Things have progressed quickly since our last news story on the Millyard bike. Firstly the geometry has been revised: the bottom bracket height is now lower and the head angle has been slackened, so the bike now sports a mix of numbers taken from an Orange 224 and an Iron Horse Sunday. In addition to improving the geometry, Allen Millyard has also removed half the swingarm. Yes, the Millyard bike now has a single-sided swingarm. The drivetrain is still fully enclosed and overall the second-generation prototype is much better finished than the first. Allen says that this is because he wasn’t making it up as he went along.
All well and good, in fact it’s amazing really when you consider that this bike has been hand built in someone’s garage. But the big question is how does it ride?
‘Different’ is probably the best way to describe the perform-ance of the Millyard bike. It definitely lacks the instant acceleration of a conventional bike because the suspension squats with the first couple of pedal strokes. Also, while the shifting is smooth and precise there are some big steps in the gear ratios that come with using a Nexus hub that was designed for leisure riding not hammering down mountains.
Once up to speed, the rear suspension works amazingly well on square-edge hits, and you can feel the progression in the shock as the damping cushions your landing. Even with the apparent lack of end-stroke low-speed rebound damping, the bike never feels uncontrollable or like it’s going to spit you off. In fact, the only drawback, and the possible limitation of using the shock technology on shorter-travel bikes, is that it doesn’t pedal as well as a regular set-up and you need a nitrogen canister to charge the shock.
To test Millyard’s theory of running higher tyre pressures we stuck 45psi in the rear and 35psi up front. In back-to-back testing with the 224, the difference in ride comfort was astonishing — basically it felt like we were running 20psi tyre pressures on the Millyard and 60psi on the Orange. So perhaps the idea’s not as crazy as it sounds as the suspension’s very effective at absorbing bumps.
But that’s not the whole story, as it quickly became obvious that we were more tired riding the Millyard than the Orange, even though the former was more comfortable. This could have been due to the fact that the Millyard was carrying an extra 5lb, or it could be down to chassis stability.
Another head scratcher is that even though Proto 2 has a less rearward axle path than Proto 1 (because the BB and pivot are lower) it didn’t seem to have a negative effect on suspension performance. Could all the marketing hype we read about axle paths be just that? Or maybe it is a complex problem that’s been overly simplified.
Additionally, removing half the swingarm has caused no appreciable reduction in stiffness, but has dramatically reduced unsprung mass. Could this be the secret to the Millyard’s excellent bump-absorbing ability, or is it the damper? To try and answer these questions, we’d like to try a regular shock on the Millyard, and Millyard’s shock on a 224. We’ll let you know how we get on.