They found that Cape Town had a lot to offer. There are many trails centres like Jonkershoek or Helderberg with fun single tracks and berms for days plus the more you climb, the more technical it gets. Lots of vineyards open their doors to mountain bikers and build trails around the vines.
They took a trip outside of Cape Town to go ride on a farm where the owner has been building trails since he was a kid. His trails are open to the public and accommodation can be found on site for a super cool gateway. They also had the chance to ride the private trails of Ike, a 13 years old rider.
For riders living close to town, they even have 2 trails in the city centre! It’s super cool to see that people that own land are open to the fact of building trails and sharing it with the public. The diversity of trails and the landscape make Cape Town definitely a sweet place to go on a bike trip!
Being in South Africa, it was important for the guys to give back. That is why they flew with a bicycle and a bag full of used gear to give to kids that don’t have much.
They met with SONGO, an organisation that works to improve the lives of children living in townships by providing them a safe place to learn skills in riding, training and racing. Sam and Couscous went to the BMX track that Songo built in Kayamandi for a fun afternoon on the track. These kids were killing it on their BMX bikes.
It was also amazing to see other kids from the township just come by to cheer their friends and watch. When those kids tried Sam and Couscous bikes, they had huge smiles and were so stoked!
They were taken by 2 kids to the township to show them their everyday reality and talk about life here. One of those kids is training to attend Cape Epic with the help of Songo, how amazing is that?
Traveling in South Africa you can’t but notice the huge difference between the rich and the poor. But is pretty amazing to see how getting on 2 wheels can connect everyone and that the colour of your skin or your salary doesn’t matter once you get on a bike.
The beauty of Cape Town lies as much in its scenery than in its people!
Big thanks to Ewald, Deon, Gavin, Ike and the Neethling brothers.
This is a thoroughly modern trail bike, made affordable. You can grab the Siskiu with either 29″ or 27.5″ wheels, with 140mm or 150mm respectively, though depending on your frame size you might only have one option. In a size small, it’s 27.5” only, sorry shorties. In a size medium you can get either wheel option, while in a size large or XL, it’s 29er only. We’ve been riding a size medium in 29er.
Where can I see one?
This is where it’s a bit tricky. Polygon are sold online, direct to consumer here in Australia, so waltzing down to your local shop for a carpark bounce won’t happen. The bike is shipped to you 99% assembled, requiring just a few things to be done before you head to the trails. For some people, this will be a deal breaker, but it’s the price you pay for not paying much of a price, if you get our drift. The bike does come with a money back 14-day test ride period.
This is a thoroughly modern trail bike, made affordable.
All the fundamentals are there.
On paper, Polygon have nailed it. Modern geometry? Tick, it’s got the geometry numbers that stack up nicely with the competition, and the dropouts have Boost spacing too. A confidence inspiring front end? Yep, there’s a 35mm-legged fork, and a wide bar and short stem. Dropper post? Yes, a 150mm dropped is ready for the steep stuff. Good rims and rubber? Indeed, 29mm internal rims give a Schwalbe tyres good stability. A single-ring drivetrain? Yes, once again the Polygon is up to speed, with a 1×11 drivetrain using a wide range cassette.
A few compromises.
To hit such a sharp price point and still deliver those items above, Polygon have saved a few bucks in some other areas – the crankset is from Prowheel for instance. The Tranz X dropper post isn’t one we’ve ridden before, and while it works nicely, the lever feels a bit flimsy.
It took us a couple of rides to find our groove with the Siskiu. Long story short, it’s a bike that has a sweet spot.
It’s not overly refined either; the cables rattle inside the frame quite a lot (you can fix this by placing some foam rubber inside the frame), and the welds are a bit chunky. But, of course, none of these issues have a big impact on the way the bike rides.
That is the story on paper. But what about on the trail?
It took us a couple of rides to find our groove with the Siskiu. Long story short, it’s a bike that has a sweet spot. We found that suspension setup and tyre pressures made a big difference on this bike and until we got this right, it all felt a little chattery and tiring in the rough.
First up, we converted the Siskius wheels for tubeless use. You’ll need to add tubeless tape to the rims first as they’re not set up for tubeless use out of the box. This is a must-do. The Schwalbe tyres are a hard compound, so you really need to ditch the tubes and drop the pressures or they tend to skate around on hardback trails. A set of stickier tyres would be a great upgrade for this bike, helping glue it to the trails more firmly.
Get that suspension working for you.
In order to help get the bike feeling as smooth and composed as possible, we spent more time than usual making fine adjustments to the suspension. Ultimately, a softer suspension setup and a moderately fast rebound speed was the best approach for this bike. Set up like this, the suspension stays nice and active which helps the bike hold speed better in the rough and gave us a lot more grip in the corners. With the fork, we actually removed one Bottomless Token from the air spring and followed the recommended pressure guide on the fork leg. Again, this is a softer setup than we’d usually run, but it worked best for this bike.
Set up like this, the suspension stays nice and active which helps the bike hold speed better in the rough and gave us a lot more grip in the corners.
Once we had all that sorted, the bike became a lot easier to get along with and suddenly we found our groove with the Siskiu and we began taking it to all our usual haunts, banging through the rocks around Flow HQ. The riding position is great; the wide cockpit and stout fork put you in a strong and commanding position, encouraging you to take control, and 140mm travel will get you out of trouble most times. It’s exactly the kind of feeling you want if you’re an intermediate rider losing to push your skills to the next level.
Given the price, the sub-14kg weight is pretty damn good. Pedalling performance was a surprise standout element for us too – it’s a really stable pedalling bike. The shock has a three compression settings (open, firm and locked) but we rarely flicked it out of the open position. It’s certainly happy to trundle through a few hours on the trail without draining you too much – it’s way more efficient in this regard than we expected.
Pedalling performance was a surprise standout element for us too – it’s a really stable pedalling bike.
There’s a fair bit of cable rattle going on, and there aren’t any water bottle mounts. The seat angle is slack too, and we needed to push the saddle forward in the seat clamp to feel like we were in a good position over the cranks. Tall riders with a lot of seat post out might find themselves pushed out over the rear wheel quite a long way.
Hard to top for this money.
This is exactly the kind of bike that’s going to make mountain biking (real mountain biking, not just cruising in the bush) accessible to a much bigger audience. Three grand is eminently more achievable than five or six grand, and the compromises this bike makes to hit such a good price point really are quite minimal.
This is exactly the kind of bike that’s going to make mountain biking accessible to a much bigger audience.
Once you’ve invested the time to get the suspension set up perfectly (and maybe added some stickier rubber once the stock tyres are worn out) you’ve got a bike that comes very close to matching the performance of bikes with much higher ticket prices.
You’re looking at a 140mm-travel 29er trail bike, alloy-framed, and decked out with components that would normally be found on a bike with a higher price tag. At first glance, it would seem that Polygon have covered every base: a no-fuss suspension system, good-quality units from RockShox at both ends (the new Revelation up front, and a Deluxe RT3 shock), a 1×11 XT/SLX Shimano drivetrain, decent dropper post, good quality tubeless-ready tyres… we’re struggling to find any gaps here for three grand. The geometry looks to be on target too, with good all-round trail bike figures.
You’ve ridden the Siskiu before, correct?
Yes, we’ve reviewed previous iterations of the Siskiu, but this version is a pretty different kind of bike. Longer travel, with a much more tougher fork, cockpit and tyre setup, it’s got more aggressive riding in mind than earlier models of the Siskiu.
Is it 29er only?
Polygon have gone down the route of proscribing certain wheel sizes for the different frame sizes. In a size medium, like the bike we’ve got here, you can choose between 29″ or 27.5″ wheels, while the size small is 27.5″ only and larger frames come with 29″ wheels solely. If you ride a size large or bigger but want little wheels, you’re out of luck. The 27.5″ versions have a little more travel, 150mm vs 140mm on the 29ers.
What can you tell me about Polygon?
With a direct sales model here in Australia, Polygon don’t have the same presence that the big brands get via a network of dealers, but that’s not a reason to be sceptical about the bikes. After all, Mick and Tracey Hannah both rode Polygons to the podium at the 2017 World Champs, a Polygon just won Red Bull Rampage (again), and the new Polygon XQUARONE EX9 blew our minds when we reviewed it recently. We also visited the Polygon factory in early 2016, where we saw Siskius rolling off the production line, and it’s an incredible place.
The bikes are also backed by a 14-day test ride policy, that allows you to return a bike even if it has been ridden, no questions asked, within the first two weeks.
We’re going to whack some tubeless valves in now (which really should come with the bike, Polygon!) and hit the trails. Full review to come soon.
We know we invite plenty of controversy in putting a bike-in-a-box like this up here, but the only way mountain biking will grow is if we make it easier to get people into the sport, and we think this bike has a role helping to get more riders onto the trails.
Mountain biking is usually an expensive sport to get into. So unless you’ve got access to a loaner from a friend, or you’re happy to take the risk of buying second hand, getting started in mountain biking can be financially daunting (especially if you’re buying the bike for a youngster who might decide the sport’s not for them, or who’s likely to outgrow their bike in a year or two). Spending $350 on a bike to dip a toe in the water is not such a big investment.
While this $350 bike isn’t a going to be lining up on too many start lines, it genuinely is capable for giving a new rider their first taste of riding off road – exploring fireroads, cruising gentle trails. And of course, it’s our hope that the experience will be one new riders love, leading to a life on the trails and a deeper involvement in the sport.
Ok, so what do I get for the cash?
A lot really. The package Aldi have put together is certainly much better than the bikes we started out on, and which cost much more than $350 back in the day! On features and components alone, it’s seriously impressive for the cash.
The smartly finished alloy frame has internal cable routing, you get a lockout-equipped Suntour fork, Tektro cable actuated disc brakes and even a decent Shimano 2×9 Acera level drivetrain. It’s all kit that wouldn’t be out of place on bike twice this price. The first iteration of this bike had 27.5″ wheels, but it now uses 29er hoops, which add a bit more confidence than smaller wheels. The tyres are 2.25″ wide as well, not skinny little things, so it’s ready for the dirt. You can tell that Aldi’s Australian bike buying director is a mountain biker! Fundamentals like a decently wide handlebar haven’t been missed either.
The geometry is very much in line with entry-level 29ers from other brands. The handling isn’t built for high speeds or air time, but rather wheels on the ground cruising and it’ll do a fine job of tackling fire roads or mellow singletrack.
Who makes the bike?
The Performance 29er is built by the same crew who make Polygon’s aluminium bikes, so it’s constructed and assembled in Indonesia, by a very reputable manufacturer. We actually visited their factory in 2016 too – it’s an impressive setup! Check out our editorial piece following the birth of a bike here. Locally, the bikes have warranty support from Bicycles Online, the Australian Polygon distributor.
Sure. For $350, you’ve got to accept some compromises. Service is the main one; it’s sold alongside pet food and dishwasher tablets, so do not expect any expert mountain biking advice from Aldi staff. It also only comes in two frame sizes, so there are likely to be some fit issues there.
The other concern is making sure it’s put together properly. Minimal assembly work is needed and most mountain bikers will have no issues, but if you’re not sure of what you’re doing, don’t muck around, take it to a decent bike shop.
