Bold Unplugged long-term review update one
Since writing the original review of the Bold (below), I’ve been busy testing 14 tyres on the bike. This involved multiple timed and untimed runs of several local tracks, taking in everything from loose rocks and roots to loam and mud.
Throughout all this riding, I became ever more comfortable pushing the limits of the bike. It handles well now, especially with the 180mm travel RockShox Lyrik Ultimate fork up front. However, there are a couple of niggles.
First, once I started to push the bike harder — particularly when a stopwatch was strapped to the bar — the suspension began to let the side down. It’s not particularly progressive or supportive over bigger hits, so even with three volume spacers fitted it bottoms out hard from time to time.
This had me steering clear of one particularly big step down at Bike Park Wales (which I’ve done before several times) out of mechanical sympathy to the bike.
At the same time, the Bold is not a bike to which you could apply the cliché term “soft off the top”. The beginning stroke is firm even with 30 percent sag. This makes the bike less willing to settle into its early travel and therefore feel more unsettled on steep and rough terrain.
It is possible to fit one more spacer in the shock in order to increase bottom-out resistance without making it firmer earlier in the travel. But as it’s a frustrating, one-hour job, requiring a new remote lockout cable to be fitted, I simply haven’t got round to that yet.
I don’t think it’s ideal to rely so heavily on air-spring progression to resist bottom-out anyway, because this can create unpredictable rebound behaviour.
I don’t think the Bold’s suspension is particularly well-designed for someone who wants to ride hard and exploit the full benefit of the long, slack geometry.
What’s more, the bike has developed a loud creak as the suspension cycles slowly through the travel, including when pedalling. I suspect this is down to a pivot bearing, but sadly I will not have time to investigate this further — more on that below.
The end of the road
Recently, Bold entered into a collaboration with Scott. Soon after this (but Bold wouldn’t say because of it) Bold emailed me to say it needed my test bike back. Of course, we don’t own the bikes we test at BikeRadar (if you look at our front page you’ll soon see how unsustainable a business model that would be!), so I had to oblige.
That means I won’t get a chance to try the maximum number of volume spacers or investigate the strange creak.
However, I have ridden the Bold a heck of a lot over the past few months and have gained a good understanding of how the bike performs.
As such, I’ve decided to update the initial review score of 4 stars to 3.5 stars following the suspension and creaking issues.
Although the Bold’s long and slack geometry suits me well, the adjustable geometry turned out to be a damp squib and the internal shock is a headache to live with.
What’s more, there are now a range of long and slack 29ers on the market from the likes of Yeti, Santa Cruz, Transition, Mondraker, Specialized and even Calibre, so the main thing I liked about the Bold is far from unique these days.
A new beginning
The good news is that I will now be able to measure up a brand-new long-term test bike! Let us know in the comments below what you think that should be.
Original post (12 June 2019)
This Swiss-designed enduro bike has one obvious talking point: the shock is hidden inside the seat tube! While this keeps it out the way of debris and looks slick, it makes it harder to adjust the suspension.
More importantly for me, it’s got highly adjustable geometry. The chainstay length and bottom bracket height can be simultaneously changed using flip chips which alter the position of the chainstay, Horst-link and pivot.
This also adjusts the head angle of the frame and alters the travel from 160mm (shortest/highest setting) to 165mm (longest/tallest setting). Meanwhile, the head angle can be independently adjusted by ± 1.5 degrees using an angled headset.
On paper, it’s a seriously capable bike, with up to 165mm of rear travel and a 170mm fork. It also boasts a long wheelbase of around 1,300mm (depending on the flip chip and head angle setting) and a head angle which can be configured anywhere from 65.9 degrees to a downhill-bike worthy 63.3 degrees.
But thanks to a full-carbon frame and fancy parts, the stock bike weighs a respectable 14.7kg, and there’s even a remote lockout for the shock. So climbing should – hopefully — be no problem for the Bold.
Bold Unplugged specification and details
Bold’s website allows you to choose the parts to suit your tastes and budget. I asked Bold to send the cheapest build (£4,186 approx.) but it cheekily sent a near top-end build, worth £5,874 at time of writing.
For that, you do get a components package that leaves little to be desired. There’s a RockShox SuperDeluxe shock hidden inside the frame, with a remote lockout which is controlled with a twist grip on the left of the bar. There’s no compression damping adjustment though. Up front, the RockShox RCT3 DebonAir fork is a solid performer, even if the RC2 model would be my first choice.
