Don't let the 2x transmission put you off... the Xtrada 5 is an otherwise sorted hardtail for the price.
Xtrada literally translates to crossroads. And that can be interpreted a couple of different ways. Did Polygon intend the Xtrada 5 to meet at the intersection between on and off road riding? Or did it simply take the wrong road when speccing the 2×10 drivetrain?
We’re convinced it’s the latter. Because if you ignore the front derailleur for a second and take a closer look at the frame design, it’s clear that the Xtrada 5 has the most modern layout in class.
Not only does this 29er have the slackest steering geometry for stability at speed, but it also has the lowest top tube and shortest seat tube. So if your feet do get blown off the pedals, you have a way better chance of riding home with your private parts intact.
Shift your focus to the rear of the bike and you’ll instantly notice a big disparity in size between the chainstays and the seatstays. The chunky chainstays provide direct power transfer from the pedals to the rear wheel, while the slender seat stays deliver a modicum of comfort from bumps transmitted from the rear wheel. Comfort that’s enhanced further by the slender 27.2in seat post when sat down pedalling.
The frame also has internal routing for a dropper post, and given the increased availability of affordable 27.2in droppers, it doesn’t spell the death knell it once did for a trail bike.
Up front, the Xtrada 5 gets a 120mm travel Suntour XCM-HLO Coil fork, which is identical to the fork on the Jamis. It’s friction damped but it’s still pretty sensitive so it does a good job of eliminating a lot of the trail chatter before it gets transmitted to your hands. The fork gets a tapered steerer tube to bolster steering precision but the lower legs are an open dropout design so use a traditional quick release skewer rather than a stiffer bolt-thru axle.
Flick the lock out lever on fork for a stint of blacktop and the mechanical top-out clunk when you hit a bump serves as a poignant reminder to open up the fork again as soon as you get off road.
The Entity 760mm bar and stubby 45mm stem enhanced the control and blend perfectly with the frame dimensions, even if the stem is somewhat at odds with the more XC focused 2×10 drivetrain.
Now, having two chainrings up front definitely gives the Xtrada 5 the widest gear range in test. Just don’t take that as a plus point, though, unless of course you plan on using the Polygon exclusively for commuting duties. Get the Xtrada off road and on trails that aren’t billiard table smooth, you are guaranteed to find the chain dangling off the chainset at the bottom of every descent. It’s mega frustrating, and not something we usually have to deal with as all modern mountain bikes have 1x drivetrains.
It should be noted though, that the 10 speed cassette on the Polygon offers the same gear range as the one on the Jamis Highpoint A2, so if you have strong legs and lungs you could probably fit a narrow wide single chainring to the chainset and ditch the front derailleur and shifter.
We have highlighted the shortcomings of the drivetrain, but we do not want it to be the defining characteristic of the Xtrada 5. Because from the very first pedal stroke it felt like the best riding bike in its class. With the Maxxis Ikon tyres it carries speed really well, but unlike the Jamis, the frame puts the rider in a more commanding position.
Your body takes less of a beating than on the Carrera Fury and with the saddle dropped you can really motor on the Polygon. Pump rollers, slap berms, or just charge hard, it instantly inspires the confidence required to push your limits and those of the bike. And there are limits. The Tektro brakes aren’t as powerful, or as reliable, as the Shimano units on the Carrera, and chain constantly dropping is not something anyone should have to endure in 2023.
With best frame proportions and ride quality, and the keenest pricing, the Polygon Xtrada 5 is the real standout bike in the £600-700 category of this test. Unfortunately, it also stands out because it’s the only bike to come with a now defunct 2x drivetrain. Which serves as a poignant reminder that more isn't always better. It’s by far the easiest fault to remedy though, and given that none of its rivals are 100% dialled, the Polygon Xtrada 5 is the clear winner of our 2023 Hardtail of the Year test, even if it misses out on a perfect 10 rating.