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Singular Swift bike
Nowadays, even cheap market “mountainbikes” come with some semblance of suspension, is a fully rigid bike archaic or does it represent the purest form of mountainbiking?
In the local market, not many riders have heard of the brand of Singular Cycles. With most big production companies offering their latest and greatest in technology, an initial cursory glance at this brand seems like a throwback to the early nineties. While the latest suspension and carbon fibre technology seeks to eke out ever more performance, we sometimes fail to realise that a simple well-built steel frame is all that’s required to enjoy mountain biking. Singular Cycles creates bicycles that are beautiful and functions well on the trail, for people who enjoy singletracks and epic all day offroad rides. Eschewing bikes that other companies build for hucking or riding man-made stunts, Singular strives to produce a bike from the best quality chromoly steel available that is comfortable, efficient, durable and responsive. Singular is also a proponent of the 29er and singlespeed movement, and produces their bikes in such versions alongside the more ordinary 26ers.
Although we are testing the entire bike, the main focus would be on the frame and fork for this review. So let’s take a close look at the frame and fork first. At first look, the frame is of the classic double diamond design, but the devil is always in the details. The bike have some of the cleanest welding work I’ve seen, and the burnt copper paintjob is deep and lustrous. The breezer style dropouts on both the fork and frame ensure accurate and strop wheel retention, but the fork’s dropout is offset slightly rearwards, hindering speedy front wheel removal for the uninitiated. A disc brake brace is welded between the chainstay/ seatstay to reinforce the otherwise slender frame against the torque generated by modern hydraulic disc brakes.
The hydraulic hose for the rear brakes are run through the top of the top tube, but the front and rear derailleur cables run through the bottom of the downtube, not an ideal location for bikes destined to do dirt duties. The Swift comes in two versions, one with an eccentric bottom bracket for use with single speeds, and an ordinary one which is better suited for use with multiple gearing. Tire clearance is spacious both at the rear stays and front fork when coupled with the WTB motoraptors 2.1” on the test bike.
The bike is outfitted with a durable and reliable spread of parts. Shimano XT handles the drivetrain duties, Avid Juicys hold the fort for braking, Wheels are suspended with a combination of White Industries hubset with Salsa rims. Salsa components round up the rest of the cockpit department. A unique item on this bike would be the aluminum bashguard which replaces the big chainring. It is custom made for TR bikes and the orange anodizing rounds up the colour scheme of the bike perfectly.
First off, let me clarify that my usual ride is a 26er with 4 inches of front/rear suspension. So jumping from that to this rigid bike was a real culture shock. To use this bike, the rider would have to remember to relax and get himself over the centre of the bike. With no suspension to speak off, every rock/ root/ rut is transmitted up to your wrists and legs in an unadulterated way that would wake you up. However, it’s not as bad as it seems once you get used to it. In fact you learn to keep your body loose to soak up trail bumps and look for the smoothest line on the trail. With big 29 inch wheels, momentum is easily kept over small obstacles. But progress is also halted when the bike hits obstacles greater than 4inches, making me miss a suspension fork badly at times. That is not a big problem, however as the bike’s geometry is suspension corrected for those seeking future upgrades.
The chromoly frame is also quite compliant, lending to a rather sweet ride over intermediate terrain. However, the bike could always use fatter tires for those seeking more comfort. Another thing I discovered on this bike is the amazing rear traction it has. I do not know whether the tires, bike geometry or tires is the main reason for it, but I could not get it to break traction climbing even when standing and mashing.
When the grade goes down, I had to constantly remind myself that it’s a rigid bike, and learn to ride with my body loose and weighted rearwards. The big wheels will simply roll over less trail lumps and the compliant chromoly frame will take some of the sting out of the feedback. Turning isn’t as slow as some might think of a 29er, and the shortish stem and wide handlebars help too. The bike could use even fatter tires for even more comfort and grip.
In this modern age, it’s almost heresy when we use ‘full rigid’ in the same sentence as ‘mountainbike’. Technology is pushing the limits of what we are able to ride, yet most of us are unable to fully exploit the limits of our bikes. The great majority of us don’t jump off man-made stunts nor race professionally .We enjoy the fresh air of nature, the challenge of a climb or a technical section, and basically having lots of fun. It’s for this kind of riders that Singular Swift is meant for, and the total lack of pivots and sliders will mean that maintenance is kept to a bare minimum. For the puritans seeking even more simplicity, you can always opt for the single speed model.