On the balance though, it’s a really impressive bike for very little cash. If you’re looking for an affordable way to take a first step into the world of off-road riding, the Performance 29er is a great option.
No, it’s not really, we promise. Pictures just don’t do this bike any favours. It’s unconventional, for sure, but when you see it in the flesh it’s far more impressive than offensive. In an era where bikes seem to settling into a couple of broader frame layouts/configurations, the shape and design of this bike was always going to be divisive, but we like it.
What the hell is going on with that rear suspension?
The Nailed R3act 2Play suspension system is like nothing else on the market, and in many ways it’s the key to the Polygon’s abilities. This bike is really a partnership between Polygon and Darrell Voss, the designer of the R3act suspension system. And don’t be surprised if you see this system appearing under license with a variety of other brands very soon (Marin are also using this system already).
We’re still not 100% certain how the system does what it does so well.
We recently interviewed the system’s design, Darrell Voss (we’ll be publishing it in full soon), and to be honest we’re still not 100% certain how the system does what it does so well.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the system is hugely decreased reliance on damping when compared to other bikes. The FOX X2 shock is has been de-tuned, with roughly half the damping applied to the oil flow compared to a regular version of this shock. In fact, twiddling the adjusters had no perceptible impact on the bike’s performance. This makes setting up the bike’s suspension a very fast process. Set your sag at about 25%, then go ride, no dial twiddling required.
You’re left with a bike that simply grips the terrain like crazy.
The conventional wisdom is that damping is essential to control the suspension’s motion, and with so little damping you’d expect the ride to be like an uncontrolled pogo stick, and indeed when you bounce around in the carpark, that’s what it feels like. But the moment you get onto the trail, this sensation disappears entirely, and you’re left with a bike that simply grips the terrain like crazy.
We’re paraphrasing Darrell Voss’s explanation here, but in a nutshell, when you apply damping to the rear wheel’s motion, you lose energy, and you impede its ability to grip. By reducing damping, you free up the rear wheel to follow the terrain, and allow it to get out of the way of impacts.
But surely with so little rebound damping, you’re going to be thrown over the bars?
That’s what we thought too, and so it was with a bit of trepidation that we approached hitting jumps initially. But strangely enough, the anticipated ejection out the front door never happened. Again, we can’t really explain it, but at no stage did we have even an inkling of getting bucked. The bike just sucked up the hits and stayed calm.
The Polygon simply carries more speed through rough terrain than any other bike we’ve ridden.
What does this all mean for the descents?
Put it this way: on trails we’ve ridden dozens of times, we found ourselves having to relearn our braking points. The Polygon simply carries more speed through rough terrain than any other bike we’ve ridden – it is faaaaaast. It gobbles up repeated hits and chunder, accelerating down the hill, getting speed out of every backside. You don’t have that feeling of getting bogged down and having to work to maintain momentum.
It swallows up big hits too, and while the shock’s o-ring told us we’d used all the travel, we never felt it bottom out.
TEST LOCATION: TRAILSHARE CABINS
As part of our review of the Polygon XQAURONE, we spent a weekend up at the new Trailshare Cabins, Kulnura, just over an hour out of Sydney. This place is remarkable: over 20km of private trails, in beautiful blackbutt and turpentine forest, rider-friendly sustainable accommodation. It really is a little piece of paradise, and we’re certain we’ll be using it as a base for a lot more bike testing in the future.
There’s accommodation for up to six people, with a communal kitchen, relaxed outdoor dining with a firepit and as you can see below, the trails literally start from the edge of the verandah. Peace and quiet, trails all to yourself, it’s the ideal place for a chilled out weekend away. Take a look for yourself right here, or book via Air BnB.
So would you call it an Enduro bike?
When you look at this bike’s figures on paper, particularly the huge 180mm of travel, it’s easy to assume it’s built with descending in mind. But this is the magic of the XQUARONE – it completely defies the standard categorisation we’ve come to use to pigeonhole bikes. In a nutshell, it does what other bikes say they’re going to do, but usually don’t.
It completely defies the standard categorisation we’ve come to use to pigeonhole bikes
We’d have no qualms using this one as our day-to-day trail bike, it’s mind blowingly capable as an all-rounder, which seems insane for such a big bike. This thing climbs very, very well. And we don’t put the caveat “for a bike with 180mm travel” on that statement either. The way this bike scoots up a hill puts many 100mm travel bikes to shame, and it does so without relying on any lockouts or travel adjustment, which simplifies the whole riding experience.
If you switch off that bit of your brain that tells you a climb is impossible, you’ll be surprised what this bike will get up.
Plus it has the added benefit of crazy levels of traction, thanks to the big tyres and the remarkable sensitivity of the suspension. In fact, we made it up climbs on this bike which we’ve fallen short of cresting on every other attempt. If you switch off that bit of your brain that tells you a climb is impossible, you’ll be surprised what this bike will get up.
Because the bike climbs so efficiently and accelerates so well, Polygon have been able to run some seriously meaty tyres without making the bike feel like a sloth. It’s a neat trick.
The geometry plays to the bike’s strengths too. It’s a little taller in the bottom bracket than other long-travel bikes, and not as slack up front either. This all conspires to help give the Polygon all-rounder appeal that you’d never expect.
Surely that big swingarm is flexy?
No, it’s very stiff actually. There’s a lot of carbon in there, and the slider hidden away inside the swingarm also serves to keep it tracking in a straight line. We didn’t notice any wiggle at all, and when you couple that chassis stiffness with the exceptionally stout FOX 36 up front, well you’ve got a bike that goes where you point it.
It doesn’t bunny hop around the trail like some other bikes, but then again, you can probably just hammer over that terrain which other bikes are forced to jump.
I’ve heard this bike isn’t playful. True?
Hmmmm, kinda. Yes, you will find that this bike is not as ‘poppy’ as others, that’s part of its design intentions, to follow the terrain. But does that mean it’s not playful?
We think this bike’s playfulness takes a different shape, in that it encourages you to ride lines that weren’t on the radar before. We can attest to this – we tried and succeed in riding lines on this bike that we’ve never even spotted previously. So sure, it doesn’t bunny hop around the trail like some other bikes, but then again, you can probably just hammer over that terrain which other bikes are forced to jump.
But it’s a Polygon.
And this is going to be the sticking point for a lot of potential customers. The market just isn’t accustomed to seeing a bike of this price point or this performance level from Polygon, a brand that’s traditionally been known for delivering value first. If this bike had a different name on it – Intense or Yeti perhaps – then we doubt there’d be any hesitation and the orders would be flowing in.
But put the name aside, and let’s be rational. Yes, at $10,499 the price point is very high, but there are absolutely no corners cut here – XX1 Eagle, e13 carbon wheels, RaceFace NEXT… it’s dripping with good stuff. There’s also a cheaper option in the EX8, which is $8499. Admittedly still a lot of coin, but when you stack the componentry alone up against other high-end offerings from Trek, Specialized, Santa Cruz and so on, it comes up looking like pretty good value. And that’s even before you even take the way the bike actually rides into account.
Ultimately, this bike represents a fundamental repositioning of Polygon in the market, both in terms of price and performance. How mountain bikers react is yet to be seen.
You sound very excited about this one.
Really? Yes, we’re unashamedly pumped on this bike. It’s come from nowhere, and it’s blown our minds. As we’ve said above, the way this bike works is incredibly hard to describe, both technically and experientially, so we’d 100% encourage you to try and get a ride on one to see what we’re on about.
The race has an altitude drop of 2400m over around 25km, though that distance is approximate due to the open slather of line choices allowed by the sparse course marking posts. Fabien takes some ‘interesting’ options and despite the fatigue and unimaginable arm pump, manuals across the finish line in 4th place.
To even make it to the finish alive would require a half decent ‘enduro’ rig, but combining tobogganing with a podium finish is another level. We previewed the polarising Polygon Square One EX series a few months ago, and have just got our hands on one for a full review. Stay tuned over the coming weeks. Now to find a glacier…
Wow. Polygon have come out with something completely new here, a real step away from what everyone else is doing in terms of travel, frame and suspension design.
Everyone loves geometry, so you can check out the Square One’s angles below.
We definitely weren’t expecting Polygon to come out with a 180mm, 27.5″ bike with this sort of design, but we’re seriously excited to get our hands on one. Whilst the aesthetics won’t float everyone’s boats, its how the bike rides that counts, and from a glance at the spec and geometry it looks like an absolute beast of a bike.
Read on to see what Polygon have to say about the Square One EX range.
Polygon Bikes believes that each of our customers want one bike that is easy to be maintained and can be ridden anywhere.
The quest to deliver new and special products to our consumers led to the collaboration between Polygon and NAILD. Both brands shared a goal to bring the best riding experiences possible to our customers. Not only did Polygon and NAILD want to create a “one bike” quiver-killer, we wanted to redefine how people classify mountain bikes with a truly capable machine.
The Square One EX Series is a departure from the old way of classifying bikes and creates a new paradigm where travel no longer determines discipline.
“The NAILD suspension design works in conjunction with Polygon’s frame construction to give a ride unlike anything else. We designed the bike to have a short rear end for tackling technical terrain and to provide quick cornering thanks to the elevated chainstay that is unique to the NAILD R3ACT- 2Play Suspension System”, said Zendy Renan, Product Development Manager for Polygon Bikes.
Square One EX acts as an extension of rider’s movement – body mechanics are one of the critical aspects we focused on during the development process of NAILD’s concept about vertical wheel path and the use of shaft systems.
All Square One EX frames are built around 27.5 wheels and feature a full ACX carbon frame with 180mm suspension travel.
Two models will be available: the Square One EX8 and our top of the line model, the Square One EX9.
The pre-orders of Square One EX 9 is accepted now and the bikes will be available in June 2017. Check the full infomation about Square One EX at www.polygonbikes.com.
The N9 is pitched as Polygon’s Enduro machine, and it has performed admirably on the Enduro World Series under the UR Team, so a three-hour descent with new challenges around every corner was the ideal way to get re-acquanted with the N9. We say re-acquainted because we’ve ridden the N9 before (read our review here) but the bike has been given a freshen up since, including a tangerine paint job that we dig: a bike with frame shapes this wild is always going to attract attention, so embrace it!
It truly is one of the most spectacularly outlandish frame designs going, big scimitars of carbon out back, a collection of tube profiles that comes together in great style, a real demonstration of what’s possible with carbon and creativity. In an era of increasingly similar frame designs, it’s one of the few frames that look like they were approached with a truly blank slate. It’s easy to be struck by the bold colour and shape, but when you inspect more closely you see all kinds of batik inspired graphic details hidden in the most unlikely nooks and crannies too. That attention to detail continues with other design features, like the smart cable ports and bonded chain slap protection.
Travel is 160mm at both ends, and the rear suspension layout is a variant of the FS03 system found throughout the Polygon dual suspension range (excluding the Siskiu – reviewed here). A FOX Float X shock right is sandwiched right in the centre of the frame (no water bottle, sorry), compressed between a stout lower link that curves over the bottom bracket, and short upper link that also has very wide bearing placement and is driven by the dramatic, long, sweeping seat stay. The challenge of this particular design is maintaining rear-end stiffness, hence the huge pivot axles found on the upper and lower links to try and remove unwanted wavering.
