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Curtis AM7 review

Custom from the off, the AM7 is a British classic

GBP £1,150.00 RRP
Frame only
Pack shot of the steel framed hardtail Curtis AM7 mountain bike

Our review

An eye-catching frame with a smooth-riding feel and no-fee customisable geometry
Pros: Beautifully constructed chassis that stands out from the crowd; no-cost geometry customisation reduces barriers to building the frame just how you want it; smooth back end really shows off the ride quality possible from a steel bike
Cons: Stock head angle wasn’t to my taste – this can be altered for free, though
Skip to view product specifications

The duo behind Curtis Bikes – founder Brian Curtis and current owner Gary Woodhouse – have been fabricating framesets for decades, since 1972 in fact. Their early days included work on custom motocross frames, and they have a deep-rooted heritage in the world of BMX racing, which led to them switching to building bicycles only. Each frame is handmade to order and everything except powder-coating is done in-house in deepest Somerset.

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With its 650b wheels, the AM7 sits alongside the 29er AM9 in Curtis’s all-mountain/trail range. If trail bikes aren’t your thing, Curtis will build you anything from a cruiser BMX to a bikepacking adventure bike, an XC race bike to a DH hardtail.

Curtis AM7 frame

Angled pack shot of the steel framed hardtail Curtis AM7 mountain bike
Most of the front triangle is made from Reynolds 853 and 631 steel, and the fillet-brazed tube junctions are a Curtis trademark that really stand out.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Most of the front triangle is made from Reynolds 853 and 631 steel, with the remaining tubes chosen to suit the shape and nature of the bike to be built.

The order process includes plenty of discussion with the frame builder to ascertain the right mix of stiffness, weight and comfort. Curtis fillet-brazes its frames, giving them their distinctive smooth joins between the tubes – shown off here with the optional polished and clear-coated finish (£150 extra).

The AM7 is built around a 140 to 150mm-travel fork, which for a hardtail is a fair amount. That’s because as the fork cycles through its travel, the frame’s dynamic geometry changes (because the whole bike effectively pivots around the rear wheel axle), steepening the head and seat angles as it goes. The more travel the fork has, the bigger the change in geometry.

My test bike was one of Curtis’s demo models, with a 150mm fork, 66-degree head angle, 425mm chainstays and 73-degree seat angle. However, you can specify your own front-triangle geometry for no extra cost.

Thirteen RAL colours are available as standard, as well as translucent paint or the clear-coat finish for an extra cost. Frame details, such as cable guides and various different dropout options, can be specified at the point of order.

I was seriously impressed by the frame’s construction – the brazing is tidy and touches such as the cable guides are all beautifully finished (internal routing is available too).

Curtis AM7 geometry

SS/MM/LL
Seat angle (degrees)73737373
Head angle (degrees)66666666
Chainstay (cm)42.5442.5442.5442.54
Seat tube (cm)40.6444.4548.2650.8
Top tube (cm)60.4561.462.2863.5
Head tube (cm)10111213
Bottom bracket drop (cm)29.4629.4629.4629.46

Curtis AM7 kit

My bike was representative of the £4,280 full build that Curtis offers. It came with an 11-speed Shimano XTR drivetrain, a Factory-level Fox 36 FIT4 fork with 150mm of travel, and a set of Hope enduro wheels shod with sticky Schwalbe rubber.

Hope brakes and a Renthal cockpit finished off the package, which left me with few complaints – although if I was buying, I’d probably request a GRIP2-damped Fox 36 fork for a marginally smoother feel.

Curtis AM7 ride impressions

Of all of the bikes I had on test, it was the Curtis that turned the most heads in the car park, with its fillet-brazed tube junctions and orange Hope kit popping in the sunlight.

It has plenty of potential to turn heads on the trail too, with a beautifully supple feel (within the context of a hardtail, at least) that did a good job of smoothing out the terrain. That’s likely thanks to the composition of the different tubing chosen.

Cyclist in red top riding the steel framed hardtail Curtis AM7 mountain bike downhill
The 150mm Fox 36 fork has plenty of bump-eating travel, but changes the geometry significantly as it compresses.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

At the front, the 150mm fork has plenty of travel to soak up impacts, although with the stock 66-degree head angle, the dynamic geometry of the bike became a little steep for my liking when heading downhill on steeper gradients.

With the fork compressed, the head angle steepens significantly with so much travel on offer (at full compression, I measured it at 72 degrees), and the bike started to feel a touch squirrelly.

The geometry works better on flatter, twisty tracks, though, with the Curtis displaying snappy, accurate handling as you thread between the trees.

It’s worth bearing in mind that alterations to the geometry don’t incur an additional cost. As such, were I to buy my own Curtis, I’d simply specify a slacker head angle, like that found on the BTR Ranger or Shand Shug also on test. The AM7 would then handle as I’d like on gnarlier tracks, while still delivering a smooth ride elsewhere.

Alternatively, if I was likely to be riding flatter, twistier trails, I might spec a shorter-travel fork, thus reducing the change in dynamic geometry.

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Add this easy customisation to the AM7’s excellent ride and construction quality, and it’s a compelling option.

How we tested

The UK has a rich heritage of building some of the most beautiful bespoke steel bikes in the world and we wanted to celebrate that history by getting our hands on some of the most lust-worthy British-built boutique hardtails around.

Normally, we’d give each of them a score based on geometry, kit and ride quality. However, with three of the four brands offering complete customisation (and the fourth offering a choice of frames and finishing touches), we didn’t think it fair to be too critical of a bike’s shape or smoothness because these are things that you, as the customer, have the option to modify.

Instead, we’ve spent our time putting in the miles on these bikes to get to grips with the way they ride, while also discovering the options available to you and suggesting what we might keep, or change, were we lucky enough to be in the market for such a machine. 

Also on test

All of the test bikes have the brands’ stock geometry. Some came with standard build kits, while others had custom specs.

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £1150.00
Weight 13.3kg (M/L) – without pedals
Brand Curtis bikes

Features

Available sizes S, S/M, M/L, L
Headset Hope
Tyres Schwalbe Magic Mary EVO ADDIX Soft EVO (f), Schwalbe Hans Dampf ADDIX Soft EVO (r), 27.5x2.35in
Stem Renthal Apex, 40mm
Shifter Shimano XTR
Seatpost Fox Transfer dropper
Saddle SDG Circuit
Rear derailleur Shimano XTR (1x11)
Handlebar Renthal Fatbar Carbon, 800mm
Brakes Hope Tech 3 E4, 180mm rotors
Grips/Tape Renthal
Frame Reynolds 853/631 steel
Fork Fox 36 Factory FIT4, 150mm (5.9) travel
Cranks Shimano Deore XT, 32t
Chain Shimano Deore XT
Cassette Shimano Deore XT, 10-46t
Wheels Hope Fortus 26 rims on Hope Pro 4 hubs