Mountain Biking UK

BRITISH BOUTIQUE HARDTAILS

The UK has a rich heritage of building some of the most beautiful bespoke steel bikes in the world. We wanted to celebrate that history by getting our hands on some of the most lust-worthy British-built boutique hardtails around.

In a normal biketest, we’d give each of them a score based on their geometry, kit and ride quality. However, with three of the four brands here offering complete customisation (and the fourth offering a choice of frames and finishing touches), we didn’t think it fair to be too critical of a bike’s shape or smoothness, because these are things that you, as the customer, have the option to modify.

Instead, we’ve spent our time putting in the miles on these bikes all over the South West, getting to grips with the way they ride, while also discovering the options available to you and suggesting what we might keep, or change, were we lucky enough to be in the market for such a machine. Our test bikes all have the brands’ stock geometry. Some came with standard build kits, while others had custom specs.

From the South West we have bikes from Curtis and BTR, both bespoke frame builders. Peak District- based Stanton offer both UK- and Taiwanese-made frames, with the option to alter the finishing details. Then, from just outside Edinburgh, we have Shand, one of Scotland’s most established frame builders.

All four companies will happily talk through the options with you. These aren’t cheap bikes, by any stretch, but they’re all UK-made, and often built to order. Be aware that the wait time is likely to be measured in months, rather than weeks – these aren’t your run-of-the-mill bike purchases! Read on for our take on some of the most stunning machines coming out of the UK right now.

THE TESTER

Tom cut his teeth riding hardtails for a decade before jumping on the full-sus bandwagon and subsequently testing hundreds of mountain bikes over the past eight years, the bulk of which had a rear shock. With a raft of exciting hardtails coming onto the scene, from XC whippets to enduro sleds, he’s fallen head over heels back in love with the direct connection between cranks and rear wheel. Rest assured, these bikes have all been pushed to their limits by Tom.

THE LINE-UP

BTR RANGER from £1,350 (frame)

BTR’s trail bike, but that shouldn’t fool you into thinking it’s just for pootling around

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