PRODUCT REVIEW: THE POLYGON SQUARE ONE EX9
IS THIS THE BIKE THAT WOULD REINVENT POLYGON'S BRAND CULTURE?
The Square One EX Series represents a new direction for Polygon Bikes. And an ambitious one at that. For a start, it has a chiseled futuristic shape that breaks away from the conventional double triangle full-suspension frame silhouette. It has a revolutionary and well-hyped new suspension system – the NAILD R3ACT which Polygon believe will bring riders back to times when riding was just … about RIDING. All the rocket science tech jargon and acronyms which you will be seeing as you read on only aims at one thing – that the rider forgets about reading the brochure and focuses on enjoying the ride once they got onto one (literally). Any trail, anywhere. We find out how this bike delivers all that.
Before we hop on the Polygon Square One, we immersed ourselves with its concept and tech-talks to understand what this new ATV ( ok … bike) wishes to deliver to the rider. The bike is designed with a short rear end for tackling technical terrain and quick cornering. The elevated chainstay, unique to the NAILD R3ACT- 2Play Suspension System, is supposed to act as an extension of rider’s movement. The intended result is to help the rider get more speed and extend his riding range, move over obstacles quicker which naturally improves lap times, reduces rider fatigue and increases trail confidence. That's like the full wish list of what a typical rider would want from a perfect do-it-all! We ride ONE to find out.
One of our stoked
test riders exclaimed:
"This bike eats roots for
breakfast, lunch, and dinner!"
FIRST IMPRESSION – THE POLYGON SQUARE ONE EX9
There's lots of hot stuff on both the EX-8 and EX-9. We will focus only on the EX-9. The frame is full ACX carbon with180mm of travel from a Fox factory Float X2, matched with a 180mm Fox Factory 36 Float fork. Brakes and drivetrain are SRAM XX1 Eagle 12-speed with SRAM Guide Ultimate brakes on 180mm rotors. Rolling on e13 TRS carbon, wirth boost 15 x 110 mm front hubs and 12 x 148mm rear hubs on Schwalbe Nobby Nics 27.5" x 2.6" tyres. The cockpit is decked with a combination of Raceface and Entity products.
At first glance, it looked to us that Polygon wasn't quite buying into the "long and low" design concept common with many enduro frame design. The Square One has a relatively regular head angle of 66 deg, matched to a slack seat tube angle of 66-67 deg (depending on size of frame). This give a comfortable 445.8 mm of reach to a medium frame user. The bottom bracket felt a bit high at 354 mm and the the bike has a wheelbase of approximately 1180 mm.
Once we got on the bike, the bike felt roomy enough and very agile on the front end while the rear felt composed. More on this later.
Normal reading for chain stay length doesn't do this bike justice as the rear swing arm goes all the way to the front passing the bottom bracket. This makes any reading of chain stay length not a good gauge of its rear flicking ability. Rather, it would be good to see how "slammed" the rear wheel is to the bottom bracket section.
If you need a point of reference with typical "long and low" concept frames, here's a quick check:
Average head tube angle: 65 deg, seat tube angle: 74 deg and wheelbase ranging from 1180mm to 1200mm for a medium size frame.
Normally, we would take such numbers as a good benchmark to see how our test bike measures up, but in this case, the numbers somehow weren't as important. This frame is not an "usual" frame.
WHAT IS NAILD R3ACT
The NAILD R3ACT is a modified four bar suspension system that Polygon claims to bring new levels of comfort, control and efficiency to a range of bike categories where current designs don't perform well. The R3ACT System preserves the rider's energy by acting like a rigid fork on smooth terrain. Once an obstacle is encountered (potholes, bumps) the rider’s weight reacts on the handlebars (Newton's 3rd Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.) activating the system. With the fully activated suspension system at work now, the R3ACT can track the terrain maintaining wheel contact with minimal loss in forward momentum. This linkage system combines travel from above and below the frame. Riding geometry and tyre contact remain constant throughout resulting in improved handling, braking and control while reducing fatigue.
We were just not convinced that
we could not get to a section that
the Square One would just give up
and give us some pedal bob.
ONE MORE LOOK AT THE NAILD R3ACT AND THE SQUARE ONE FRAME
Currently, the NAILD R3ACT-2PLAY is only available on the Square One and in carbon. We heard hints that this system would move on to the other categories of bikes in the Polygon stable although it was not a firm statement.
