How does this sweet-rid­ing frame­set shape up on the trail?

Cycling Plus (Malaysia) - - FIRST RIDE - GUY KESTEVEN

Avail­able with a choice of wheel sizes and trans­mis­sions, Poly­gon’s Xtrada 6 im­presses on less tech­ni­cal ter­rain, with a good-qual­ity ride and an up-to-date cock­pit that gives fast steer­ing re­ac­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, the ge­om­e­try comes up a bit short when it comes to get­ting rad.

The frame

Poly­gon are rel­a­tively new to the UK but they dom­i­nate the mas­sive mar­ket of their Malaysian home­land and sur­round­ing ar­eas. They’ve also got a his­tory of mak­ing frames for other medium to high-pro­file brands, and that ex­pe­ri­ence shows on the Xtrada. While the 44mm head tube is set up with in­ter­nal bear­ings for the straight-steerer fork, it’d be a sim­ple job to fit an over­size lower bear­ing if you wanted to up­grade to a ta­pered fork. The ex­ten­sively hy­dro­formed (pres­sure shaped) al­loy tube­set also in­cludes a ta­pered, flat, hex-shaped top tube and a curved, squar­ish down tube that flares out at the bot­tom bracket (BB) for ex­tra stiff­ness. Ta­per­ing S-bend rear stays smooth out the ride over rougher ground.

Gear ca­bles and the rear brake hose are routed in­ter­nally through the main­frame, and the front mech is a di­rect-mount ver­sion. The IS, rather than post mount, rear brake at­tach­ment is a bit dated, though, and there’s not much clear­ance for mud around the 29x2.25in tyres. It’s a quick-re­lease (QR) skewer rather than a 142x12mm bolt-through axle hold­ing the back wheel in too, but that’s the case on ev­ery £750 bike we’ve tested this year.

The kit

While the small frame size comes with 650b wheels and the XL with 29in, rid­ers who fall be­tween the two ex­tremes can choose which­ever size they pre­fer or best suits their pro­por­tions. The big wheels on our test bike added ex­tra rolling smooth­ness, and the Sch­walbe Tough Tom tyres (ba­si­cally a cheap ver­sion of the old Nobby Nic de­sign) are OK for the money. You can also choose a 1x10 trans­mis­sion ver­sion of the bike (with re­versed frame colours) if you want to be a bit more mod­ern. Ei­ther way, the Shi­mano De­ore brakes

are ba­sic and wooden-feel­ing but re­li­able. The coil-sprung Sun­tour XCR fork gets a lock­out for smooth climbs but strug­gles to cope with big­ger hits and is heavy too. The skinny 27.2mm seat­post gives some spring un­der the sad­dle and Poly­gon have fit­ted a su­per-short 35mm stem and rea­son­ably wide 760mm bar.

The ride

To­gether with big­ger-than-av­er­age sad­dle lay­back, an al­ready slack (sub 72-de­gree) seat an­gle gives the Xtrada a lively and light bar feel. Put that on top of a 69.5-de­gree head an­gle and it’s quick to nip and tuck be­tween trees on tight sin­gle­track. The frame it­self is im­pres­sively lively in the way it re­sponds to smaller bumps too, skip­ping over roots and rocks. It’s enough to make the Tough Tom tyres, which have felt wooden on other bikes we’ve tested re­cently, seem rel­a­tively smooth too. That makes it a lot of fun to twist, turn and tweak through old-school, low-speed, self-pro­pelled nat­u­ral sin­gle­track. The choice of hard-com­pound 29er tyres means it car­ries speed well when cruis­ing, too.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Xtrada strug­gles when the trail starts get­ting steeper and lumpier. Poly­gon’s claim that their ‘FWG’ ge­om­e­try is more pro­gres­sive for ag­gres­sive trail rid­ing lit­er­ally doesn’t mea­sure up. The head an­gle is su­per-steep by mod­ern stan­dards and the reach is short (435mm on the large), so the bike soon feels ner­vous and twitchy as speed or the down­ward gra­di­ent in­creases. Com­bined with the re­ally short stem, the short reach also cramps breath­ing space sig­nif­i­cantly if you’re giv­ing it full throt­tle up a long climb or in any other po­ten­tially com­pet­i­tive sit­u­a­tion. Over­all weight is 500 to 1,000g heav­ier than is typ­i­cal for the price and cat­e­gory, too.

The fork sur­ren­ders con­trol quickly even over mod­er­ate-sized hits and, while the larger wheels help smooth out smaller im­pacts com­pared to

650b hoops, the Xtrada is soon on the de­fen­sive in more de­mand­ing ter­rain, what­ever the cock­pit might sug­gest.

Ex­ten­sive shap­ing of the Xtrada 6 frame pays off in the form of a lively ride feel The 760mm bar and 35mm stem con­trib­ute to snappy han­dling

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