PRODUCT REVIEW: COAST CYCLES TRAIL BIKES
WE CHECKED OUT THE ATOM AND AXIS ON OUR BACKYARD TRAILS AND CAME OUT SMILING
The Atom and Axis are a departure from Coast Cycles' usual commuter bikes genre. These are true mountain bikes! Tough yet clean, was the first impression we had when they were unveiled to us. We found out how they performed on the trails. Read on for the details.
TOUGH TRAIL BIKES WITH CLEAN LOOKS
Coast Cycles is a well-remembered bike label here in Singapore. They are a Singaporean home-grown bicycle brand, and they have been winning numerous accolades for their designs. Their brand identity and art direction have certainly crystallized with those who have been aware of the brand's products.Their early focus were on hip-looking bikes for commuting the cityscape. Then came the Atom and the Axis. According to Coast Cycles, both bikes are designed to be "Single track Trail bikes" meant for all day rides. The end result is, these bikes would reflect their intended strengths: able to flow along the narrow singletracks, comfortable with tight low-speed turns, all the while maintaining efficiency and control during climbs even through rocks and/or roots, as well as sporting good maneuverability at switchbacks.
While these wishlist items are commonly seen amongst many bike designs, they can translate into very different outcomes based on the designers' interpretation of what they deem is "optimal" for their bike. The combination of variables would eventually shape the personality of the bike.
In short, we are looking at lots of tweaks on frame geometry, tubing thickness and placement of reinforcements/gussets, to placement of linkage during any design process. And there you have it … put all these together and you get a new bike. Sounds easy? NOT.
Coupled with both bikes' Plus Bike interchangeability, you are looking at bikes with 4 different permutations of riding feel!
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BIKES
Both the Atom and Axis suspension linkage exhibit a lively and progressive leverage curve property, even for the 29er Atom. During heavy mashing, the suspension remains active – a typical characteristic of the Horst Link. This allows the bike to feel totally competent in rough terrain.
Contrary to current trends of long top tubes and slack head angles, Coast Cycles' trail bikes are built relatively long but with moderate angled head tubes. This is then matched to stems ranging from 35 mm – 50 mm depending on riders' preference. The reason for this design is to cater to a wider group of riders. This geometry allows for low speed turns without having to over-lean the bikes. And in trails where there are lots of tight bends, this would be greatly appreciated.
With a seat tube angle of 75.2 – 76.2 deg, the rider would be at a very centerd or neutral position while seated. This would mean a planted front wheel when climbing seated down. Even with the steep seat tube, the cockpit section of the bike felt spacious for its size.
One thing that we felt was the best feature of these 2 bikes was their ultra short rear-center measurements. Again, we are not saying this is a first, but what we are saying is, these 2 trail bikes achieved what their designers wanted them to be – playful, poppy trail bikes that possess good climbing manners and comfort.
Both frames adopts the 148 mm boost standard and are designed to fit plus sized tyres of up to 3.0 inches.
An extra feature worth mentioning is the flip chip for both bikes which allows for a +/- 0.7 deg adjustment to head angle and +/- 7 mm adjustment to bottom bracket height. Coupled with both bikes' Plus Bike interchangeability, you are looking at bikes with 4 different permutations of riding feel!
As a frame adopting the Horst Linkage design, we would be sure that these bikes have great small bumps compliance. Both the Atom and Axis are matched to Rockshox Monach RT3 rear shocks, which served their purposes very well.
The round butted tubing on the bikes accentuate the clean retro feel, and at the same time, allows for a more uniformed stiffness throughout the frame. According to Coast Cycles, the round tubes also damps trail chatter better.
The pivots are joined at the downtube rather that the seat tube. This helps to isolate the vibration from the seat tube and rider.
On the quality front, Coast Cycles pays a lot of attention in making sure that their bikes are not just "another bike in the store". They would spare no expense and choose the CNC option over cost-cutting welded ones. Examples include 1piece CNC chainstay yoke, And CNC bottom bracket with main pivot.