Compared with the other suspension system employed by Polygon – the FS platform, when used on a long travel bike, the NAILD R3ACT-2PLAY is a lot more linear and plush at the beginning of the stroke. And sealing the "win" is the design of the Square One frame; which works within an optimal geometry boundary to create this excellent climbing long travel do-it-all. In our opinion, it is this complete system of the new frame design and the customized linkage NAILD R3ACT system that gave the Square One its excellent performance.
RIDING THE SQUARE ONE
For our test rides, we had a handful of riders with different riding styles all taking the few units of Square Ones and setting them to their weight. We used the following setting to review our findings: Front: Fox Float 36 180mm at 50 PSI, approximately 25% sag, rebound: fast (to match the rear shock's rebound). Rear: Fox Float X2 Custom Tune, 150PSI, 25% sag, rebound: 0% damping and compression: 0% damping. This setting was also what Polygon recommended for initial rides to fully appreciate the R3ACT-2Play Suspension system. It's simply out the box and ride.
We tried climbing up a steep section seated first. The pedaling on this bike is surprisingly efficient. Totally unlike the feel of a typical 180mm – more like we were riding a 120mm! There were no pedal bobs but at the same time we felt little trail feedback too. The rear shock's design was able to help the rider gather a lot of traction and efficiency through the changing of the slider's angle as the bike's suspension opens up. Amazing design.
We then tried the same section with an out-of-seat mashing climb. Even with our more aggressive technique, we only detected a very slight pedaling bob from the bike. Similar efficient feel as before and also similar muted feedback as before. But it made easy work of climbs that we previously would have used more energy and higher cadence to overcome.
We had our fair share of guessing before we tried the Square One at rooty and rocky sections of the trail. We were worried that the suspension may go wild with the frequent yet irregular successive bumps from these trail features. On our first lap with the bike, we were pleased with the way the bike behaved when it came into contact with such sections. It was almost like a smooth, glide-over feel as we sail through root sections and rock gardens. There was little to no loss on traction and momentum. From the cockpit, the bike remained calm as most of what happened under the wheels were absorbed. At some point, it feels almost like we were on a Plus bike. Do I hear some reader objections that this would take the fun off riding the technical trails? On the contrary it is more fun now. Try taking this bike though just any line and monstering your way through. And when you have enough of that, ride the same trail again with a better chosen line. Let's just say a bike like this adds more fun to trails you once thought you knew well.
BOBBING THE BIKE
We were just not convinced that we could not get to a section that the Square One would just give up and give us some pedal bob. At least we will then know when is its tipping point for being stable and calm. And so, we went on to some more technical sections and did some crazy stand-up pedal mashing rounds. Again, little to no pedal bob. And again, little trail feedback from the bike.
We are guessing that if we are to temper with the rebound setting of the rear shock, the trail feedback may become more prominent. On the other hand, with the R3ACT-2Play suspension system taking a portion of the rear suspension duties from the shock, the pedal bob may still not be present no matter how "wrong" we tune the shock.
One of our stoked test riders exclaimed: "This bike eats roots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!"
Let's be a little picky on this part. From the era where long travel trail bikes were called All-Mountain bikes, to the present day Enduro-ready bikes, the quest for that perfect do-it-all machine has always been an arms race amongst the notable bike brands. It is not easy to really produce a good all-rounder. The Square One convinced us of its climbing prowess, but could such a good climber really descend well?
We took the Square One on a series of descents, both technical and smooth and was really happy with the way it behaved. The rear practically soaks up everything! Alright, granted it is a 180mm travel bike, and it is relatively easy to have such bikes feeling agile on the descents. So, no big surprise for many readers yet? But what we love about this bike's descend capability is that it is very confidence inspiring. While it is not a fat or a plus-sized bike, it feels very stable yet gave the feeling of simply sailing through the gnarl effortlessly. One of our riders did mention that the rear behaved a little too linearly through the middle to end stroke. This is not really a complain, just an observation of the personality of this bike. Very neutral, confident, yet effortless and quick to steer.
