Ride Report: 2Soulscycles QUARTERHORSE by c_g
Allright, Eurobike is over and while Guitar Ted and Granygear were wrapping up their Interbike coverage, I was already busy with some new and hot product tests. Some may remember me introducing the 2SOULSCYCLES Quarterhorse to you a while ago (here). It so happened that during Eurobike I ran into the guys behind the company, and luckily they were as eager getting my opinion on it as I was on riding that bike :). So we ended up doing this short test that has been going on since Eurobike early September. In that time I have ridden the QH (short for “Quarterhorse”) plenty in all kinds of conditions and here is what I think about it:
Like I said in my intro – this bike dares to be different. With a super slack front (67.5°) and rear (~71° depending on seat tube extension ) really short rear end (in production 419 to 433 mm, the bike I rode was 424 to 438 mm), the numbers speak for themselves. As one of the only two existing bikes, I received the super sexy looking fillet brazed and ceramic coated one. While the bike and finish were excellent looking, the (overly enthusiastic) fillet brazing by the builder has added a full pound to the frame’s weight which is why it won´t come that way in production. The QH never claimed to be light and for the intended aggressive use, and tough componentry, including a 140 mm thru axle Reba, it was just about right – it sure was no weight weenie bike by far (… still the heaviest hard tail I have ridden up to date :)). The production frame is said to weigh around 2.7 kg (~ 6 lbs).
Production is to start soon and the frames are planned to be available in S, M, L and XL by end of November if all goes right – selling worldwide out of Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany. There will be a standard powder coated version and ceramic coating / custom coating options as upgrades available. The target prices for the frame is € 895.- for the standard powder coated color and as much as € 980.- for the ceramic coated one.
On their website 2SOULSCYCLES claim they “want to put a smile on the riders´ face with the bike” – did they manage?
FRAME BUILD: First let´s take a brief look at the (pre-production) frame. By utilizing a 44 mm head tube and large diameter tubing the bike is sure to be one of the stiffest and most direct steel frames in existence. Note that every size frame will receive a specific set of tubes and specified diameters to create the best possible ride. The radically sloping top tube with seat mast support creates exceptional stand over clearance – perfect for aggressive riding. Thanks to the smart angled 2-piece seat tube (with an open bottom end) it still features a fully insert-able seat post Production will be slightly smaller in diameter than the tested one.
By the wide PF92 bottom bracket the chain stays are attached very widely apart making for an exceptional tire clearance and maximum bottom bracket support. By going for a plate style junction on the chain side (2SOULS CYCLES had utilized that design for 7 years already on their 26” bike), it has plenty of room for triple chain rings, should you prefer to go with those. My sample ran on a 22/32 double set up with a custom 2 piece carbon bash guard in place of the big ring.
All cables run in full-length housings under the top tube in screw-on removable clamps – just how I like them :).
The massive sliding drop outs are again 2SOULSCYCLE´s design and provide huge contact to the chain stays and seat seat stays. The sliders are held in place by 2 big bolts on each side, with an adjustment/securing screw from the front to prevent any slippage.
THE RIDE: My first riding contact with the QH had already been at the trade show and the brief loop made the bike feel verrrrrrry agile (if not nervous) feeling. Could that be?
At home I optimized the seating position and off I went onto my home trails. And there it was again. The Quarterhorse steered so quickly and willingly that I wouldn’t put it into novice hands without prior instructions. It sure does handle a lot quicker than anyone will expect a 29″er to do. But what was that – on the trail (and in some experienced hands :)) its agility turned into pure fun. Very soon I ripped my trails like I had not done before on a hard tail.
Interestingly, the QH didn’t steer at all by leaning or weight shifting – it only responded to actual steering input to the (740 mm wide) bar which was assisted by the ultra short 55 mm stem. With the rear wheel tugged in all the way (which on my sample gave a 424 mm chain stay length), the rear followed eagerly into every corner and my confidence level was soaring. I can only imagine how it would feel like with an even shorter rear in technical sections. Of course the 2.35 SCHWALBE Nobby Nics on wide Flow rims assisted in cornering. I can hardly remember taking corners at such speeds and with that much confidence before (on a hard tail). The weight distribution is very central on the bike, putting equal pressure on the wheels or shift effectively if needed. There is one particular section dropping into a small stream and riding steeply uphill out of it, that I haven´t cleared in ages – with the QH I did it on the first try!!!
Of course the bike in its short configuration was not too much of a climber. Given the chain stay length and slack effective seat angle, I was still surprised how well I made it up every pitch – with much weight shifting, but still. When put into “long mode” (438 mm on my rig), it actually climbed rather nicely and my weight shifting could be kept to a level that I still felt comfortable pedaling for long. When cranking hard out of the saddle or single speed-mode (which the bike leans itself to by the adjustable dropouts) it literally went up anything.
Still, when seated I never felt like the bike was a pacer – I somehow never found my ergonomically sweet spot for fast pedaling. When going uphill the bike always felt … well … it felt like the bike was bored by such profane action as going uphill :). When pointed downhill or in technical sections it sprang to life BIG time – that is what the QH lives for. I could tell that this bike is made for technical sections, tough alpine trails (where it matters little if you take a little longer to get there) or simply for ripping your home single trails.
All sweet and smooth? Well not all. For once the outward bend on the chain stays is much too wide and made me strike my heels frequently – we were told that was one of the few things to be changed for production, so I won´t hold it against the bike.
