Having clinched MBUK's enduro/all-mountain/long travel trail (or whatever you'd like to call them) bike of the year title last year, we've certainly come to expect big things from the Swoo/o bad thing as we loved it last time around, though the German brand has tweaked the spec of the Swoop 170 throughout the line-up. You'll now find better tyres across each of the up-to-date bikes and a distinct lack of front mechs — something that always seemed a little out of place on a big bike like this.
- The Radon Swoop 170 9.0 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
Radon Swoop 170 9.0 frame
The Swoop 170's geometry still feels properly contemporary on the trail. While the numbers aren't GeoMetron-extreme, Radon has done a fine job in balancing high-speed stability without dulling any of the liveliness that helps to keep riding really fun.
My 18in frame (sizes range from 16–22in) has a generous reach of 460mm and, just like last year's bike, features a triangular chip at the lowest shock mount allowing you to tweak the angles.
Each setting allows you to alter the head/seat tube angle by 0.5 degrees and change bottom bracket height by 6–7mm at a time (bottom bracket drop can be adjusted from 8–21mm).
I spent the majority of my time in the slackest/lowest setting where the head angle measured 64.4 degrees and the bottom bracket sat at just 332mm off of the floor. While you'll need to take time to get used to the low bottom bracket, there's no getting away from the fact that the Swoop is a complete demon through the turns.
The 170mm / 6.7in of rear wheel travel comes courtesy of a four-bar linkage design and is controlled using Fox's DPX2 rear shock which features adjustable low-speed compression damping in its open mode and a lever to let you toggle between the three modes (open, medium and firm — the latter of which is a big plus on long, draggy climbs).
Cable routing is a mixed affair with the dropper and final length (along the chainstay) of gear cable being routed internally, while the rear brake cable is externally routed all the way, making it much easier to work on or replace should you need to. In a similar vein, many will also appreciate the threaded bottom bracket.
Radon Swoop 170 9.0 kit
The Fox rear shock is matched nicely with the 36 Performance Elite fork up front, which we're big fans of thanks to the supportive feel and easy, effective adjustment on offer.
Fox also takes care of dropper post duties with the 18in Swoop sporting a 150mm drop Transfer Performance number. While the compact but easy to reach remote works really well, the tiny bolt used to clamp the cable and anchor the remote to the bar need to be treated with care when being worked on.
SRAM's 1x12 GX Eagle gearing delivers a whopping range that's a real plus on big days in the hills. Unlike many of its counterparts, the Swoop uses Magura brakes (most bikes around this price come equipped with Shimano or SRAM brakes). In this case, it's the four piston MT5s.
While the lever can feel a little spongy early on, it's the immense amount of power on tap that takes time to acclimatise to. Once you do though, the MT5s offer more than enough punch should you fancy sliding down super-steep downhill tracks.
A big improvement for the Swoop 170 this year is the change in rubber. The 2018 spec 9.0 comes with a Schwalbe Magic Mary up front in the Addix Soft compound, which is a firm favourite with many of our testers. The Hans Dampf in the Addix SpeedGrip compound at the rear rolls well-enough but feels skittish on wet rocks and roots and isn't the best at staving off punctures on particularly rocky trails.
For those keen to try the Swoop's lowest geometry setting you'll soon appreciate the e*thirteen chainguide, which comes complete with a bash guard that does an admirable job of keeping your chainring protected from those accidental close encounters with the trail.
Radon Swoop 170 9.0 ride impressions
Setting the suspension on the Swoop does take a little time. That's no bad thing though because the range of adjustment on offer from both the fork and shock mean it should work for a wide range of rider weights.
I played around with sag settings and, when in the open mode, the low-speed compression setting on the rear shock until I struck a good balance with my fork set up.
I found the single volume spacer in the shock that Radon specs as standard delivered enough end stroke ramp up to handle everything I could throw at the bike, so left that as it was throughout testing.
Sling a leg over the Swoop and in seconds it's easy to see why this bike has won so many accolades over the last couple of years. Its shape feels very easy to get accustomed.
While its reach is lengthier than many of its counterparts, it doesn't feel in any way cumbersome or barge-like when things slow down and become more awkward. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Though it's still incredibly stable and surefooted at speed. Thread the Swoop into anything tight and technical and its sharp, responsive handling makes split second changes of direction a breeze, which only bolsters confidence and flow, even when the trail feels hap-hazard and nadgery.
Apply pressure to the pedals and the Swoop picks up speed quickly thanks in part to the rapid pick up in the rear hub and the light overall weight. It also helps to keep things feeling nimble, lively and fun when tackling slower speed trails or when powering up short, punchy climbs.
On longer uphill stints, you'll appreciate the firm setting on the shock, but seated the suspension feels reasonably stable when in the open mode. The steep seat tube angle helps to keep you over the bottom bracket and make pedalling feel like a more efficient affair. The fast rolling rear tyre helps here too, though can feel sketchy when tackling root riddled trails in the wet. I'd prefer to see a tougher, softer compound rubber tyre back here instead.
Even though some might struggle with the low bottom bracket when the Swoop is in its lowest setting, I absolutely love it, as did the other testers. Getting your pedalling just right takes time to perfect but when you do you soon realise what an absolute demon the Swoop is through the turns. Slide it in and rip it from turn to turn and you'll be surprised by just how far you can push those lean angles.
At higher speeds when the going gets rough, things feel composed and stable, but when compared to the RockShox Lyrik RCT3 the Fox 36 Performance Elite never felt quite as comfy on really long, chewed up runs. It's still a seriously well-mannered fork though, with plenty of support and, combined with the supple rear end, helps keep the deeply treaded tyres biting into the dirt.
Overall, it's hard to knock the Swoop's geometry and well-rounded nature, and while I've picked a couple of holes in the 9.0's spec, it's still a fantastic bike that's proven itself to be seriously capable on every trail I've thrown it down.
- BikeRadar would like to thank Life Cycle Adventures, Sanremo Bike Resort, MET Helmets, Bluegrass Eagle Protection, Mercedes Benz and Brittany Ferries for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.
If you're in the market for a new enduro bike, long travel trail bike or all-mountain bike, check out our reviews of those we've thoroughly tried and tested.