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.
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
|Seat angle (degrees)||76||76||76|
|Head angle (degrees)||65.5||65.5||65.5|
|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|
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.
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.
|Price||GBP £2999.00USD $3500.00|
|Weight||14.4kg (L) – our build, large size without pedals / 2.85kg (frame, claimed)|
|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|