Passing through small hits like low protruding rooty sections and simple rocky sections came back with minimal commotion for this bike. It just laps up everything and felt really at home. On encountering bigger hits, the bike felt slightly unsettled if we take the section hard and fast. (Reminder: the Fox Float X2 was set to fully opened: 0 damping) We are suspecting that should we ride the bike over a longer descend with more successive big hits, we would be able to discover more areas to fine-tune and personalize the Fox Float X2 to our riding style. All in all, we are sold on the fact that the NAILD R3ACT-2PLAY did a great job, making the bike ready for most riders and riding styles straight from the box. And for really fussy riders, more saddle time, some tweaks with the High Speed and Low Speed Rebound would personalize the damping rate to suit their riding style.
This bike proved that it is be a good plower in many occasions. At the same time, it is also a good railer. On rough flat cornering sections, we simply rail the bike into the deep end, and allow the rear wheel to keep us in line. Once in a while, when opportunity allows, we would break traction by giving the rear brakes a quick squeeze. But once the brakes are off, and rear wheel starts rolling, the traction comes back quickly. Riding style and skills aside, this is partly due to the good design of the NAILD R3ACT-2PLAY acting on the rear of the bike. Another confident inspiring example from this bike!
It was a shame. We want more time with this bike!
The bike was tested with the rear shock fully opened. We are really curious how it would behave with our very own personalized tunes on the rebound, compression and volume spacers. By saying this, we are not disagreeing with designer Darrell Voss's concept, but wish to add that not all riders are made the same. Some degree of personalization is always needed before bike and rider feels totally comfortable with each other. (No joke about the "each other" part.)
At fully opened setting, the Square One may come across as too linear and lack personality to some. For those who prefer the rear suspension to be more progressive, adding volume spacers could be the remedy to this. But be warned that doing so would take away some plushness and affect general ride quality.
The factory setting for this bike is also designed for riders within a certain weight range. For normal to heavy riders, the stock setting works well. For lighter riders, the rebound could become too fast. A few young riders reported that they were nearly catapulted off the bike when tackling a certain big obstacle. Slowing the rebound a little would solve this problem.
With the recommend 25% sag, the bottom bracket and ride height of the Square One is a little high as compared to what we were used to. That said, the bike takes cornering well with its NAILD R3ACT-2PLAY.
We all agree that the ONE is a plower during the time we test rode it, and it was no surprise to us that popping the bike result in a slight delay when preloading the jump. This could again be due to the fully opened settings on the Fox Float X2. We didn't have a chance to tweak that to re-try the same trail sections so we are not conclusive on whether this delayed preload feeling will persist with different shock settings. Even at the test setting, the slightly longer preload duration didn't take the fun from the bike itself.
DID THIS ONE DELIVER?
As mentioned, the Square One aims to help riders get more speed and extends their riding range, move over obstacles quicker which improves lap times, reduces rider fatigue and increases on trail confidence. We are happy to say that this rig achieved all that it claims! The quick handling made us pay more attention to our riding, yet we were able to climb better, descent well, tackle every trail feature with confidence yet with a glide-along feel that made the ride easier than usual and more enjoyable. All these translate to less fatigue and more ride time. Well done Polygon!
WHO SHOULD GO SQUARE?
The Square One is probably the bike that would make many fans from other brands switch camps. And Polygon is well aware of this. Their series of demo rides had riders ride a loop of the trail followed by the same trail loop on a Sqaure One. They are very confident that this 180mm do-it-all enduro machine would change their minds about their own bikes, the Square One and the brand Polygon.
Market challenger objectives aside, we think the Polygon Square One is a bike for folks who intend to do many things with their bikes. Ride the bike for weekend fixes, race it, travel the world with it or just about anything else in between. It is not cheap to get one though, but once you own one, we are quite sure it will be a long while before you need another bike.
We are not saying the Polygon Square One is THE perfect do-it-all enduro bike (we do not believe there is such a thing). What we sincerely felt was that this bike, with its NAILD R3ACT- 2PLAY suspension system, pushed the long travel do-it-all bike category another big step ahead.
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For more information on the Polygon Square One, contact one of these Rodalink outlets:
11 Woodlands Close, #01-24,
Phone number:+65 6734 9972
Rodalink One Commonwealth
1 Commonwealth Lane,
#01-14/15 One Commonwealth,
Phone number:+65 6475 4833
Rodalink East Coast
166B Upper East Coast Road,
Phone number: +65 6242 8330
Rodalink Jurong East
18 Boon Lay Way,
Phone number: +65 795 4320