If you don’t want the hassle of maintaining a full-suspension bike or just want to get back to basics and really feel the trail, a hardcore hardtail is a good bet. The Sheffield-designed Bitmap ticks a lot of the right boxes.
Airdrop Bitmap Works frame
The guys at Airdrop have been developing the Bitmap for a couple of years, taking ‘long, low and slack’ as their mantra. I tested the Large size, which has a reach of 460mm, 45mm of bottom-bracket drop, a 65-degree head angle and 420mm chainstays. All of this adds up to a bike that’s just plain rowdy!
Everything about the Bitmap has been designed to keep you going through the winter months. It’s got a threaded bottom bracket, external cable routing (the dropper post hose starts off external but enters the seat tube just above the bottom bracket) and loads of mud clearance, even with 2.6in rubber. Airdrop say its even managed to squeeze in a 2.8in Maxxis tyre.
The Bitmap is designed to offer all the fun of an old-skool ‘hardcore hardtail’ but with thoroughly modern geometry Steve Behr
Bucking the UK hardtail trend slightly, the Bitmap is aluminium, rather than steel, but that keeps cost and weight down. With its chunky, square seat and chainstays, shaped down tube and reinforcing gusset between the top tube and seat tube, this is a frame that’s been built for strength and stiffness, not long-ride comfort.
The wide Boost 148mm rear end, ISCG-05 chain guide tabs and brake mount spaced for a 180mm rotor emphasise its aggressive nature.
Airdrop Bitmap Works kit
This is the top-of-the-range Bitmap, so it’s dripping with high-end kit. The 12-speed SRAM X01 Eagle transmission and carbon Descendant cranks worked flawlessly, while the Guide RSC brakes were more than powerful enough and it was easy to get the reach and bite point exactly where I wanted them.
Since I took delivery of the test bike, Airdrop has announced it’ll be speccing Burgtec components on the Works model, for the same price. The super-stiff Truvativ Descendant 35mm bar and stem on my bike will still be used on its cheaper complete bikes.
Chunky tubes and reinforcing gussets keep things strong and stiff Steve Behr
The Hope wheels and WTB tyres are solid performers, though I picked up a slow puncture on the front that I couldn’t find and fix. My only (minor) gripe with the spec is the RockShox Pike RC fork — it works well, but lacks the adjustability of the RCT3 model I’d expect to find on a top-end bike.
Airdrop Bitmap Works ride
With its low standover height and steep seat angle, the Bitmap lets you get your saddle out of the way on the descents, but put it right where it needs to be for climbing, which is something it does surprisingly well, given its gravity-inspired geometry.
The back end is short enough to be playful, but long enough to keep things stable at speed and over rough, chattery rocks and roots, while the roomy reach puts you right in the middle of the bike on descents, rather than leaving you hanging off the back for dear life.
Point the Bitmap downhill and the ride is rowdy and fast Steve Behr
It’s a stiff and, at times, unforgiving ride, especially with the 35mm-diameter bar provided. But I liked the direct feel and found it confidence-inspiring. Point the Bitmap downhill and the ride is rowdy, fast and way too good for a bike with only 140mm of travel at the front.
Airdrop Bitmap Works specifications
Frame: 6061-T6 aluminium alloy
Fork: Rockshox Pike RC, 140mm (5.5in) travel
Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle
Cranks: Truvativ Descendant Carbon (1×12)
Wheelset: Hope Tech Enduro Pro 4 wheels
Tyres: WTB Vigilante (f) and Trail Boss (r) TCS Tough/High Grip 27.5×2.3in
Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC, 180mm rotors
Bar: Truvativ Descendant 35, 800mm
Stem: Truvativ Descendant 35, 40mm
Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb Stealth with 1x lever
Saddle: WTB Volt
Weight: 12.8kg (28.2lb), large size without pedals