Delivers the fundamentals.
Flattering and instilling rider confidence isn’t a trait all trail bikes manage, so the Forme Lathkill LTD deserves props for delivering the fundamentals.
Forme Lathkill LTD need to know
- UK-designed trail bike with 140mm travel
- Effective 4-bar linkage suspension design uses counter-rotating upper shock link similar to Lapierre’s proven OST+ design.
- 11-speed Shimano XT drivetrain with chain-stabilising Shadow+ derailleur keep it clean and simple with no front mech
- Top-end model in a two-bike range.
Named after the Derbyshire Dale close to Forme’s HQ, the Lathkill is an aluminium full suspension bike with 140mm of travel. It’s one of many new trial bike claiming to offer the ideal recipe for UK trail riding, so what makes it stand out from the crowd?
Priced at just under £3,000, the Lathkill Ltd doesn’t have all of the latest tech, like carbon fibre frame construction, the wider Boost rear axle or one of the more sensitive new Metric shocks. But by nailing the basics, Forme achieves something that the bigger brands offering these features don’t always manage; namely a properly well-balanced and easy to ride bike.
Made from good old alloy, the frame is stiff enough for the kind of work most intermediate riders will ever put it through, using an effective 4-bar suspension design with a counter-rotating upper link that wraps neatly around the seat tube. The overall look is smart, even if up close, the finish on the pivots and the tubing junctions are a tad below the engineering refinement seen on the like of Trek and Specialized
Decent shaped, Crank Brothers 780mm handlebars and 50mm stem, excellent American Classic wheels and the RockShox Reverb stealth dropper post are all tidy kit. There’s a slight sense of spec-by-numbers, rather than every last ounce being wrung out of the budget in places though, and a higher level brake than Shimano Deore and also a Pike RCT3 damped suspension fork (that’s superior to the RC here) would be preferable for this much money.
Shorter, 170mm, Race Face Ride cranks offer better ground clearance against rock strikes, and the 1x Shimano XT drivetrain works smoothly, but the 34 tooth chainring and 40T biggest rear sprocket makes for hard low gear, making it a bit of a wrench to drag the Lathkill up the longest climbs if you aren’t mega fit.
Heading downhill, Forme’s 140mm bike steers well and slices smoother trail centre berms nicely with a sporty ride that’s well balanced against pedalling loads. There’s no need to reach for the RockShox Monarch’s compression lever for climbing or sprinting, and it feels safe on steep downhill sections with a predictable, neutral feel. There is a slight harshness, vibration and bouncy ride through the frame across repeated square edge hits when you’re really pushing on though.
While there’s nothing radical about the Lathkill, in many ways that’s the sell; the geometry and even the ride quality is pretty conservative, but flattering and instilling rider confidence isn’t a trait all trail bikes manage, so Forme deserves props for delivering the fundamentals. With only two sizes available (I was comfortable on the largest at 5’ 9”) taller riders drawn to the Lathkill will need to look elsewhere though.
Spotlight: American Classic Wide Lightning wheels
The Lathkill Ltd costs £400 more than the stand version but adds excellent American Classic Wide Lightning wheels. It’s a chunk of extra cash, but these super lightweight hoops are real performers: at roughly 1,500g a set the 29.3mm wide rims stabilise tyres to reduce casing twist, which really aids in ripping corners. The low weight increases manoeuvrability too, with the Lightning’s accelerating noticeably faster than the heavier wheels found vast majority of trail bikes. Schwalbe’s Hans Dampf tyres use the right casing and rubber, but a tread with a deeper, continuous shoulder ‘grip’ channel for more cornering bite would maximise the Wide Lightning’s advantages even further.