The 175mm-travel KS Lev dropper post is a welcome sight for a tall rider like myself (6ft 2in). The only gripe I’ve had is the post extends when lifting the bike from the saddle. Otherwise, it’s a solid seatpost.
DT Swiss EX1501 30mm wheels have proven themselves reliable countless times, and they offer superb ride quality. SRAM’s Code RSC brakes are my favourite stoppers too.
Bold Unplugged full specification
- Sizes (*tested): S, M, L*
- Weight: 14.7kg / 32.4lb, size L without pedals
- Frame: Full carbon, 160–165mm rear travel Horst-link suspension
- Fork: RockShox Lyrik RCT3, 170mm travel
- Shifters: SRAM GX Eagle
- Derailleurs: SRAM X01 Eagle
- Cranks: SRAM Descendant 175mm
- Wheelset: DT Swiss EX1501, 30mm internal
- Tyres: Maxxis Assegai DoubleDown WT 29×2.5in (f) and Maxxis High Roller 2 EXO WT 29×2.5in (r)
- Brakes: SRAM Code RSC 200/180mm rotors
- Bar: Race Face Turbine R, 780mm, 35mm rise
- Stem: Race Face Turbine, 35mm clamp, 35mm long
- Seatpost: KS Lev Integra, 175mm travel
- Saddle: WTB Volt Pro
Bold Unplugged geometry
The geometry is adjustable with flip chips. There are two different lengths of chip, each of which can be fitted either way round, making four different options in total.
At the extremes, these adjust the bottom bracket (BB) height through 20mm and extend the chainstay length by 11mm. The longer chainstay settings correlate to a lower the BB height – the two can’t be adjusted independently.
The bike shipped with the shorter chips in the longer/lower position. Unfortunately, this left the BB height at around 349mm with 29in wheels and 2.5in tyres.
This was simply too high when combined with the firm suspension setup this bike requires, making the cornering unpredictable and slow to initiate a turn.
Since then, I’ve swapped to the longer chips, set to the lowest/longest of the four settings, resulting in a BB height of 342mm. This is a noticeable improvement, but still not radically low. So, with 29in wheels, there is really only one useable flip-chip setting.
The lowest setting also slackens the bike out, so I’m not using the slackest setting offered by the adjustable headset cups. Instead, I’ve set both cups to their forwards position, so the head angle is not too slack. This also provides a tiny bit more reach. The headset is not designed to be set like this, but it seems to work so far.
The following geometry figures were measured in this configuration.
- Head angle: 63.8 degrees
- Effective seat angle: 76.5 degrees
- Chainstay: 445mm / 17.51in
- Seat tube: 480mm / 19in
- Effective top tube: 641mm / 25.2in
- Head tube: 110mm / 4.33in
- Bottom bracket height: 341mm
- Wheelbase: 1,300mm / 51.2in
- Stack: 631mm / 24.8in
- Reach: 495mm / 19.6in
Why did I choose this bike?
Geometry is the most important factor in any bike, and the Bold’s long wheelbase and slack head angle made it immediately appealing to me.
After riding lots of long bikes from Pole, Nicolai, Mondraker and more, I’ve learned that if a bike has at least 500mm of reach and a lengthy wheelbase I’ll be able to ride faster and more comfortably.
For similar reasons, I’m a big fan of long-travel bikes with big wheels; I want a bike to make my life easier when I’m trying to ride fast over technical terrain.
The adjustability of the geometry is appealing too. It’s a shame the flip chips only have one usable position with 29in wheels, but they could allow me to use a 27.5in rear wheel without affecting the geometry too much.
Bold Unplugged setup
Because you can’t see the shock, there are sag markings on the seat tube and a pointer on the rocker link which indicate the sag.
I started with 30 percent sag on this scale, although it’s hard to be accurate with this method because you can’t read the sag after you get off the bike like you would with an O-ring on a shock.
Unfortunately, the shock which shipped with the bike was very unsupportive and blew through its travel easily even with the maximum number of spacers fitted. I also had to run the rebound fully closed to get it slow enough.
Luckily, this problem surfaced at the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate launch in Portugal, where Chris Mandell, RockShox’ rear shocks manager, ordered me a replacement shock immediately.
Once home, I fitted the replacement shock with three spacers. This fixed the problem. There’s more support and the rebound is perfect when set four or five clicks from closed.