On the subject of stiffness, one of the key improvements with this new N9 is the addition of a FOX 36 TALAS fork, which gives the front end plenty of menace. The 36 saved our bacon on more than a few occasions when we blindly screamed over a crest only to be presented with a mass of motorcycle ruts. There’s so much support and stiffness, that finessing the front end is nonsense – lean on the bars and traction just appears like magic, whereas a lesser fork would dive and twist. The chunky Schwalbe Hans Dampf rubber helps too, of course!
The FOX 36 is just one highlight in a truly stacked spec sheet though. Polygon bikes are always incredibly well equipped, and when you consider the price tag, we can’t think of another bike which even comes close to matching the N9’s component offering. A full SRAM XX1 drivetrain, E13 TRS race wheels, XT brakes, a RockShox Reverb dropper… If you’re more of a Shimano fan, you can get a the N9 with an XTR double-ring drivetrain and XTR brakes for the same price! Ridiculous.
The pricing is made possible through a direct sales model, so your bike is shipped to you in a box. If the idea of buying a bike unseen irks you, it’s worth noting that distributor Bicycles Online offer a 14-day test ride period during which you can return the bike for a full refund if you’re not happy. That’s pretty good peace of mind we feel.
Playfulness and pedalling performance are two of the elements which stand out for us. This isn’t a 160mm bike that hugs the ground like a mini downhill bike. Rather it gives you the engagement you’d normally expect from a 140mm-travel bike, but with some more forgiveness when you need it. You’re not isolated from the trail, and even when already pushed deep into its travel, the N9 can be flicked to a new line easily.
This responsiveness is in part due to the supportive suspension which has a firm mid-stroke, and the responsive E13 wheels, but it’s also a product of the bike’s geometry. When you compare a medium-sized N9 to other medium-sized 160mm bikes, you’ll notice the wheelbase is shorter. The head angle is 66.3 degrees (which is pretty standard for this category of bike) and the stays are 430mm (again, pretty much the norm) but the top-tube/reach measurements are 15-20mm shorter than is common. This makes it an easier bike to flick about, at the expense of stability when it’s really steep and fast. The option is of course to ride a size up if you want more stability, but make sure the seat tube isn’t too long if this is your plan.
Pedalling performance is excellent, and while the N9 has all the usual compression adjustments you’ll find on FOX shock and a travel-adjustable fork, we didn’t utilise them. Admittedly, most of our ride was spent descending, but having the ability to drop the front end for long climbs is a bonus (the fork drops from 160-130mm). There’s just the right amount of anti-squat in the FS03 suspension design, giving the N9 very stable pedalling and snappy acceleration without too much intrusive pedal feedback when on the gas over rough terrain. It’s the kind of bike that won’t rob you of energy unnecessarily over a long day in the saddle, which again feeds back into the N9’s abilities as a trail bike, rather than just a full-blown Enduro descender.
Getting back on the N9 was a real pleasure, and the end of an incredibly varied ride, we were reminded again just what a fun bike it really is. The addition of a FOX 36 is certainly welcomed, adding a bit more aggression on the descents, and making an incredibly good value-for-money bike even more impressive. If you’re hoping to use your N9 for Enduro racing, we’d encourage you to consider ‘up-sizing’ to get more length in the front end. If you’re a trail rider looking for a bike that’ll give you the ability to descend harder, but without too many handling or performance compromises usually associated with a longer-travel bike, then make sure the N9 is on your shortlist.
I’d come to Indonesia to spend some time with the team behind Polygon Bikes, and today we were going to ride a volcano. First, we had to survive the journey out of town to the mountains beyond, a gauntlet of oncoming buses, bikes and family-laden scooters that I think you have to grow up with to even dream of navigating. In the distance, the silhouette of Mt Bromo, our destination, was like a comic book shark fin, jutting out of the plains and paddies.
When people think of mountain biking in Indonesia, it’s Bali that is front of mind. But volcanos pepper the east of Java too like barnacles, and Mt Bromo is one of the grandest, notable not just for its size but for the fact it’s still very, very active. So active in fact that approaching the crater was banned as recently as November, just two months prior. But despite the occasional tectonic ejections, the slopes of Bromo are clustered with villages and farms. And amongst them run hundreds of walking trails and access tracks that are the economic capillaries of these rural communities. Today these walking tracks would be our trails, on our epic 36km journey from the peak of Bromo, a ride as unique as any we’ve ever attempted.
The Polygon lads know these trails well now, but working out a continuous, rideable route from top to bottom of Bromo was like escaping the Labyrinth, a labour of love that took many months; dozens of weekends of wrong turns, dead ends, back-tracking up goat paths that had fruitlessly ended in a cabbage patch. The volcano now plays a big role in the local riding scene, as the site of club races and group rides, and it’s also become the default testing ground for new Polygon products too. Like mountain bike product designers the world over, the team behind Polygon bikes are in their jobs because they’re riders. On just about any weekend, they’ll be out there, either descending from the crater’s edge, or shuttling the lower slopes.
The morning shift at the Polygon factory was just arriving as we strapped the last of the bikes into the tray of our truck, casting us somewhat jealous looks as they head in for eight hours on the assembly line. Even at 7:30am the humidity is cloying, banks of clouds building in the distance, already fattening up and promising a downpour. The wet season isn’t the ideal time to ride, “Man, we are going to be so muddy,” laughs Zende. His Colossus N9 is still caked in red chunks of mud from his last Bromo descent and he straps it in tight to the back of the truck for the windy, bumpy shuttle ahead. Zende is Polygon’s product development manager, the man who has driven the huge change in the brand since 2012. Three others from his team are with us today too. Dwi, or Tommy as he’s known (frame engineering), Ridwan (spec manager) and Syamsu, (graphics). Their bikes are like a timeline of product development, a mix of production bikes and test mules, frames that will never make production and others modified with tweaks that might be incorporated in seasons to come.
Escaping Surabaya doesn’t happen suddenly. You must claw your way out of the city, scrapping through roadworks and clogged intersections. Occasionally you’ll crest a bridge and you’ve got a view beyond the immediate chaos, to the green, inviting slopes of the volcanos in the distance. Almost imperceptibly at first, the density of traffic, people and commerce starts to dwindle, and after about an hour and a half of driving we hit the first rolling foothills of Bromo. The pace of life around us has changed; there are still motor bikes to dodge, but they come in two and threes, not swarms. And the markets by the road are stocked with produce, rather than mobile phones.
On the drive out, I’d asked if the crew had ever pedalled up Bromo, and I just got a bit of a laugh in response. I know found out why, as the road headed skyward, one and a half lanes wide, snaking up the gullies and ridge lines. We’ve done some epic shuttle drives in our time, but this takes the cake! For over an hour we climbed unceasingly, through villages and farms, the road occasionally buried under a few inches of rich top soil that has slipped from the hill in the rains. On all sides the landscape is terraced and tilled, often on terrain so steep it looks impossible to walk let alone farm.
Finally we pull up, all slightly car sick and stiff legged. It’s not until we clamber up a bank on the roadside that I get some perspective, and I’m blown away. We’re standing right on the edge of a huge crater, a mammoth scoop out of the mountain top, in the centre of which lies another separate peak – the mouth of Bromo. It’s alive, spitting out periodic roils of ash, the mountain smoking furiously, like just about every man over the age of 12 in Indonesia. I’ve never seen anything that made me feel so terrifyingly temporary. Amazingly, right at the foot of the inner caldera, there’s a temple. While it’s only used once a year or so, for rituals that involve throwing offerings into the mouth of the volcano, it’s right in the firing line, and if Bromo were to blow, it’s game over for the worshippers. The temples occupants have nothing but their faith to protect them, and it’s time for me to do the same, as I put my trust in the line choices of Syamsu and try to follow his wheel as we begin our descent.
We’re flying along the ridge lines, picking up crazy speed with that kind of tremendous inertia you only get on really long descents, when you’re out of gears and off the brakes. Up ahead, I’m trying to read Syamsu’s body language as he skips over ruts that have been gouged by the spinning wheels of motorbikes hauling cabbage and broccoli from the farms lining the trail. The further we descend, the more the trail surface changes; at first sandy and full of grippy volcanic pumice, it gradually turns to red clay. The ruts begin to develop a wheel sucking magnetism that you’ve got to fight – so much as glance at a rut then that’s where you’re heading!
We peel off the double track and into a village, where the obstacles are no longer ruts but free ranging children and chickens, waving and squawking at us. I want to point my camera at everything, but the Polygon guys know rain is on the way, so we don’t stop for too long. The trail gets narrower again, traversing across fields on singletrack that we occasionally share with an overloaded motorbike. Up until now, the riding has been fast and fun, though nothing too tricky, but that changes in a big way. Almost simultaneously the trail points down into a long section of steep chutes and switchbacks and the rain crashes in like a shore break. It’s an immersion, not a shower, of the kind you only get in a swimming pool or the tropics. The rain comes down so hard it gets in your lungs, it pools your ears.
We’re in hysterics as we become complete passengers. Stopping is out of the question, so there’s nothing for it but to let it all slide! Over my shoulder I catch a glimpse of Tommy in the air, sailing into the bushes after either not seeing or not making a corner. Syamsu doesn’t seem to slow down though, and through sun glasses that are running like a waterfall I watch him duck into trail that runs down the narrow row of an apple orchard. The fruit laden boughs are bent low, and I wallop into fat apples which sail off down the trail ahead of me. It’s a ridiculous, fantastic scene; flying apples, head to toe mud, scrapping blindly down trails on the slopes of a volcano. I lock it away in the mental vault as one of the most surreal riding experiences I’ve ever had.
The rain stops as abruptly as it began, leaving nothing but swirling ghosts of steam, twisting over the warm trail surface. After passing through another village market, carts hanging with durian, we reach the lower slopes of Bromo and head into the towering rows of a rubber plantation. These trails are the most popular in the district, easily shuttled, with a number of different routes to the bottom, but right now they’re deadly slippery. Braking would only lead to less traction, so it’s five fingers on the bar! Unlike the farming trails up top, these singletracks have been built by mountain bikers, and there are berms and jumps everywhere as they slither through the rubber trees. We’re reaching the foothills now, where Bromo starts to peter out into the plains, and the gradient is ideal. A constant 5% descent that absorbs you totally, no pedalling, no braking, which is a blessing because 30kms of descending has left my hands and legs wrecked.
I feel like I’ve done a full day of downhill runs, and my poor bike – a Polygon Collosus N9 which had been brand new at the start of the day – has been given the ultimate baptism of fire, it’s original colour barely distinguishable. I’m sure I look equally haggard too. Bromo has taught me a lesson or two (as has Syamsu, who always seemed to be pulling away from me, no matter how hard I went) about descending Indo style, and given me one of the most memorable days on the bike I’ve ever experienced. It’s a ride I’ll always talk about, but for the Polygon crew, it’s just another Bromo session, another day at the office, riding volcanos.
