FiftyOne Bikes built its reputation manufacturing custom carbon bikes at its Dublin headquarters.
The Assassin is the Irish bike builder’s first full production model, with frames built to FiftyOne’s exacting specification in Asia and assembled in the Emerald Isle.
Versatility is a big plus when it comes to gravel bikes, but it can result in a ‘safe’ option that’s more about haulage than high jinx. However, the Assassin manages to mix practicality and performance, both in terms of speed and flickable ride response, to brilliant effect.
FiftyOne Bikes Assassin frame
At the heart of the Assassin is its adaptable geometry, realised by using flip-chip dropouts in both the fork and rear stays.
This enables the bike to switch between three positions at the rear. Adjusting the wheelbase in 5mm increments, shorter settings are intended to bring more agility, while longer settings improve ride stability.
At the front, the two-position dropout can be switched to a lower position, which gives a longer trail and slacker head angle. This serves to make the bike more adept when it comes to technical terrain and twisty trails.
Conversely, the higher position steepens the head angle and shortens the trail, which speeds up the steering.
FiftyOne says tyre clearance is equal across both 700c and 650b wheel sizes, at 47mm.
The versatility extends beyond geometry and into the bike’s fittings. There are front and rear mudguard mounts, rack mounts, and routing for both Di2 cables and a dropper post.
It even has internal routing for a dynamo lighting system through the fork. Additional top-tube bosses and multiple bottle mounts add up to a bike that should be able to handle everything from fast gravel riding to transcontinental adventures.
The Assassin isn’t limited on drivetrain options, being able to run 1x and 2x drivetrains and even up to a 50/34-tooth compact road crankset.
The crankset turns on a threaded T47 bottom bracket.
FiftyOne Bikes Assassin geometry
The Assassin leans more towards the sort of long front-centre geometry we’ve seen on the likes of the BMC URS in recent times.
It’s not quite as extreme as some gravel bikes, however, so the FiftyOne is very much an off-road champion rather than an all-road hybrid.
My size-large test bike has a 415mm reach, combined with a 590mm stack. That’s significantly longer and lower than most gravel bikes.
Here, though it’s combined with a short 90mm stem, which brings the reach towards the rider somewhat.
The adjustable wheelbase makes a huge difference to how the bike feels. The mid-point setting on the rear dropout gives a 430mm chainstay length, which can be shortened or lengthened by 5mm.
Up-front, the two-position chip switches between a short 45mm and longer 53mm offset. Combined with the resulting 69.5- or 70-degree head angle, this makes for a trail of either 75.95mm or 87.49mm, respectively, with a 40mm tyre in place.
|Seat angle (degrees)||73.5||73.5||73.5||73.5|
|Head angle (degrees)||69.5||69.5||69.5||69.5|
|Rear center (mm)||430||430||430||430|
|Seat tube (mm)||465||490||510||530|
|Top tube (mm)||534.96||562.1||589.77||613.65|
|Head tube (mm)||116||141||170||202|
|Fork offset – Low / Hi axle (mm)||53/45||53/45||53/45||53/45|
|Trail – Low / Hi axle (mm)||87.49/75.95||87.49/75.95||87.49/75.95||87.49/75.95|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||70||70||70||70|
FiftyOne Bikes Assassin build
This stock build combines Campagnolo’s 1x 13-speed Ekar groupset with the brand’s tubeless Shamal carbon wheelset.
The shifting is positive and well-controlled, although occasionally the upshift lever can catch on the brake lever, which leaves the chain hanging in a ‘no-man’s land’ between gears, unless you flick it again with your finger.
Downshifts are much more positive with the curly trigger that’s accessed easily from the hoods or the drops.
The Campagnolo Shamal wheels are the Italian brand’s all-rounder option and an excellent wheelset for the road, but I can’t help thinking the brand’s gravel-specific Levante wheelset would make a better option thanks to an even greater 25mm internal width (as opposed to the Shamal’s 21mm diameter).
