Review: Singular Swift

by
August 9, 2016

A classic steel 29in mountain bike gets reborn with plus-compatibility. But does the Singular Swift live up to lofty expectations? Read on to find out.

Brand: Singular
Product: Swift
From: Singular (www.singularcycles.com)
Price: £499 (frame & fork)
Tested: by Chipps Chippendale for three months

Rewind to our Issue #106 bike test of the Singular Swift.

The Singular Swift first came out in 2007 and quickly established itself as one of the steel 29ers by which all others would be measured. The simple but elegant lines, the subtle paint and decals and forgiving rigid fork worked well whether used for cross-country racing or on/off road touring. The eccentric bottom bracket also allowed the bike to be run as a singlespeed without needing chain tensioners.

singular swift singlespeed 29 27.5+ rigid steel mountain bike
Classic lines, classic graphics and classic material. The Singular Swift has got timeless class written all over it. And Singular. It has Singular written on it too.

For this new version of the Swift, nearly ten years after the launch of the bike (and the company), the overall silhouette of the frame is similar, but the bike has been tweaked to keep it in line with current wheels and tyre trends. There is now plenty of room for huge tyres in the back end and fork alike. While the bike is set up to take 29 x 2.4in treads, you can fit up to a 3.0in 29er tyre in the fork – or even run a chubby 27.5in x 3.0in pair of tyres front and rear if the mood takes you, as it has here. Unlike many bikes that have gone to Boost back ends, the Swift is still 135mm and so there’s plenty of room to run your old 29er wheels as well as those mediumly new 27.5in+ wheels.

singular swift singlespeed 29 27.5+ rigid steel mountain bike
It’s the same old Swift, but new. Now with clearance for fatter rubber, the Swift can be run with 29in or 27.5+ setups.

The subtle paint and decals scheme is very recognisable and we’d be disappointed if it was any other colour. Also unchanged is the traditional un-tapered headtube, which will limit you in your suspension fork choice if you wanted to swap out the supplied steel bladed unicrown fork. Even if you wanted to run a lighter carbon rigid fork, you’re going to be very limited in your options in un-tapered steerer replacements.

singular swift singlespeed 29 27.5 plus
New wider fork legs accommodate up to 3.0in wide tyres with heaps of mud clearance – and that’s whether you’re running 29in or 27.5in diameter hoops.

We suspect, though, that most Singular customers won’t be that bothered about it. The Swift is more a bike for that smooth singletrack under azure skies kind of thing. However, given its new option of anything up to a 3.25in chubby tyre in a 27.5, that’ll certainly help to ease the bumps, and that’s how ours came specced up.

singular swift singlespeed 29 27.5 plus
Plenty of room out back too.

The Singular is proud that the Swift is versatile enough to run as we have it here, or as a fully geared 29er for 24-hour solo efforts, as a dropped and flared bar adventure bike, or a Jones-barred singlespeed. It’s all been done, and it all looks very right when it’s done.

singular swift singlespeed 29 27.5 plus
The homegrown goodies on our Swift test bike include this gorgeous Hope crankset and direct-mount chainring. Neat.

Our particular bike came with 1×11 Shimano gearing and matching brakes. A sensibly mid-width 750mm bar gave enough oomph to out of the saddle efforts and it came with a 100mm stem that the non six-footers immediately swapped out for a minimalist Renthal 31mm job. As it is, the size large was perfect for our taller riders. There’s a medium and a small size too, for smaller riders or long stem fans and an XL for, well, Barney. Oh, and it comes with TWO derailleur hangers. Top marks!

The Ride

The Singular feels instantly familiar to any riders who started on steel. The ride feel, the immediacy of response and the sympathetic give to the frame is very attractive and welcoming if you cut your teeth on downland or woodland trails and have forgotten what it feels like to have a bike under you with that willing snap to it. With a pair of 29er wheels on, the Swift is ready to ride into the distant hills of a Jo Burt picture.

singular swift singlespeed 29 27.5 plus
3.0in wide rubber and slender steel tubing makes for a smooth ride on the Swift. Plus tyres certainly opens up the versatility and fun factor on a non-suspended chassis.

The addition of the plus-size wheels changes the character of the bike and the ride slightly. It feels more playful, a little more cartoon-like in looks and a little more ready for the rocks and roots.

Out on the regular Monday night rides, the Singular gained many admiring comments and proved to be quite capable on the nadgery, precision rocks-hiding-in-the-grass riding that can be so prevalent in the Peaks and Yorkshire trail hotspots. Once speeds increased to Lakeland levels, the limitations of a fully rigid life become more obvious. Lowering the pressures helped a little, but anything under 15 psi and the chunky Vittoria tyres started burping and leaking fluid like Bishop in Alien. Reach terminal velocity and you’ll know about it, but the bike kept up with hardtail and even full sus riders up to that point. Remember when you had to pick a good line to go fast? Then you’ll be right at home.

singular swift singlespeed 29 27.5 plus
Fat, but not too fat. With 3.0in tyres, the Swift is set up in ‘chubby’ mode, but you can run regular wheels too.

You get the idea that the chubby incarnation of the Swift is destined for a more adventurous life, probably loaded up for overnight trips, off-grid stuff and long weeks in the Highlands. It’s still nippy with the bigger tyres and wouldn’t suffer that much with a bit of extra camping gear strapped to it (there’s even a Swift bikepacking fork with Anything Cage bosses if you’re that way inclined). Yet swap to 29er wheels and you’re back with a nippy South Downs machine (with huuuuge amounts of clearance).

singular swift singlespeed 29 27.5 plus
Rob with his concentration face on as he picks his way down the trail on the Swift.

Overall

Even on the eve of its tenth birthday, the Swift still seems to be pretty relevant, yet elegant looking and timeless. The lack of modern touches like the untapered head tube, the 27.2 seatpost and ‘non-enduro’ angles imply that Singular is moving with the times, but only on its own terms – and those of its legion of fans. You don’t buy a Singular for carbon frames or huckability, you buy one for longevity, beauty and that unique ride of a light steel frame. The Swift is dead, long live the Swift.

singular swift singlespeed 29 27.5+ rigid steel mountain bike
There’s just something very right about this bike isn’t there?
  • Frame // Singular custom drawn, double butted 4130 steel
  • Shock // n/a
  • Fork // Reynolds bladed steel
  • Hubs // Hope Pro2 EVO
  • Rims // Velocity Dually
  • Tyres // Vittoria Bomboloni 27.5 x 3in
  • Chainset // Hope Technology
  • Front Mech // n/a
  • Rear Mech // Shimano XTR
  • Shifters // Shimano XT
  • Brakes // Shimano XT
  • Stem // Control Tech (Model’s own – Renthal Apex in pics)
  • Bars // Kinesis Strut F750
  • Grips // ESI Silicon
  • Seatpost // Whisky 27.2 Carbon
  • Saddle // Fizik Gobi XM
  • Size Tested // Large
  • Sizes available // S, M, L, XL
  • Weight // 26.3lbs


Review Info

Brand: Singular
Product: Swift
From: Singular (www.singularcycles.com)
Price: £499 (frame & fork)
Tested: by Chipps Chippendale for three months

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