by Andi Sykes
March 21, 2017
NS uses its individual blend of style and attitude to create a unique, hard hitting hardtail with retro looks.
NS Bikes is one of those brands that seem to have burst from nowhere, having only started building bikes for the dirt jump niche back in 2004. Now you’ll find the NS name everywhere, including on trail and all mountain bikes, and even drop-bar gravel bikes too. The first frame to come from NS though, was a steel hardtail that could be built up with a variety of different wheel sizes.
Funny how things come in full circle isn’t it?
The NS Eccentric Cromo is the top-end model in the 3-way Eccentric hardtail line-up, and the only one of the three models to have both a steel frame and larger 29-inch wheels. The other two models feature an alloy frame and 27.5in wheels.
Aesthetically, NS has tried to create a bike with retro styling with nods to previous MTB fashions from over the past few years. The skinny steel tubed frame is very much an homage to the classic steel bikes of old, but NS went that step further and even used a material we haven’t seen on bikes for a while.
Those of you who were riding in the 90’s will remember that TANGE steel was the hot stuff back then, and it’s nice to see that it has made a comeback on the NS Eccentric Cromo.
NS have sculpted the slender tubing in to a traditional triangle up front with a classy ‘hour glass’ headtube up front, and even slimmer tubes making up the rear triangle. Being a steel frame, we can look at these skinny pipes with confidence that they will survive any beating that you can dish out on them while being compliant and comfortable on the trail.
While retro in looks, the Eccentric Cromo has all the mod cons you would expect from a 2017 hardtail with aggressive geometry, including a roomy top-tube, bucketloads of stand over height and a short rear triangle. NS don’t supply a dropper on the Eccentric Cromo but it is good to see that stealth dropper routing has been built in to the design.
Another modern feature is the boost spacing for the rear wheel and bolt-thru rear axle. Up until recently bolt through axles for hardtails were frowned upon as it was thought they stiffen up the rear end too much and take away some of the compliance. On the other hand though a thru-axle is a much secure method of attaching a wheel, and anyone who has smashed through a rock garden only to find they’ve knocked their wheel out will likely enjoy the added security.
The NS Eccentric Cromo starts to look even more modern than it’s retro design when we delve in to the geometry of the frame. NS is clearly aiming the Eccentric at the harder hitting rider who wants something that can be equally at home at the local BMX track as it is munching mile after mile. A tall order, but one the designers have fully embraced.
The 140mm Manitou fork up front plugs in to a slack 65° head tube, perfect for hitting steep terrain and whipping the bike in and out of switchbacks. A steep 74° seat tube makes for easy ascending while the long reach and low top tube make the Cromo a roomy plaything when you start hitting trails faster than you think a hardtail should be sent.
The blue and white finish is in keeping with the 90’s styling as are the skin wall Maxxis Ardent tyres and choice of silver and white finishing kit.
The majority of parts that come equipped on the Eccentric Cromo are actually from NS’ own stable. Handlebars, stem, rims, hubs etc are all NS branded and it all worked faultless through the test. The only exception was the stem that tended to lose it’s grip on the steerer on continued hard hits, which would then result in play in the headset. This happened a few times during the review and wasn’t solved even when I really cranked the torque down on the bolts.
All the other NS branded kits worked fine, and I was especially impressed with the wide, 29-inch wheels that really can take some abuse. Even rock gardens and poorly timed landings couldn’t knock these hoops out of true.
The items that don’t come with NS branding are the comfortable Octane One grips (although, Octane One is an NS owned brand), SDG circuit saddle, Maxxis Ardent tyres, Manitou Machete 27.5+ fork and the “blast from the past” Kalloy seat post.
Seeing a Kalloy post was surprising not only because this is another retro-true item, but also because the price of the bike would justify a dropper post as standard. While I’m on the topic of a dropper post, a rubber plug for the stealth routing would have been good to keep mud and water from working in to the frame tubes too.
While I’m being surprised, how about those Manitou forks? It has been a very long time since I’ve ridden a Manitou. In all honesty I’ve avoided them like the plague for years, but now I’m convinced that I should give them another shot. While not quite as burly or as supple as a set of Pikes, they do a decent job of cleaning up my poor line choice, and aren’t adverse to hitting large jumps and drops. The Machete really did reopen my eyes to how good Manitou can make forks, and their predictable characteristics inspired confidence when I started to go bigger, higher, and further.
SRAM’s NX 1×11 is a constant performer and on the NS the transmission was a joy to use as were the Sram Level brakes. Perhaps not the most powerful brake on the market with its twin-piston calliper, but both brakes still delivered ample stopping power to slow down those fast rolling Maxxis Ardent tyres.
After unpacking the NS Eccentric, getting it to the trail and giving the svelte steel tubing the customary flick and enjoy a satisfying ping in return I set off in search of fun.
