Impressed us with its turn of speed, blinding specification and uncanny ability to put a smile on our face every single time we rode it
Editor’s Choice 2020
Think direct sales and YT and Canyon instantly spring to mind. Broaden your focus however and it’s clear that while they are the biggest players in the online arena, they are not the only German brands delivering top quality bikes at killer prices.
Take Radon for example. In our Trail Bike of the Year test its Slide Trail 9.0 out performed equivalent priced bikes from YT, Commencal and Vitus, to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Radon bikes aren’t just competitively priced.
How did this 140mm trail bike take on the direct sales heavy weights and come out on top? At 14.69kg (32.39lb) it was the lightest bike in the test, but if we had to pin it on just one thing, it was the Radon’s superior suspension response that won us over. With a Fox 36 Grip 2 fork leading the change, the Radon had stacks of support which in turn gave us the confidence to dive headlong into the roughest trails, safe in the knowledge that the Performance level DPX2 rear shock has no issues keeping up.
Yes, there’s some flex in the alloy rear end, but combined with the angular carbon front triangle this actually enhances the ride, improving traction on off camber sections of trail where the rear wheel can conform to the terrain rather than stepping out abruptly. And don’t think for a minute that it’s at the expense of power delivery, as one of the Slide Trail 9.0’s most impressive attributes is its distinct turn of speed. Get on the gas and it’s every bit as reactive as it is plush and composed.
Radon Slide Trail 9.0 includes a carbon composite front triangle, alloy rear end, full Fox suspension and the latest Shimano 12-speed drivetrain. Note: price is €2,999 and UK price may vary according to exchange rate.
The Slide Trail 9.0 is a new addition to mbr’s Trail Bike of the Year test but, like YT, Radon is a German direct-sales brand. As such you get a lot of bike for your euros. In this instance that includes a carbon composite front triangle, alloy rear end, full Fox suspension and the latest Shimano 12-speed drivetrain.
Radon Slide Trail 9.0 review
In addition to the distinctive shape and shiny mustard colourway, the Slide Trail 9.0 also has some neat features. Take the flip-chip interlocked between the seatstays and rocker link. By flipping this around you can raise the bottom bracket height and steepen the head angle. It’s a nice touch but, like most of these chips, we rarely move them from the low position during testing and we doubt you’ll ever use the high setting. We also like that there’s space for a full-size water bottle, not a little baby one like on the YT. The frame even comes with a chain device for extra chain security.
Radon isn’t messing about when it comes to suspension; splashing a load of cash on the high-end Fox Float DPX2 Elite rear shock and a Fox 36 Performance Elite suspension fork with the better Grip2 damper. Travel-wise, the Slide Trail has 150mm up front, and while it claims to pump out 140mm at the rear, we measured it a 134mm, not that you can tell you’re being short-changed out on the trail.
The Slide Trail 9.0 is one of two bikes in the direct-sales category with a Shimano 12-speed drivetrain. We love the light action of the shifter, and how smoothly the chain glides across the 10-51t cassette, but when the chain is in the biggest cog it makes an incessant grinding noise, almost as if the B-tension adjustment is out of alignment.
You also need to be careful with the DT Swiss M1700 wheelset, specifically the push-in freehub body. Every time we removed the rear wheel to load the bike into the back of the car, the freehub, springs and all the internals would fall on the floor and we’d have to spend 10 minutes looking for all of the parts. If you never remove the rear wheel it won’t be an issue, and while we have no complaints about the ride quality of the DT wheels, we’d like a more secure solution for the freehub.
If we are being really picky, the Magura MT5 levers have a bit too much travel for our liking, but the disc brakes are powerful with great modulation. The softer 3C Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II tyres boost control further, as do the Race Face Aeffect R oversized 35mm cockpit and 150mm SDG Tellis dropper post.
The Slide Trail 9.0 isn’t the stiffest bike on test, but don’t take that as a negative, as it’s one of the key reasons it’s the best riding bike here. Hit tight twisty singletrack and the Slide Trail instantly springs to life – it’s quick, fun, exciting and really engaging. And, as clichéd as it sounds, it really corners like it’s on rails, so you can literally bank it over in a turn and just hang on. The suspension feels very balanced too, the more supportive Grip2 damper in the 36 fork offering a super-stable ride that just encourages you to go fast and take chances, which is exactly what all good trail bikes should do. And to be honest, that’s not what we were expecting from this bike. If you look at the geometry you’ll see that the Slide Trail 9.0 has a similar head angle, reach and wheelbase numbers to the other three bikes, but it has the tallest static bottom bracket height. Normally, this would be fatal but the Radon’s dynamic ride height delivers a formula that really works, so the Slide Trail 9.0 has real urgency about it and is a ton of fun to ride.
What’s new for 2021?
The frame colour had changed, so if you weren’t a fan of the JPS colour scheme, you’ll be pleased to know Radon had dropped gold in favour of black. In fact, the 2021 Slide Trail 9.0 is all black, bar the tan sidewalls of the Maxxis tyres. And as cool as the tyres look, they are actually a downgrade as they aren’t currently available in the gripper C3 Maxx Terra compound. We can forgive Radon though, as the latest version of the Slide Trail 9.0 is one of only a handful of bikes that hasn’t seen a price hike. Which in our book, makes it even better value than before.
There are couple of things on the Slide Trail 9.0 that would normally prevent it from getting a perfect 10 rating, but everything seems to have fallen into place. It doesn’t have a full carbon frame, yet it’s the lightest bike. The BB height doesn’t seem to stack up either, but the ride is dialled. We’ve even grown to like the JPS colour scheme. As with most direct-sales brands, Radon delivers a lot of bike for the money. With the Slide Trail 9.0 however, you also get a big fat grin included in the price, which alone makes it worthy of our direct-sales Trail Bike of the Year award.