Review: Canfield Nimble 9

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By Jenn


First published in Singletrack Magazine issue 97

The Nimble 9 is the most ordinary of the three bikes in this test. It’s ‘just’ a 4130 steel hardtail – until you look at the back end, which is one of the shortest 29in designs in production (last issue’s Zealous Division possibly pips it to the post, but only by a millimetre or so). It also has sliding dropouts so the wheelbase can be tweaked – you can run it fully stretched at the rear of the slots, slammed up against the seat tube (where there’s still plenty of room for a front mech), or any position in between – and we’ll come to the benefits and limitations of that later.

The frame itself has all the features you’d expect, plus a few you might not. Masses of standover, straight headtube for 44mm cups, 142mm bolt-thru rear end, neat CNC work on seat and chainstay yokes, single boss on the seat tube for a direct mount front mech plate, and two sets of bottle bosses – though one is on the underside of the downtube, which limits its usefulness. It’s nicely finished too, with neat welds and a classy headbadge.

Importers Cranknuts deal mostly in frame sales and custom builds, so built this test bike up for us with a typical spec of SRAM X1 drivetrain, Shimano XT brakes, Thomson dropper, Ritchey finishing kit and Stan’s/Schwalbe wheels – all effective kit that does the job.

Trail Notes.

Nimble is as nimble does (we had to get it in somewhere…). We predominantly ran the Canfield with the rear wheel pushed right to the front of the dropouts, and the resulting tight back end and compact footprint makes for phenomenal cornering ability in tight and twisty trails. The response is so immediate that we caught the rear wheel trying to beat us round corners on more than one occasion. It really does display some of the handling characteristics of a 26in bike (remember them?) – rapid and decisive responses to subtle rider input, a flickable, kickable rear end and exceptional manoeuvrability – all good things to have in a trail bike, and rare in a 29er.

Oddly though it doesn’t seem to have held on to the easy, cruisey feel that 29in hardtails normally display on the flat. You have to work quite hard to keep it rolling when gradient isn’t lending a hand, which on easier trails feels like a bit of a chore. There’s more oddness elsewhere, too – the long(ish) fork makes for a tall(ish) front end, and this, combined with the super-short wheelbase, meant that the saddle position for taller testers was almost directly above the rear axle. You can remedy this by pushing the wheel back but obviously if you decide the properties of the short wheelbase are more valuable to you, then you’re going to have to learn to live with it.

The other flipside to the short wheelbase is a loss of stability at speed. ‘Hunker down and hope’ is the technique required when things get fast and open, but if you keep your wits about you, all will be fine.

Surprisingly, for all its agility, the Nimble doesn’t have the snap off the line that we’d expect a steel hardtail to possess. In part we put that down to the Nobby Nic out back – it’s not a particularly flattering tyre and we’d choose something lighter and faster-rolling to make the most of the bike’s deft feel.

Despite these drawbacks though, we’d still happily spend our own money on the Nimble 9 if we were in the market for a new hardtail – it’s a great little bike. If you like to get closely (but not too//ITS// closely) acquainted with the trees while you’re hammering around the local woods – and who doesn’t? – then the Canfield is superb, and its agility in tight trails more than outweighs the loss of high-speed stability for us. Changing direction is definitely its forte.

  • Frame: 4130 chromoly steel
  • Fork: RockShox Revelation Dual Air 130mm (2014)
  • Hubs: Hope Pro 2
  • Rims: Stan’s ZTR Flow EX 29in
  • Chainset: SRAM X1 32T
  • Cassette: SRAM X1 11-spd
  • Front Mech: n/a
  • Rear Mech: SRAM X1
  • Shifters: SRAM X1
  • Brakes: Shimano XT, 180mm
  • Stem: Ritchey
  • Bars: Ritchey
  • Grips: Token
  • Seatpost: Thomson dropper
  • Saddle: WTB Volt
  • Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL
  • Weight: 29.3lb, without pedals

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Review Info

Brand: Canfield
Product: Nimble 9
From: Cranknuts,
Price: £790.00 frame only, £2,695.00 as built
Tested: by Jenn for

Jenn Hill was the deputy editor here at Singletrack up until her untimely death from Lung Cancer in October 2015. She was and remains an inspiration to us all here at Singletrack. Jenn Hill - 1977-2015

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