If you’ve spent the past 15 years buying into the glitz, technology and hype of the mountain bike industry, what’s it like to go behind the curtain and see the process before the marketing team get their hands on the story? Polygon Bikes recently gave us the chance to find out, with a visit to their factory and assembly facilities in Surabaya, Indonesia.
With a local market in Indonesia of 250 million people, Polygon Bikes could happily exist solely in the domestic realm – there’s plenty of bikes to be sold in a country that lives on two wheels. But in the past five or so years the team at Polygon Bikes have been looking outwards, undertaking a global expansion in the high-end market that’s underscored by their sponsorship of some of the world’s most high-profile riders. Here in Australia, we’re really the first port of call in this worldwide conquest, and already Australia is Polygon’s largest market outside Indonesia.
Polygon are one of just a small number of brands that actually possess their own factory and assembly facilities, and they’re amongst the largest manufacturers in the world, producing almost half a million bikes a year
While the brand’s profile around the world has grown considerably off the back of the UR Team’s successes and the Red Bull Rampage winning riding of Kurt Sorge, until recently I doubt many people outside of Indonesia could’ve told you much more about Polygon than name a handful of their sponsored riders. What few people know is that Polygon are one of just a small number of brands that actually possess their own factory and assembly facilities, and they’re amongst the largest manufacturers in the world, producing almost half a million bikes a year. This includes building bikes for some other well-known brands too, the marketing departments of which would love to convince you wasn’t the case. (Sorry, no names here!)
Getting behind the scenes of global bike brand is rare, so when we were offered unrestricted access to Polygon’s factory and assembly facilities, we were on the next plane to Surabaya faster than you can say ayam goreng.
Surabaya is ‘proper’ Indonesia, and while it may only a short jump across the Java Sea from the tourists and touts of Bali, the contrast is sharp. Stuff gets made here – the Indonesian domestic market is a growing, increasingly wealthy beast, and Surabaya is one of main cities servicing this demand. In the middle of the wet season, it’s an exciting place to be; humid, surging, spicy.
The Polygon factory, like many in the municipality of Sidoarjo, is blended in with the surrounding neighbourhood. There are no big smoke stacks or huge concrete carparks, instead kids with school backpacks on skip past the gates, a warung opposite sells drinks and noodles. The factory has been there for over 20 years, and the neighbourhood has evolved around it. In as much as a factory ever can, it feels welcoming. With the opening of a gigantic sliding door, I step inside into a world that underpins the entire cycling industry, but which I’ve never experienced before.
I didn’t know what I was expecting, but not this scale, that’s for sure. The huge space stretches away from me, dominated at the far end by tremendous dual, two-storey ovens that heat treat the frames. The smell of solder and metal being cut takes me back instantly to my high school metalwork classes! It’s warm, but not stifling, and surprisingly a lot quieter than I’d expected, the noise all kind of disappearing into the massive roof space.
At any given moment, there are a couple of hundred employees in the welding factory (three shifts keep it running 24 hours a day), and overseeing them all is Ronny, a man who joined Polygon on the factory floor 15 years ago and whose pride in the space is clear. He insists that it’s kept spotless, the floor is a clean as a car showroom, and he walks me through the whole process.
Either side the entrance are towers of the raw materials which will one day be rolling down singletrack or bitumen, maybe in some part of the world far from here. But long before that happens, the huge lengths of tubing must be lopped into sizes that are suitable for whatever frames are being produced at that moment. There’s never just one model of bike on the go in the factory at any given moment either – the days of long production runs are gone, and the way business is done in the bike industry has changed. It’s all about shorter runs, more diverse models, all with staggered delivery times, which makes managing the logistics of a production schedule much tougher. Somehow Ronny doesn’t have a grey hair on his head.
Once the tubes are cut, they must be shaped, and at Polygon all the tube forming is done in-house. A separate workshop is dedicated to designing and machining up the various dies and moulds that are then inserted into the huge hydraulic presses which shape the tubes, or put the correct bend in the stays. The same workshop oversees the two CNC machines too, which produce the head tubes, linkage plates, shock mounts all the other frame elements that require the intricacy of machine work. The shaped tubes are then mitered by terrifying looking machines that slice through the alloy like butter, before being moved onto the brazing area to have cable guides or other frame fixtures added.
Once the tubesets are all cut, shaped, mitered and have had any fixtures fitted, it’s off to the welding bays, along with any CNC machined frame parts. Front triangles and the rear ends are initially tack-welded, before being placed into a jig and having the final welding completed. Prior to heat treating, the frames must pass a quality control inspection, before heading into the massive ovens to be hardened. Post heat treatment, the frames are again checked for alignment and a second quality control assessment then moved off for finer finishing work, such threading of bottle mount nuts and reaming of seat tubes.
The final process involves cleaning and prepping the frames ahead of painting. Any surface abnormalities are hand sanded and threads are double checked. Frames are then moved through a sequence of baths of various solvents and solutions to first clean and then apply a zinc phosphate coating that inhibits corrosion, before a final session in an oven to dry them out.
Painting and assembly takes place in a different building (for now, Polygon are building a new welding factory this year on the same site as their assembly facility). Before entering the painting and decal areas, our shoes are covered with protective plastic to prevent us tracking in any dirt or dust. The entire space is sealed off from the outside world, and the air pressure is raised, so that air (and dust) is only ever pushed out of the facility and never sucked in. It’s completely spotless.
Throughout the entire painting and decal process, the frames are constantly moving along a long suspended conveyor. First up, they receive and undercoat from an automated sprayer that uses first gives the frames electrostactic charge to ensure the paint is drawn to the metal for minimal over-spray. A final undercoat is delivered by hand to those areas which require extra coverage, or which are hard for the automated sprayer to reach.
After moving through a drying oven, the frames are given a final once over to remove any imperfections ahead of the receiving their outer paint job, which is done by hand in painting bays which have a constant flow of recycled water running down the wall behind the frame being sprayed to capture any over-sprayed paint.
Decaling is the final step of the process before the frames head upstairs for the assembly line. It takes place in a wet room, with a team of workers each responsible for the application of just one or two decals as the frames progress along the conveyor. If you’ve ever tried to apply a decal without trapping an air bubble, you’ll know it’s not an easy task! Now imagine doing that while the frame is moving…
The final stage in the entire process is the assembly line, where it all comes together. The logistics are pretty mind boggling, with all the elements of construction, painting, and component warehousing having to come together at the same time to ensure there are no bottlenecks when it comes to the assembly process. Polygon warehouses all their components on site, with all the larger items stored in a huge racking system with automated picking.
Like the painting process, the assembly line does not stop moving, every aspect having to be completed precisely and in a very short window before the frame moves on down the line into the hands of the next worker. On the main assembly line, the task of building a bike is broken down into small individual tasks. Take the assembly of a wheel for instance: one worker places the spokes into a hub, another laces the wheel, a third checks its true and tension, before a fourth fits the tube and tyre. The efficiencies this brings are pretty staggering and a bike can go from a bare frame to being boxed and ready for shipping in just a few minutes.
The exception to this are the bikes which receive what Polygon calls its Royal build. Reserved for higher-end bikes (and all bikes destined for Australia, regardless of price point), the Royal build means that a single worker handles the entire build process from start to finish. It’s a job that’s normally reserved for workers who are passionate riders themselves, and while it mightn’t have them same stresses as the production line, the mechanics are super efficient, building a bare frame into a complete bike in under an hour, including pressing in suspension pivot bearings.
On the day of our factory tour, the assembly team were getting ready to run an extra shift, which wouldn’t finish up until around 11pm in the evening. It’s a busy time for Polygon, and outside in the loading area a string of semi-trailers waited for their freight of bikes; there was 14 of them scheduled for that day alone, each with a 40-foot shipping container on its bed. Things are busy at Polygon, and with their operations throughout Europe just beginning to hit their stride, who knows what things will look like for Polygon in a few years time. Before arriving in Surabaya, I’ll admit to feeling a little apprehensive – did I want to see what the inside of the sausage factory looked like? Would going behind the marketing curtain make me feel a bit jaded about the whole industry, or would I leave in a positive frame of mind? Thankfully, I finished the day feeling not only happy about the standards and conditions that Polygon has in place, but completely blown away too. When you’re out there on the trail, feeling pleasantly isolated, the origins of your bike are probably the last thing on your mind, and rightfully so. But I know now, that I’ll remember to occasionally say a silent ‘thank you’ to the people whose labour made each ride possible.
Since Polygon and the UR Team joined forces, we’ve seen a number of different prototypes of this bike doing the rounds at World Cups and the like over the past three years. Not long ago we chatted with Mick Hannah and he was full of praise for the Polygon product team and their receptiveness to his feedback – the bike you see here now is the end result of that dialogue. While this is a downhill race bike at its heart, it’s also a serious freeride beast – Kurt Sorge hucked and flipped his DH9 to victory in the 2015 Red Bull Rampage, so don’t pigeonhole it.
Back in 2014 we reviewed this bike’s predecessor too (you can check out the full write up here) and it’s fair to say the new DH9 is a much more refined machine. It still uses the same basic frame and suspension architecture, but it has been improved in just about every regard, especially the geometry and suspension rate.
It’s amongst the weekend downhill warriors and occasional racers that this bike is really going to resonate, in part, it must be said, because the pricing is so damn good. For $5499 it offers truly pro-level spec at second-tier pricing; it’s dripping with the finest components, and you’ll still have enough cash left over to take a couple of weekends at Thredbo.
Of course, this pricing is achievable because the bike is sold direct to the consumer and is delivered requiring some assembly. At this price point, that’s something we feel pretty comfortable with – we’d argue that a person buying this style of bike for this kind of money will generally have fairly sound knowledge about bike mechanics. The other downside is that this sales model makes it hard to secure a test ride before you buy, but Australian distributor Bicycles Online offer a no-questions-asked 14 day ‘test ride’ period. If you don’t like the bike after two weeks, they’ll refund your cash and pick the bike up at no cost to you.
Polygon have gone for carbon out back, with alloy up front. While they’re not going to rule out a full carbon frame in the future, for now they feel the minimal weight savings they could achieve through a carbon front end don’t justify the increased costs, which would ultimately raise this bike’s unbelievable ticket price. Polygon also have some of the finest aluminium manufacturing facilities in the business, so we can appreciate that they’re eager to keep the construction in-house where possible. Having a lightweight carbon rear end does aid in suspension performance too, reducing the unsprung mass for more suspension sensitivity.
The two halves come together via the FS2 suspension linkage, which is a dual-link design that has variants throughout the Polygon dual suspension range. 203mm of travel (eight inches for the heathens) is dished out via a FOX DHX2 Factory shock (thumbs up for the colour matching of frame colour and shock spring, you tarts). Thanks to the location of the shock’s adjusters on the reservoir, it’s easy to make adjustments, and with independent low/high speed compression and rebound clickers, there’s plenty of tweaking to be done.
Both gear and brake lines are routed internally through the mainframe, but unlike many bikes, it’s not a fiddly, mechanic’s nightmare; the lines enter neatly alongside the head tube and both emerge from a generous window in front of the bottom bracket shell, so there’s no fishing about trying to thread lines through tiny little cable ports. Another win for practicality is the use of a threaded 83mm bottom bracket, rather than a pressfit arrangement. Hooray!
