This knockabout all-rounder from UK mountain bike pioneers Muddyfox is a tough, reasonably specced £500 bike that’s well worth upgrading.
There’s a nicely put together frame here that can take some abuse and tough wheels with hard-wearing tyres. On the downside, though, its low bottom bracket height makes its presence felt from time to time, and the fork is merely average.
Ride & handling: confident but needs more ride height
The Annihilator is a very typical £500 bike. Its steering is conﬁdent and neutral through twisty trails, climbs are no more difﬁcult than on the vast majority of 30lb bikes.
The overall ride feel is comfortable, with the all-rounder tyres adding traction conﬁdence for less experienced riders.
However, it suffers from a couple of small problems when the going gets rough.
The fork is at its best with the spring preload set to the minimum, but this doesn’t sit well with the 12in bottom bracket height, which is a little too low for a soft 100mm travel fork.
You need to take care when you pedal through bumpy corners, because as the fork compresses it’s easy to ground the pedals on rocks and roots.
It’s hard for manufacturers to create the right balance with bottom bracket height. Low is good for adding stability, but we reckon the Annihilator needs another half-inch.
Still, we don’t want to make too big a thing of the fork and bottom bracket height, as those who don’t ride hard probably won’t notice, and we had no other issues with the performance.
Chassis: type specimen for the £500 species
A lot of mid-range hardtails look like this. That’s mainly because a lot of frames come from the same big production frame-building factories. That’s why £500 bikes are such good value these days, although prices of mid-range bikes like this are bound to rise later this year as Far Eastern production and transport costs rise.
Designed to take a 100mm travel fork, the Annihilator combines middleweight all-round practicality with a hint of hardcore in its tube proﬁles.
The big bi-axially ovalised down tube ﬂares at the head tube to boost contact strength, the back end of the top tube is bridged across to the extended seat tube and the head tube is ring-reinforced to support the headset cups.
The seat- and chainstays curve out at the tyre and then in for heel room, and the bike’s all-round practicality is emphasised by threaded mounts for a rack, two bottle cages and a Crud Catcher.
While 100mm of suspension travel might seem like a good idea on a bike like this, the RST Omega T8 fork doesn’t have a lot in its favour.
It adds comfort and control if you ride hard but, as with most forks on £500 bikes, the compression and rebound damping is basic. That means it’s a handful over a quick succession of bumps, with a recoil thunk as you lift the front over rocks and roots. But the leg-top preload dials help to stop excessive sag for heavier riders.
Equipment: acceptable mid-range spec
The Annihilator’s component package is simply average for the price. A full set of Shimano Deore gears performs nicely, and Truvativ Isoﬂow cranks gave us no cause for complaint. The 36-spoke wheels are tough but fairly heavy.
Tioga’s deep-knobbed Factory treads don’t help in rapid rolling either, although they’re very grippy in the mud and they rarely block.
Quad hydraulic disc brakes are excellent stoppers, but the manual pad adjustment may irritate some people compared with the automatic adjustment of other inexpensive hydraulic discs.
The riser bar, stem, saddle and post are all acceptable own-brand offerings.
Summary: decent machine, limited by the fork
A lot of £500 bikes are similar, with decent frames, efﬁcient gears, functional ﬁnishing kit, tough all-rounder wheelsets and hydraulic disc brakes.
We’d guess that it’s only a matter of time before they come with better forks as well. Saracen shows what can be done with another £50 to play with in the Mantra Three, and we’ve certainly encountered worse forks than the RST Omega on the Muddyfox.
However, it’s the fork that limits the Annihilator’s hard-riding potential. Still, it’s on a par with most £500 bikes we’ve tested, and it’s good to see Muddyfox building a proﬁle again. Back in the ’80s nobody else did more to spread the word about mountain bikes.