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Shand Shug review

Scottish monster truck with chunky 29in or plus-size rubber

GBP £1,350.00 RRP
Frame only
Pack shot of the steel framed hardtail Shand Shug mountain bike

Our review

A flat-out fast hardtail for those looking to squeeze every ounce of speed out of the trails
Pros: Bang-up-to-date geometry, which I don’t think needs adjusting from standard; built for big tyres, the Shug should offer plenty of speed however you build it up; classic steel hardtail looks with a modern twist
Cons: If you do want to go custom, the extra cost makes it an expensive option
Skip to view product specifications

Based not far from Edinburgh, Shand build all kinds of bikes, including expedition, commuter and gravel steeds, inspired by the rugged Scottish terrain. The whole process, from design to building to welding to painting, is done at its premises.

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Shand describes the Shug as a “full-on trail shredder” and has designed it with big tyre clearances (up to 27.5 x 3in) to maximise the amount of grip on offer.

It offers a standard-geometry frame, or you can go full-custom for an extra £299. That said, the measurements are very modern, and I don’t think many trail riders will need to make changes.

For £2,095 (with stock geometry), Shand will throw in a headset and Cane Creek fork too.

Angled pack shot of the steel framed hardtail Shand Shug mountain bike
Wide tyres on wide rims offer grip and compliance, but set-up needs to be spot on.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Shand Shug frame and geometry

Reynolds 853 tubes are TIG-welded together to form the front triangle of the Shug, which has a reassuringly slack 64-degree head angle and long reach (490mm on the large size), plus a 74-degree seat angle, making it a fairly progressive bike in terms of geometry.

SMLXL
Seat angle (degrees)74747474
Head angle (degrees)64646464
Chainstay (cm)43.543.543.543.5
Seat tube (cm)49464949
Top tube (cm)62.665.367.669.6
Head tube (cm)10111212
Fork offset (cm)5.15.15.15.1
Bottom bracket drop (cm)5555
Wheelbase (mm)1,2091,2381,2631,283
Stack (cm)61.462.363.263.2
Reach (cm)44.5474951

At the back, Dedacciai stays extend 435mm from the bottom bracket, keeping the back-end fairly tight for a plus/29er bike, and finish in a pair of neat cowled dropouts, which feature an IS-standard brake mount.

The driveside chainstay connects to the bottom bracket shell via a plate, to maximise tyre clearance. Shand has built the frame with a 130mm fork in mind and kept the front end nice and low, which should help keep the front wheel loaded.

Shand Shug kit

In its frame-and-fork package, Shand specs a 130mm-travel HELM fork from Cane Creek, either air or coil, fitted with a Hope headset. My model had an air spring, and its unique axle system proved easy to use.

While I’d rate a RockShox Pike or Fox 36 fork over the HELM, it remained smooth throughout testing, and was ably assisted by the plus-width 2.8in tyres Shand supplied, which contributed to a much suppler, grippier ride.

These Schwalbe tyres – a Magic Mary in ADDIX Soft compound up front and an ADDIX Speedgrip Nobby Nic at the rear – were mounted on a set of 35mm-wide Hope wheels, while Shimano took care of the stop-and-go components.

The stubby stem held an almost flat handlebar, accentuating the low feel of the Shug’s front end.

Shand Shug ride impressions

Plus-size tyres were all the rage a couple of years ago, but I don’t ride many bikes with them these days. However, when I do, I’m reminded that they really can have a place on an aggressive hardtail.

With the huge tyre volume soaking up smaller trail chatter, the Shand rumbles along with almost surprising speed. That’s thanks not only to the bump-swallowing nature of the fat tyres, but also the grip afforded by the sticky front tyre and the comfort provided by its damped carcass.

I reckon that in a straight line (and probably through the corners too) the Shug was the fastest bike I had on test.

Cyclist in blue top riding the steel framed hardtail Shand Shug mountain bike
The head tube is very slack, giving buckets of confidence, but it’s also fairly short.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

That’s no doubt helped by the geometry too. With plenty of distance between the front and rear axles, straight-line stability is rock solid, and it’s hard to knock the bike off-line thanks to that slack head angle.

You’re also almost never going to feel like you’re about to be pitched over the bars either, because the Shug’s low-slung bottom bracket keeps your weight low and central between the axles.

In its stock shape, then, it’s a rapid bike. However, it’s not quite as nimble as some of the snappier bikes I had on test. That straight-line stability means it’s not so super-quick to react, while the extra tyre volume steals a little of the liveliness that’s on show elsewhere.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you go for the plus tyre option, you’ll need to be very accurate with your tyre pressures, as I’ve found that a PSI here or there can greatly impact on the ride feel. If plus tyres aren’t your thing, I reckon that slinging a set of 29 x 2.6in rubber onto the Shug is unlikely to greatly hold the bike back, nor turn it into a bone-shaker.

The other noticeable thing about the Shug is its front end, which is markedly lower than the other bikes also on test, despite the taller tyres.

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This means your bodyweight is pitched forward a little more. On the plus side, this weights the front tyre nicely in flat corners. However, on steep tracks, despite the security offered by the slack head angle, you may feel further forward on the bike than you’d like. If you’re going to be riding these trails regularly, a higher-rise bar might not be a bad shout.

How we tested

The UK has a rich heritage of building some of the most beautiful bespoke steel bikes in the world and we wanted to celebrate that history by getting our hands on some of the most lust-worthy British-built boutique hardtails around.

Normally, we’d give each of them a score based on geometry, kit and ride quality. However, with three of the four brands offering complete customisation (and the fourth offering a choice of frames and finishing touches), we didn’t think it fair to be too critical of a bike’s shape or smoothness because these are things that you, as the customer, have the option to modify.

Instead, we’ve spent our time putting in the miles on these bikes to get to grips with the way they ride, while also discovering the options available to you and suggesting what we might keep, or change, were we lucky enough to be in the market for such a machine. 

Also on test

All of the test bikes have the brands’ stock geometry. Some came with standard build kits, while others had custom specs.

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £1350.00
Weight 13.8kg (M) – without pedals
Brand Shand

Features

Available sizes XS, S, M, L, XL
Headset Cane Creek 40
Tyres Schwalbe Magic Mary EVO ADDIX Soft (f), Schwalbe Nobby Nic EVO ADDIX Speedgrip (r), 27.5x2.8in
Stem PRO Koryak, 40mm
Shifter Shimano Deore XT
Seatpost PRO Koryak dropper
Saddle Shand
Rear derailleur Shimano Deore XT (1x11)
Handlebar Renthal Fatbar, 800mm
Brakes Shimano Deore XT, 180mm rotors
Grips/Tape ODI
Frame Reynolds 853 and Dedaccai steel
Fork Cane Creek HELM Air, 130mm (5.1in) travel
Cranks Shimano Deore XT, 32t
Chain Shimano Deore XT
Cassette Shimano Deore XT, 10-46t
Wheels Hope Tech 35W rims on Hope Pro 4 hubs