Stif Squatch Pro is a progressive hardtail with a steel frame and super-low bottom bracket height, 29in wheels with 2.6in tyres enhance grip and comfort.
The Stif Squatch Pro sports design features from the brand’s 27.5in Morf frame, but with more out-there geometry that places the rider lower in the frame. It’s the best hardtail I’ve ridden. If you’ve ever had the sensation of tipping forward when descending steep trails, or simply not feeling ‘in’ the bike enough on a hardtail, you’re not alone. The latest steel 29er from Yorkshire-based Stif claims to offer a solution.
Stif Squatch Pro need to know
- Various wall thicknesses and tubing profiles used to optimise ride feel, vibration dampening and compliance.
- Water bottle, chain device and internal dropper post-ready.
- Three sizes across two SRAM/RockShox builds: AM and Pro with a frame-only option for £600.
Key to the ride quality is the profiled and multi-butted 4130 chromoly tubing combined with 29in wheels and 2.6in tyres. Tons of details on top of the frame shape include heavily-crimped seat stays flattened widthways (similar to many carbon road bikes) that flex and dampen heavy hits and repeated bumps. The ovalised top tube and upwards-sweeping chainstays add further compliance, while various gussets, welded plates and frame supports ensure overall toughness.
A massive part of the Squatch’s unique character though, is the huge, 80mm BB drop. Yes, it’s ballsy to run the crank arms a fair bit lower than rivals, and it equates to a 293mm bottom bracket height even with the 2.6in tyres. But the lower centre of gravity puts you in a similar position to a full suspension bike, making it super easy to load the tyre edges fully for maximum grip. All without ever feeling like your teetering into turns. More than that, however, it simply feels dead right in every situation.
With the 78º effective seat angle, winching uphill is comfortable too. And even with the 175mm dropper post fully extended, the seated climbing position never gets too tipped back, even on the steepest gradients. At the opposite end of the cockpit the 64º head angle steers neutrally with a 130mm travel Pike Ultimate fork, the roomy reach numbers growing to 500mm on the XL size.
One thing to remember with the low-slung BB is that it generates a longer downtube, so the medium Squatch feels more like a large full suspension bike. Given that hardtails are ideally around 20mm shorter than full suspension bikes to compensate for the fork compressing independently, you may want to down size on the Squatch. It’s not like you need the increased length for stability, as that’s already provided by the ultra-low BB.
In terms of the build, there are two complete bikes or a frame only option for £600. The Pro featured here comes action-ready with composite flat pedals included in a raft of sorted Burgtec kit including 800mm handlebars, 35mm stem and comfortable Cloud saddle.
Stif has nailed the tyre specification too. Softer 3C Maxxis tyres offer better traction while the bigger 2.6in casings really helps isolate you from vibrations. Predictable in all situations the chunky Maxxis Minion DHF holds tight lean angles, while the low-profile Rekon breaking away more readily for extra fun while keeping the cranks spinning with less effort. The flip side of the Rekon rear tyre is that with less tread, even in the tougher EXO+ casing, it’s damage-prone in rocky areas and lacks bite in softer conditions
Lot’s of hardtails come with 150mm forks but the 130mm RockShox Pike is the perfect companion for the Squatch. Enough travel and control to mop up reasonably hard impacts, without overly affecting rider position and negatively impacting the dynamic geometry. Also RockShox’s sportier Pike air spring with it’s smaller negative volume works great on a hardtail too; being less fluid and sensitive than say, a RockShox Lyrik, it’s much more in keeping with the rear end.
How it rides
It’s testament to the Squatch that a couple of perfectly arced turns, easy manuals and mistimed landings with zero consequences had me fully trusting the chassis. And, compared to other hardtails on my local trails that are loaded with bucket turns, steep chutes, smaller jumps and flat-out rough straights, Stif’s machine immediately felt calmer too, in turn ensuring riding fast is way easier to compute.
A key aspect of the Squatch personality is replicating how full suspension 29er place the rider’s mass noticeably lower than the axles. There’s none of the hardtail sensation mentioned earlier of butt and feet kicking up and reacting to whatever the fork is doing – especially off drops and down steeper sections. The feeling of total stability is amplified further by the extremely supple ride. The latter a consequence of the frame’s impressive bump-absorbing qualities and the bigger volume tyres.
The Squatch is clearly no XC machine, or the fastest to accelerate with explosive power inputs, but riders who prefer to carve corners will be amazed by how well it swoops through banked, man-made, turns. Where other hardtails demand a balancing act between core strength and weight distribution to maintain perfect form, the smooth-riding Squatch only ever breaks traction predictably, and usually at the perfect moment to slingshot out of at turn, rather than standing you up or oversteering at the peak G-force.
Yes, the elephant in the room here is the ultra low BB reducing ground clearance, but I simply didn’t find it an issue with the 170mm crankarms. Obviously, alertness to not clipping anything at speed is needed, but no more than any other low-slung bike, and there’s less clipping rocks and roots climbing here than on plenty long-travel suspension bikes.
Perfectly poised, way more compliant than most of its rivals and also nimble and easy to chuck around, the well thought-out Stif Squatch Pro is a compelling package. It’s a bold statement, but it’s the hardcore hardtail I’d buy with my own cash if I was in the market for one, so hats off to Stif for totally nailing its latest creation.