A modern classic in the making, Production Privee is an experiment in materials science, but it falls short in one key area
The Production Privee Shan 5 is a bike that’s impossible to pigeonhole. With 140mm of claimed travel and a skinny-tubed steel front triangle, it’s the kind of oddball machine you’d expect to find at the Bespoked bike show. Great for fans of retro, but not something that would qualify as one of our best mountain bikes.
I’m not sure it would be allowed into Bespoked though. The Shan 5 has a full carbon fibre back end, with T700 and T800 lamination, while those tubes are custom-designed, made from MCS 4130 heat treated steel, and robot welded for strength.
And yet, despite knowing all this about the bike, with the materials at the back of my mind, I was not expecting the Shan 5 to ride quite as it did. It’s one of the most surprising bikes I’ve ridden in 2024… and one of the most predictable too.
Production Privee Shan 5 need to know
- Single-pivot trail bike made with 4130 steel front triangle, and carbon fibre swingarm
- Steel frame section has been robot-welded for strength and precision in Andorra
- 140mm claimed travel comes via an Ohlins TTX shock, and a 150mm Ohlins RXF fork
- Rolling chassis build with Crank Brothers wheelset, Ohlins suspension, costs €5,652
- Big sizing, and slack geometry throughout the range
We need a quick history lesson before we go on any more about the ride quality though, if you’re to understand why the Shan 5 looks like it does. Production Privee is based in Andorra and its founders are self-declared motor racing fanatics, taking inspiration from the 50s and 60s. That explains the funky yellow paint job, hand sprayed in Andorra, and the retro stickers adorning it. It’s the kind of bike you want wobbling about on top of your vintage Porsche, stuck on by vacuum suckers and good faith.
A poser’s bike then? Well yes, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude performance. And the styling doesn’t explain the skinny tubing either, which really isn’t there just for show.
Steel and carbon frame
The skinny steel tubing is the best material for the job. So designer Damien Nosella from Production Privee told me last year. I can get on board with that, steel framed bikes do have a recognisable softness to them that’s played out time and time again, with Orange, Cotic, Whyte and plenty more all mastering the material.
The steel also generates around 10mm of travel in vertical flex, effectively removing a harsh bottom out at the end of the stroke and letting the Shan 5 use all its travel more effectively, Production Privee says.
The neat joins are the result of robot welding, a process that’s said to produce much better results than trusting it to an artisan. That’s because the welds are more consistent, lessening the chances of a weak point, while less material and therefore weight is needed in the process. It’ll be stronger too – heating and cooling during welding weakens the steel, but robot welding is more accurate and means less of the tubing is affected.
At the other end of the bike the carbon one-piece design isn’t there to increase stiffness, as I’d first imagined, instead Production Privee uses it as a way to ditch over 800g in weight over the old steel swingarm supporting the outgoing bike. Indeed, the Shan 5 is said to be less vertically stiff, by some 6% over the original all-steel Shan 5.
There’s a nod towards modernity in the cable routing, which runs inside the downtube, entering via pockets at the top that made some people nervous by their sheer size. None o’ that headset routing here, thank you very much.
And the whole system stayed super-quiet, probably because the cables are clamped tightly in place with alloy inserts at either end, only broken to dodge above the BB shell before diving into the chainstay again.
The Shan 5 uses a simple, single pivot suspension setup, with the shock driven by a yoke that splits around the seat tube. Production Privee says it’s picked this system to offer minimal maintenance, and so you can easily get all the travel available.
You can buy the Shan 5 as a frame only, or a rolling chassis, and they’re all designed for the Ohlins TTX shock here, which I found to be very finicky in setup. But more on that later.
Range, sizing and geometry
Buy the bike as a rolling chassis and you’ll need to stump up €5,652 (I’ve added on the VAT), which puts it at the pricey end of the trail bike spectrum. What’s missing from the build (which is stellar, I might add) is the drivetrain and brakes, although my test model came built with Formula Cura 4 stoppers and SRAM GX Eagle, which would add around £600 if you were sourcing these parts yourself. Not an insignificant investment then. It’s also available as a frame only without shock for €1,915.83.
The Shan 5 is a big bike, the size Large I rode features a 490mm reach and you can grow that above 500mm if you go for the XL. And with a 63º head angle the Shan 5 is super slack for a trail bike, while the bottom bracket sits pretty snug to the ground.
Given that the brakes and drivetrain aren’t standard on the bike I won’t comment on them at length, except to say the Cura brakes are excellent, with good power and decent modulation. The pads sit very close to the rotors though, which are themselves very thick at 2.3mm, an that means you have to be careful when setting them up to avoid any rotor rub. Meanwhile the SRAM Eagle GX drivetrain shifted without fault.
