Better known for its dirt jump and downhill bikes, Polish brand NS’s secret race weapon is the 100mm-travel Synonym.
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.
|Seat angle (degrees)||77||77||77||77|
|Head angle (degrees)||67||67||67||67|
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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:
|Price||EUR €6999.00GBP £6300.00|
|Weight||10.72kg (L) – without pedals|
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|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|
|Brakes||SRAM Level TLM, 180mm/160mm rotors|
|Wheels||NS Enigma Lite rims on NS Rotary hubs|