There is some geometry adjustability incorporated into the frame, which Polygon says also allows the use of 26-inch wheels. While the completed bike is sold with 650B wheels, it’s also available as a frameset, and so Polygon give the 26-inch diehards some love with a reversible chip at the shock mount that slackens the bike’s angles a smidgen to better work with smaller diameter wheels. Before you mock this idea, it’s worth noting that Kurt Sorge does exactly that, preferring the strength and manoeuvrability of the little wheels for his riding. So there.
Polygon’s FS2 system has undergone a real revision since we last tested a Polygon downhill bike. We previously criticised the older DHX for having excessive pedal feedback, and Polygon have addressed this with the new DH9. There’s now considerably less chain growth in the early stages of the suspension stroke. The bike still has a rearward axle path in the initial travel to help it carry momentum (a bit of a must for a downhill bike we think) but it’s less pronounced than in year’s past. Pedalling performance out of corners is still one of this bike’s real highlights, and on the typically flatter courses of Australia that’s a big tick.
Our medium-sized test bike came with a 350lb spring, which Polygon says is ideal for a 75kg rider. With our test rider weighing barely 65kg in full kit, we probably should have knocked the spring rate down by 50lbs to get a little more sag. Having said that, even with the 350lb spring we did still bottom out on a few occasions, seeing us reach for the high-speed compressions adjuster after a couple of runs. Interestingly, the Polygon UR team are often seen running BOS air shocks in their bikes, which would introduce some more progression into the end-stroke and help resist bottoming out.
In the complex arena of downhill suspension, we actually found the DH9 pretty easy to get come to grips with. This was our first experience with the FOX 40 Float Factory fork and it just rocked our world. Our initial setup was a little soft (around 45-50psi) and the front end became hung-up too easily on repeated roots. Upping the pressure to 55-57psi made all the difference, keeping us riding high, with more confidence to chuck the bike into corners or blind chutes.
The four clickers of the rear suspension took some more work to get sorted; the DHX2 shock is superbly sensitive, and just a click or two of any adjuster has a marked impact on the bike’s performance. This can work be a blessing or a curse, as it makes it easier to appreciate the effect of each adjustment, but it also means you can end up with a setting that’s not in the ballpark for your weight or riding style with only a few errant tweaks. We ran minimal amounts of low-speed compression adjustment, but we found ourselves quite reliant on the high-speed compression clicker to keep the rear end matched to the fork’s stable performance under big hits.
We know a bike is much more than the sum of its components, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the DH9’s spec. The fork and shock, as discussed above, are truly top drawer, and quality suspension is unarguably the most important element for any serious race bike.
Shimano’s Saint groupset is used throughout, with the exclusion of the hubs, those come from e13. It’s bombproof stuff with a reputation for consistency – read our full review of the Saint grouppo here. The brakes and shift quality are superb, but it’s not nearly as quiet running as SRAM’s new X01 DH drivetrain we’d have to say, and we were quite surprised by the level of drivetrain noise. Still, a bit of chain rattle is no big deal.
The e13 LG1R wheelset is light and tight, at a claimed weight of sub 1900g. These wheels are seriously stiff, and they provide plenty of support to allow the Schwalbe Magic Mary rubber to do its thing, angrily tearing at whatever trail surface you roll them across. They are superb tyre, just don’t expect a long life out of the rear tread if your trails are rocky.
If we had to find something to gripe about, it would be the Kore seat post, which made it a pain to adjust the seat angle.
A good downhill bike needs to strike a balance between isolation and engagement, and that’s something we feel the DH9 does really well. It’s got enough bulldozer in it for just about any situation, but even a lightweight pilot like our test rider doesn’t feel like a passenger.
It’s partly a product of the bike’s low weight, in the mid-16kg range, which makes it simple to place where you want it. The wheels aren’t overly heavy either, helping it all to ‘ride light’, and the insanely fast and positive engagement on the rear hub means every stab at the pedals out of a corner tops your speed up instantly.
Input from some of the fastest riders on the planet has ensured that the Polygon’s angles have evolved to be in line with the fastest bikes out there, whereas in the past we’d found it a tad upright and steep. The 63 degree head angle is pretty much standard now, and a wheebase of 1204mm in a size medium is on trend too. By way of comparison, it’s measurements are pretty much identical to a Trek Session, and a smidgen shorter than a Giant Glory, both of which are its logical opposition. Other brands, however, are starting to push the reach measurements a bit further and maybe it’s that we’ve become accustomed to the ever longer reach measurements on modern Enduro bikes, but we’d be tempted to jump up to a size large if this were our own bike.
The FOX 40 leads the charge ferociously when it gets rough, but we’d still place the bike as more playful than plough-ful in the arena of downhill bikes. Maybe a size large with its additional wheelbase would be more at home when heading down the fall-line. Dropping 50lbs in spring weight to get the correct sag would definitely have helped too, encouraging the rear to settle in a bit more.
We can see why Kurt Sorge gets along with this bike so well too, as it’s an awesome bike to jump. The chain stays are a healthy 441mm, but this doesn’t dampen the DH9’s willingness to get off the ground. Again, a low weight and light wheels helps, but the suspension offers good support in the first part of the stroke, which is key to getting the most out of a lip.
The DH9 is a shining example of what can be done when a company truly listens to the input of their sponsored riders, and doesn’t just teach them the marketing spiel. Polygon have created a seriously good downhill bike here, and they’ve done it at a price that no one can touch right now. If the direct to consumer model feels ok for you, then we think you’d be silly not to put the DH9 on the shortlist when you’re looking for your next downhill bike.
The Siksiu D8 is Polygon’s aluminium frame 27.5″ wheel dually with 120mm of suspension travel, purchased online from Bicycles Online and shipped to your door.
Buying a bike from a website isn’t a new thing, and it sure does comes with the typical drawbacks, but Bicycles Online do their best to ensure the process is as simple and easy as possible. There are systems in place like their 14 day returns policy, assembly video tutorials, sizing guide and the option of a $99 Pro Build where the bike is unpacked built at the Bicycles Online workshop in Sydney by a mechanic, then tested and tuned before re-packing for shipping.
It’s the consumer’s choice whether or not the valuable service of a bike store is needed – or going direct to save dollars – is worth it.
The Siskiu is an all-new bike for 2016, previously called the Recon which we reviewed last year. Click here for our review of the 2015 Recon 4. We found the lower price point Recon 4 to be a great handling bike but lacked in a few areas of finishing detail like the cable routing and a couple spec areas. Fast forward to now, and the Siskiu D8 looks to have it all sorted and more.
For $1999 you’d be choosing between a mid-range front suspension hardtail, or an entry level dual suspension. Dual suspension bikes don’t usually come this far down in price, so it really opens up a lot of choice for potential buyers.
Polygon’s huge dual suspension catalogue is full of weird and wonderful looking bikes using advanced suspension designs and carbon frames (like this wild one), but the Siskiu keeps it pretty simple with a classic single-pivot suspension design and an aluminium frame.
The big changes to the frame for 2016 from the previous model is the hydro-formed (call it curvy) tube shapes, wider 142mm dropouts to keep up with current wheel standards and routing the gear cables internally through the frame.
The whole bike weighs only 13.3kg, we think that’s pretty good!
Bikes have come SUCH a long way in a relatively short time. Not too long ago a dual suspension bike of this price would not be up to the task of real mountain biking, the brakes would certainly not have cut it on wet trails, the wheels would have bent out of shape easily and it probably would have weighed about 18kg. But fast forward to 2016 and we’re spoilt with all this performance!
The moment we first saw this bike we searched with a critical eye for a weak link – a component that could possibly let us down on the trails – but nothing was obvious at all.
And after a few solid weeks riding the Siskiu showed us the great quality mixture of Shimano, Mavic, RockShox and Polygon’s own components are up to the task.
RockShox handle the suspension duties with a Recon Gold Air fork and Monarch RT rear shock, both are very decent pieces of kit in our experience. The fork uses an adjustable air spring which makes for easy setup for each individual rider, and the rebound speed is also adjustable.
A remote lockout button is fitted to the bars for quickly firming up the fork when climbing up steep hills or jaunts on the tarmac where you don’t need the suspension bobbing around.
Out back is the RockShox Monarch RT shock, with air adjustment and handy sag guides etched on the shaft helping to set your correct air pressure and sag height. We found the sweet spot at around 25% sag.
The little blue lever has two settings, open and closed. Locked out the suspension was still active to a degree, just right for smoother sections of trail and climbs.
The Shimano’s hydraulic brakes on this bike are astonishing, the light and consistent lever feel when given a squeeze gives the Siskiu a high end feel.
While they don’t quite have the serious bite and power of the high end versions, they out-performed our expectations. In the mud and wet the braking remained powerful enough to keep the bike under control with only one finger on the lever, impressive.
It’s a bit of a European affair with the hoops, with French rolling legends Mavic take care of the wheelset and German tyre guru’s Schwalbe with the rubber bits.
The wheels are the Mavic’s 27.5″ CrossRide, they felt both strong and fast to us, with no signs of any straightening needed after our test. Schwalbe’s Smart Sam tyres are a bit of an all-round type of tyre, with a close tread pattern in the centre for smooth rolling on hard surfaces, but sharp edges on the side knobs help traction in the corners. They aren’t the tubeless ready ones though, that’s something to look at as a future upgrade perhaps, going tubeless does wonders to a bike.
Shimano’s SLX/XT drivetrain is a real winner, with a very wide range of 20 gears to ensure you’ll never run out. The XT rear derailleur uses the clutch mechanism which provides stable and quiet chain retention with a flick of the switch, a big advancement in technology that’s happened to mountain bike gears in recent years.
If you’re spending $2K on a dually, it’d have to be worth it when compared to a hardtail.
Generally speaking you’d pay around $700-$1000 more for a dual suspension bike with a comparable level of components found on a hardtail. But the beauty of a good dual suspension bike is how it will easily trump a hardtail in terms of ride quality, and not only for rough trails. With rear suspension you’ll be able to ride faster in more control, and ride more tricky sections of the trail without getting off.
The classic penalties for a dual suspension bike comes in the shape of increased cost, weight, and the extra maintenance associated with more moving parts. Then there’s an element of efficiency that the rear suspension can rob you of if it’s not done well.
But hardtails are just so darn… hard!
The Siskiu is a very comfortable bike to ride, the cockpit is quite tall and our large size test bike felt relaxed enough to ride all day long.
Polygon have done a good job in designing the frame geometry to suit its intended use for an entry level suspension bike, it isn’t too slack and nor is it too sharp, the angles feel just right for legitimate everyday mountain biking.
Descending: When the trails turned down we were really able to test out the suspension, and to its credit the Siskiu did a pretty good job! Sure, when compared to some of the top-shelf bikes we test here at Flow the Siskiu’s suspension wasn’t as composed or smooth when the speeds got higher, but it certainly took care of smoothening out the trails so we could let the brakes off and have a good time. 120mm of travel is a good amount for general trail riding, any more and it would feel too cumbersome on the climbs.