Removing the shock to add volume spacers or swap shocks is not straightforward. First, the crank must be removed, then the Trunnion shock bolts, then the suspension is compressed to remove the upper shock bolt through the small hole in the side of the seat tube. Then the cable lockout is released before sliding the shock out. Reinstalling the shock is even harder because the lockout cable must be replaced and reinstalled. It’s an absolute mission!
Fortunately, the new shock with three volume spacers works well, so there’s no need to remove it again (for now).
Bold Unplugged initial ride impressions
The aforementioned shock issue required it to be removed to add more volume spacers (which only masked the problem). The upper shock bolt worked loose soon after, which required a coordinated effort to fix — I sat on the bike to compress the suspension until the shock bolt was in-line with the little window on the seat tube while someone else tightened the bolt.
I also had to swap the flip chips to get it low enough and swap the 35mm stock stem for a 40mm item to give me a bit more room in the cockpit. The short 110mm head tube means I’ve had to install a huge (35mm) stack of spacers under the stem to get the bar up to my preferred height (1,100mm).
I had a crash in Portugal which caused the handlebar to snap (it was a big crash), so I’ve taken the opportunity to fit my preferred 40mm-rise Renthal Fatbar, which reduces the need for spacers slightly. I also prefer the Renthal’s reduced backsweep because it encourages me to ride more aggressively over the front of the bike.
Having done all that, however, the Bold rides brilliantly. The lowest setting extends the chainstay length to 445mm, which increases front-end traction because the rider’s weight is slightly more biased towards the front wheel.
As a result, the Unplugged corners very nicely in its lowest setting, with good balance and traction. The slack head angle allows me to lean the bike over hard and carve through a turn with confidence.
The longer flip chip setting also bumps up the rear wheel travel to 165mm, and with the new shock fitted, the suspension works well. There’s enough progression in the system to handle bigger hits and the suspension is supple over chatter.
It’s quite lightly damped though, so it needs to be set relatively firm in terms of air pressure to offer enough mid-turn support. This does mean it’s not the supplest at the start of the stroke, which compromises steep-terrain traction and calmness slightly, but for the most part the suspension performs well.
I was concerned that the internal shock would overheat on long descents, causing the rebound to speed up, but I haven’t noticed this becoming a problem.
The lowest flip chip position slackens the effective seat angle to around 76.5 degrees, but with the saddle slammed fully forwards it’s steep enough to put my hips in the right position over the cranks for all but the steepest of climbs.
The suspension has quite a lot of anti-squat with the stock 30-tooth chainring, which holds the suspension higher in its travel when pedalling. The twist-grip shock lockout helps hold the suspension even higher on smooth climbs.
The Bold pedals efficiently anyway, but I use the lockout regularly to make smooth climbs that little bit easier.
The Bold is a rapid climber, and I really enjoy descending on it too. It’s just long enough for me to feel comfortable rallying through a rock garden or stuffing it into a turn, yet it’s still short and light enough to remain nimble and easy to hop and manual.
It may have been a pain to get set up right, but I can ride it properly fast, so all is forgiven.
I’m constantly using the Bold as a test bench for new parts, so the bike has had the 2020 Lyrik Ultimate and Zipp wheels on it for most of the time I’ve been riding it.
I’ve also tested a modified Fox 36 GRIP2, fitted with a Vorsprung Luftkappe air spring upgrade and a lighter high-speed damping tune, and I’ve swapped the KS LEV seatpost for the new 175mm-travel Fox Transfer seatpost.
None of these changes are due to faults in the original components, but simply because different parts need to be tested as part of my job, and the Bold is the bike I want to test them on.
Bold Unplugged upgrades
I’ve already changed a lot, but now I’ll be using the Bold to test seven pairs of tyres for a forthcoming group test, so I’ll be keeping the rest of the bike as is for now.
I’ve got my trusty DRC stopwatch fitted for the test and I’ve already been breaking in Michelin’s Wild Enduro tyres.
In the future I’d like to try the new RockShox MegNeg air can on the rear shock because it should soften the beginning stroke and provide more mid-stroke support.
I’d also like to fit a 32-tooth chainring so I’m closer to the middle of the cassette when descending. I’ll probably fit a Specialized Power saddle because it not only fits me comfortably, but also provides a more forwards seating position, thereby having the effect of steepening the seat angle.