What does come with every bike though, is a set of Crankbrothers Synthesis Carbon E7 wheels. It’s become standard practice for a manufacturer to pair carbon wheels with a steel frame, the logic being you can buy in some stiffness and steering precision and that compliments the comfy frame. Except here Production Privee has gone for one of the most yielding of carbon wheels out there, while the Shan 5 is a decently stiff bike.
It’s a good pairing nevertheless, I’ve ridden the Synthesis wheelset in a range of bikes and it lends them all an ability to track the ground well and damp down the trail effectively. Carbon wheels are also usually lighter than alloy, which gives Production Privee another opportunity alongside the carbon swingarm to improve the bike’s ratio of sprung to unsprung mass.
A rubbing rotor is a bothersome thing on a mountain bike, every climb feels like you’re moving through treacle, and those missing watts are always there in the back of your mind. Once I sourced a replacement for a bent Formula Cura rotor though, the Shan 5 proved a distinctively average climber.
At 15kg the Shan 5 isn’t particularly heavy for a steel bike in 2024, and with the MaxxTerra quick rolling tyres it’s fine to roll around on all day without getting too smoked. The effective seat post angle is reasonably steep and it shunts you forward so you’re not hanging off the back.
But the fore/aft balance of the bike isn’t ideal – with a long front centre and relatively short chainstays your weight and the squishy shock gang up on each other to make the front too light. There’s a climb switch on the shock that definitely helps prop you up though.
Setting up the Ohlins shock is where it really gets tricky for a Shan 5 owner, and it takes a little bit of trial and error. Too much air and you won’t make use of the travel on offer: too little and the bike will sit too deep into its travel, and that makes the front wheel too light and skittish. Most bikes will give you a fair bit of leeway to get this right, but not the Shan 5.
Production Privee recommends precisely 16mm sag measure on the shock shaft, which lets the bike use all its travel. Checking the O-ring after each run I was clearly bottoming out the shock at times, but I neither felt it nor heard it.
I’m not happy with this, there needs to be a big margin of error here so even inexperienced riders (or those who can’t be bothered to mess around with a shock pump) can set their bikes up to a reasonable level. As it stands, you need some careful sag measurements, multiple runs on the same track, a diddy ruler and a lot of patience.
And I’m not even sure I got there. A combination of the long front end and super-slack head angle meant I had a really hard time loading the front end, I was slow through unsupported corners and came close to washing out a few times. Pumping up the shock even harder helped, but killed off the suspension feel.
It’s disappointing Production Privee doesn’t make proportional chainstays, or even two different lengths with one for the L and XL and one for the smaller sizes. The bike would be more stable on the descents with some extra length behind it, and this is probably the limiting factor, besides the short travel, to flat out speed on the Shan 5. I’m convinced I’d be better off on a size medium, which would bring in the front of the bike and help its weight distribution.
We’re not dealing with an enduro bike here then, quite apart from the modest travel and 150mm fork, and I never felt entirely happy on steep trails, or those chutes where you tip in and hope for the best, despite the downhill geometry. I measured the travel at 10mm less the 140mm claimed too, which perhaps explains why rougher, steeper tracks aren’t its forte.
When I asked Production Privee about this discrepancy the brand confirmed the bike generated just 131mm travel, with the headline 140mm figure on the website coming from adding in the additional flex from the frame. That doesn’t sit right with me, it would be clearer if the true 131mm of travel was advertised.
Where the Shan 5 felt best then, and rather curiously, was the faster bike park style tracks with supported berms and jumps. And not the janky, off-piste slip and slide trails I thought would make it come alive.
There’s some serious pop to the Shan 5 going on. It’s neither too stiff nor to flexy either, the steel does give you that lovely purr down a trail that jumlby rocks can’t quiet, and I was surprised how gentle the bike was on my hands and feet.
I expected the Shan 5 to ride like a noodle, with great traction on sloppy, muddy trails but no support elsewhere. It’s much more modern feeling than that though, there’s flex for sure but only enough to keep things comfortable when you’re skimming over rocky trails. Overall the balance here is really good then, it’s got grip, support and precision, which goes a long way when you’re building a trail bike.
The bike does have a really lovely feel to it too, but is it €5,000 worth of loveliness? Those five big ones don’t even buy you a complete bike either, you’ll need to price in brakes and a drivetrain. Production Privee has made a bike from steel and carbon that feels great, but plenty of other brands have done the same thing with more mainstream materials for less money. Perhaps it’s not the material that counts, but what the engineers do with it that matters. You can’t put a price on individuality though, buy a Shan 5 and you’re pretty much guaranteed never to see another like it anywhere.