UK dirt-jump veterans Identiti’s first foray into the full-sus market was with 2017’s Mettle – a no frills, alloy-framed enduro rig with 160mm of rear travel, designed in conjunction with the late Michael Bonney (of Orange Bikes fame).
For 2020, Identiti has made some small adjustments, tweaking the geometry, revising the build kits and, thankfully, losing the eye-searing purple and yellow colour scheme.
Identiti Mettle RC frame
The basic shape of the MK2 Mettle is unchanged. The wheels are still 27.5in (although a 29er version is rumoured to be in development) and the kinematics of the four-bar Horst link rear suspension are the same.
Identiti was an early adopter of metric shocks and the new Mettle is damped by the same 230 x 60mm rear shock, which uses bearings in the eyelets for extra suppleness. The rear hub is standard 148mm Boost spacing with a 12mm bolt-thru-axle.
Shimano’s XT 4-pot brakes with 203mm (front) and 180mm (rear) rotors. Steve Behr
Where things have changed is the geometry, with the Mettle getting both steeper, slacker and longer angles.
The effective seat tube angle, now 1-degree steeper, measures 76 degrees to aid seated climbing; whereas the head angle has been raked out by half a degree to 64.5 for extra stability.
Reach measurements have grown by over 10mm on each size, with my medium test bike sitting at a lengthy 477mm and the large feeling more like many brands’ XL at 500mm. There is no XL size, but the large should be plenty big enough for the majority of riders.
Everything stacks up to give you a great ride position, but the frame’s aesthetics aren’t particularly refined. For example, the cables looping around the head tube are already starting to rub.
Home mechanics will appreciate the ease of maintaining the fully external cables though, and the fact that every pivot bolt on the frame is tightened with a 5mm Allen key. Bottle mounts haven’t been forgotten, but drilled in on the underside of the down tube you’ll end up drinking more mud than water.
Identiti Mettle RC kit
The Mettle RC is the mid-priced build in a range of three. It’s kitted out in a full suite of parts from Identiti’s UK distributor Ison, including an MRP Raven fork, Halo Vortex wheels, a Gusset bar/stem, grips and saddle and an excellent pairing of Schwalbe tyres.
The ADDIX Soft Compound Magic Mary and Hans Dampf is one of my favourite combos for all-round aggressive trail riding and the welcome extra grip of having a soft compound tyre out back is worth the sacrifice in longevity.
The Raven fork is a more affordable version of MRP’s Ribbon. Steve Behr
The Raven fork is a more affordable version of MRP’s Ribbon, and although it shares the same chassis, it has a slightly simplified damper and doesn’t include the ‘Ramp Control’ cartridge for increasing progression. Instead, ‘Huck Puck’ volume spacers are used, which I’d recommended experimenting with because the downside of the fork’s suppleness is its eagerness to eat through travel.
To set the fork up, you have to add air into independent positive and negative chambers. In theory, this should be simple, but I found that the procedure of emptying both chambers before refilling had to be adhered to strictly to prevent the fork from sucking down into its travel.
Even when I did do this, I still had an instance where sucking occurred. I contacted MRP and its solution was to slide a zip-tie down between the wiper seal and stanchion to release the built up air pressure, which seemed to do the trick.
It’s an easy 10-second fix, but not something you’d expect to have to do on a nearly brand new set of forks.
Shimano’s XT M8100 12-speed. Steve Behr
Elsewhere on the bike, Shimano’s 12-speed XT drivetrain impressed me with its easy setup and crisp shifting.
The four-piston XT brakes are loaded with power, and definitely have a more snappy on/off feel than the SRAM Codes found on many of the Mettle’s contemporaries. This doesn’t make them better or worse, it just requires you to modulate them differently.
My only complaint would be that the supplied pads didn’t seem to respond well to very wet conditions and with water on the rotors the bite was much less solid.
Identiti Mettle RC ride impressions
Because of the Mettle’s fairly low stack height and free-moving fork, my first test ride felt a little unbalanced towards the front. But once I’d raised up the handlebar, added a little air to the fork and softened up the shock, the bike came alive.
The proportions of the frame are superb and the generous reach combined with the slack head angle gives a stable ride position that’s well centred between the wheels. Even though the bottom bracket isn’t super low (only dropped 7mm below the axles), the bike sits into its travel for ground-hugging plushness.
The ride position is stable, well centred between the wheels. Russell Burton
Not only does the suspension remain impressively active under braking, but the four-bar linkage is tuned to give plenty of progression, providing the much needed support for bigger hits. This makes the Mettle equally at home charging fast DH tracks as it is skidding down steep, off-piste ruts.
It makes it easy (or as easy as it ever can be) to hold a line through some pretty burly terrain, and doesn’t come at the expense of being able to winch back up the hills either. Sure, this breed of bike is never going to defy gravity, but neither is it wallowy or soul destroying on the climbs.
Identiti Mettle RC bottom line
The Mettle does what it says on the tin and it does it well. Admittedly it’s not the most elegant bike when lined up alongside finessed carbon creations, but in most cases I know I’d pull the Mettle out of the garage for a day of gravity-fuelled fun.
Identiti Mettle RC geometry
Sizes (* size tested): S, M*, L
Seat angle: 76 degrees
Head angle: 64.5 degrees
Seat tube length: 45cm / 17.72in
Top tube (effective): 62.6cm / 24.49in
Head tube length: 11.5cm / 4.53in
Reach: 47.7cm / 18.78in
Chainstay: 43.5cm / 17.13in
Wheelbase: 1,240mm / 48.82in
Bottom bracket drop: -7mm / 0.28in
Stack: 59.7cm / 23.5in