Polygon Bikes Collosus N9 XTR 2016 Mountain Bike Review

Polygon Bikes Collosus N9 XTR 2016

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Polygon Bikes 57,882

At A Glance

Depending on which part of the globe you reside, Polygon could well be a slightly unfamiliar sight on your local trails. The Hutchinson UR Downhill team has brought them more global recognition in recent years, and back in 2014, they snapped up everyone's favourite privateer Jamie Nicol to race under their banner for the Enduro World Series.

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Nicol started piloting the N9 model in 2014, and this test bike has the same carbon frame and suspension design, albeit with an updated shock and components. This is the N9 XTR version featuring a fully top line spec featuring arguably the finest components that could adorn a bicycle. As the name would suggest we have an XTR drivetrain and brakes of course, and the damping duties are covered by the superlative Fox Float X and 36s in Factory flavour. Rolling on E13 TRS Race wheels with their chunky hubs and short spokes, they give a look of solidity and reliability. The rest of the bike is covered with Kore finishing kit and a Reverb dropper; there is very little to dislike on paper, the bike looks ready to rip.

On The Trail

I had my reservations initially about a frame and suspension design, which could be described as "old" if judged by the current turnover of bike designs. Would a design from a couple of years back still perform? My first thoughts as I hopped on for a car park test had me checking the size, but the XL sticker on the seat tube confirmed this was their biggest size, maybe I'd grown? Once the seat post was lofted and I got used to the more compact cockpit, It started to make a bit more sense, and was perfectly comfortable to ride.

The bike is certainly unique, and as such is tricky to describe all of its merits, of which there are many. Starting with climbing, the N9 has a stiffness and readiness to accelerate, which I have rarely experienced outside of XC bikes and E-bikes. The XTR drivetrain means no power is lost, but the stiffness of the back end seemed to squeeze out every last watt of power from my legs and was still not satisfied. With a superb lockout at both ends and a Talas fork, fire road climbs were demolished with an appetite unheard of from Enduro bikes, which are usually happy to grind up in order to plummet down. Not just smooth inclines but also rough and technical climbs were absorbed with ease and style, in no small part down to the frankly fantastic suspension platform and shock.

The suspension performance is another of the Collosus' merits, and hidden within the multitude of carbon and linkages is a floating pivot set up which is truly wonderful. The design has two linkages and the shock mounts onto the middle of the lower link and the shock is then effectively squashed from both ends. As soon as the tyres hit the rough stuff, the suspension sets to work exceptionally well, in part due to the Fox damping as well as the design. At all times it felt like the bike was working hard to find me grip whatever the terrain, the wheels stayed glued to the ground, or at worst drifted and squirmed about only to find more traction. The initial stroke on the Factory 36s was incredibly supple, yet they never gave up their travel too easily, keeping plenty in reserve for those big hits. The impressive stiffness provided by the forks and the frame held lines and rarely deflected, giving a very confident ride.

If it climbs amazingly well and the suspension is great, it's all fun and games yes? Well not quite. I mentioned the sizing issue, and this is where the biggest problem lies for me. As a tall rider, I frequently 'fall off' the end of the sizing scale, and as in this case, I find myself on a bike that just feels a bit too small for me. Having spent so much time on bikes with a long front centre and reach, the N9 is just very compact. Now I don't expect every type of bike to have a massive reach, but if you strap a set of Fox 36s to the front, then you've made a serious statement of intent and need some modern numbers to back it up. This is where the N9 gets itself into a bit of bother, as the suspension is so good, but the short nature of the frame means stability at speed is compromised.

Riding hard on downhill and enduro trails, it became apparent that at high speeds or in the steeps, the N9 became twitchy and it was hard to travel fast enough to get the limits of the suspension. In defence of the geometry, the short back end and reach mean it is extremely manoeuvrable and agile. This is yet another merit of the N9, which makes short work of any tight, twisty or flowing trails, where this much suspension would usually feel too much. Obviously being tall, I had no option to size up, when the bike was lent out to test riders who would normally ride a medium or large frame, however; they got on a lot better with the geometry and sizing. If you want this bike to fit like a modern enduro bike, then sizing up is the way to go, maybe even by two sizes if you can get the saddle height right.

Components are top end affairs, but the Hans Dampf tyres in single ply flavour left a little bit to be desired. Although the grip is excellent, they were quickly destroyed by rocks and replaced by something more befitting a bike of this stature. Tyre clearance is also pretty tight, so beware of muddy trails! The E13 rear hub developed a rattle after a few rides, and a quick removal of the cassette showed the lock ring for the freehub had come loose, a quick fix, but I would expect better from them. The only other issues came from the lower shock bushing which didn't last too long, this could have something to do with the shock extender, but it's easily replaced by a harder wearing option.

On a more concerning note, we had two frames (first one was replaced) which gave the appearance of cracks in the downtube just above the bottom bracket. We are yet to hear Polygon's official response but Moore Large's (UK Distributors) investigations show the cracks to be only of the paint, and not the actual carbon itself. Perhaps not ideal, but there was certainly no catastrophic failures, and the bikes showed no other frame issues.

Overall

Putting the suspicious paintwork to one side, the Collosus is a very special bike, with a unique combination of attributes. Its character is like a strange genetic experiment, combining a BMX, a Downhill Bike and an XC whippet. The incredible acceleration and ability to throw the bike around make it immense fun, and combined with the long leggedness of a mini DH bike means it can munch the rough stuff with ease. It will encourage you to pedal and pump your way down a trail like a maniac, but all the best suspension can't quite give it that confidence in the really rough, fast and steep terrain that a bike like this should be able to, in my size at least. If a new version of this frame was to evolve with a bit more length in the front, then it will be a very serious enduro weapon.

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This review was in Issue 42 of IMB.

For more information visit Polygon Bikes

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen 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.

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