UK brand Calibre has just released a women's version of its popular Bossnut full-suspension mountain bike. The original version has proved popular with reviewers and riders alike, achieving a coveted 5 star review on BikeRadar, so it's hardly surprising that the women's version has impressed us too.
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I took the Bossnut Ladies for a few spins on a combination of natural and trail-centre trails, rode it through some rocks, over some roots and along some flowy jump and drop sections. It's testament to the excellent design and set up that I had an absolute blast on all of them. So without further ado here are my first ride impressions.
Modern geometry, outstanding spec
The Calibre Bossnut Ladies is built around the same popular design as the original Bossnut, but with women's specific finishing kit. The double-butted aluminium frame has modern geometry with a 66.7-degree head angle, 73.5-degree seat tube angle and 340mm bottom bracket height. Those elements combined give you a bike that feels oh-so-ready to take on the trail. The slack head angle makes for a stable feel while descending, while the steeper seat tube angle puts your bodyweight in a position that makes climbing more efficient. The standover is also comfortably low.
A RockShox Sector Silver Solo Air fork up front and a Monarch R rear shock provide 130mm of suspension with a single pivot suspension platform. After a little tweaking I found this was plenty to play with and offered a surprisingly advanced feel for a bike of this price, tracking well with good small bump sensitivity and not bottoming out when tackling jumps and drops.
One area where the Bossnut Ladies edges ahead of the original Bossnut is in the wheel spec, featuring tubeless-ready WTB ST i25 32H rims with Deore Hubs — the next version of the Bossnut will however get this upgrade, too.
Also noteworthy for a budget bike is the tyre choice. While some brands will go for cheap and light, Calibre has clearly thought about what's likely to work well, so the Bossnut Ladies features a WTB Vigilante on the front and a WTB Bee Line at the rear. The result is a set up that gives confidence-inspiring grip and control at the front where you need it and a noticeably fast-rolling rear.
Shimano hydraulic disc brakes provide ample breaking power and while they may not be the most progressive-feeling brakes out there, they are robust and more than up to the job. Shimano also provides the gearing in a 2x10 Shimano Deore drivetrain and a 11-36t cassette. This provides plenty of range for climbing and enough range not to spin out on the flat.
The Bossnut Ladies is available in a smaller size range than the Bossnut: 15.5", 17.5" and 19.5" for the Ladies, compared to 17.5", 19.5" and 21" for the men's/unisex version. If you notice that these sizes differ to those listed on the GoOutdoors website, that's because the '.5' portion of the sizing doesn't show up there for some reason... but rest assured, the sizes quoted above are correct. I tried the 17.5" frame, with a rider height of 5 foot 9, and found the fit good.
Women's specific finishing kit
The Bossnut Ladies has the same frame as the original Bossnut, as mentioned, but does have a brand spanking new paint job that I personally prefer over the black and yellow on the Bossnut — though of course this is a question of personal taste. Calibre has opted for a black, turquoise and dark pink colourway, and yes, while there is pink featured and it's not to everyone's taste, it does look good here and Calibre has even added custom colour-matched wheel decals.
Calibre has also added a custom suspension tune designed to suit the, on-average, lighter per height weight of female riders. The additional work on the suspension seems to have ironed out some of the suspension niggles noticed by testers on the original Bossnut, with regard to setting up the damping and rebound, and achieved the desired set up with the usual tweaks accounting for rider weight, etc.
The saddle is a women's specific WTB Speed She, which offers plenty of padding. Saddles are of course a very personal choice and this one wasn't for me, I found it on the bulky side.
It's good to see decently wide handlebars on a women's specific bike, and Calibre has gone one further, adding size-specific bar widths. The XS and S sized bikes have 740mm-wide bars and the M and L have 760mm bars. These are actually wider than the offering on the current unisex Bossnut, which has 750mm bars on all sizes.
Calibre has also opted to put on shorter cranks and narrower gauge handlebars on the Bossnut Ladies, with the changes made based on testing and feedback from female riders. As with the bars, the crank length is size-specific with the 15.5" and 17.5" frame running 170mm cranks and the 19.5" 175mm cranks.
Having tested a number of women's-specific bikes at this price point there has been a tendency for them to feature geometry that gives an upright position and short reach, which can then result in a 'perched' feeling with a high centre of gravity; great for slow-speed and agile handling, but the penalty can be a nervy, twitchy and less planted feeling on technical terrain or descents. The geometry of the Bossnut Ladies encourages a better ride position and feels stable and responsive.
Personally, I found the narrower gauge bar grips comfortable with a good (and adjustable) reach to the brake levers. The wider bars certainly helped with handling, giving a stable feel and control on descents. I can't say I noticed the benefit of shorter cranks as a taller rider — 5 foot 9 — on a size medium.
A total bargain and ripe for upgrading
Overall, there's very little I can complain about with the Bossnut Ladies out of the box. The parts specification for the price is frankly amazing and it has a refreshingly modern geometry for a bike at this price.
It's not the only budget full-suspension mountain bike that's impressed us lately — the Voodoo Maji by Halfords feels and handles excellently too, and does have women's specific geometry — but the sheer value offered by the Bossnut Ladies is hard to beat.
While this bike retails for £1,299.99 at GoOutdoors, a popular outdoor retailer in the UK, those who have a GoOutdoors card (yours for a mere £5) can buy the Bossnut Ladies for £999.99. GoOutdoors will also ship internationally, for an incredibly cheap £9.95 (as the bike weighs less than 31kg) on top of the price of the bike, excluding local taxes.
One upgrade I would make is the addition of a dropper seatpost. Bikes at this price point don't normally feature one, so it's not something I'd expect to see. However, once you've tried one it's hard to go back to manually raising and lowering the saddle for climbs and descents, and it's a good investment to make once you've purchased the bike or further down the line.
While I got on fine with the tyre choice for relatively dry natural trails and trail-centre riding, if you are planning on doing anything wilder over the winter you may want to consider upgrading the tyres to something a little grippier.
We'll be updating this First Ride with a full review in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled for the update.