I… am a lucky fella*
As you may have noticed if you read this blog more than occasionally, I have a bit of a thing for On-One/Planet-X bikes. I now take pictures that sometimes they use on their website, but have been a customer for many years – appreciating their value for money approach and knowing that a bike designed an hour’s drive from where I live is likely to suit my trails and conditions better than something from halfway round the world.
All I have to do is take the photos. If the bike is a bit shit then I could just keep quiet about it and send off the pictures. On-One would still be happy. But this bike really is a bit special and so I thought I’d say a bit about it.
If you read my post about the Scandal 29er, you’ll know that I’m no professional tester, just a bloke like you that reads around a bit before spending my hard-earned, but usually has to run the magazine and on-line reviews through a ‘reality filter’, knowing that the bloke doing the testing rides 10 different bikes a day…
It is an On-One Carbon 29er Race with a few tweaks to the spec. It is built around their super-lightweight (1100g) carbon frame, RockShox Reba RLT forks and XT bits and pieces. The wheels are On-One’s own carbon rims with Schwalbe Little Alberts, FSA carbon bars, Thomson post and and On-One bignose saddle.
The bike is stunning. It looks like some kind of futuristic muscle car. It seems to bristle with attitude and aggression just standing in the shed. It’s probably like the Lotus Elise Mark 5 will look when it comes out in 10 years time. The carbon bends and bulges all over the frame with subtle shoulders and angles. The gloss finish looks almost wet and the red metallic stripe around the inside of the front triangle (as seen previously on De Rosa road bikes) finishes it off a treat. Wherever I have taken this bike, people have stood and stared. People (riders and non-cyclists alike) all come for a look and comment. Even roadies like it. It could be all that carbon…
The line that really catches the eye is the arcing top-tube that continues smoothly into the seat stays. Just beautiful.
The idea of moving the makers name from the sides to the front of the down-tube works too. It means that the main frame remains un-cluttered, but also gives them more room for the logo.
Other features of the frame are the giant bottom bracket junction. A press fit BB92 makes for more rigidity and power transfer apparently. The head tube is equally massive with a tapering headset (bigger race at the bottom than the top), again adding stiffness. The chain stays are huge too, but still seem to have plenty of room around the 2.3″ tyres.
There is a lump in the seat tube for the front mech to bolt directly to – no bands required and the back brake is where it should be – within the rear triangle.
It’s a 31.8mm seat post fit too, so should be stiff but also allow use of those fancy dropper posts if you must.
All in all, it is a well thought out frame with all of my boxes suitably ticked – I really can’t find fault with the finish, the paint, the graphics, anything.
And so to the ride. Well apparently, the geometry on this is based on the Scandal 29er that I’d ridden before. That may be true, but this bike rides so much better. The strange thing is that it doesn’t feel like a 29er (and that’s a good thing). Sure, you get the advantages of rolling over obstacles and carrying huge momentum along the trail, but it feels far more ‘steerable’.
Until I’d ridden this bike and after a lifetime of riding ‘normal’ 26″ wheeled bikes, 29ers had sometimes felt a little unwieldy because of their wheel size. Never quite so rideable and engaging unless I was on on swooping, and not too technical trails.
This bike re-addresses all of those reservations I had about larger wheels. A first foray onto the trails of my local woodland and I found that the light weight and responsiveness of the frame allow all the commitment and involvement that my faithful Inbred singlespeed has for years. But then add in the advantages of those big wheel and it is a very special recipe. Being light carbon rims, they spin up to speed just as easily as smaller wheels and so the major drawback of 29ers (the extra effort accelerating out of corners – something you do a lot of on tight, woodland trails) is gone.
With XT stopping power, RockShox to keep that front wheel where it should be and every ounce of energy you put in reaching the rear wheel, the ride is thrilling. The trails I am so familiar with are suddenly passing by much quicker. The stream crossing that I used to need to brake for to drop into is now tackled at speed as the extra diameter of the front wheel will handle that, just like it did the tree roots and kerb-sized trail lumps.
Climbing is a doddle with that power transfer and feather weight and I’m cornering and twisting through the trees with confidence and purpose with the bike feeling like and old friend already.
Home again and before I get the coffee on, before I take my helmet off, even before I shout ‘hello’ to the missus I’ve already got the bucket and sponge out to wash the mud off the bike. It’ll be in standing in the kitchen again tonight so I can look at those curves for a little while longer…
*most of the time.