Long Termers: Barney’s Swarf Spline 29

by
April 10, 2015

Barney's gnardtail monster, built up

Brand: Swarf
Product: Spline 29
From: Swarf Cycles: www.swarfcycles.co.uk
Price: Frame from £850
Tested: by Barney for

Swarf cycles, based in Dorset, is really just one chap – Adrian Bedford – who really does make preposterously lovely creations. He started turning heads last year, when he won the ‘Best Newcomer’ for the impressive-looking (and riding – I’ve had a go) Curve, a cunning blend of steel front end, carbon back end (yes, he even makes that bit), with an idler gear in the middle. But Adrian also makes steel frames which have been attracting some attention.

The Spline, built up in all its glory
The Spline, built up in all its glory

I asked Adrian to make this Spline 29 (a 27.5in version is also available) as long as possible in the top-tube (I’m 194cm tall – or 6’4″) and put an extra inch or two on the seat tube. I’m keen to see the benefits (and drawbacks) that a longer bike can have for someone like me. So the bike ends up with a 26.2in ETT, which puts it firmly in the ‘rangy’ category, with a 20.8in top tube. It’s not *quite* as long as something like a Mondraker, but it’s pretty close. It’s got 142×12 dropouts, and routing for a stealth post.

The Spline's spline
The Spline’s spline

Apart from these changes (which are all available for an upcharge) Adrain kept the geometry and measurements as standard – the headtube angle is 67.5º sagged 25%, and chainstay length is 435mm. Once he’d finished the frame, he sent it on to paintmeisters FatCreations who provided the striking bronze and white colourscheme, before sending it over to me.

Far Creations paintwork
Far Creations paintwork

And a wondrous thing is it too. I’ll not go into too many details, as you can just look at the pics – but all brazing has been smoothed out to make a seamless look, there is a lovely brace between the toptube and that longer seat tube too strengthen it (lower top tube also makes for loads of standover).

853
853

Build Number 1

I’ve built it up with a pretty chi-chi list of things we had lying around (I know, I know – it’s a hard life). It’s designed for a 120mm fork, so it gets a BOS Dizzy 29er up front, a complete set of 2015 XTR (although I’m slumming it with the cable version) including brakes and (race) wheels, shod with Specialized Purgatory tyres, Joystick saddle and 800mm wide carbon bars, Ragley’s short 40mm Stubbing stem, Hope’s excellent headset and seatpost clamp, comfy Sensus Swayze grips and a Specialized Command Post seatpost.

BOS Dizzy fork
BOS Dizzy fork

The Ride

So far? Awesome. Terrifying. Awesome again. Sitting on it, it’s a fabulous length for me – it just feels right. The length makes it slightly harder to loft the front end than on shorter bikes, but you soon get used to it – and it’s easier to unweight the back, which is pretty critical on a gnardtail like this. It’s a pretty good climber, but this is a bike that wants you to go very, very fast down some frankly inadvisable terrain, and then laughs at you because you’d forgotten it’s a hardtail.

XTR ahoy!
XTR ahoy!

You need to ride it with finesse, which is rather hard at mach nine. The frame will cope admirably I’m sure to my frankly awful line choices and inept landings, but I can see some dinged rims in the future – and you know what? I don’t mind at all. The bike so far is a blast. It’s quite disconcerting coming from long travel full-suspension to a hardtail, but I’m hugely enjoying the learning curve. It’s early days though – I’ve not had nearly enough time to explore the Spline’s personality in full.

Clearance for 2.3 with room to spare
Clearance for 2.3 with room to spare

What’s Up Next?

As I mentioned, it’s early days. But in a little while? I’d like to play around with the fork first of all. I’ve got a 140mm Marzocchi 44 Micro STA to go on there, which will also kick the head angle back a little – this isn’t ideal, but I’m keen to see if the tradeoff might be worth it. Although I suspect it’ll encourage me into even more foolish behaviour; I may need new kneepads.

One hell of a colourscheme
One hell of a colourscheme

I’m also going to try some wide carbon rims and some even fatter rubber on there to see what happens with stiff, wide rims on a hardtail. And lastly I have (belated) plans to jump on the 1x bandwagon – I’m keen to investigate what the advantages and disadvantages are on a bike like this. Watch this space!

More info from Swarf

Paint from Fat Creations

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