On One might be a newcomer to our hardtail of the year test, but the UK brand has many years of experience in this sector, with its original Inbred model achieving cult status.
Right now, On One offers several complete hardtail options at under £1,000, including the steel-framed Big Dog and Huntsman, but this is On One’s only offering made from aluminium. Before ordering a Scandal you get the chance to upgrade components such as the fork, handlebar, stem, seatpost and tyres. By only paying the price difference at the checkout, you can save a decent amount versus upgrading at a later date.
On One hasn’t been shy with the design of the Scandal frame. It’s dripping with gussets, forgings and reinforcing webs. The 6061 aluminium tubes are heavily shaped and internally butted, all in an effort to keep the frame stiff when steering and pedalling, but comfortable and compliant when rolling over rough ground.
There’s a tapered head tube, oval chainstays for extra crank clearance, and bridgeless stays that give acres of room for fatter tyres. By channelling the cables through the frame, On One has given the Scandal a clean look, but they rattle noisily inside the tubes, and make maintenance more complex.
As standard, the Scandal SX comes with a RockShox Judy Silver TK fork. It gets 130mm of travel and relatively skinny 30mm diameter upper tubes made from heavy steel, painted black to look more expensive. However, those stanchions move freely over trail chatter. And because the riding position on the Scandal has a rear bias, there’s less weight over the front end, which helps prevent the fork from diving excessively on steeper descents and under braking. Equally, there’s no harsh clunk when you lift the front wheel over an obstacle or through a ditch.
The Scandal instantly earned brownie points among our test riders by coming with a dropper post. Being able to raise or lower your saddle while riding along is a huge advantage that transforms mountain biking from a frustrating stop-start affair to a beautifully flowing experience. While it has a smooth action, we were disappointed that the cheap plastic handlebar remote actually snapped on the first test ride.
With its high rise handlebar, the front end of the Scandal literally stands out among its rivals. Even with the stem at its lowest point on the steerer there’s a somewhat sit-up-and-beg position.
As such, it’s comfortable for rolling along smooth dirt tracks, and it matches the tall bottom bracket height, so the height of your hands and feet feel in proportion when standing up. But on climbs the front wheel starts to go light and it’s tricky to steer, and on descents it’s more difficult to find grip, particularly in loose, gravelly turns.
With 12 widely spaced gears, the SRAM SX drivetrain gives a low gear for climbing and a high gear for kamikaze downhills. It’s effective, but it’s not as slick shifting as the Shimano drivetrain on the Voodoo, and the chain rattles conspicuously against the unprotected chainstay on every descent.
The lofty, upright riding position feels comfortable and confidence inspiring on tame tracks, but when the difficulty factor ramps up there’s a big disconnect between what we felt through the bike and what was going on beneath the tyres. As such we found it hard to make the right control inputs, and we ended up tip-toeing around tight turns and through technical sections.
While On One has clearly tried hard to introduce comfort into the Scandal frame, all that effort and manipulation has been undone by the narrow, low volume Panaracer Fire Sport tyres.
Of all the £1k bikes it’s the harshest, with a bone-jarring ride that made it hard to keep our feet on the pedals. And it’s a double-edged sword, because those impacts take their toll on both comfort and control. Given that there’s so much frame clearance, the obvious answer is to pony up for the Hutchinson Griffus 2.5in tyre option at the checkout.
For just under £1k, On One’s Scandal gives you all the mod cons. There’s a sculpted alloy frame, 130mm travel suspension fork, single-ring drivetrain, 29in wheels and a dropper post. It’s a compelling package in isolation. But get it out on the trails against its rivals and a couple of basic mistakes become obvious. Specifically the upright geometry that limits control, and the jittery ride, caused by those narrow, low-profile tyres. Sure, fatter tyres are only a £50 upgrade and will definitely help soothe the spiky ride and improve control, but even with more rubber the Scandal still won’t be as fast as the Voodoo Bizango Pro, or as composed as the Calibre Line T3-27.