We’ve seen very few hardtails under £1,000 that combine a RockShox Recon fork with SRAM’s 2×10 X7-level drivetrain and this level of ﬁnishing kit. Rock steady geometry and comfy contact points ensure a conﬁdent lively ride that’s very much at ease in the hands of any fun-seeking trailster.
Ride & handling: Great hard-hitting trail bike
The Zircon offers a lively ride feel and a low enough weight (25.35lb/11.5kg) to warrant parts upgrades if your ambitions grow to occasional competitive outings. As it stands, a big front disc rotor, a decent if not perfect 100mm of air sprung fork travel, comfortable saddle, short upright ride stance and a 27in riser bar make it well equipped for hard and fast trail riding.
The only thing we’d change would be the tyres. Not because there’s anything wrong with the WTB Prowler 2.1ins, but because the conﬁdent and relaxed handling manner of the rest of the bike encourages you to ride fairly aggressively even when the terrain is at its roughest. Bigger proﬁle treads would allow you to do that without pinch puncture demons meddling.
They add comfort too: despite cleverly shaped seat-/chainstays there are still times when back wheel follow-through reminds you that you’re riding a very stiff frame. While a short reach encourages you to hover over the seat more than you might on a longer, more racy bike, it also results in more punishment when you’re sitting and pedalling through the rocky sections on ﬂatter singletrack. Inevitably, a stiff and light hardtail like this is climbs well.
A smaller cog here would be a benefit to less than fit riders: a smaller cog here would be a benefit to less than fit riders Russell Burton
Frame & equipment: Good component choices; upgrade-ready chassis
Mail order giants Chain Reaction Cycles acquired and relaunched the Vitus brand last year. The mountain bike range has extensive input from Ragley brand driver Brant Richards. The result is a collection of cleverly specced and nicely ﬁnished bikes with bang-up-to-date frames and very pleasing trail manners. The Zircon combines clever hydroformed tubes with a no-nonsense approach to geometry, mud clearance and cable routing.
Look at frame measurements before you buy though, as the 18in bike has a shorter than average 22.5in top tube reach. If you feel the need for ﬂat-back climbing efﬁciency and a competitive edge, think about opting for the 20in bike. Other riders will love the way the short and upright ride position dictates the Zircon’s relaxed trail feel.
The gear setup is ﬁne for ﬁt riders but there’ll be times when the less ﬁt wish for a bigger cog at the back or a smaller one up front on long or very steep climbs. The RockShox fork is good for a £850 bike but not as plush or well controlled as the forks you’ll ﬁnd on slightly more costly bikes.
No-nonsense design touches mean clever cable routing and decent mud clearance: no-nonsense design touches mean clever cable routing and decent mud clearance Russell Burton