trail means there isn’t much time to make corrections before the tyre checks out.
Bigger tyres won’t help other than to make it a slower rolling, more physically taxing ride. Relaxing the head angle by a degree or two, however, would lose you nothing in the tight stuff but would give big gains at speeds over 10mph. To uncork the Storms's potential we’d suggest investing in some angled headset cups. Then you’d be seriously troubling the trail every time it got fast and technical.
As it is, if you ride cross-country and rolling trails on a hardtail or a 100mm-travel full-suspension bike then you're likely to fall in love with the Silverback. Casual round-the-woods escapades are made even more casual and lap time hunting types will be able to shave time in most instances. So that’s pretty much everybody satisfied bar the big-hitters.
Frame & equipment: Good looking carbon chassis and well thought out parts pick
The Silverback's full-carbon monocoque frame has a blend of purposeful angles and gently curving swoops that reminded us of the Niner Air 9 Carbon. That was touted as one of the best looking bikes of 2011, so the Storm is no bag of spanners. The bike looks compact, aggressive and ready to get you up the trail with speed.
Look a bit closer than the skin and you'll see that there's quite a bit going on with the chassis, too. There are flex busting tube flares, comfort enhancing pinches and a delicacy to the seatstays that demonstrates Silverback's understanding that you need more than just stiffness from a frame designed to be ridden as far as this mile busting big-wheeler.
The low standover height prevents the Storm looking tall and ungainly – still a common issue for many 29ers, and one which puts off a lot of shorter riders from visually ‘getting’ the bigger wheel picture. The overall impression is of a fast handling bike, but dare we say one that's engineered not to frighten or confuse the 29er-curious 26er rider.
The 10-speed Shimano Deore XT transmission and SLX brakes are stunningly effective. So much so that you can find yourself overshifting and locking wheels to begin with. The RockShox SID100 RL fork is a class act and its 15mm axle links to the light and flighty Stan’s Crest wheelset for maximum steering precision. Just what the cross-country doctor ordered.
There’s nothing about this package that we’d change in a hurry. In fact, we’d be happy to plug a year's worth of riding into the bike before we even thought about upgrading anything. The next-step-down Storm 2.0 model uses a Shimano SLX transmission but is essentially the same beast, just a bit easier on the pocket.