In Issue #112 of Singletrack Magazine, we tested three mountain bikes to find out what we’d choose to survive the Zombie Apocalypse
Located in the industrial belt of Livingston in Scotland, Shand Cycles has been crafting beautiful handmade steel bicycles since 2003. Steven Shand first launched the brand by building custom one-off mountain bike frames, etching himself a reputation for his early adoption of 29in wheels.
The range of bikes that Shand offers has since expanded over the past 14 years, and so has the team. Having moved out of Steve Shand’s backyard shed, Shand now employs five full-time staff members who take care of everything from tube mitring, TIG welding and fillet brazing, through to painting, prepping and building complete bikes as custom spec’d by each customer.
The frames are lovingly crafted from TIG-welded Columbus Niobium heat-treated steel. There are stock frame sizes, though custom sizing is also available. Each frame is painted in-house, and you can choose from no less than 30 standard colours. Want something special? Shand will also do metallic and custom colour options for an up-charge. And to finish the custom touch, each frame gets a proper metal head tube badge, as well as its own unique number plate that’s located underneath the bottom bracket shell.
While Shand has its roots in mountain biking, the company offers a range of drop-bar bikes too, including the Stooshie all-road bike, Stoater adventure bike, and the Drove off-road 29er. The Drove the drop bar version of the Bahookie 29er. Apparently that’s been confusing for some customers though. And so, during the test period, Shand announced that it will be ditching the Drove name, and simply offering the Bahookie designed around flat or drop bar setups, which should minimise confusion moving forward. Got it?
According to Shand, the Drove is the most versatile bike in its range. It’s built as a long-distance hauler for taking on self-supported multi-day riding adventures like the Tour Divide, with provisions for rear racks, three bottle cages and plenty of space for bikepacking paraphernalia. Perfect then for carrying food supplies and zombie-specific weaponry.
Built with curvy Colombus steel tubes and an unassuming Sage Green paint job, the Drove looks dead mean with its horned drop bars and chunky tyres.
The Drove frame is also disc brake specific, and it can be set up with a suspension fork, or Shand’s own suspension-corrected carbon fibre thru-axle fork. With loads of tyre clearance, the Drove came rolling in with a 2.35in wide Schwalbe Hans Dampf on the front, and a slightly quicker 2.25in Nobby Nic on the rear. All up, it’s a beast of a bike, and likely one of the most capable drop-bar bikes I’ve ever ridden.
Geometry is shaped around the dropped handlebar, but it’s very much equipped for singletrack. There’s a 69° head angle, a 73° seat angle, and a hefty 70mm bottom bracket drop that pushes your weight down further between the big 29in wheels. That helps to provide loads of stability, even when carrying extra weight. Shand has spec’d a 44cm wide Salsa Cowbell handlebar that has a 12° flare to the drops. Personally I’d prefer something a little wider again for further descending control, but, as with any build from Shand, you can custom-build a Drove any way you like.
There are loads of useful details hidden within the frame too. The seat tube binder uses a forward-facing slot to reduce internal contamination from rear wheel mud spray, and the external gear cables run full-length housing for added foul-weather protection. A plump 44mm head tube creates a larger welding surface area for the top and down tubes, while accommodating modern tapered steerer tubes.
Modular Paragon Machine Works PolyDrop dropouts enhance the Drove’s versatility by allowing for singlespeed, geared and Rohloff setups to be used on the same frame. A very subtle split in the frame’s dropout allows the necessary entry point for the one-piece belt drive.
The Rohloff Speedhub contains 14 gears inside the large diameter alloy hub shell. With all the shifting gubbins housed inside the rear hub, the design offers masses of durability with next to no maintenance required. Likewise, the Gates Carbon belt drive only needs a quick rinse with the hose and it’s clean.
To operate the Rohloff Speedhub, Shand has spec’d an aftermarket Co-Motion twist shifter. The shifter body is made from beautifully machined alloy, and it features an adjustable bracket that allows it to slide over the curves of a drop bar – a task that the standard Rohloff shifter cannot perform.
While there are multiple options for custom building your own Shand bike, our Drove test bike came set up with a sensible parts spec to put it up to the job. The hubs are laced to tubeless compatible Stan’s Arch rims, though you can have the front wheel built with a dynamo hub for the ultimate in self-reliance.
All up, the complete Shand Drove weighs in at 12.3kg. Shand claims the steel frame on its own comes in at 2.06kg for the medium size.
