At A Glance
Pole is a Finnish company that have been causing quite a stir in the world of geometry and bike manufacturing. Initially making waves with truly progressive geometry, they went on to experiment with carbon before scrapping that idea and heading into the world of machining and glue.Buy Enduro Bikes on
Unafraid to try something new and different, Pole went ahead and created the Machine, their first bike developed with their new manufacturing technique. Two halves of the frame are machined from 7075 aluminium, these are then glued and bolted together. This method gives a unique finish to the frame and allows them to create a light, stiff and strong structure made at home in Finland.
The numbers on the Machine are fairly wild by current standards, and rather than waiting for incremental increases year on year, Pole has jumped forward in time to deliver what they think is the best set of figures. My XL on test here has a whopping 535mm of reach, 145mm head tube, a slack 63.9 head angle and a chainstay of 455mm.
Seat angles are also very important to Pole, with the Machine sporting a 79-degree effective angle, which puts you in a better position for climbing and balanced well with the long reach.
The Machine runs on 29-inch wheels, features a 180mm fork and 160mm of rear travel delivered through a dual-link system, one of which rotates around the bottom bracket.
Frames start at €3,500 EUR and full builds at €5,800.00 EUR. This is the 'TB' build and comes in at €6,450.00 EUR. This model features a 180mm Lyrik RC2 fork and a Super Deluxe RCT rear shock, all rolling on Mavic Deemax Elite wheels shod with Minions and Huck Norris inserts. The drivetrain is a GX Eagle mix with an XO rear mech. Code brakes deal with the inevitable high speeds, whilst Bike Yoke does the dropper duties and offers 185mm of drop on the XL!
This is essentially a bike designed for speed on the roughest, wildest tracks in the world.
On The Trail
First impressions of the Machine were mind-blowing. As a tall rider, this is the biggest bike I have ever ridden and I instantly fell in love with the sizing and the fit. Obviously, bikes have been getting longer, but I'm lucky if I get on an XL with a reach of 500mm let alone 535mm. It quickly became apparent that I may not want to give this bike back! I don't want to bang on too much about reach, but not only is it 535mm, it also has a 145mm head tube which means I don' have to up the stack of my bars with spacers and thus reduce the reach: happy days!
Getting going on the trail and the Pole was a breath of fresh air, as I realised how cramped I've been for so many years on bikes that were too small. These days things are much better, but the Machine offers a true XL feel, it’s exceptionally comfortable and long climbs offer no back pain or discomfort. Ok, enough gushing about the amazing size of this bike, I'll try and write about something else!
With a 79-degree seat angle and a 455mm chainstay, it's not just the reach number that is extreme. These numbers create a bike with exceptional climbing characteristics when it comes to the steep and the technical. Initially, it did feel a little odd being that far forward on the seat, but for the first time in years, I didn't feel the need to slide the seat forward. I think if it was any steeper then my legs may have found it a bit too weird, as I definitely was incorporating a few different muscles in this position. Overall though, matched with the long reach, it's the ability to climb technical ground without a hint of front wheel lift that was immense.
What about wheelies, I hear you ask. Well, it takes a little adjustment, but once I found the balance point, everything fell into place and wheelies and manuals happened just like normal, just a little recalibration required. With the same length chainstays throughout the size range, this may not be the same story for smaller riders on smaller sizes, but that's a test for another day.
Efficiency-wise, the Machine is pretty light for a 180mm fork bruiser, but I happily tapped out 2000m vertical in a day riding in the Tweed Valley without issue. Again, my back and body felt comfortable throughout and I was definitely converted to steeper seat angles. Although long travel, the pedalling feel is very good and minimum bob occurs whilst spinning away uphill. The rear end offers a supple but stable feel for climbing and works well in finding traction.
Pole frontman Leo talks a lot about his bikes being faster, and I don't doubt these bikes are quick, but I was very keen to find out if it still had relevance for those not going against the clock every weekend. What I found was a bike so exceptionally calm and composed through the roughest of trails that the speed came almost as a by-product without trying. Going super fast may not have been my aim sometimes, but it happened anyway.
Pointing the Machine down some exceptionally steep and tight trails, I attempted to find a point where the bike felt too long, but pretty much failed. The long front centre allowed me to offer the front of the bike confidently into corners without fear of the front jack-knifing. This allowed for more and more weight to be placed on the front and my speed and confidence through these corners increased. Although I had my doubts, I found no problems with threading the Machine down my most terrifying local trails which tend to be low speed, super steep rock and root infested horror shows.
Finding somewhere that the Machine didn't excel was tricky. On slow, technical flatter trails, it struggled to engage me, but that didn't feel like much of a compromise and only encouraged me to find trails that were either steep, or fast, or better still, both!
What did surprise me was how lively the Machine felt on the trail. I was expecting more of a steamroller, and although the 180mm fork and 160 rear made short work of anything on the trail, I could still create air time and ride in a playful style. If your staple diet of riding is buff singletrack, then the Machine may not fit the bill, but that is not really the application it's designed for.
Through longer flatter turns where the bike needs to be held on a line, the long rear end matched the front perfectly and I felt I could fine-tune my grip and move my body around far more before the bike became destabilised. Numerous times I stuck an inside foot out, thinking things were about to drift wildly, only for the Machine to stay on track, and for me to be left with a superfluous foot waving in the air.
Trying to be critical of the frame is difficult. I'm not an engineer, and if Pole has decided that this method of manufacturing is worth it, then I'm not complaining. The look is stunning but does have a few quirks. The asymmetrical shock mounting is a little odd and the shock is vulnerable to mud and spray from the back wheel. Also, the seat tube length is perhaps a little long at 510mm, which with a 185mm dropper was only just low enough for me (a perfect fit), however a shorter tube would allow for a greater range of rider sizes and the use of 200mm droppers. The Stamina range addresses some of these issues and is worth checking out in their own right.
The components on my Machine are well considered and as such offered no complaints. Mavic wheels with Huck Norris were a nice touch, allowing for low pressures to be run confidently and protecting the rims. The long 185mm dropper was a great addition from the reliable Bike Yoke.
For those that want a stunningly fast bike, or just want truly progressive numbers and don't want to wait for the rest of the bike world to catch up, then Pole has a winning formula. A beautifully finished (and Finnish) frame, the Machine will take you faster than ever before, but with it you get comfort, confidence and probably your fastest times ever.Buy Enduro Bikes on
This review was in Issue 59 of IMB.For more information visit Pole Bicycles
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.