This issue we’ve been for a spin on Swarf Cycles’
prototype Contour 29er, Vitus’s Sommet CRX long-travel trail bike and DMR’s first alloy full-susser, the Sled
The 29er market is hot at the moment and Swarf are right on the money with their 115mm-travel Contour. Don’t let the lack of rear bounce fool you – this bike is ready to take a beating!
Outstanding attention to detail gives the Contour the feel of a highly-polished product, making it easy to forget that our sample was just a prototype (Swarf hope to have the finished product ready by the new year). The mainframe and swingarm are lovingly crafted from various different types of steel tubing (see spec), and the frame has amazingly clean lines, with a built-in seat clamp and neat and well-thought-out external routing for the rear brake hose and gear cable. We particularly like the way the top tube and seatstays form a single straight line along the length of the bike.
Swarf have opted for a singlepivot suspension layout combined with a linkage-actuated shock. The swingarm has 6mm of vertical flex built in, which eliminates the need for a pivot above the dropouts. Ady, Swarf’s owner, says he spent a long time engineering the design so that it worked with the smallest amount of flex possible. He’s also configured the suspension to be exceptionally progressive.
The rocker link on our bike was machined from 6082-T6 aluminium, but production bikes will lose the seatstay brace to improve tyre clearance and use a carbon fibre link instead to maintain stiffness. A range of rear shocks will be available, including the Cane Creek DBair IL fitted here. The frame itself weighs a claimed 3.35kg (large size, without shock).
Vital statistics include 115mm of rear wheel travel, a 67-degree head angle and a steep 75.5-degree seat angle. Our large sample had a *Price will depend on shock model specified and will be higher with the DB air used here.
long 465mm reach and 1,210mm wheelbase, plus 445mm chainstays.
The Contour will only be available as a frame, but we can see a lot of buyers opting for a similar build to ours, which included a RockShox Pike RCT3 fork and Reverb post, and Shimano XT brakes and gearing. Light Bicycle carbon wheels with a 31.6mm internal width gave a nice wide tyre profile and felt neither especially twangy nor overly stiff.
Swing a leg over the Swarf and, even in the car park, you’d think it’s got more than 115mm of travel, thanks to the plush shock and impressively progressive rear end. On the trail, it’s a blast. The suspension fills you with confidence that it’ll handle anything you throw its way. Put rock gardens, roots and massive compressions in front of the Contour and it’ll chomp through them without making a fuss. As a bonus, it’s got great smallbump compliance too, because the progressiveness of the rear end means you can run lower shock pressures than normal.
Despite its smooth and plush feel, it’s no blancmange on the trail. The steel frame is forgiving and takes some of the harshness out of washboard ripples and trail chatter, but it still goes exactly where you point it. That bump-dulling ability doesn’t translate to twanginess either. It’s stiff, strong and supple. While the 67-degree head angle sounds steep compared to the latest 650b enduro bikes, it’s relatively slack for a short-travel 29er. Even when ragging down rough straights or steep sections, we didn’t feel like we were getting pitched forward or that the front was tucking under.
If you’re in the market for a handmade trail bike that punches well above its weight, the Swarf 29er’s special ride and well-thoughtout details mean that it needs to be on your radar.
Don’t let the skinny stays and short travel fool you – this bike is built to take a beating
Buyers can choose between a Cane Creek DBair shock (seen here), the coil version or a RockShox Monarch