First impressions of climbing aboard the Shand Drove is that feels very secure – and long. The effective top tube length on our Medium test bike measures at 58cm/22.8in long, which isn’t massive by hardtail standards. But combined with the added reach of the Salsa Cowbell drop bar, it did create a rather stretched-out riding position for my 175cm height.
To help mitigate the stretch, I swapped in a shorter 80mm stem and flipped it upwards to lift the bar height. Personally, I like being able to descend in the drops when riding off-road, and a taller bar position helps to facilitate this.
With the chunky tyres and weighty rear wheel, the Drove isn’t as sprightly as lighter weight alternatives. It takes a little longer to winch it up to speed on tarmac and smooth fire roads, and that sensation was exacerbated by the brand-new Rohloff hub on our test bike. With a 1,000km break-in period, the new hub seals are very draggy out of the box. The good news though is that this will settle in with time.
We also experienced excessive drag from the bottom bracket bearings. To tension the belt, Shand specs eccentric BB cups that rotate inside the PF30 shell, which appeared to be out of sync enough to cause some binding. Shand has already switched to Niner’s BioCentric II bottom bracket for its production bikes, which is a much higher quality option compared to the Problem Solvers BB in our test bike.
Otherwise the Gates Carbon belt drive performed flawlessly throughout the test period. It’s stealthy quiet, and Gates claims you’ll get approximately three times the wear life out of a belt compared to a regular metal chain. They’re not unbreakable though, and our only concern would be for long distance touring in remote areas, where you might struggle to find a replacement belt in a pinch.
When you pull off the tarmac and onto the trails, the Drove very quickly feels at home. With a generous 1,085mm wheelbase length and 442mm chainstays, it’s hella stable. Combined with the 29in wheels and high-volume tyres, the Drove is impressively composed for a bike that doesn’t have any suspension. And while I admittedly took things a little slower, I was constantly surprised with how much I could get away with on the Shand when dropping down rutted and rocky descents that I would normally take my trail bike on.
It’s also a solid climber, though the only barrier to the Drove’s momentum on steeper terrain is the Co-Motion shifter. It’s quite bulky and a little awkward to use in a hurry, which combined with the sloppy indexing in the rear hub, makes it all too easy to over rotate the shifter and end up in-between gears. And for anyone who’s used a Rohloff Speedhub before, you’ll know that this is a very bad thing. If you don’t cleanly shift into the right gear, the Rohloff will protect its internals by default shifting into the hardest gear. This happened to our testers on numerous occasions, resulting in forced dismounts on steep off-road climbs.
Pay the necessary attention to shift technique, and you slowly become used to the idiosyncrasies of the Co-Motion/Rohloff combo. It’s also less of deal when riding more open and gently undulating terrain, and to be honest, that’s where the Drove’s abilities really shine through. With the sprightly steel frame and big wheels, it absolutely motors over rocky paths at mid-range speeds, gathering steady momentum as it goes. It’s a bridleway machine that’s perfect for map crossing and overnighting.
The Shand Drove is clearly much more of a mountain bike than the curvy drop bars suggest. It’s tough, steady, and remarkably capable on proper singletrack. The Rohloff hub certainly has its quirks, but if the durability advantages are important enough for you, then you’ll learn to live with the shifting. Alternatively, you can always spec the Drove with a regular external drivetrain if you’d prefer.
It isn’t the lightest or fastest bike out there, but for covering long distances off road, the Drove is an absolute diesel of a bike. Factor in the low-maintenance drivetrain and all of the bolt-on options, and you’ve got a durable machine for escaping into the wilderness for days or even weeks on end.
Shand Drove/Bahookie Specifications
- Frame // Colombus Niobium Heat-Treated Steel
- Fork // Shand Carbon, Suspension Corrected
- Hubs // Hope Pro 2 100x9mm Front / Rohloff Speedhub 135mm Rear
- Rims // Stan’s Arch EX 32h
- Tyres // Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35in Front / Nobby Nic 2.25in Rear
- Chainset // Race Face Aeffect, Gates CDX 50T Cog
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // N/A
- Shifters // Co-Motion Rohloff Shifter 14-Speed
- Cassette // Gates CDX
- Brakes // TRP Hylex, 160mm Rotors
- Stem // Shand 90mm
- Bars // Salsa Cowbell 44cm Wide
- Grips // Cork Bar Tape
- Seatpost // Shand 27.2mm
- Saddle // Shand
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes Available // Medium, Large, X-Large
- Weight // 12.3kg (27.06lbs)
|From:||Shand Cycles, shandcycles.com|
|Price:||£1295 (frame only)|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 3 months|