The rear suspension worked best when unlocked for the roughest descents, and we ran the rebound speed slightly slower than normal. We found the limits of the fork when ridden extra hard, on the biggest impacts the fork would reach the end of its travel with a harsh clunk, so we upped the fork pressure an extra 10-20psi when we were riding rougher descents. The tyres are a bit of a dual-duty type, with a close and sharp tread pattern that rolls fast and grips well but consider a larger tyre down the track if you want a bit more cushion and flat tyre protection.
Upgrading to an adjustable seatpost would do wonders to the descending abilities of this bike, as would a tubeless tyre conversion.
Climbing: Getting back up to the top of the fun bits was also a fairly good experience, the bike’s 13.3kg was manageable and the rear suspension helped increase the traction at the rear wheel, letting us climb looser and rougher lines without slipping. The rear suspension is certainly not tuned for cross country racing, so it’ll bob around if you’re heavy on the pedals on a climb so it’s best to flick the switch when you know what’s coming up.
Out of the box the Siskiu’s stem is at full height, and that’s pretty high, great for cruising about the trails. But if you want a more aggressive climbing and cornering position we’d suggest dropping the stem down on the fork steerer (like in the pic below), and replace the headset spacers on top. Ask your local bike store for a hand if that sounds confusing.
With the double chainring up front and ten speeds out the back, you’ll be hard pressed to find a climb that’s too steep for the gears available.
Cornering: The Polygon isn’t an aggressive bike, so it responded best to a gentle hand when turning through singletrack corners. We always felt safe and secure when tipping the bike down through a bend, with the Schwalbe Smart Sam tyres hooking up nicely and biting into the dirt finding good traction.
Its 27.5″ wheels suit the bike’s feel, and let the bike be quite nimble and playful, we found it quite fun to punt off drops and play around on the trails.
Any issues? Our test bike developed a knocking feeling in the moving parts of the rear suspension, it rattled slightly when riding and we were not able to fix it by tightening all the bolts and rear shock hardware. After it returning to Bicycles Online they were able to get to the bottom of the issue pretty easily, a simple washer was missing from the rear shock mount. Polygon have since rectified the issue and as our test bike came from an earlier batch any new bikes will be correctly assembled.
Riding the Siskiu was more than just a case of ‘getting what you pay for’, it showed us how far mountain bike development has come and the ‘technology trickle down effect’ is certainly working.
Polygon’s are sold online, so unless you’re able to try before you by at the Bicycles Online headquarters in Sydney’s north you’ll face the challenges of online shopping, but that’s also why this bike is such killer value.
In the end we enjoyed this bike, with such solid performance and reliability from the components fitted to a sturdy and well-thought out frame, we’d take a Siskiu D8 over a hardtail any day.
Indonesian bike manufacturer Polygon offer a massive range of bikes to the Australian market with a direct to consumer sales model via Bicycles Online, though over the years we’ve become aware that there is a lot more to the Polygon bikes than just astonishing value.
Buying a bike from a website isn’t a new thing, and it sure does comes with the typical drawbacks, but Bicycles Online do their best to ensure the process is as simple and easy as possible. There are systems in place like their 14 day returns policy, assembly video tutorials, sizing guide and the option of a $99 Pro Build where the bike is unpacked built at the Bicycles Online workshop in Sydney by a mechanic, then tested and tuned before re-packing for shipping. It’s the consumer’s choice whether or not the valuable service of a bike store is needed, or going direct to save dollars is worth it.
We’ll get into the ins and outs of the purchasing process in more detail with our final review, but for now let’s take a quick look at the Polygon Siskiu DB, a sub $2K dually loaded with off road worthy features.
The Siskiu is an all-new bike for 2016, previously called the Recon which we tested last year. Click here for our review of the 2015 Recon 4. We found the lower price point Recon 4 to be a great handling bike but lacked in a few areas of finishing detail like the cable routing and a couple spec areas. Fast forward to now, and the Siskiu D8 looks to have it all sorted and more.
The Polygon uses aluminium frame with RockShox suspension front and back, Mavic wheels with a Shimano drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes. It’s all very decent kit, and in our experiences there isn’t any obvious parts that wouldn’t be up for real mountain biking use.
Weighing under the 13.5kg mark is pretty sound, considering the price tag, we were impressed when we first put it on the scales.
27.5″ is the wheel size, which should really let the Siskiu feel alive and playful on the trails, and 120mm of travel front and back puts it in the all-rounder category. The wide range of gears will also favour the beginner rider, low enough to climb hills without having to get off and push.
But a real mountain bike is more than just the sum of its parts, its credibility can be won or lost when the wheels start to roll in the dirt and the terrain turns up and down, so let’s see how it goes. Stay tuned for our full review soon.
Five years ago, we’d rather have shared a car ride to Melbourne with a pack of angry wasps than have ridden a Polygon. Clearly that ain’t so any longer. This brand has undergone a transformation more pronounced than Rene Zellweger’s face; and while we preferred the old Rene, the definitely prefer the new Polygon. Right here we’ve got the all-new Collosus N9, the very same bike the Hutchinson / United Riders teams have been racing in the Enduro World Series.
“Holy Moses! Is that the new Polygon?” was the standard response from all who laid eyes on this savagely futuristic looking piece of kit, usually followed by the question, “what’s it like?” Well, we’ll tell you.
If the world suddenly starts to run low on carbon fibre, you can blame Polygon. The new Collosus N9 is has some of most incredibly complex, but perfectly executed, carbon frame shapes we’ve ever seen – Tom Ritchey and Gary Fisher certainly didn’t envisage that bikes would ever look like this! It’s clear that Polygon have looked for opportunities to shape this frame is ways that would have been basically impossible in aluminium. While they’re at it, they’ve equipped the Polygon with some of the most intricate frame graphics out there. Look closely and you’ll see some incredibly detailed graphics subtly adorning the less visible parts of the frame – very cool.
This 160mm-travel machine has a compact look about it, and the frame numbers reflect this, with the wheelbase a couple of centimetres shorter than many of its competitors. The chain stays are 430mm (fun), and the top tube is 590mm (a little short), while the head angle is 66.3 degrees (ideal). But numbers don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, and there’ll be plenty of time to chat about that later.
Polygon have employed their FS03 suspensions system, which is another variant of a four-bar linkage. The lower link arcs over the bottom bracket shell, driving the shock, which is also squished by the stubby upper link. (The design is actually a little similar to the Quad Link II arrangement previously used by Whyte bikes, but the Polygon’s lower link is located closer to the bottom bracket, which makes for less pedal feedback – winner.) The most striking aspect of the design is the extremely long ‘seat stay’; while most four-bar linkage designs have an upper link mounted off the seat tube, the Polygon’s upper link is way forward. This uninterrupted curve of the seat stay looks insane, but it does present design challenges in terms of keeping it all stiff. Giving the rear end a quick waggle reveals that even the use of huge pivot axles and an E-Thru 142x12mm axle can’t get rid of the inherent flex of this design. But as we’ve noted many times, a bit of wobble in the carpark doesn’t necessarily mean a thing on the trail.
With such a complicated looking frame, Polygon have managed to declutter things by routing all the cables internally, keeping them clear of the frame so there’s no rub at any point either. External routing options are in place for a dropper post, should you not get along with the Rockshox Reverb Stealth. We really don’t like remote fork lockouts on this style of bike (keep them for cross country racing, please) so we removed the CTD fork remote that came on the bike to further declutter its appearance. Speaking of lockouts, because of the orientation of the FOX Float X shock, getting access to the CTD lever is quite a stretch. Fortunately the Polygon pedals beautifully, so you’re not relying on the CTD lever to scoot it along at all.
Few details have been overlooked; the down tube is protected from rock strikes by thick frame stickers, and the chain is silenced by a heavy duty moulded rubber guard. You can fit a front derailleur should you wish, or a chain guide with the ISCG tabs, but not a water bottle – it’s a pack only affair.
Tyre clearance out back is pretty tight, not width-wise, but you’re restricted by height/depth of the tyre. A Schwalbe Hans Dampf in 2.25 squeezes in with plenty of room on either side, but there’s minimal space between the tread and the chain stay junction, so fitting anything much bigger than the stock rubber is not advisable. We didn’t test the Polygon in the wet, but we can imagine this could get a bit gloopy in the mud.
While a price tag of $5799 isn’t exactly pocket change, what you get for your money is pretty fantastic. With the exception of a adding a carbon bar in place of the Spank Oozy alloy number, you’d be hard pressed to upgrade the N9 in any meaningful way.
We like the fact that Polygon have cherry-picked the components, rather than sticking with a SRAM or Shimano/FOX theme. The end result is a great mix of Shimano, SRAM, FOX and e13. Shimano provide the ever-reliable XT brakes (still the best on the market, we feel), SRAM deliver with the superb XX1 drivetrain and RockShox Reverb Stealth post, and e13 supply the stiff (and loud!) TRS Race wheelset. FOX handle front and rear suspension, with a Float X rear shock and 160mm-travel 34 TALAS fork. Spank provide the 740mm-wide bar and 50mm stem, and it’s really nicely finished kit. The anüss pleasing Fizik Gobi saddle is a safe call too.
Specific praise should be given to Polygon’s decision to add a travel-adjustable fork; dropping the front end by a few centimetres on climbs does wonders for bikes like this, which can be a handful to keep on track up loose, steep fireroad grinds. As we mentioned before, we ditched the fork’s remote CTD lever – we think the travel adjustment is far more important on this kind of bike than remote lockouts.
Compared to many new all-mountain wheel offerings, the e13 TRS rims are a little bit narrower than we’re becoming accustomed too. But these wheels are certainly stiff, thanks to absolutely massive hub shells/flanges, and the rims come ready for tubeless use, just add valves and spooge. They’re also amongst the loudest wheels we’ve ever ridden, which is sure to divide riders into the ‘look at me, look at me’ crew and those who want to actually talk to their mates while riding!
The Collusus N9 is the funnest thing to come out of Indonesia since those Gudang Garam clove cigarettes that gave us head spins back in year 8 at high school. (Smoking is bad, kids!) But seriously, this bike is incredibly playful, especially given its generous chunk of travel. With its relatively short wheel base, it wants to hop, flick about and manual, hiding its 160mm of bounce until you need it. The same can be said of the way this bike pedals – it’s stable and efficient under pedalling efforts, not wallowing about like some 160mm bikes.
The bike’s immediate, first-pedal-stroke acceleration isn’t quite as good, which we put down to the frame’s rear end flex. It just seems to lose a bit of that initial snap when you first put down the power, when compared to a stiffer framed bike.
Carrying speed, however, is not an issue, as both fork and rear suspension do a fantastic job of getting the wheels moving out of the way of the bumps that want to slow you down. The suspension design is super active, delivering excellent traction under power. We’re certain the FOX Float X shock plays a big role too, as its arguably the most responsive and smoothest air shock on the market, handling fast, repeated hits beautifully.
