when you read on-line reviews, they’re often written by ‘pros’. people who ride all kinds of bikes and only because of their job become ‘authorities’ who can play a big role in people’s spending decisions.
so before i start, i would like to ‘frame’ this review a little. (i’m not sure review is the right word – i just want to tell you about my opinions and experiences of the bike).
i like to ride bikes. i’m not too interested in reading about them. to be honest i’m not too interested in other people’s bikes either. i’m not overly fussed about the various cycling ‘lifestyles’. for me it’s all about the riding rather than the peripherals.
i ride my bikes to work. i ride local night rides. i get out on a saturday morning club run from time to time. i do the odd sportif and occasionally get away for a weekend in the lakes/dales/wales. you know, sort of like you do!
i’ve got a carbon road bike, a steel fixed gear, a steel tourer, a time-trial bike (without wheels, tucked away in the shed) and a singlespeed mountain bike. the singlespeed is an on-one inbred. all are functional rather than beautiful. practical rather than bling.
i’ve been a cyclist – as opposed to just a bloke with a bike – for about 15 years. halfway through this period, most of my riding was on a specialized fsr (full suspension) mountain bike and i began to lose my mojo. the bike was ok, but the suspension squeaked like a bastard and needed rebuilding after every decent ride (it was the old design with bushes rather than bearings and they were shot). because of this i started to not ride. it became more about the bike and less about the riding. i’d find other stuff to do. cycling was slipping out of my life.
then, for some reason i don’t recall, i bought a rigid, singlespeed inbred. it was on ebay and only about 10 miles from home. when i won it with a token bid of £230 i didn’t really expect that my love affair with riding was about to be rekindled. but it was. a simple bike, no maintenance, no pretence. just get out and ride.
singlespeeding was like bmxing as a kid. no squeaks, no distractions, just the pure fun of riding. i’ve been riding steel singlespeeds since (apart from a fantastic cotic soul that i had an all too brief dalliance with).
i’ve been aware of the whole 29er thing but didn’t know anyone who actually rode one. i’d seen a few around but never paid too much attention.
the on-one scandal (that’s scandium and aluminium – but as i understand it, the newsest version does not actually have any scandium mixed in with the aluminium) 29er light costs just 900 quid and is an awful lot of bike for the money.
out of the box the pink colour is great although clearly a matter of taste – it ‘pops’ as a mate of mine said. it is slightly duskier than being full-on gay bar and gets as many comments as the big wheels.
next thing to hit you is the weight. for a 900 quid bike, loaded with ‘budget’ components, it is a whole lot lighter than you might expect.
the frame is pink – you may have spotted that. there is a smart looking british racing green version, but that’ll cost you 100 quid more.
it’s made from fat tubes with reasonable enough welding where they meet. the paint finish still looks good despite a few filthy rides, subsequent washes and the usual wear and tear. the only bit to suffer is the drive side chainstay that needs protection right from the off, not after a few hundred miles of slap have taken chunks out of the paint.
the geometry is the usual on-one format – that means long with a low stand over. long combined with the big wheels make your size (mines an 18″, i’m 5’11”) look too big and way bigger than your usual 26er. i think the 18″ size does get the balance right between wheel and frame size and you do sit on it rather than in it like some smaller framed 29ers but with a bb low enough to stay in touch.
also, as is usual with on-one’s interrupted stay design there’s masses of tyre clearance (with the exception of the front mech, but we’ll come onto that later).
the forks have even more clearance, good for 3″ gazzaloddis. like most things on-one, they are well designed, nicely made without being flash. the on-one sticker on the top of the legs lets them down a bit in the looks department but they flex just enough smooth the ride (maybe a little more than the 26″ version because of the length) and are light enough that you won’t have any need to upgrade any time soon.
the drivetrain bits.
the bike comes with an slx shadow rear mech, two way slx shifters and a deore front mech, all of which work just fine. the shadow mech hides away behind the frame in all but top gear (smallest cog on the back), making it safe from rock and tree stump damage and those shifters, while i couldn’t see the point of the two way release initially, i have come to see the benefits of being able to change down quickly, regardless of hand position.
