A month or so ago, we took delivery of the Torus Ti 650b, developed by Andy from component manufacturers Clee Cycles and UK frame-builder Justin Burls. We first met Andy riding the Grassington marathon – the day after he’d been racing cross-country at Dalby forest. So it’s fair to say he’s keen on his cross-country.
Ride & handling: Ductile and distance friendly with climbing ability
With a long stretch to the low bar (despite the mid-sized wheels), the Torus puts you in a racy frame of mind before the semi-slicks even start rolling. The KCNC cranks don’t need much torque before the bike leaps forward, and at under 9kg (20lb) the Torus accelerates with inspiring ease. It climbs with outrageous speed and enthusiasm too, surging forward whenever the gradient slackens in your favour.
While there’s some surge and spring through the cranks, the long seatpost and the back end if you’re really grinding a gear up a steep slope, at low speed it’s definitely no noodle. The generous amount of breathing space means it excels at holding a smooth tempo however far up your heart rate range you feel comfortable keeping it.
We had zero issues with the 1×10 gearing, despite deliberately battering it down as many steep step sections as we could. The Gripshift and Type 2 mech feel fantastic through the metal-sheathed cables when you’re feeding its seemingly insatiable appetite for the next gear up.
The wheel size is obviously a big part of the appeal of the Torus, and it’s surprisingly evident in the ride. While it definitely accelerates and changes direction more like a 26in-wheeled bike, the way it irons out surface chatter and rolls over roots, rocks or frozen trail ruts is much closer to a 29er than we expected.
27.5in wheels enhance the smooth ride feel: Seb Rogers/Future Publishing
27.5in wheels enhance the smooth ride feel
Add in the pliable nature of the frame material and the long, lithe front end and the Torus positively glides across trails that are noticeably bumpy on a 26er. Given the amount of energy-sapping rough grass tracks between the short sharp climbs and slow corners of most UK race courses, we can see this bike leaving you a lot fresher and less battered than most race hardtails we’ve ridden – whatever the wheel size.
The smoothness, low weight, low front and long reach of the frame do come at a cost, however, and that’s tracking accuracy. The steering is fine as long as you’re just guiding the bike gently and going with the flow, but cut hard across the grain of the trail and the front and rear wheels start operating independently.
If a deep rut or off-camber section gets the bike in a headlock it’s likely to tap out early too, and the Torus has a definite tendency to speed wobble if you provoke it. Aggressive riders who want a more rigid bike should probably stick with alloy or carbon anyway, so as long as you’re prepared to ease off and coax the steering through more technical sections, you’ll be fine.
Andy’s design is unashamedly cross-country in influence and, as you might expect, it rides with a sublimely light, smooth and supple quality that’s enhanced by the responsive rollover of the 27.5in wheels. The front end and brake-related flex mean it’s not a wise choice for aggressive, smash and grab riders though.
Frame & equipment: Titanium skeleton with a super-light test spec
The race influence shows in the Torus’ classic cross-country 71/73-degree head and seat angles, as well as the very long (for a 17in bike) top tube. They’re trail-aware enough to have dropped the bottom bracket low, rather than keeping you perched high above the bigger wheels, though.
A 44mm head tube also gives compatibility with conventional straight-steerer forks, plus tapered forks if you use a Cane Creek XX-style external lower race. There’s a thick reinforcing triangle welded into the angle between the high-insertion down tube and the head tube as well.
The post-mounted brakes are a contemporary touch for easy brake setup, though we’d be wary of using a larger rotor as even a 160mm creates noticeable flex through the bracket and bowing of the seatstay.
Andy tells us: “We wanted to keep the bike traditional with clean lines, so we sided with ‘light and racy’ rather than ‘tough and trailie’.” As you’d expect for a titanium frame at this price, tubing is plain gauge rather than butted, but it’s still relatively light at a claimed 1.52kg (3.35lb).
The cowled dropouts and curved stay bridges look good, and welding is neat throughout; there are currently only two sizes available, but a small is on the way.
Cross-country angles and a long top tube highlight the torus’ heritage: Seb Rogers/Future Publishing
Our Torus Ti 650b
Clee are the distributors for super-light component specialists KCNC, and their kit plays a big part in getting the complete bike under 9kg (20lb).
The straight-arm K3 cranks are narrow across the pedals and matched with a downhill ring with deep reversible teeth – it works well in a 1×10 cross-country setup, especially when matched to a clutch-equipped SRAM X9 Type 2 mech that keeps the chain under some kind of control. The mech’s upgraded with KCNC anodised jockey wheels and controlled by a Gripshift, via alloy segmented Alligator cables.
The rear cassette is also a light KCNC piece, with titanium cogs on an alloy carrier; the minimalist seat collar and 3mm titanium-bolted stem come from them too. The flat bar is a bulged and swept titanium piece affair by Torus, as is that long seatpost.
While lots of companies are planning 650b products, actual availability meant Clee had to go with White Brothers Loop forks, which work smoothly enough but are relatively heavy.
There are no such complaints about the American Classic wheels, though, and racers won’t have an issue with the only ready source of inbetweener rubber being lightweight Schwalbe tyres.
Wheels: American Classic 650
Sizes: 17in (tested), 19in
Fork: White Brothers Loop 650, 15mm screw-thru axle
Cranks: KCNC K Type single ring
Gears: SRAM X9 Type 2 rear mech and Gripshifter, KCNC
Brakes: Hope X2 Race, KCNC Razor rotors
Handlebar: Torus Ti
Seatpost: Torus Ti
Stem: KCNC Arrow
Saddle: Velo Senso Mile
- Tyres: Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo Pacestar, 2.25in
Weight: 8.92kg (19.66lb)
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.