The finishing kit comprises a matching stem and seatpost from Zipp’s Service Course range, and an Easton EA50 AX aluminium gravel bar. This is subtly shaped, with a compact drop and 16-degree flare.
This makes for a lightweight bike at 9.18kg (size XL), complete with 45mm-wide WTB Riddler tyres, bottle cage and FiftyOne saddle pack in place.
FiftyOne Bikes Assassin ride impressions
The Assassin’s different configurations can make the bike feel flat-out fast, or speedy but stable. I found the middle ground to be my favoured setup.
With 430mm chainstays and the fork in the 53mm trail setting, I’ve found the FiftyOne to have a brilliant balance between speed on rough roads and flickable control on wooded singletrack or hillside-traversing sheep tracks.
The bike relies heavily on the 45mm WTB tyres for comfort, while the frame and fork both major on stiffness.
I’d have liked to see a carbon seatpost at the rear to add a bit of extra compliance (or, perhaps even better, a dropper post with a bit of suspension travel to give comfort and add to the bike’s handling prowess when things get testing).
Up-front, the Assassin’s stiffness adds to the responsive handling, and the Easton bar – along with quality bar tape – nullifies most vibrations. However, it still feels more of a race-like than a recreational ride experience.
The WTB Riddler gravel tyres are superb in the dry and roll fast on hard-packed surfaces.
Like all lower-profile gravel treads, mud clogging can be a challenge. But, being tubeless and large in volume, you can experiment with lower tyre pressures to eke out more grip if the going underfoot is a little sloppy.
The gear range with a 38/9-tooth biggest gear means plenty of pace for fast descending, and a lightest 38/42t combination is very off-road climb friendly.
Campagnolo should also be applauded for keeping the gear progression nicely balanced across the cassette.
Aside from the occasional catching of the upshift lever I’ve already mentioned, Ekar performed well. The brake feel is very consistent, with great progressive action at the lever.
FiftyOne Bikes Assassin bottom line
Overall, the FiftyOne Bikes Assassin is a wonderful off-road companion.
It can dance its way through the twists and turns of tight singletrack and maintain control on choppy rutted roads, while on smoother ‘princess gravel’ trails it’s near-enough road bike rapid. It’s also practical.
The taut frameset excels when climbing and the ride position afforded by the smart geometry makes descending balance on the tightrope between confident stability and on-the-edge excitement.
|Price||br_price, 5, 3, Price, EUR €6499.00GBP £5450.00USD $6923.00|
|Weight||br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 9.18kg (XL), Array, kg|
|Brand||br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Fiftyone bikes|
|Features||br_Features, 11, 0, Features, Extras: FiftyOne carbon bottle cage, FiftyOne saddle pack|
|Available sizes||br_availableSizes, 11, 0, Available sizes, S, M, L, XL|
|Brakes||br_brakes, 11, 0, Brakes, Campagnolo Ekar hydraulic disc with 160mm rotors|
|Cassette||br_cassette, 11, 0, Cassette, Campagnolo Ekar 13 speed 9-42|
|Chain||br_chain, 11, 0, Chain, Campagnolo Ekar 13 speed|
|Cranks||br_cranks, 11, 0, Cranks, Campagnolo Ekar Carbon 38 tooth chainring|
|Fork||br_fork, 11, 0, Fork, Carbon|
|Frame||br_frame, 11, 0, Frame, Carbon|
|Handlebar||br_handlebar, 11, 0, Handlebar, Easton EA50ax 16-degree flare bar|
|Saddle||br_saddle, 11, 0, Saddle, WTB SL8 saddle|
|Seatpost||br_seatpost, 11, 0, Seatpost, Zipp Service course 27.2mm seatpost|
|Shifter||br_shifter, 11, 0, Shifter, Campagnolo Ekar 13s|
|Stem||br_stem, 11, 0, Stem, Zipp Service course 90mm stem|
|Tyres||br_tyres, 11, 0, Tyres, WTB Riddler 45mm tyres|
|Wheels||br_wheels, 11, 0, Wheels, Campagnolo Shamal carbon disc|