Getting the fork pressure dialled was easy thanks to the handy setup guide on the FOX website, and from the word go we were 100% happy with the fork’s feel, the rear end took a little more twiddling. We ultimately ended up running a tad less sag than usual for this style of bike (just on 25%), which delivered the balance that we wanted. If we dropped the pressures towards the 30% sag mark, we found the bike hitting the bottom of its travel a bit easily and not keeping in step with the fork. It’s always worth taking a shock pump out for your first few rides we think, and the Polygon proved this once again. Once we had the pressures dialled, the bike’s balance was impossible to fault.
Descending is obviously the bike’s forte, and we loved how quiet and smooth the Polygon was. The fact that it’s such a playful, manoeuvrable machine makes it easy to manhandle around technical trails, putting the wheels exactly where you want them, and the grip is sensational (great tyres, supple suspension), letting you brake hard and late with the awesome Shimano stoppers. We wouldn’t say it’s a class leader in flat-out, super rough terrain – there are other longer and slacker 160mm bikes that will serve you better if you’re looking for downhill bike stability at speed – but for the kind of steep, techy descending that most riders will be doing, the N9 is brilliant. It’s a fun bike in corners too, making easy work of tighter trails that would bog a lot of other bikes in this category down.
The Polygon’s climbing prowess is fine on shorter inclines, where you can get out of the saddle and hit the climb nice and quickly. On long grinders we found ourselves wishing for a little bit more length – either a slightly longer stem or a longer top tube – as the upright seating position is hard on the lower back. As with every bike, it’s important to get a test ride if you can, and we wouldn’t be surprised if many riders go up a size over their usual, in the N9 in order to get the required top tube length.
In today’s market, and particularly in this rapidly-growning all-mountain segment, it takes a lot to standout. But the N9 really does; it looks amazing, is excellent value (yes, an expensive bike can still be good value), blends fun and confidence perfectly, and registers Polygon as a serious contender for the ‘most-improved’ award in the industry. Make sure you check the length of the bike before you buy, because some riders may want to size up, but otherwise you should have no reservations about handing over your hard-earned for this weapon and hitting those rowdy trails on a bike that quite clearly comes from the future.
You ain’t seen curves until you’ve taken a good look at the new carbon monster from Polygon, the Collosus N9. As ridden by the strong Hutchinson UR team, this 27.5″ wheeled 160mm travel bike with the new FS3 floating suspension design is a seriously trippy looking machine, and it’s all ours for a little while for review.
Polygon bikes from Indonesia are growing rapidly into the higher end of the range here in Oz, with an effective online consumer-direct purchasing model from Bicycles Online, the impressive value and ease of availability of their huge range is a real standout feature. Sure, value is a good thing but most important importantly how do the high end bikes ride? We’ll find out soon enough, but to begin we deliver our first impressions in our Flow’s First Bite.
To satisfy the needs of the Hutchinson UR enduro team as they take on the Enduro World Series, Polygon have come up with a seriously burly and hardy bike with many of the vital areas for serious shredding covered off; relaxed angles, a short rear end, meaty tyres and a wide and roomy cockpit. Just looking at the numbers, the N9 looks to err on the side of an agile long legged trail bike rather than a big steam roller, with its fairly sharp 66.5 degree head angle and a tight 431mm chain stay.
What makes the N9 appear to be so unique is the long and curvy seat stays and myriad of wild carbon shapes. Typically when you have long sections of carbon like we see here, there is the risk of unwanted lateral flex, but our first impressions when riding just around the block exhibit nothing to be worried about at all, it is solid. Looking down on the frame the crazy shapes of glisten and shine as they curve and weave all over the place, and closer inspections reveal some highly intricate graphics and very smart detail touches making this bike one of the most striking to ever grace our presence.
Spec wise, Polygon have got it spot on with the N9, a mixture of SRAM, Shimano, e*thirteen, Spank and RockShox deck out this high end ride. A SRAM 11 speed single ring drivetrain and Shimano XT brakes represent what we believe is the best of both worlds from the two main players in the mountain bike game. The XT brakes are as tough, powerful and reliable as they come, and we have never found the limits of SRAM XX1 on any style of bike.
Flow fave’s the Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres find their way onto the N9, with a smaller casing one on the back wheel to keep weight down and the lower profile tyre helps the N9 to achieve such a short rear chain stay length as tyre clearance looks quiet tight. Mounted to e*thirteen wheels with one of the loudest freehubs in existence, the wheels are sure to be up to serious abuse.
The lustrous gold coloured Kashima FOX Float X rear shock is sandwiched between two opposing aluminium linkages which compress it from both ends. The lower link is of the ‘floating’ type to give the rear wheel the Polygon engineers a specific axle path as it motions through its suspension range. A variation of the popular design seen in major brands like Santa Cruz and Giant, what makes the N9 different is the way the top shock mount also pivots, compressing the shock from the top. The FOX Float X CTD shock has three modes of compression adjustment via the blue lever on the drive side.
There is no geometry or travel adjustment options, or any provisions for a water bottle on the bike, but that just gives us the opportunity to wear a brightly coloured hydration bag that matches our gloves in true enduro fashion.
So, off we go to the put the N9 through its paces, keep an eye out for our full review soon.
The Polygon UR team are absolutely all over it, getting these great team edits out faster than cheeseburgers at a drive-thru.
It’s really cool to see behind the scenes of the EWS – we’re all obviously very familiar with the downhill circuit, so it’s interesting to get inside the minds and lives of riders on the Enduro circuit too.
The new Polygons that the team are all on look good too! Hopefully we can wrangle a review on one shortly.
Champagne and caviar are grand, but what if your budget only extends to beer (non-imported) and bar snacks? And maybe a bowl of wedges…. Mmmm…wedges…
Polygon are a brand looking out for that beer drinker, offering some truly exceptional value bikes. Not long ago we tested their flagship downhill bike, the Collosus, and now we’ve had a chance to test the 27.5″ wheeled Recon 4. It’s a 120mm-travel trail bike, and it’s a lot of fun for just $1400.
Built from 6061 aluminium, the Recon is a pretty smart looking frameset. While it doesn’t have all bells and whistle of a more expensive bike (such as internal cabling or 142x12mm dropouts), there’s still a tapered head tube for front end stiffness, and very importantly the suspension pivots are all easy-to-service cartridge bearings.
The suspension configuration is a simple arrangement – the main pivot is low and close to the bottom bracket, with a link to stiffen the rear end and tune the shock rate. Without any prior experience on the Epicon RL rear shock, we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of suspension performance; the shock has rebound adjustment and a basic lockout function too.
Tyre clearance is fine for the kind of rubber this bike’s riders are likely to use, and the sizing for medium-sized frame felt perfect for our test rider. The overall wheelbase of the bike is pretty compact, but the top tube and cockpit don’t feel cramped, thanks in part to the sensible decision to run a 720mm-wide handlebar.
Our only gripe is the cable routing on this frame, which forces the brake and gear lines to bend as the suspension compresses, leading to problems with cable rub. Make sure you have frame protection stickers in place on the seat tube, or you’ll damage your frame in no time on a muddy ride.
For many buyers, the Recon will be their first ‘serious’ mountain bike, for whom $1400 is pretty good-sized investment. They’re looking for a bike that isn’t going to cost a lot to maintain, and reliability is vital. In this regard, the Recon is perfectly specced and with a little preventative maintenance, this should be a hassle-free bike.
Shimano has been given the nod to keep the Recon shifting, braking and rolling smoothly – the 10-speed Deore drivetrain is matched up to a basic Octalink crankset. This older Octalink bottom bracket / crankset system mightn’t be a light or stiff as newer outboard bearing systems, but it’s always proven reliable in our experience. A triple chain ring is the right choice for this bike too, offering riders a huge gearing range to climb out of any valley they’ve inadvertently found themselves in! Polygon opted for the cheaper non-clutch Deore derailleur and this is an oversight in our opinion; the Shadow Plus clutch-equipped derailleur would deliver a quieter ride with superior chain retention too.
For an entry-level hydraulic disc, the brakes are fantastic. They’re easy to setup, the lever feel is solid with decent power too. We’re not sure how they’d go over a super long descent, but for generally punting about the trails they’re great.
Throughout our testing, the Shimano wheels remained true, and they’re an easy item to service as well. In terms of rubber, the Schwalbe Smart Sam tyres are ok – skid them into oblivion over a few months riding and look for something with more support as your riding improves and you start pushing the bike harder.
It has been a while since we rode a fork as skinny as the Rockshox 30 TK Gold, with its 30mm legs and quick release axle. As expected, it’s not a particularly stiff item, but it is properly damped, the air spring is easy to setup and it responds to the bumps with surprising smoothness. We don’t think it holds the bike back in any way.
All of our testing of this bike was conducted at Sydney’s Manly Dam. Being Sydney’s best known riding location for newbie mountain bikers, this is exactly the kind of place we’d expect many Recons to be ridden. This bike quickly reminded us that, as nice as a $8000 carbon duallie might be, you can have a lot fun – and ride pretty fast – on a bike that costs far, far less.
Geometry is the most important element of any bike, and the Recon has a fun, flickable and responsive ride. It’s a super easy bike to pop up onto its back wheel (it’ll wheelie forever) and changing lines is done as quickly as thinking about it. It’s not a bike for ploughing over the rough, as the lightweight fork is not built for that kind of hammering, but the Recon is adept and hopping over, or picking a line through, the ugly terrain.
One of our pre-ride concerns with the Recon was how the rear shock would perform, but we needn’t have worried. We were genuinely surprised by how well the rear suspension worked overall. There’s a little bit of suspension movement under pedalling forces, but no more than many other bikes of similar travel. You could use the lockout, but it’s very firm and pretty much redundant except for the tarmac. The fork’s rebound adjustment is fairly imprecise (it goes from super slow to very fast with only three clicks in between). While this doesn’t sound overly sophisticated, it actually makes setting up the suspension very simple.
Without any chain slap protection, the Polygon sounds rougher than it really is. Putting on a Shadow Plus derailleur with a clutch mechanism to reduce chain slap is a simple upgrade that we’d consider when the original derailleur meets its maker. A clutch derailleur would make the bike feel much smoother.
Ergonomics make a huge difference to a bike’s confidence, and Polygon got it right here. The 80mm stem and 720mm bar are a welcome, confidence inspiring addition, giving you a strong riding position to tame the bike if it does get a little loose. While the tyres are ok, we think some rubber with more supportive side knobs would help to give riders a bit more reassurance.
The Polygon is a really good bike, especially at $1400. It’s surprisingly comfortable and agile, reasonably light, with a component spec that places emphasis on reliability. Upgrading the tyres and rear derailleur down the line are ways to sweeten an already great package, but even completely stock, this bike will keep a new mountain biker stoked for a many, many rides.
We do test a lot of pretty high-end bikes here at Flow. We admit it – we’re nasty little gear-whores. But what if you can’t afford a $5000 carbon bike? What if your budget is less than a third of that?
Turns out that you can still get quite a lot of machine for under $1400. The new Polygon Recon 4.0 is a 27.5″-wheeled, 120mm-travel cross country bike with some really impressive features for such a relatively meagre price tag.
Popping the Recon onto the scales was a real surprise, weighing in at just 13.6kg (or around $1 for every 10g of bike). That’s a LOT lighter than we expected.
