Geometry, suspension feel, price, weight, stiffness, support... lots to like here
With the new Pace RC295 the legendary UK company is back in the full-suspension game with a short-travel 29er carbon-fibre ripper.
Pace RC295 need to know
- 135mm trail bike with full carbon frame and a 150mm fork, or 140mm if desired
- 29er wheels as standard, or mullet option with 27.5in at the rear
- Three models similar in price to choose from, plus a rolling chassis, frame and shock, or fully custom build
- Sorted spec,with money lavished on RockShox suspension and saved with GX and Hunt wheels
It’s been three years since Pace started working on the RC295, a full carbon-framed 29er trail bike with 135mm travel and geometry to make an enduro bike blush. Three years is a long time to be designing, testing, and producing a new bike, incurring costs and raising expectations without reaping the financial rewards, and all the while wondering if the Pace RC295 would still be relevant, as new bike development continues ticking over. We doff our proverbial cap to Pace then, for coming up trumps in its first attempt at a carbon full-suspension bike.
Of course it’s not Pace’s first full susser, but after 10 years out of the game, it might as well be, given how materials, components and geometry have changed in that time. The Pace RC295 still gives a nod to the past though, the ‘29’ referring to the wheel size, and the ‘5’ representing travel in inches – a nomenclature the Yorkshire brand has used for many years. You can mullet the bike by putting a 27.5in wheel in the back, and there’s an offset bushing fitted in the shock mount to adjust the ride height. Honestly, we’d leave it as it is though. This bike works best as a 29er; it retains more of its thrilling speed, and there’s less chance of that big rear wheel kicking you up the arse with just 135mm travel.
You can have any colour you want on the RC295 as long as its glossy raw carbon, complete with khaki coloured stickers, but that’s fine with me, as the bike looks great. There’s a Grand-Designs contrast between the industrial-looking CNC machined alloy links, and the modern Toray unidirectional carbon frame. There are no janky bolts sticking out to interupt the clean lines – something some smaller brands fall victim to – and the internal cable routing is neat and tidy. The cables emerge to loop under the BB shell, which is usually a bad idea, but Pace has plugged the ports well and armoured those cables, meaning you shouldn’t have any reliability problems. The only slight bugbear I have is that the lacquer had already scratched on our demo bike.
Those twin links, with their anodised finish, aren’t just to please the engineers out there; they’re the basis of Pace’s Freefloater suspension design. The links drive a metric Rockshox Deluxe RT3 Debonair shock from both top and bottom and dish out 5in, or 135mm of travel. Leading things out, there’s a Pike Ultimate with 150mm – a good choice to match the stiff chassis.
Pace sells direct, and you have six options when you land on its website. There are three complete bike builds: this Ultimate GX for £3,999; an XT drivetrain and brakes build for £4,149; and SLX for £3,999. Alternatively, a frame and shock is £1,899; you can ask Pace for a custom build; or get a rolling chassis with frame and shock, fork and wheels for £2,839.
How it rides
Whichever model you go for – rolling chassis, frame and shock or one of the three full builds – you get the same excellent Deluxe RT3 shock. There’s no lesser shock on a cheaper build to drop the price, and that really is something to smile about because bikes really should come with the optimal shock for the design. No upgrades, no scrimping, just the best performing suspension tuned specifically for the bike. By all means save money on the spec, but not here.
The result is that the RC295 is very supple, with suspension that’s easy to set up and cossets you from the trail, helping the bike to purr along. In terms of damping, the Pike Ultimate is in perfect balance with the back end and really helps to set the tone of this bike – fast, fun and stiff. Lean into a berm and the mid-stroke support is superb, holding you in that sweet spot of control. Couple that with the astonishing stiffness the back end delivers, and you have a bike park and trail centre destroyer on your hands. The suspension is sensitive on hardpacked buzz and pops like a champagne cork, yet still manages to hold enough back in the bottle to save you on drops and heavy landings.
The numbers don’t let the RC295 down either, it has the kind of geometry that puts plenty of enduro bikes to shame, with a super slack head angle and low bottom bracket that would have you bonking pedals, if not for the sensibly specced 165mm cranks. At 6ft 1in I’d upsize to the XL, but the 484mm reach on the size large is decent. Real thought has gone into the spec on the entire bike too, from the great Maxxis tyres to the spot-on controls and the reliable SRAM GX drivetrain and dependable Hunt wheels. And at just under £4,000, the RC295 is reasonable value for a bike with this level of spec from a small manufacturer.
There’s a chink in the armour though – I’m left wondering if the bike is just a shade too stiff. There’s no buzz or harshness coming through the frame to kill the ride, but on natural, techie, muddy trails the stiff back end can get deflected where flexier bikes would flex and find grip. It’s a small price to pay though, given how razor-sharp the RC295 feels on firmer ground.