The Fluid looks like an intriguing mix of ideas. Weighing in at nearly 14kg, with a 140mm-travel RockShox Recon fork up front and 120mm from the Monarch shock out back, it initially ticks the boxes that mark it out as a big hitter.
Take a closer look at the spec, though, and some slightly schizophrenic choices appear; the 69-degree head angle, scant 2.1in Nobby Nic tyres, a 100mm stem and a 160mm rotor at the rear all point towards a bike that’s a little less happy with gravity than an idle glance might lead you to believe.
Sling a leg over the top tube and the identity crisis is confirmed. The Fluid climbs like a big bike – slow and steady, with plenty of traction as long as you don’t try to hurry things along too much – and it descends like one, too, taking substantial hits without breaking its stride and swallowing everything of importance that you point it at.
It gobbles up step-downs with a cheerful snarl that led to our tester Guy Kesteven labelling it “classic four-bar material”, feels tough as old boots and wears its solid, sensible drive kit well. The Fluid 2 could be a real thrasher but unfortunately it’s been neutered with a triple whammy of Nobby Nics, a turgid rear shock and sub-par brakes that leave it feeling stilted and confused rather than making the most of its potential.
It struggles with average trails and you’ll get little benefit from the rear shock on a groomed piste. We had to run a ridiculous near 50 percent sag to get a significant response from the early part of the stroke: this improved small bump performance immensely but inhibited climbing, as well as increasing the risk of bottoming out and it’s not a workable solution for the sticky, unresponsive shock.
Maximise on its burliness by adding some chunkier rubber, more powerful brakes (or at least bigger rotors) and a shorter stem to snap the handling into shape and you’ll probably enjoy the Fluid. As it is, it feels like something of a blunt instrument; endearing enough but in need of guidance to make the most of its potential.