Also, there was one peculiarity with the QH: The front is so agile and easy steering that on bouncy descents it starts feeling vague when unweighted too much. With the short rear this “too much” is actually accomplished quicker than I thought. It is a style I adapted riding rigid (unweighted the front, letting the fork bounce and balance the rear with my entire body) and I still do it on loose rocks and over root carpets, but with the 2SOULSCYCLES this lead me into the bushes a few times or at least left me feeling insecure. This changes dramatically when I readjusted putting pressure to the front wheel, and there it is again the fun and confidence – In my ride time on the Quarterhorse I simply learned to push harder on the fork. New riding style and once internalized, I had no issues.
One word on the ceramic coating. My bike had no chain stay protection – after being ridden a minimum of 1 ½ a months (3 weeks of which aggressively by me) I saw some very minor marks and scratches in the coating, but no bigger paint chips I usually encounter after only a few rides on good quality powder coated frames. Absolutely no marks on the coated crank arms, that usually show some wear marks after this time. Besides, it seems to clean fairly easy. For me it is worth the up charge over the standard paint.
The cool leather sleeve with imprinted logos is a really cool touch on the otherwise unbranded frame (apart from the cool head badge). I am not sure how long the leather sleeve will stay looking good but in production it will come with a special closure mechanism, that will allow a replacement sleeve if needed.
The XC QH Test: A good way into the test Ingo Brantl founder of 2SOULSCYCLES and the designer of the Quarterhorse dared me to try out the bike with a shorter fork and longer stem to check it for its XC qualities with the hint that I´d be in for a surprise. Luckily I had just the right candidate for that – the GERMAN: A Xcite Criterion29 (final review to follow soon, ride impressions here) with its infinitely adjustable travel. In its longest version it was almost identical to the Reba´s axle to crown length. In its shorter modes it gave me all the testing options I could ever want. The need to switch to some 9 mm quick release wheels gave me the opportunity to try lighter wheels on this bike as well. In my intro Ingo had mentioned the „Jekyll & Hyde“ soul of the bike – agile in slow sections yet stable at higher speeds What if I reduced these gyroscopic forces to the minimum? How would the QH ride then? For that I went with my lightest wheels, the AX-LIGHTNESS/TUNE wheels with TUFO tubulars – this modification (including the lighter fork) brought the bike´s weight down by 1,6 kg. The 55 mm stem was exchanged for a 90 mm version and off I went.
The bike immediately felt faster and more prone for XC speeds. Acceleration and propulsion was soo much better, almost snappy – the seating position was almost race like with loads of weight on the front wheel. Climbing was better and more efficient but not as much as I had hoped for. Unfortunately in technical sections I detected the bike´s formerly positive agility to feel rather nervous. This I opened a full bag of questions and therefore tried all different set-ups (fork settings, stems and chain stay lengths). Interestingly even with the fork fully extended (almost identical to the angles the Reba produces), I couldn’t get that great secure feeling I have had on the bike before, when running those super light hoops. So I went to try burlier XC wheels and the bike felt great again. Seems like the self stabilizing effect of the wheels is an integral part of the QH´s equation – and the lack thereof really affects the ride quality. Just before the end of the test I went back to the old set up and there it was again – a true all mountain dream with confidence abounding.
So after doing a full loop on all possible set ups I ended up liking the one closest to the original (short stem, long fork, long wheel base and moderate wheels) best for XC applications. Sometimes the nearest solution also is the best.
VERDICT: The 2SOULSCYCLES is a daring concept that does combine two properties that I felt competing (if not rivaling) before – AGILITY and CONTROL. In the original configuration the bike was a dream to ride hard and in technical sections and a better overall bike than anticipated (a bit on the slow side when climbing :)). This bike provides superior agility and a very high level of control. In technical sections it is one of the funnest hard tails I have ridden. I cannot name another that so willingly tackles tough terrain and will take you through safely. In my opinion it is not a bike that will allow a novice to ride its full potential, but in some experienced hands it will take the rider to levels formerly unknown.
In the XC testing – which I did test upon suggestion by the 2SOULSCYCLES guys – with shorter fork and light wheels the bike never added up to a complete picture – it ended up being too nervous and took some serious handling skills to master. By my ride impressions I think that the 2SOULSCYCLES actually has a good capacity for epic touring and adventure riding but rides best with long forks (120 to 140 mm).
In the end, I find the QH to be a bike that fulfills exactly the intent it was introduced to me initially – being a great handling long travel trail bike. It lifts that sort of 29″er bikes on a whole new level of performance. Wanting to make it anything different, will lead to compromises and a less favorable ride – in my opinion. If you like riding technical trails this bike is one of the coolest hard tails I know of. If you like riding technical trails in single speed style – look no further, this is your bike!!
(If you want a XC rig – you probably have not read this article further than the intro anyway. :))
Thanks 2SOULSCYCLES for daring to be different with the Quarterhorse.
PS: There are loads of bike related projects that 2SOULSCYCLES founder Ingo has in mind, but I am free to let you in that one of the newest ones is a “Superlight” version, kind of like the little brother of the Quarterhorse. This will come with an adapted geometry for max. 120 mm forks, lighter tubes and a non sliding (steel) X-12 rear end that is said to shave off considerable weight over the QH. Maybe some other frame material coming as well.
Sounds promising, don´t you think?!?