The frame won’t win any beauty contests, but it looks perfect sound from a practicality, reliability and construction standpoint, and obviously the frame weight isn’t excessive. With Shimano from head to toe we’ve got no issue with the component selection. Sure, the Octalink cranks are a little outdated, but we used this system for many years without worry.
Top marks to Polygon for including the Rockshox Recon TK Gold fork, which is considerably lighter and smoother than the Recon TK Silver fork (which uses steel legs). We’ll put a question mark alongside the Suntour Epicon rear shock for now. Hopefully it can handle the jandle out on the trails.
It sounds strange to say, but we’re actually really looking forward to putting the glitzy bikes aside for a while and testing this bike. We think it’ll be pleasantly refreshing to remind ourselves that you can still have a hell of a lot of fun on a bike that’s doesn’t have a dollar value higher than Craig Thomson’s credit card bill.
No one has attempted to double them up since Nathan Rennie and Andrew Mills back in (approx) 2001. Mick’s been thinking about giving it a go for 12 years. It only took him two runs to commit and huck it. Our favourite part is Tracey Hannah’s scream!
If you haven’t heard of Polygon before, we wouldn’t be surprised. When it comes to most things from Indonesia, Australia is generally pretty disengaged (aside from our favourite political football, asylum seeker boat arrivals). But this is a brand worth paying attention to – they’re actually one of the world’s biggest manufacturers, producing bikes for a number of other brands- and this bike in particular warrants extra attention.
Why? Well not just because it is simply absurd value for money, but also because this is the very same bike that Mick Hannah won the National Champs on this year.
It’s a long way from the glory of the World Champs to the downhill tracks of Sydney, but they’ll have to do! We dusted off the full face, strapped some knee pads onto ageing legs and took this silver beast into the bush.
Holy Toledo, what a beast! In glistening silver and white, with CNC machined alloy aplenty, the Collosus DHX is an impressive looking bike. Your eye is naturally drawn to the web of alloy and pivots, housing the FOX RC4 shock, nestled around the bottom bracket. It’s a complex looking arrangement, but in reality there are no more pivots than any other twin-link rear suspension design.
The lower pivot incorporates the bottom bracket shell, which is encircled by two massive bearings. This link pivots directly around the bottom bracket axle and also drives the rear shock. This main pivot uses pinch bolts, with threaded inserts so you can’t stuff the frame – this is a blessing as disassembling this linkage would require some serious spanner time and pinch bolts mean less stuffing about.
All the weight is down low and very central, great for stability. The shock is surprisingly easy to adjust despite its location and it’s well protected from debris flung off the rear wheel by a neat carbon shield.
If we look at the suspension behaviour, the linkage gives a wheel path that’s just like a high-pivot design. The rear wheel moves backwards quite markedly at the start of the travel, before tending more vertical in the deeper parts of the travel. It’s an incredibly supple design too, and the three-inch stroke FOX DHX RC4 moves at the slightest touch.
Geometry wise, the DHX isn’t as raked out as some, with a 64-degree head angle, but you can fit an AngleSet if you’re inclined to slacker it further. For our local downhill tracks, anything slacker is overkill, and we’re inclined to say that’s the case for most Australian terrain.
We never changed the wheelbase, leaving the chain stays at 440mm, but you can move alter the length by 5mm in either direction. This simply involves fitting different dropout and rear brake mount inserts, but we were happy with the geometry anyhow so we didn’t mess about.
In this setting, the wheelbase was 1173mm, which is a tad shorter than some of the competition in an equivalent size (we were on a medium). For example, a Giant Glory has a wheelbase of 1211mm, a Norco Aurum 1192mm. Going up a size to a large adds another 50mm to the wheelbase. As we said above, for most Australian riding, we feel that the shorter wheelbase is pretty appropriate, but going to a size large frame may still be the preference for riders out there seeking maximum stability.
We’re not sold on the Marzocchi-made Maxle style rear axle. We’d prefer a standard bolt up arrangement which would provide more clearance and is also more reliable.
The cable routing, underneath the down tube, is clean but not hassle free. Because of the way the suspension moves, it’s necessary to have a fair bit of cable hanging below the bottom bracket. With such a low bottom bracket height, we did occasionally end up with some sticks hitching a ride, caught up in the gear and rear brake lines.
We’re not aware of another downhill bike available in Australia that can come close in this area; the component spec found on the DHX doesn’t make financial sense. The very best from FOX, Shimano, Mavic and Schwalbe adorn the Collosus, for a price that’s around $700 less than the other king of value, Giant’s Glory 0.
Saint brakes, shifting and cranks need no introduction. The 36-tooth chain ring is encased in an MRP Mini G2 chain guide with bash guard (well needed, given the low bottom bracket height) also a quality item. The suspension is from the top shelf too, with a Kashima-coated FOX 40RC2 fork and DHX RC4 rear shock, both delivering eight inches of travel.
The yellow hoops of Mavic’s Dee-Max wheelset have been always been at the top of wish list and it’s extremely rare to see them on an off-the-shelf bike. Ordinarily they’re an upgrade, but here they are, and shod in Schwalbe tubeless rubber too. The Muddy Mary tyres are awesome, and the Trail Star compound (rather than the gummier Vert Star) is a good choice from both durability and rolling speed perspectives. They’re set up without tubes too, so pinch flats are a thing of the past.
Kore provided the bar, stem and funky T-Rail saddle and post. Kore isn’t a name you see so often any more, but it looks great, with the white bars setting off the bike perfectly. The build kit really is perfect, are reasonably light too, keeping the whole bike to 17.26kg.
It’d been a little while since we’d swung a leg over a downhill bike (too much time on the trail bike!) and it’s always a good feeling to get back into it. The Polygon made it easy for us, giving us no nasty surprises as we re-learnt the lines.
Suspension set up can take a while when you’ve got so much adjustability on hand. Fortunately we found the spring rates (medium in the fork, 350lbs for the rear shock) perfect. A few clicks of high-speed compression damping was all we needed to feel totally confident in the FOX 40’s performance.
The rear end is more complicated. Polygon’s FS2 linkage gives the DHX a very pronounced rearward axle path for the first half of the travel. This is great when it comes to compliance, but the associated chain growth can be clearly felt through your pedals. We wound on a few turns of low-speed compression to keep the rear end more stable under pedalling and minimise this feeling. This trait that really was only pronounced at slower speeds – once up to speed, pedalling over rough sections of track was less of a chore.
Polygon importer, Bicycles Online, had informed us that some riders were opting to stiffen the rear shock by 50lbs, but we didn’t feel the need. While we did find the bottom of the travel on a few occasions, adding some high speed compression damping gave us the feeling of support we wanted.
The overall stiffness of the bike is praise worthy too, with the rear end matching the immense lateral stiffness of the FOX 40s. It’s a reassuring feeling, giving you the confidence to keep your feet up and slide the bike into corners or cut inside berms, or get you out of trouble if you come into land a bit crooked.
Drivetrain noise wasn’t a problem we expected, but the Polygon makes a bit of a racket on the trail. There’s no chain slap protection on the seat stay (get some Frame Wrap on there), and the Saint derailleur sits super close to the chain stay when in the higher gears, leading it to knock against the frame loudly. It’s something we’ve encountered before on our Norco Aurum long term test bike, and it can be easily remedied by fitting a small adaptor that creates more clearance. (Watch this video for more info).
Going fast is where the Polygon is best; when you’re not pedalling, and it’s got a lot of rocks to run over. The super supple suspension and stout fork make light work of heavy terrain, and the FS2 suspension carries momentum exceptionally well.
This isn’t just a great value bike that you’d buy for the build kit alone, oh no, this is a great bike full stop. We’re not saying that $5000 will buy you Mick Hannah’s skills and enormous calves, but it will get you a bike that has proven itself as the fastest in Oz. And it’s a bike that’s got us itching to ride more downhill too – we’re stoked.
With Mick and Tracy Hannah on board, it’s little wonder that people have begun paying a lot attention to Polygon in the last few months. Indeed the pair both won the National Champs earlier this year on this exact frame.
This Indonesian based manufacturer produces bikes that are pretty absurd value for money – the bang for the buck of the Collosus is unquestionable, with a full Saint groupset, Mavic Dee Max and top-shelf FOX suspension for under $5K. But component spec is only one part of the equation. It’s geometry, suspension performance and ride quality that actually win races.
We’ll be giving the Collosus a solid run over the coming weeks to see if it’s just as impressive on the trail as it is in the catalogue. In the meantime here’s a run down of some of the key features and components.
After a great 2012 year during which the team made it on to more than 34 podiums throughout the season, Hutchinson UR has some important goals for 2013. The team has chosen Polygon as frames sponsor and welcomes the recently crowned female junior world champion, Holly Feniak.
Sometimes decisions regarding bike partners are difficult to take. But signing with Polygon was an easy choice for the team. Yannick Granieri and Sam Reynolds, friends of the team and slopestylers already riding for Polygon told the team that the brand was very professional and passionate about racing. After some testing with different bikes in Whistler last Autumn, Fabien and Mick realized that the Polygon DHX was the fastest bike that they had been riding. The team went to Indonesia in October to visit the factory and it became clear that Polygon and Hutchinson UR share the same goals and values. On top of that, Polygon is giving the riders a lot of liberty to develop the gravity range and to make all the bikes even faster.
To officially launch this partnership, Mick Hannah, his sister Tracey, Fabien Cousinié, Guillaume Cauvin and Holly Feniak all met up in Surabaya in Indonesia to launch the 2013 season at Polygon HQ accompanied by their title sponsor Hutchinson Tires.
Yustian Nimara from Polygon says :“We are very excited with the signing of the team to represent Polygon in the World Cup circuit for the first time and it’s a dream come true to work together with outstanding athletes like Mick & Tracey Hannah and the junior world champion Holly Feniak. This will be an exciting time for both the team and Polygon to step up to the next level and to follow our strategic plan of working with young and outstanding athletes.”
Jérome Dumartin from Hutchinson says : “After the good season in 2012, we are proud to support our team again and we expect lots of great results especially since the arrival of Holly Feniak. Our presence on the mountain bike downhill scene is an essential strategic choice for Hutchinson ; our DH range is more and more complete every year in order to respond to the teams and customers needs.”
The Hutchinson and Polygon partnership is very helpful for the team’s improvement in racing and product development. Hutchinson will be providing tires for all of Polygon’s downhill and enduro range.
The team would like to thank the following sponsors to keep being part of the adventure for 2013 :
Hutchinson for tires, AllTricks.com as official bikeshop, Fox for suspensions , Formula for braking, Spank for cockpit, Bluegrass helmets and protections, Crank Brothers for pedals and seat posts, Zodiac Watches, 100% for goggles and sunglasses, Mavic for wheels, E13 for cranks, chain guides and chain rings, Zéfal pumps and chain lubs, Blackmountain snowscoot, ODI grips, FiveTen for shoes and Kronos titanium springs.
The team is also proud to welcome as partners :
Polygon as Bikes sponsors
Alpinestars for racing and casual clothes
Fizik for saddles
Sony for helmet cam
VP Components, for headsets
JetBlack Products for trainers
Clear Protect for frames protections