Deviate Highlander review

Top-performing trail bike with an appetite for gravity

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £2,999.00 RRP | USD $3,500.00
(Frame and shock)
Pack shot of the Deviate Highlander full-suspension mountain bike

Our review

A thrilling ride that minimises lots of the drawbacks to high-pivot bikes, but not quite all of them
Pros: Rear suspension is very active and supportive, which means there’s a ton of grip on offer; you can comfortably ride it all day
Cons: Stiff idler wheel contributed to noticeable drag; there are no full builds yet
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The world’s most capable trail bike. That’s what Scotland’s Deviate designed the Highlander to be, using a suspension design more commonly found on modern downhill bikes, and one that’s just as at home ticking off the miles as it is pounding out park laps.

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So does this unusual high-pivot, idler wheel 29er deliver the goods or is the setup a step too far for a mile-munching machine?

It’s currently available as a frame only, but that chassis features some smart, UK-friendly details.

Deviate Highlander frame details and spec

High-pivot frames have proven their worth on the downhill circuit but are still a rarity in the trail bike world.

This one is well thought out, with neat external routing that hides the cables under the top tube, plus sealed double-row bearings and grease ports on the pivots and idler wheel for longevity.

The geometry is modern without pushing boundaries, including a 65.5-degree head angle, 76-degree effective seat angle, a reach of 480mm on the large size and shortish 441mm chainstays. The shock position and 341mm bottom bracket height help keep weight low and central.

The Highlander is available as a frame only, with or without a shock. My bike came with the Fox Float X2 Factory option, plus a high-spec build including a 160mm Fox 36 GRIP2 fork, Shimano XT 1×12 drivetrain and four-pot brakes, and DT Swiss wheels.

Deviate Highlander geometry

 M L XL
Seat angle: (degrees) 76 76 76
Head angle: (degrees) 65.5 65.5 65.5
Chainstay: (cm) 44.1 44.1 44.1
Seat tube: (cm) 41 43 45
Bottom bracket drop: (cm) 2.8 2.8 2.8
Bottom bracket height: (cm) 34.1 34.1 34.1
Wheelbase: (mm) 1,201 1,231 1,261
Stack: (cm) 61.5 62.3 63.7
Reach: (cm) 45 48 51

Deviate Highlander ride impressions

There are three negatives associated with high-pivot bikes. The rearward axle path can upset the rider’s weight distribution between the wheels – not a problem I noticed here, where I always felt centred and balanced, even in high-load turns and awkward sections. High anti-rise figures can mean that braking stops the suspension from moving freely.

Again, I never found the ride to become harsh under hard braking, even in steep tech.

And finally, chain growth can cause large amounts of pedal kickback, and if you avoid that by routing the chain over an idler wheel, as here, it can increase drag. That was a definite issue on my test bike, where the idler wouldn’t spin freely even with the chain removed.

While this wasn’t a deal-breaker, it was certainly noticeable when pedalling. It’s a good thing, then, that the Highlander has the supple ride typical of a high-pivot bike.

That means it smooths out trail chatter and dishes out mega amounts of grip, allowing me to hold lines that other bikes would struggle to cling to. While it’s not the most playful-feeling bike, it maintains speed well over gentler terrain, as well as handling the steep and rough without hesitation.

It’ll happily tick off the miles too, and while other bikes will get you up the hill faster, I rarely reached for the shock’s climb switch.

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Is the Highlander the world’s most capable trail bike? It certainly outshone this year’s Trail Bike of the Year line-up on the descents. If Deviate can free up that idler, it’s got to be a strong contender for those with a propensity for gravity-fuelled fun who still want to earn their turns.

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £2999.00USD $3500.00
Weight 14.4kg (L) – our build, large size without pedals / 2.85kg (frame, claimed)
Brand Deviate

Features

Available sizes M, L, XL
Brakes Shimano Deore XT M8020, 180/200mm rotors
Fork Fox 36 Factory GRIP2, 160mm (6.3in) travel
Frame Carbon fibre, 140mm (5.5in) travel
Handlebar Enve M7 carbon, 770mm
Rear derailleur Shimano Deore XT
Rear shock Fox Float X2 Factory
Saddle Fabric Scoop Pro Team Radius
Seatpost Fox Transfer, 170mm
Shifter Shimano Deore XT
Stem Renthal Apex 35, 35mm
Tyres Maxxis Minion DHF (f) and DHR II (r) 3C MaxxTerra EXO 29x2.4in
Wheels DT Swiss EX 511 rims on Hope Pro 2 hubs