Modern geometry meets modern tyre sizes
UK woodland is the natural habitat of humble hardcore hardtails, so we’ve picked three Brit-built rigs to hammer around our home turf.
While you’ll find long, low, slack hardtails with longer travel suspension forks the world over, it’s here in the UK that boundaries are really being broken.
And it’s not just the niche, artisan frame builders that are driving geometry and sizing forward. Mainstream domestic brands are also right there at coalface of hardtail development, even if it’s aluminium, not steel, that is the frame material of choice.
Nukeproof, Orange and Whyte, are three UK bike brands that are helping elevate the humble hardtail from its raw, punk rock status to a class act… the latest development being tyre size.
So even though all three bikes in this test are rolling on 27.5in hoops, each one has different size tyres and resulting wheel sizes. The Orange Crush is sporting a somewhat traditional setup with a 2.3in front tyre and a narrower 2.25in out back. For 2018 Nukeproof has stepped it a notch with the latest mid-size 2.6in tyres on its redesigned Scout. Last and by no means least, we have the new Whyte 905 with full-blown 2.8in Plus tyres and revised frame geometry to accommodate them.
And it is not just tyre size that separates our three homegrown hardtails; all have different amounts of fork travel too. Granted they all sport the new beefed-up RockShox Revelation RC, but Whyte has opted for the 130mm version, Nukeproof occupies the middle ground with 140mm travel, while Orange has the most suspension fire power at 150mm.
How wheel size and fork travel play out in the test remains to be seen, but our test trio have a lot in common too. All have sub 65deg head angles, all run 1×11 drivetrains with shorter 170mm crank arms, they all come with internally routed dropper seat posts and all cost around £1,700.
So whether you’re buying a new hardtail as your primary ride, our one to run alongside a full suspension rig as a winter bike, this is one test you really must not miss.
Orange Crush S
Revised specification and pricing within the Crush range makes the Crush Pro £2K, but the entry-level Crush S has also been upgraded to fill the void.
Nukeproof Scout 275 Comp
The Nukeproof Scout 275 Comp has seen a lot of development. Its low-slung profile remains, but the bike has been stretched to a more generous cockpit.
With updated geometry that’s been designed specifically around fatter 2.8in Plus tyres the 2018 Whyte 905 looks set to raise the bar once again.
Homegrown hardtails conclusion
The hardcore hardtail category has been reasonably static for a number of years now. In fact, since making the switch to 27.5in wheels, the biggest changes have been half a degree on the head angle here, a different profile tube there, and the same bikes always seemed to come out on top. Not this time.
Fatter tyres have turned this category upside down, and the fall out will be wide and far reaching. We’ve been impressed by lesser Plus hardtails, but when you combine a stiffer fork with progressive geometry and 2.6in or 2.8in tyres, it’s a whole new world.
You can ride harder and further with less fatigue and the pop from the bigger volume tyres actually make the bikes feel more agile, not less so. They look totally normal too, and we predict more hardtails will make the move to 2.6in and 2.8in tyres an in a very short space of time. Orange will probably be first in the queue.
It’s not that the Orange Crush S is a bad bike, it’s just had the rug pulled out from underneath it while it’s been napping. And while jumping for 2.3in to the 2.6in rubber on the new Nukeproof Scout 275 Comp doesn’t sound like a massive change, on the trail the benefits are instantly noticeable. Factor in the slacker geometry and superior build kit on the Nukeproof and the Orange was quickly relegated to third place.
Picking the winner wasn’t quite as straightforward. But even after spending way more time fine-tuning the setup on the Nukeproof we’d jump straight back onto the new Whyte 905 and instantly feel more in control. The lower BB really puts you right in the bike, while the 2.8in Maxxis tyres do an amazing job of ironing out crease in the trail. Make no mistake though, this is no straight-line monster tuck The Whyte 905 also carves corners, boosts jumps and rockets up climbs better than any hardtail that’s come before it. So once again Whyte has delivered the blueprint for the next generation of hardtails. This time, however, we suspect it won’t take as long for everyone else to catch on.
Notes on hardcore hardtails geometry
It would be easy to take one look at the head angles on our three homegrown hardtails and think they aren’t for your because they sound too slack. And that’s understandable as a sub 65 deg head angles are more commonly associated with EWS level enduro bikes.
But it’s a static measurement, a snap shot if you like. When you jump on a hardtail it’s only the fork that compresses so the dynamic head angle is actually steeper. The more travel the fork has the greater the effect. At no point during this test did we think that any the bikes were too slack. In fact, the opposite is true, and the Orange Crush could quite easily be a full degree slacker.