Cove uses Easton lightweight Rad square-to-round tubing to give the Hustler a stout front end, so it will easily take a 150mm fork. In ’05 it changed the head tube for a forged unit for increased strength. The forged theme continues with the one-piece bottom bracket main pivot assembly, but the chainstay yoke is an extrusion. Both the chain and seatstays are kinked, and while this does improve heel clearance on the latter, there is no need for it on the chainstays. Tyre clearance is good, and while the overall finish isn’t as classy as the Ellsworth or Turner, for what it’s worth, the seatpost slid up and down more smoothly on the Hustler than any of the other bikes on test.

The original Hustler had 4.6in of travel but Cove tweaked the orientation of the rocker plates, increased the shock stroke and upped the chainstay length by 1/8in to give the current design 5.5in of travel. On the Cove website the geometry is given for a 125mm fork, but seeing as most fork manufacturers don’t make a 125mm fork and our bike felt spot on with a 140mm Float R, we wouldn’t stress about it. The Fox RP23 rear shock got stuck down on the second outing and we had to send it back to Mojo to get it sorted. It wasn’t even a cold day so we don’t know what the excuse is this time. Hopefully it’s not the start of a winter epidemic.

The tall head tube on the Cove meant that we didn’t need many spacers under the stem, and the 20mm layback on the seatpost worked well with the steeper seat angle. If you’re over 5’11 you’ll want to consider going up to the 19.5in frame size. Both sizes have good standover clearance,

We made a point of riding the Orange and the Cove back-to-back, as their vital statistics are virtually identical. From the first couple of pedal turns it was obvious that the riding position was in fact very similar — when seated the Cove’s steeper seat angle pushes you forward slightly, but out of the saddle the two bikes felt indistinguishable. But that’s not to say that they performed the same, as the suspension on the Cove was more supple and active than that of the Orange. Obviously both bikes were going to feel more stable on the descents than the steeper angled Ellsworth and Turner, but the slower handling also proved better on the traditional flat, muddy XC trails as it allows the front wheel to drift rather than tuck under. Just like the Turner, the Cove had good traction when climbing and there was no pedal feedback in the middle or granny ring. The Cove’s porky build didn’t hold it back and, to put things into perspective, if you include the weight of the rider it’s only one per cent heavier than the Ellsworth.

There are plenty of riders that will buy the Cove simply because it’s Canadian, it’s cool and the colours look nice — but the Hustler has much more to offer. The chassis is solid, the geometry is spot-on and the suspension is effective. It’s easily one of the best all-round bikes we’ve had the pleasure of testing. Just don’t be tempted to smother it with heavy freeride kit — the Hustler may have a Maple Leaf on the down tube but it’s a trail bike through and through.