Could the award-winning Voodoo Bizango hardtail 29er actually get any better? The answer is yes, it can.
Why mess with a winning formula? The Voodoo Bizango has smashed pretty much any test it’s ever entered, winning our Hardtail of the Year award multiple times, earning regular podium places on our list of the best hardtail mountain bikes, and impressing everyone who rode it. It must have been very tempting for Halfords to stick with the old frame, add a modern colour, fettle the spec and keep mixing up that winning mix.
We’re extremely glad they didn’t then. For Halfords’ sake, standing still in the ultra competitive hardtail market is suicide. And for our sake, the new Bizango Pro is much the superior bike to anything Voodoo has made before and ultimately more fun to ride.
Need to know
- Range topping hardtail from Voodoo, with RockShox 35 Gold fork and Shimano 12-speed drivetrain
- New triple-butted alloy frame, tapered head tube, 148mm thru axle and cabling routing for a stealth dropper post upgrade
- Upgraded Maxxis High Roller II and Rekon tyre combo, Shimano MT401 brakes, WTB saddle
Redesigned from the frame up
Let’s start with the new frame. The three main tubes are now triple-butted aluminium, which means the backbone of the bike is now lighter. Voodoo has also gone to some efforts to make the bike torsionally stiffer at the front, using a chunkier top tube and now a tapered head tube. That’s all tied together with the Pro model’s ultimate upgrade over the regular model, a RockShox 35 Gold fork with stout 35mm upper legs and a 15mm bolt thru axle at the dropouts.
Tightening up the front on the bike is just half the story though, it’s designed to be more comfortable to ride with a more compliant rear end. Voodoo has removed the seatstay bridge entirely and redesigned the chainstays and seatstays themselves so they give more under load. The bike comes with a 2.25in rear tyre in there but it’ll now take up to a 2.5in thanks to the extra clearance this redesign has allowed. The Bizango Pro frame also gets upgraded rear dropouts, running a now standard 12x148mm thru axle rather than the 141mm quick release standard the cheaper bikes in the range get.
The cabling is neat and tidy, it now runs on the downtube and under the BB, and there’s a hole at the base of the seat tube so you can upgrade at a later date and fit a stealth dropper post if you want. (Trust us, you really do.) In fact, tick a box on the Halford site and a Satori Sorata Pro with 125mm drop will be built into your bike, for £110 more.
While we’re on that point, you can also add £30 to the price and get it shipped to your door, if that’s more convenient than popping into your local Halfords. It’s a smart looking bike all round, the only smear coming from the rear brake cable routing that went the wrong side of the headtube, eating into the fork. An easy fix, but something to be on the watch for if you buy the bike.
For the most part, the Bizango Pro has nailed it with its components, fixing the flaws we found last summer in the regular Bizango. Take the Shimano brakes, the MT200s from the base model have a great lever feel and modulation, but lacked power. Not so with the upgraded MT401s here; they still let you fettle the brake and control traction without skidding, only now you get a claimed 10% more power. That’s more than enough to stop the 29×2.25in Maxxis Ardent tyre fitted to the rear, as it breaks traction long before the brakes run out of power.
Voodoo has sensibly upspecced the front tyre on the Bizango Pro. This posh model comes with a Maxxis High Roller II, a brilliant all-rounder that makes the bike truly rideable in all conditions. Sure, the Ardents that come front and rear on the Bizango roll very fast and grip well on predictable terrain, but it takes a tyre with some side lugs to handle mud, wet and off-camber natural trails. It makes complete sense then to stick one on the front of the Bizango Pro, it’s the obvious upgrade.
The great spec continues onto the drivetrain, unsurprisingly at this price you get a single chainring not a double. Less surprising is the 12-speed Shimano Deore rear derailleur, shifter and 10-51T cassette, giving the Bizango Pro the same gear range as most high end full suspension bikes. Voodoo has also gone with a two-piece Shimano crankset, giving a stiffer, lighter and more reliable design. It’s an easy area for bike manufacturers to scrimp on, away from the limelight and the bling of rear derailleurs and forks.
What’s left is just as good – a wide bar, short stem and comfortable saddle make the Bizango Pro a comfortable and controlled place to hang out for a few hours, while the Voodoo wheels are tubeless ready – that means all you’d have to do is whip out the tubes, fit tubeless valves and sealant, and you’d be away.
How it rides
Voodoo has made a good frame in the Bizango Pro, I knew that last summer when I tested the Braag, a bike that’s half the price but shares the same alloy tubing and design. The Bizango Pro moves that on a step though by equipping the frame with nearly all the components you’d want to upgrade to if you were doing it yourself, which we’ll get to in a minute.
The frame development seems to have paid off, the bike has a nice feel to it and effectively softens the trail under your wheels. Couple that with a decently long wheelbase, low bottom bracket, slack head angle, and wide bar and you’re in the perfect place to hit proper trails. If I’m being picky I’d want the BB lower still to really help the bike corner though, I reckon it could drop a good 5-10mm before you started clattering pedals into the ground.
Good though the geometry is, the spec is better. Great brakes mean you can go faster in the happy knowledge you can stop when you need to, while the 12-speed shifting means you can cruise the hills faster than plenty of full sus bikes out there. And then there’s the fork, it’s hugely superior to anything I’ve tried before on a £1k hardtail: air sprung so you can set the sag to your weight, effective rebound dial for control, and a really smooth feel. It doesn’t dive through its travel either, despite having an extra 10mm on the regular Bizango so you’re in little danger of going over the bars.
Where the mighty 35 Gold goes though, everything else must follow, and that includes the puny rear tyre, which now seems slightly out of kilter and literally behind the rest of the bike. The Ardent needs some decent pressure in it if you’re to avoid pinch flats, but do so and you can’t help make the ride rougher than it needs to be. I’d swap this out straight away for the biggest thing you can squeeze into the frame.
With the latest high end bikes pushing boundaries it’s easy to forget that the cheaper end of the mountain bike spectrum is making waves too. A few years back I’d never have imagined a £1,000 bike could come with 12speed shifting, a RockShox 35 and Maxxis tyres. Bikes have never been more expensive than they are in 2022, but conversely they’ve never been better value either.