As I already own a couple of aggressive hardtails, the NS Eccentric Cromo had difficult boots to fill. But any doubts I had about the bike melted away as soon as I hit the first corner on my local trails. Even though the Maxxis Ardent tyres shouldn’t favour the soft and muddy conditions, the agility of the NS was evident by the bucket load.
The long wheelbase, slack head angle and big wheels meant the bike is amazingly stable at speed, but somehow it’s also very easy to change direction, dart in and out of trees, bunny hop a low wall, wheelie, and hit those gaps I thought I wouldn’t attempt on a hardtail.
The fact that whatever my full suspension riding co-riders hit I would feel happy hitting too on the NS Eccentric is a testament to the design of this retro-modern hardtail. Sure my Strava times might not be as fast as on a full suspension bike, and I might not clear things as smoothly, but everything I tried left me with a silly grin on my face, and the desire to keep going. So that’s job well done in my book.
It’s not just trail riding and bike parks where the NS Eccentric Cromo rides well though, as NS has managed to fill those TANGE tubes with a little of their dirt jump heritage. Take the Cromo to a BMX track, pump track, or dirt jumps, slam the saddle and the low slung frame aches to be thrown in to the air over and over again.
You may think that the Eccentric then is just a bit of a hooligan and might not suit your riding style, but that’s not quite the case. Take the Cromo on a long classic ride and the long wheelbase and forgiving steel frame offer comfort and stability. On longer, rocky rides you might not feel as fresh at the end as on a full suspension bike, but you will no doubt have just as much fun, if not more.
During my time with the NS Eccentric Cromo I had no issues with durability but a few things spring to mind that I would like to keep an eye on in the long run. First of all, our review bike came with the necessary routing points for a stealth dropper post, but no covers or seals.
Update: NS has confirmed that production models of the Eccentric Cromo will come with seals to prevent the ingress of water and grime.
This meant that we had a small slot in the seat tube where water and trail grime could find its way inside the frame and begin eating away at the steel insides. Even through our time with the bike we found rust spots on the seat tube which over time could lead to a seized post if not addressed.
The headset also caused me a few issues too and kept working its way loose after a few hours of riding. I believe the issue could be tracked down to the stem which doesn’t appear to clamp down as well as it should, even when over tightened.
Three Things That Could Be Improved
- For this price, we really hope to see a dropper post included with the bike out of the box. There are plenty of budget dropper posts that could easily find there was on to the Eccentric Cromo and to really bring the bike to life it needs one.
- While the Maxxis Ardent tyres are great for trails centres and hard pack conditions, they don’t quite have the grip we need for aggressive winter riding. For UK conditions a set of High Roller II’s would have been a nice option, but if you buy from a friendly dealer you might be able to get these changed at the point of sale.
- The svelte steel frame is really a looker, but the cable routing is rather untidy. Not only do the cables look untidy, but the steel zip tie mounts are rather ugly and look like an after-thought.
Three Things That We Loved
- The NS Eccentric Cromo is an all mountain hardtail with the heart of a dirt jump bike. We love the fact that this bikes wants to be thrown around and changes direction with minimal input.
- NS branded components might seem like a cost cutting measure, but I’ve no complaints with anything on the bike aside from the stem. The wheels were especially impressive and feel suitably bombproof.
- Plus size compatibility. The fact that NS has designed the Eccentric Cromo to run 29inch wheels or 27.5 Plus (3.0inch wide tyres will fit) is a great design point and means you can play around with wheel sizes without much hassle.
I think it’s pretty clear that I’ve enjoyed the NS Eccentric Cromo, and in all honesty, I’m a little upset to have to send it back. £1649 does seem like a lot of money for a hardtail bike without a dropper post, but admittedly the focus with the Eccentric Cromo is squarely on the high quality steel frame.
And thanks to excellent geometry, it handles really, really well. If you’re not into the build kit, NS Bikes does offer the Eccentric Cromo as a frame-only option, so it’s entirely possible for you to build it up as you like.
2017 NS Bikes Eccentric Cromo Specifications
- Frame // Tange 4130 Cromoly frame
- Fork // Manitou Machete 27.5+ fork, 140mm Travel
- Hubs // NS Rotary Sealed Bearing, 110x15mm Front, 148x12mm Rear
- Rims // Shining DB-T29, 29”, 32h, Tubeless Ready
- Tyres // Maxxis Ardent Skinwall 29×2.25in
- Chainset // SRAM NX Boost, X-Sync 30t Chainring
- Rear Mech // SRAM NX, 11-Speed
- Front Mech // N/A
- Shifters // SRAM NX trigger, 11-speed
- Brakes // SRAM Level T 180mm Rotors
- Stem // NS Quantum Lite 31.8, 45mm
- Bars // NS Terra 762mm Wide
- Grips // Octane One Lock-On
- Seatpost // Kalloy, 30.9mm
- Saddle // SDG Circuit MTN Saddle
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large