There aren’t many brands with a history in mountain biking that run as deep as Pace’s. After making waves with the RC100 hardtail back in 1987, the pioneering Yorkshire company’s other innovations included early triple-clamp DH forks, integrated grease ports, long top tubes paired with short stems, and carbon-fibre-legged, disc-specific forks, all of which it was experimenting with before pretty much anyone else.
The iconic square aluminium tubes of the RC100 may have been dropped for Reynold’s finest round 853 tubes on the RC529, but it’s affirming to see that Pace is keeping its trail hardtails thoroughly contemporary.
Pace RC529 GX Ultimate frame
Steel frames have long been popular in the UK hardtail scene. For this updated 2021 model, Pace has gone straight to Reynolds for the front triangle, while the rear stays are made from its own chromoly tubeset. Both are treated to protect them from corrosion.
While my bike was set up as a 29er, with room for 2.4in rubber, the frame is compatible with a 650b rear wheel should you prefer, and has more tyre clearance than the previous version.
With a strong nod towards typical UK riding – Pace says the RC529 is “designed for slaying singletrack” – the revised front-end geometry is long and slack for stable descending, with my size-large test bike having a 484mm reach and 65.5-degree head angle.
This is with a 140mm fork; the geometry allows you to fit the latest-generation short-offset forks with 130mm to 150mm of travel.
The shortish 450mm seat tube sits at a reasonably steep 76-degree angle to aid climbing. Chainstay length can be toggled between 430mm and 436.5mm, via a pair of bolted shuttles, with stop-screws to keep them secure.
The RC529 boasts rack and mudguard mounts for “backcountry hustling”, as Pace puts it – a rare sight.
Pace RC529 GX Ultimate kit
On this SRAM-based build (there’s also a Shimano XT option for £170 more), the US brand provides its 12-speed GX Eagle drivetrain with 10-52t cassette, along with its G2 RS brakes.
The RockShox Pike Ultimate fork has 140mm of travel as standard, although you can opt for a 150mm version if you prefer.
Hunt Trail Wide wheels are shod with Maxxis tyres – my bike had a pair of Minions, but there’s the option to spec a Dissector on the rear.
Pace RC529 GX Ultimate first ride impressions
It may be a cliché, but the RC529 feels like a bike that’s pretty much able to do everything. While I didn’t strap any racks to it, the ability to do so may appeal to some. But it’s Pace’s clever movable dropouts that give the bike such a versatile character.
When pushed back to lengthen the wheelbase, the RC529 has a very placid, stable demeanour. On fast and rough tracks, the rear end calms things down, muting trail chatter as much as can be expected of a hardtail.
Long, swooping corners are despatched with speed and confidence, helped by the fairly slack head angle and low 302mm bottom bracket height. Your weight feels low-slung, ensuring the bike isn’t skittery or nervous.
It’s easy to lean it over onto the tyre shoulders, digging them into the dirt for high-speed shenanigans, while the Pike Ultimate has to be one of the, er, ultimate trail forks on the market, with plenty of plushness and support.
However, unbolt the main shuttle bolts, loosen the stops and slide the wheel forward and you’ve got a totally different bike.
While 6.5mm may not sound much, it significantly alters the ride character, turning the RC529 into what feels like a BMX on big wheels. The front end pops up far easier, helping you to loft the wheel over rocks, while the tight back end corners with a wicked attitude.
It may not have quite the same high-speed or steep-terrain stability in this setting, but the rangy front end still keeps everything in check. As such, I often couldn’t decide which chainstay length to ride – the calmer, probably faster, long set-up, or the tight and reactive short one.
This isn’t really an issue because you can easily adjust the dropouts on the trail. Access to the stops, inside the braced rear triangle, is quite tight, though, so you’re best off carrying a ball-ended Allen key.
Overall, the RC529 is a stellar example of a modern steel hardtail. The frame is subtle in its ride feel, helped by both its length (1,226mm wheelbase in the short setting), its tubing and its chunky rubber on 30mm-wide alloy rims.
That short and steep seat tube means the climbing position and dropper length are spot-on, and the adjustable geometry is the icing on the cake, giving you two bikes in one. My only tweak would be to fit a lower-rise bar for riding less steep tracks.
Pace RC529 GX Ultimate early verdict
Pace has come up with a winner here – a dual-personality steel hardtail that’s ready to rip, either fast and stable or agile and reactive.
|Weight||13.3kg (L) – without pedals|
|Available sizes||M, L, XL|
|Brakes||SRAM G2 RS, 200/180mm rotors|
|Fork||RockShox Pike Ultimate RC2, 140mm (5.5in) travel|
|Frame||Reynolds 853/ Pace chromoly steel|
|Handlebar||Burgtec Ridewide alloy, 800mm|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM GX Eagle|
|Seatpost||BikeYoke REVIVE, 185mm|
|Shifter||SRAM GX Eagle|
|Stem||Pace RC46, 32mm|
|Tyres||Minion DHF (f) and DHR II (r) EXO TR 29x2.4in|
|Wheels||Hunt Trail Wide|