the front mech could cause some problems. clearance between it and the tyres is minimal – about 5mm. it acts almost like that little wire that pro road cyclists used to use to gently scrape grit from the surface of their silk tubular tyres.
quite how long the mech will last collecting so much shite i’m not sure. it obviously limits tyre choice too.
the chainset is an fsa v-drive on an external bb. now i’m not ‘pro’ enough to tell you if it’s stiff or not and it makes me laugh to hear people discussing crank stiffness. what i can tell you is that cranking hard in the big ring doesn’t rub the chain on anything that it shouldn’t!
the wheels and tyres.
once you’re over the sheer size of the wheels, they look pretty good and stylishly stealthy. planet x superlight hubs, like the rest of the superlight range are fantastic value for their weight and features. the rims are on-one’s own brand and so far have stayed true as they came.
now then, on to the tyres. the thing is, no-one will ever believe you when you tell them that kenda small block eights are just as grippy as their 2.5 trailwreckers. you see the thing with a 29er tyres is that there is quite a bit more of it touching the trail at any given time, so it goesn’t need the huge chunks of rubber to dig in. and all those little pimples give just as much bite without the drag…
i knew it. you don’t believe me. just ride some. you’ll see!
that said, i’ve never really found anything that copes with the lovely mix of soap and clay that passes for some of the trails around here at this time of year and these do struggle at these extremes. for ‘normal’ rocky or hard packed trail surfaces though they are ace.
the finishing kit.
i didn’t like the fleegle pro bars at all when i first got the bike. their massive width, big sweep but with no rise just looked odd and didn’t feel right. after a bit of faffing – i.e. rotating them back and forward a few degrees at a time, i’ve sussed it and as long as i don’t look at them (they’re still ugly), they do the job and that lack of rise works with the already high front end.
i like the twelfty seat posts (as long as it is the one piece type, not the one with the silver head) and again they fit the planet-x/on-one mould by giving good, functional performance while being almost good enough for weight-weenie types and triffic value. i’ve fitted this post to a few bikes over the years (both road and mtb)and apart from the shoddy quality of the screws – which are easily enough replaced – i can’t fault them.
the big nose saddle again is nothing flash either but just does the job. comfortable right from the off.
brakes are magura julies – big disc at the front, little at the back. they do the job with decent enough feel to the levers. they do grunt when they’re damp though.
first sensation when riding a 29er is that it feels unstoppable. once those wheels get spinning, it feels like it will just keep gathering momentum and roll over anything.
i like that the freewheel on the bike is silent – it just adds to that ‘steamroller’ effect – too bad that name has been taken by the nice people at surly.
the length, super stiffness and light weight combined with the big old wheels mean that the bike is superfast on any trail that is straight enough to get any kind of speed up. in fact the only place it struggled at all was on the twistiest bits of my local woodland cheeky trail – that accounts for about 5% of the trails i ride and so this isn’t any kind of problem.
the bike is sold as a racer and in the starndard set-up fits that bill perfectly; long, stiff and fast rolling.
that length can mean that it can be difficult to lift the front end over obstacles, but being a 29er, it rolls over things better than a smaller wheeled bike anyway so you get away with it.
i’m sure the big wheel sensation probably feels less odd for people who ride road bikes regularly. afterall, those wheels are just road bike size with extra width, mass and so momentum. if you only ever rode 26″ mountainbikes, it’d feel like riding a gate i expect. but that initial strangeness soon subsides as the fun begins…
so in summary…
…you’ll buy one if you want one. not much i’ve said will make too much difference i expect. but assuming you’re after a race ready mountain bike, capable of handling a wide variety of uk trails and aren’t about to throw yourself down some downhill or jump course, you won’t be disappointed.
whether you want to get into the whole 29er thing – think about more tubes you need to buy and remember to swap in your camelback to suit your chosen bike when you go ride, limited tyre, fork and wheel choices etc. – again is your choice. big wheels clearly have advantages for some types of trail, just as the proven 26ers do in other areas.
so not better, not worse, just different. what you can be sure of though is that if you do go for a geared 29er, you can’t go far wrong with the on-one.