(Very neat internal routing cover)
If mountain bike designs can be associated with other consumer goods, we would say Coast Cycles bikes look right at home with Apple Computers. Both brands share a clean uncluttered design language. And Coast Cycles let this design language trickled to their trail bikes – the Atom and the Axis.
The clean look is further reinforced by the neat internal routing and cable cover throughout the bike.
Being a brand that emphasize a lot on good design and user experience, Coast Cycles took into consideration mountain bikers' riding habits when they designed the frame. Mundane routines like racking the bike to the car, to washing it after riding, all influenced how the end products turned out. And those end products are the Atom and Axis. They are designed for easy stowing onto bike racks with the bottom of the top tube kep clean and unobstructed. The linkages are also designed with a slightly wider gap in between the moving parts for easy washing. There are also pre-drilled holes under the bottom bracket for easy drainage.
Currently, both the Atom and the Axis comes only in full white and full black. The feedback we got from our test riders were that they loved the clean looks!
The Atom is a 27.5 Plus and a 29 mm trail bike with 140 mm rear travel (Monach RT3 190X51). It is recommended to match with a 150 mm fork. Riding the Atom was fun. We started our ride feeling that it is a stable and sure-footed bike. But as we dive into turns and corners, we were surprised that it also felt nimble and agile when we put it to the task. The bike responded to our pedaling readily and was lively enough. (You may be wondering why we used the term "lively enough"? Read on and you will know why).
Looking deeper into the geometry of the bike, we concluded that the agility of this bike is largely the result from the short rear-center measurement. It is only 440 mm when the chip is flipped to low setting. And we are not even talking about chain stay length! Rear Centre measures from Bottom bracket to rear hub! That's how short it is.
Descending with the Atom is as good as one can expect from a trail bike. The spacious cock pit and longish wheel base (1185 mm) really helps.
True to its objective, we are convinced that this bike is comfortable and definitely suitable for long rides.
(Coast Cycles Axis)
The Axis is a 26 Plus and 27.5 trail bike with 150 mm rear travel (RockShox Monach RT3 200X57). It is recommended to match to a 160 mm fork up front. As the "smaller" of the 2 bikes, it has a wheelbase of 1160mm when the chip is flipped to low head angle setting of 66.5 deg. Similar to the Atom, it has a relatively steep seat angle of 76.2 deg.
Although having many similarities in terms of design features, this bike feels distinctively different from the Atom when it comes to ride personality. It rides like an excited trail puppy diving in and out of corners with enthusiasm. It also climbs relatively well and needed less inertial effort than the Atom to move off.
On the descent, its 20 mm shorted wheelbase did make it a little less sure-footed than the Atom. But that's because we have tried the Atom. If we had rode only the Axis, we would say that it is poppy and have good trail feedback.
Compared to the Atom, the Axis is more lively and encouraged the rider to take on challenging features just to pop some air.
COASTING WITH COAST CYCLES
While our first contact with these bikes are wasn't very long, we would say that they are very likable bikes with good personalities. Depending on the buyers' riding objectives, these bikes would serve their purposes well.
For local trail duty, we would choose the Axis as it is more playful and can squeeze the most fun out the backyard gnar.
On the other hand, if we are intending to take our bikes for long epic rides, say 50 km jamborees or overnight enduro trips, then we would choose the Atom as it would be a more forgiving bike when the going gets exhausting. We could simply just cruise on it and rely on its firm stability to pull us through. And then when the fun sections starts, we know we would be ready too.
You can say that the Atom is the more versatile one between the 2 bikes and doesn't compromise on the “fun factor” while upping the crucial rating on “control”.
Coast Cycles do not consider their bikes "race-bred", but more lifestyle mountain bikes that are competent in whatever they were designed for. We do not really agree with this statement. With a base design that adopts the Horst Link and inheriting its strength in responsive linkage to pedaling, it is just a matter of how a rider would spec the build and how he/she rides it. With a bike that is well personalized to a rider, anything is possible.
BUYING THE BIKES
For more information or to buy these bikes, contact Coast Cycles.
(Coast Cycles Atom in 29 build)
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Information by Coast Cycles
Photos by Bikezilla and Coast Cycles
(Coast Cycle Atom in 27.5 Plus build)