The bike-creating brothers Chris and Lance (yes they’re American) Canfield built their reputation with bomber downhill machines. It’s little surprise then that their 29er hardtail is more trail rager than uptight cross-country machine.
That said we were surprised how rapid and forgiving the Yelli Screamy was when we lit up our local trails while putting it through its paces. And that wasn't just because of the Canfield reputation and Suicidal Tendencies-style skull head badge that has made the bikes so popular among gravity warriors.
The main frame itself is a mixture of stout round tubes, including an oversized head tube barrel backed up by a very long old-school gusset plate under the throat. The seat tube slants steeply backward from a forward offset footing in a multi-piece cut-and-shut bottom bracket assembly to enable very short 424mm chainstays that butt onto wide-spaced machined terminals for fat rubber clearance.
In other words, it sounds like a recipe for a tight ass-kicking ride – and the fact that Canfield also makes a presumably more ductile and forgiving 4130 cro-mo steel Nimble 9 suggests that even Chris and Lance think the Yelli is a bit on the savage side.
That meant I hit the first long stepped section on our local gorge run with seat slammed and braced for the worst. Even with the Pike fork hammering out a heavy-calibre machine gun rhythm on the front, the Screamy was a lot more creamy than expected. Okay, creamy is an exaggeration purely because it rhymed as, even though I tried to keep our heels down, my feet where definitely rammed into the toes of my Five Tens when I slammed on to make the tight turn at the bottom.
The soles of my feet weren’t aching like they do on the stiffest hardtails though, and they still weren’t after walloping that bike down our local bouldery black runs or the off-piste stone steep play woods over on the craggy side of town. From previous test experience some of the standing softness definitely comes from the scooped arms of the lightweight single-ring Aerozine chainset.
On brusing terrain, the Yelli Screamy is thankfully more forgiving than its name suggests
Even when caught in the saddle by an unexpected compression of cobble, the snaking triangular seatstays mean you get a jolting rather than being subjected to a significant spine-shortening impact. It’s damped enough that I didn’t ding the rim or blow a tyre on the back either, which is rare when playing with slack-angled hardcore hardtails that encourage a gung ho rather than go steady riding attitude.
Add a reasonable complete bike weight of 12.33k (27.18lb) and a hard compound low tread Geax rear tyre on lightweight Stan's-rimmed wheels and the Canfield climbs and covers cross country miles fine.
Where the Yelli Screamy really shines though is on fast, technical singletrack, whether that’s groomed trail centre berms at the weekend or ribbons of dog walk and deer trail in the woods after work.
The down tube welds on to a large area of the head tube to help increase rigidity
The 67-degree head angle (with 140mm fork) throws the front wheel a long way out front for impressively terrain-ignorant stability. The taut feedback from the 35mm diameter Ritchey bars meant I could confidently hook and land surprisingly aggressive, inadvisably fast lines on rooty riverside descents where a slip would have meant a swim.
The short back end and reasonable weight make it easy to hop and pop over big stuff rather than dragging behind like a sulky teenager. If you’re not so good at the hop-and-pop side of things or you often go in too hard and fast to avoid every rock then the back end has clearance for a fat 2.4in tyre without it gumming with grass across the first field.
The latest production bike also comes with internal routing for Stealth-style dropper posts rather than the loop of flailing cable our first-gen test sample suffered on. It also gets ISCG mounts and revised chainstay/bottom bracket clearances for universal multi- or single-ring transmission compatibility. It comes in seven different anodised colours and unlike most 29er hardcore hardtails you can get it in small as well as medium, large and extra large sizes.
While the price is still high compared to bikes like the Zealous Division or Transition Trans Am, it’s not any more expensive than the 2014 version here despite the added features. There are four complete bike options from too.
A multi-piece BB helps to allow for fat-rubber clearance
How much the switch to a 142x12mm rear axle for maximum security, plus a very substantial rectangular section flare of the square down tube that welds onto around 80 percent of the back face of the head tube, will increase the rigidity and remove the forgiveness of the new frame we don’t yet know.
If you’re really into your climbing and big days out but don’t want to sacrifice attitude and ability on descents then the carbon EPO (named after the infamous blood-boosting drug of disgraced road racers) uses similar geometry but with even shorter chainstays and a sub-1500g weight. Only medium and large sized riders get that premium option privilege at the moment though.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.