Words by: Lance Stephenson / Images by: Frans Le Roux
Head Bikes have been available in South Africa for the last couple of months and we were stoked to swing a leg over their premium XC machine.
HEAD is a well-known global tennis racquet manufacturer, also delving into ski equipment with their vast knowledge of carbon and graphite composites. When I got the call to review a Head mountain bike, I will say this, I was surprised. I wasn’t surprised that Head made bikes, but more that they were available here in RSA. Our market for bikes is small, so what was Head offering that made this a lucrative product to
At a first glance the colours are eye catching and bright. The front is raw clear coated carbon with a satin matt finish. I rather like this finish on carbon frames as it allows you to see the carbon layup underneath and any imperfections. The rear end is bright green in a glossy finish, which I didn’t like at first, but it does grow on you. The HEAD logo is white and is tastefully sized on the downtube and looks rather
understated and clean. It’s sort of being conspicuously inconspicuous what with the bright green rear end and all.
The bike’s specs are pretty nicely done, from a Rock Shox SID RL SA to DT Swiss X1700 tubeless wheels and XO1 groupset with Truvativ Descendant Carbon cranks all in the Eagle 12 speed guise. Rear-end bouncy control duties are taken care of by a Rock Shox Monarch XX with Sprint X-Loc. The handlebar is a very nice Control Tech Alloy riser bar, its shape is superb. That’s actually no surprise as Control Tech have been making bars, stems and seatposts since the 80’s. I really enjoyed the shape and sweep of the bar, it was just natural and easy to find that perfect angle. Stem duties were also Control Tech, nothing fancy but a
solid stem nonetheless.
Working out was to the shifters, SRAM XO1, doing the trigger firing here and I just love how much adjustability SRAM offer here; Shimano could learn from this in my opinion. One can find the correct angle and rotation for your thumb and have the correct distance from your hand without the clamps being in an awkward spot. Thumbs up here!
Crank duties are performed by Truvativ with a 32T up front. This size I think, is a safe bet for the masses
considering the Eagles 10T-50T Cassette. The Truvativ Descendant Carbon Crankset is massive and provides solid drive function under load. The Rear derailleur is a XO1 and is simply brilliant and a joy to use. The shifts are still solid and go into a preferred gear when selected which is what you need out of it.
Rolling duties are flawlessly taken care of by DT Swiss, a name you can drool over for performance, quality and reliability. The X1700 Wheelset is light but very stiff, and they roll ever so freely. The wheels came converted tubeless for me, which was a pleasure, I might add. The tyres where one of my favourites, Schwalbe Rocket Ron’s with Addix compound … all I can say is, I love these tyres every day of the week.
What you really want to know is how the bike performs. I can class this bike two ways, first as a good climbing bike. It has a good forward bias posture for climbing, your weight is forward on the bike by design and this is partly due to a shortish chain stay length tucking the rear wheel under you, giving the bike a positive acceleration feel and a nimble direction change when needed. The suspension is slightly active, even when I set my sag at 25%, it still “bobs” a little, but it’s not noticeable off-road, in fact, the sensitivity to small bumps is actually why I call this bike “forgiving” in the second description. The small bump compliance allows the wheels to track the terrain whilst giving you velcro-like traction over rough terrain. Mid stroke of the suspension is a little to linear for my taste, often feeling like the shock suddenly pushes through its stroke at a set bump input before stiffening up to quickly near the end of the stroke. I think that this has less to do with the linkage kinematic and more to do with the Monarch XX tuning. I believe it’s tuned to be run at a higher pressure so that you have less sag.
Due to a longer TT length than a standard medium, and a slackish head-angle, the bike turns very well. Tight turns where positive and high-speed agility was amazing. I can say the bike’s very nimble and begs to be thrashed down trail fast, and this is where it came alive and came undone at the same time. I wanted to go fast, it felt better at high speed, but the rear suspension started getting overwhelmed with constant stutter bumps and long burns down rocky trail. I found the shock stiffened up and changed its behaviour which was manageable, but, not ideal.
The Adapt Edge likes to tackle rocky step-ups thanks to its high BB. It cleared most obstacles without touching the chainring. This means that pedal strikes are very uncommon and that riding or climbing furrows was a doddle. I found I could carry through my pedal strokes without worrying about my pedal catching the walls.
What I Didn’t Like
The bike has QR15mm through axle in the front and 142 x12mm at the back. I would expect a modern offering being Boost by now, thus future proofing my purchase for a while.
XT Brakes, not just because of how they function, but also because of the clamp clutter.
This is a seriously good bike for the price tag – R87 000, but it has some odd part choices which may make the average person overlook it. The bike rides, handles and behaves well pretty much everywhere, I reckon that if I covered this bike, so you couldn’t see the shape or logo’s, most people would struggle to tell me it wasn’t a more known upmarket brand. It’s a great bike and it was fun to ride (which is ultra-important) and it did all the right things well.
For more information on Head Bikes visit: www.head-bike.co.za