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NS Synonym RC 1 review

The world’s most radical XC bike, bar none

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £6,300.00 RRP | EUR €6,999.00
Pack shot of the NS Synonym RC 1 full-suspension mountain bike

Our review

Best suited to the steepest tracks, both up and down, the Synonym is unique among XC bikes
Pros: Geometry bends the rules of what you’d expect a race bike to handle; stable suspension is happy under pedalling, whether locked out or not
Cons: Dropper post ended up more of a frustration than an asset; needs a grippier front tyre to make the most of its descending abilities
Skip to view product specifications

Better known for its dirt jump and downhill bikes, Polish brand NS’s secret race weapon is the 100mm-travel Synonym.

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This bike is as radical as they come in the cross-country world, largely thanks to its new-school XC geometry, with a shape that would put most trail bikes to shame. With XC getting gnarly, this could be a real advantage.

On paper, this stands up to scrutiny – if longer reaches and slacker head angles make for a faster ride downhill, and this is paired with an efficient platform for quick climbing, why wouldn’t it be a race winner?

The Synonym also packs in some top-flight kit for the price, including Factory-level suspension from Fox, go-fast Maxxis tyres and a carbon dropper post from KS.

NS Synonym RC 1 frame and geometry

Like the bikes I had on test, there’s no rear pivot. Instead, flex in the carbon rear triangle helps the linkage-actuated shock supply 100mm of travel.

The trunnion-mounted damper sits vertically, leaving room for just one bottle cage in the frame. Cables enter and exit the down tube through bolted port covers, although I did experience cable rattle.

With a monstrous 500mm reach (size large), longish 438mm chainstays, a slack 67-degree head angle and steep 77-degree seat angle, NS has truly pushed the boundaries of XC bike geometry.

 S M L XL
Seat angle (degrees) 77 77 77 77
Head angle (degrees) 67 67 67 67
Chainstay (cm) 43.8 43.8 43.8 43.8
Seat tube (cm) 41 44 49 54
Top tube (cm) 57.9 61.2 64 66.4
Bottom bracket drop (cm) 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
Bottom bracket height (cm) 31.9 31.9 31.9 31.9
Wheelbase (mm) 1,159 1,193 1,223 1,251
Standover (cm) 74.2 74.1 74.2 74.3
Stack (cm) 58.3 59.2 60.6 62.4
Reach (cm) 44.5 47.5 50 52

NS Synonym RC 1 kit

You get a Fox DPS shock and 32 Step-Cast fork, both in Factory flavour, with a bar-mounted, two-position lockout lever (open or firm).

A mixed SRAM GX/X01 Eagle drivetrain is complemented by X1 carbon cranks, while SRAM’s Level TLM brakes stop the bike. NS’s own alloy wheelset holds fast-rolling Maxxis Ikon and Rekon Race tyres. They come fitted with weighty tubes, but once set up tubeless were the lightest wheels I had on test.

Finishing kit, including an 80mm stem (size large) and 750mm bar, is mostly from NS, although you do get a 125mm-travel KS LEV Ci carbon dropper post.

NS Synonym RC 1 ride impressions

Boasting a reach longer than many enduro bikes, combined with a lengthy stem and steep seat angle, the stretched-out Synonym feels like no other bike, and it took me a few rides to really work out how to get the best out of the bike.

The NS rides best on steeper, gnarlier tracks littered with rocks and roots, holes and chutes. With the front wheel so far ahead of the bike, it’s incredibly stable and easy to push over or around obstacles, even with your weight pitched further forward and lower down, thanks to that long stem with its negative rise.

Cyclist in a red top riding a black NS Synonym RC 1 full-suspension mountain bike through woodland
The NS rides best on steeper, gnarlier tracks littered with rocks and roots, holes and chutes.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

With gravity on your side, the bike accelerates quickly and will hold that speed, enabling you to get away with the slightly dodgy line choices that are inevitable at the end of a race when you’re just hanging on. On those steeper tracks, the 2.2in Maxxis Ikon up front lets the side down a touch.

It rolls fast, but is a very round tyre and is mounted on a rim that pinches it a tad. This means getting that already quite shallow shoulder tread to bite in corners isn’t easy, and there’s not as much volume in the tyre to take the sting out of the slightly harsh-feeling FIT4 damper.

On flatter, winding courses where you need to accelerate quickly, the NS lacks the urgency under power of some other bikes, and its long wheelbase makes the twistiest of corners a little harder work to get around. It’s definitely a bike that works best on rough, flat-out descents.

Angled pack shot of the NS Synonym RC 1 full-suspension mountain bike
The NS’s lengthy reach and wheelbase add stability at speed and lessen the risk of going OTB.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

When it comes to climbing, the Synonym provides little to complain about. The suspension is stable under pedalling in open mode, both when seated or sprinting out of the saddle, and the steep seat angle puts you in a great position over the cranks on steeper pitches, even if it does feel a little odd on the flat.

I’m not a huge fan of Fox’s remote lockout – the release button is a bit short and it’s not as positive in action as some others – but it does firm things up well.

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The SRAM drivetrain shifts well, and I like the Level TLM brakes too, which supply ample power and a good lever feel. However the KS dropper became sticky after just a few rides, and suffered from a slippery lever with little leverage and a stiff cable run.

How we tested

We put four high-end XC race bikes to the test, which were tested on all day epics, bar-chewing, on-the-limit evening blasts and back-to-back comparative loops.

This way, not only could we be sure they can go the distance, but also that we’ve revealed their every nuance has been revealed.

Other bikes on test:

  • Canyon Lux CF SLX 9 LTD
  • Orbea Oiz M-Team
  • Specialized Epic Pro

Product Specifications

Product

Price EUR €6999.00GBP £6300.00
Weight 10.72kg (L) – without pedals
Brand Ns bikes

Features

Available sizes S, M, L, XL
Headset FSA
Tyres Maxxis Ikon TR 29x2.2in (f), Maxxis Rekon Race EXO TR 29x2.25in (r)
Stem Synonym Race, 80mm
Shifter SRAM GX Eagle (1x12)
Seatpost KS LEV Ci 125mm dropper
Saddle fi’zi:k Antares R3
Rear Shocks Fox Float DPS Factory
Rear derailleur SRAM X01 Eagle
Handlebar NS Licence Carbon Flat Lite, 750mm
Bottom bracket SRAM DUB
Grips/Tape NS Silicone Lite
Frame Superlight carbon fibre, 100mm (3.9in) travel
Fork Fox 32 Float Step-Cast Factory FIT4, 100mm (3.9in) travel
Cranks SRAM X1 Carbon, 34t
Chain SRAM
Cassette SRAM XG-1295
Brakes SRAM Level TLM, 180mm/160mm rotors
Wheels NS Enigma Lite rims on NS Rotary hubs