The Tornado is one of a huge range of entry level Muddy Fox machines. It looks good, but can the paw mark still cut it?
For an entry-level bike, the Tornado has decent geometry that puts the rider’s weight exactly where it needs to be. A slightly surprising bit of spec, a rear rim brake, saves weight.
However, harsh top-out clunk spoils an otherwise supple fork and our test bike had a faulty headset that refused to adjust properly
Ride & handling: roomy & balanced
With its roomy top tube and lowish handlebar set-up, the Tornado won’t have the same instant beginner appeal of some of its rivals.
That’s a shame, because it’s a layout that works really well for building off-road riding skills.
With the rider’s weight distributed evenly between front and rear wheels and plenty of room – literally – to breathe, the Tornado has the kind of geometry that we’d normally associate with much better bikes.
Handling is decently quick, though it doesn’t quite have the sublime balance of the best bike in its price range, like the Giant Yukon.
It’s not all good news, though. Although we’re used to underwhelming performance from low-end forks, the Muddy Fox’s RST is among the worst offenders we’ve ridden for top-out clunk. At best it’s distracting, and at worst it’s capable of pulling the front wheel off the rider’s intended line.
Some of the Tornado’s hard-won weight advantage over its rivals is lost on the climbs with gearing that’s a tad on the high side, making steep climbs more of a struggle than they could be.
With a better fork – and a headset that works properly – it’d be a bike to be reckoned with. As it is, it’s a competent attempt that’s outflanked by the best of the rest.
Chassis: nice frame, shame – clunk – about – clunk – the fork
The Tornado’s looks are more than a couple of paint layers thick – they’re backed up by some good geometry and spec choices that set it apart from the budget crowd. The frame is longer than most beginner bikes, but this is very definitely a good thing.
Although new riders may initially feel a little stretched over the top tube, the longer cockpit lends itself to more adventurous off- road riding and gives the Muddy Fox the best growth potential of the bikes on test here.
It’s not often that we can say that experienced riders will feel at home on an entry-level hardtail, but that’s definitely the case here.
In keeping with the trend for funky tube profiles, the Tornado features a chunky down tube with a coffin-shaped profile, which provides a stiff backbone and distinctive looks.
Oval stays wiggle in ankle-clearing fashion on their journey to the rear dropouts, but it’s an opportunity missed – mud clearance is on the miserly side, even with the relatively narrow 1.95in tyres fitted, and it’s a tight squeeze to fit or remove the rear wheel between the brake pads.
Up front, the RST Gila T8 fork breaks the SunTour XCM mould at this pricepoint. It’s a good-looking fork for the money, but the initially promising feel of a supple bump-muncher is spoilt – as is so often the case with bikes in this price range – by the lack of damping and a harsh top-out.
With a softer top-out bumper this would be a good low-end fork, but as it stands it’s another also-ran.
Equipment: clever spec saves weight
Speccing a rear rim brake is a bold move that’ll lose Muddy Fox showroom brownie points, but it saves weight and cost without affecting function – full marks. There’s a disc mount for a future upgrade, but you’d need a new disc-compatible hub too.
All-up weight is a couple of pounds less than the competition, with most of the saving in the wheels. The Tioga Factory XC tyres are treads with decent grip and solid off-road performance.
And we like the fact that the chainset has replaceable, bolt-on chainrings in place of the riveted units of some rivals, although the SRAM gear shifters felt noticeably flimsy next to the Shimano competition.
Our test bike also arrived with a faulty headset that we couldn’t adjust properly, with a simultaneously tight-but-wobbly feel that wouldn’t respond to adjustment.