Andorran brand pairs modern construction techniques and materials with old-school steel.
Most brands like to pick a material for a new bike, then stick with it. And until now, Production Privée was one of those brands, happily making hardtails and a full suspension bike from MCS 4130 heat treated steel. The new Shan 5 changes that, it keeps the steel framed front triangle and swaps in a carbon rear end, the idea being to save weight and increase stiffness.
“The Shan was already a good bike, but we wanted to reach a good ratio in terms of mechanical performance and excess weight,” explains Damien Nosella.
“We chose carbon composites for the swingarm and dropped the weight to 840g from 1.6kg.”
A lighter back with less sprung mass makes for better dynamic suspension behaviour and an increase in actuation of the bike, Damien says. “It’s even more versatile, it pedals better, and descends better,” he says.
That back end is stiffer than the old steel version then, Damien says, which accounts for the better actuation. But overall the bike has remained roughly the same, or “6% more flexible axle to axle.”
The Shan 5 is an interesting bike then, built by a bike company doing things a little differently. Mixing carbon and steel or carbon and titanium isn’t unheard of, but it’s usually the reserve of artisanal companies producing a few handfuls of bikes a year. Not big brands like Forestal Group, which owns PP.
“There is absolutely no judgement there, it’s totally valid,” Damien says about small brands building everything in house. “For the size of our brand we need to reach a reasonable amount of volume of frames. But we need to be able to manufacture that, we invest into technology but also rely on the know-how of our team.”
The Shan 5’s steel front triangle is built to the kind of tolerances reserved for carbon bikes, because of course it has to accommodate the rear end without misaligning. Adding carbon to steel does something interesting to the performance of the bike and demonstrates just why steel is so important to PP, Damien explains. “When you bottom out the bike the downtube is flexing because the shock is pushing right into it,” he says. “But that flex will actually increase the travel by 10mm.”
This is why steel is the material of choice for PP, its ride characteristics are comfortable and soft and ideal for Andorra. Indeed, Damien’s ethos is that he’d rather design bikes for feel than for ultimate stiffness or weight saving.
“We tend to ride manmade natural trails, and of course you need good suspension and settings,” Damien says. “But you also need a compliant frame because you are riding a lot of off-cambers, rocky, tricky sections, and you need confidence the chassis can provide this.
“The stiffer the frame, the more difficult it is to carry it all along the day. If you’re an athlete it’s different, you’re training six days out of seven, you want to hit your lines to the millimetre and you’re strong enough to hold your bike.”
Ironically though, the physical properties of steel give it far greater stiffness than aluminium, Damien explains. “So the stiffness or flex of a steel frame comes from the geometry and the cross section of the tubes,” he says. In other words, steel tubing is thinner.
Production Privée is certainly a brand to keep an eye on then, blending modern construction techniques and materials with old-school steel. And it’s not done for a marketing quirk, a trick to catch your attention in a crowded market – Damien wants to bring genuine performance improvements, as well as style, to modern mountain bikes.
Production Privee Shan 5
The new bike is made in Andorra from custom-designed MCS 4130 heat treated steel tubing from Taiwan, and a full carbon fibre swingarm with T700 and T800 lamination. All tubing sets are custom made in shape, thicknesses and heat treatment, but it’s the lamination that controls the level of stiffness and response. Production Privée has used a single-pivot design, with the shock mounted in the middle of the downtube to take advantage of the steel’s flexibility, generating 140mm travel. The bike is designed around a 150mm fork, but you can bump that by 10mm if you want to.
The carbon fibre rear end is currently made in Asia, but Production Privée’s goal is to bring that in house with thermoplastic moulding. The brand’s founders love 60s and 70s motor racing, which inspires the multiple colour schemes on offer and the frames are sprayed in Andorra with solvent free paint.
You can currently buy a rolling chassis with Ohlins RXF36 M.2 Air fork and TTX2 Air shock, Crankbrothers Synthesis Carbon wheelset and Highline 7 dropper post for €4,710 directly from the PP website. There’s also a frame and shock only for €2440,83, or a frame-only for €1,915.83. All prices exclude VAT.