At A Glance
Forme are based in the centre of the UK within touching distance of the Peak District National Park: an area renowned for steep hills, quiet dales and stark open moorland. The Lathkill, named after a particularly beautiful and declivitous Peak District valley, is Forme’s first offering in the full-suspension market, and represents the company’s most advanced and aggressive bike to date, firmly aimed at all day mountain adventures.Buy Trail Bikes on
The Lathkill is given 140mm of four-bar linkage rear travel, supported by a standard volume Rockshox Monarch RC3, while up front a complimentary 140mm Rockshox Pike RC fork completes the suspension design. The frame’s relatively slack 67-degree head angle and modern cockpit inspire confidence in the bike being well capable of its intended purpose.
The remaining components provide further reassurance that the Lathkill has been well thought out: A Rockshox Reverb Stealth seat post, and a drivetrain comprised of Shimano XT 1x11 and Raceface cranks. The Shimano Deore brakes are clearly chosen to hit a price point, but they are fantastic stoppers for the price. No worries here!
Only in the rubber does the great spec fall, and while the Hans Dampf is a great all round tyre, the Performance compound is particularly poor for grip and puncture performance. Still, it can't all be perfect.
On The Trail
So let's get the tyres out the way first so I won’t waste too many words. I tried them, and I wanted to see what they could do, but after finding traction hard to come by, especially in the wet, I had to swap them out. There is no better way to ruin the feel of a bike than rubber that feels like wood. Having to run tubes meant pressures needed to be kept higher to avoid pinch flats, but these inevitably happened anyway, and toys were thrown from the proverbial pram. So, new tyres, same brand, just in a softer compound and set up tubeless. Ahh... much, much better, like day and night.
So what better way to put the bike through its paces than to hit a classic loop in its spiritual home? I headed to the Peak District for a day of steep, bouldery climbs, slippery limestone descents, open undulating moorland and great puddles of muddy water. My plan: see where the bike excelled, where it did not, and find a cafe with an adequately liberal attitude to cake portions.
Straight out of the van the bike pedalled well, although, on the first climbs, I noted the relatively slack seat tube angle that required some adjustments in my riding position. The rear of the bike was noticeably stiff compared with my usual steed, giving the back end a planted, accurate feel through the tricky ascents. More adjustments were needed for the front end: a more exaggerated elbows-down climbing position than I have needed on other bikes to stop the front wheel from skipping around. That said, the light front end made it a cinch to wheelie over steps and larger obstacles. Adjustments made, groove found, the bike busted up the hills with a happily impressed rider aboard...
Descending, the bike retained its lively and accurate-feeling character, which is indeed a good thing: there’s no room for a Jekyll and Hyde bike in the All-Mountain category. Harmony is king. So, no massive surprises to feel the bike popping between lines, picking its way through tough, loose, technical terrain, with enough wheel out in front to inspire confidence when the terrain got steep. The relatively short wheelbase can be felt here, however, especially on bouldery descents where the back wheel is constantly being kicked about. This didn’t feel like a bike to plough straight at descents, instead offering accurate and nimble qualities that screamed for a more subtle rider!
This balance of efficient climbing and playful descending is what makes the Lathkill the great all rounder that it is. Happy to lap trail centres without feeling lost in wallowing travel, yet confident enough to get a bit loose in the steep rocky trails which define the area in which it was born. For the larger rider used to more lengthy front centres and wheelbases, it feels a little compact, definitely more of a hot hatchback than stretch limo. The only sizing options are eighteen and twenty inch, which obviously don't cover a huge range, but probably allow for the majority of riders. The very tall and the very small will need to look elsewhere.
My test bike came with a 34T chainring, which coupled with only a 40T rear cassette did make some of the climbing harder than I felt it needed to be. By the end of what I assume to be a standard ride in the intended life of the Lathkill, my knees were rather worse for wear. Standard spec is a 32t, but given the options available nowadays I would suggest at the very least a 42T rear cassette.
Given that this bike represents Forme’s debut in the full-suspension market, you could be forgiven for not expecting great things. However, based on a well-thought out geometry and great attention to component quality, they have created a bike that holds its own in the mid-travel trail bike market, against competition from much larger companies. The components and frame aggregate to a very attractive and well-balanced package, particularly in the price-point offered. In a post-Brexit Britain, where the effects of the weak pound are being felt across the nation’s bike industry, a well thought out British alternative is perhaps good money well spent.Buy Trail Bikes on
This review was in Issue 44 of IMB.For more information visit Forme Bikes
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.