UK-based Singular first introduced the Swift in 2007 – and we enjoyed its company four years later – but since then it’s been updated with extra mud clearance, improvements to various fittings and a fetching creamy white paint job.
Frame and equipment: less-is-more ethos, spec is your choice
Constructed from 4130 double-butted chromoly steel, it’s very much a no-fuss rigid 29er – all straight lines, neat bolt-on cable guides and no extraneous detail. There aren’t even any rack mounts, though it does feature an eccentric bottom bracket for easy conversion to singlespeed.
For readers unfamiliar with the terminology, it means the frame’s BB shell (let’s call it the crank axle hole) is oversized, and a CNC-milled alloy insert sits inside. The hole in that takes regular threaded 68mm BBs and is offset, so rotating it (and then pinching it in place with two bolts) allows the chain to be tensioned. Without it, you’d have to faff with an external chain tensioner.
'Eccentric bottom bracket' might sound like a euphemism, but it just means that converting to singlespeed is easy
Geometry-wise, meanwhile, the thinking is fairly short and steep, with a tight 1082mm wheelbase and 71.5-degree head angle in the medium size (72 degrees in L and XL) we tested. In fact, it’s short enough to cause the the big 3in Surly Knard front tyre to hit your toes when turned hard. You rarely have that much lock on above walking pace, but it can happen.
How you spec the frame and fork is up to you, as Swift no longer does complete builds (although its dealers, depending on where you live, can). Our Shimano SLX-based bike topped 12.7kg (28.1lb) despite tyres you could go rafting in, and with only a little help from USE carbon bars and a skinny Thomson Elite seatpost.
Ride and handling: fat but flickable – and a competent climber
Unsurprisingly, the Swift is very easily flickable even wearing such large rubber, and thanks to all that rotating mass (and its resistance to being scuffed around the steering’s pivot) it’s not the twitchy, nervous wreck you might expect. Of course, there’s no dive steepening it either, though fitting a 100mm fork will slacken it off a degree to start with.
The 50mm wide Velocity Dually rims and big tyres – we ran a 2.4in Maxxis Ardent on the back, which came up practically square – allow impressively low pressures for monster grip, while rolling speed is much less affected. It’s good to know that 3in rubber fits in the fork, but something like the very triangular Knard gives up early in wet mud. There’s still plenty of mud room around both, though a narrower, squarer front tyre (like another Ardent) could come in handy.
The Swift proved a capable descender – though it was when tackling complex climbs that it really shone
The Swift really excels on the loose, awkward climbs. On one steep gully that little gets up cleanly, it sucked tentacle-like traction from the clay-smeared rubble and simply motored on. The Ardent cuddled around every jutting obstacle, smothering it with kindness as we sat and spun up the pedal-catchingly narrow rut in unperturbed stability. The low front stays easily pinned down.
Descending at speed, traction is similarly good but feedback is muted – and of course the seatpost is bolted in place and you probably haven’t bothered to lower it, because it’s 2015 and even QRs are old, so it’s hard to move around.
Everywhere else the Swift is entirely competent, fittingly fuss-free – it’s neither harsh nor flexy, enthusiastic nor excessively puritan. It’s an effective bicycle all-round, but it only really lit us up on the nastiest of techy climbs.
Specs as tested
- Size tested: M
- Sizes available: M, L, XL
- Weight tested: 12.7kg (28.1lb)
- Frame: 4130 chromoly steel
- Fork: 4130 chromoly steel
- Chainset: Shimano SLX
- Shifters: Shimano SLX
- Derailleurs: Shimano SLX (r), Shimano XT (f)
- Chain: Shimano
- Bottom Bracket: Shimano
- Cassette: Shimano, 11-36T
- Wheel – front: Phil hub, Velocity Dually 50mm rim
- Wheel – rear: White Industries hub, Velocity Dually 50mm rim
- Tyres: Maxxis Ardent, 2.4in (f), Surly Knard, 3in (r)
- Brakes: Shimano SLX
- Bars: USE flat carbon, 700mm
- Stem: Race Face Evolve XC, 90mm
- Grips: Hope, lock-on
- Seatpost: Thomson Elite, 27.2mm
- Saddle: A/C
- Headset: Acros AH-02
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.