Issue #114 of Singletrack Magazine, we reviewed three bikes as part of our Killer Hardtail group test.
Of the three brands on test, Trillion Cycles is by far the youngest. Having formed this time last year, Trillion only officially launched to the public in early 2017 at the London Bike Show – seemingly coming out of nowhere. But as it turns out, there’s some pretty big investment going on behind this new name.
Trillion is owned by industrial mega-company the Liberty House Group, which specialises in producing steel and aluminium, while also working in metals recycling. Owner Sanjeev Gupta has made himself known in the UK thanks to a number of key purchases of declining smelting mills around the country, with the immediate goal of retaining local jobs and a long-term goal of repurposing those mills into metal recycling plants fuelled by renewable energy. In addition to his ambitious commodities projects and desire to bring manufacturing back to the UK, Gupta launched the Trillion brand as an homage to his father – an Indian steel tycoon who originally founded Victor Bicycles. However, Gupta is keen to assert that Trillion isn’t a vanity project, but rather a conscious move to kick-start bicycle mass production in the UK – a country that was once home to the biggest bike manufacturers in the world.
That’s some pretty big visionary stuff, and Trillion is still very much in its infancy right now. To begin with, Trillion is launching with a small, but focused range of bikes, including this one called the Prime.
Currently in the prototype phase with the finer details still being ironed out, the Prime is a UK-made steel hardtail designed for a 160mm travel fork. It’ll be available both as a frame only, or as a complete bike with full builds expected to start at £3k. Custom-build kits are also available, and the final product is then sold and shipped direct to consumer.
The double-diamond Prime frame is made up of a collection of large diameter steel tubes from Reynolds and Columbus, with a 44mm headtube up front and a sharply sloping top tube that takes a pleasingly straight line down the seatstays to the rear dropouts.
There are some nice details on the Prime frame, including a proper metal headtube badge, and a subtle British flag graphic on the seat tube that indicates the frame’s origins. All cables run externally under the downtube, captured by tidy bolt-on clamps. The dropper post cable is the only one that runs internally, and it’s only for a small length inside the seat tube. Other nods towards practicality include the 73mm threaded bottom bracket and the addition of ISCG 05 chainguide tabs for those who want to make use of them.
Rear dropouts are 148mm wide, and they use a sliding design with integrated tensioners. This allows you to tune chainstay length between 430mm–450mm, and also offers an easy conversion to singlespeed. However, according to Trillion, it also means the Prime can accommodate either 27.5in or 29in wheels, with max tyre clearance rated at 2.6in for both wheel diameters. To match the frame and its wheel size compatibility, Trillion has fitted a RockShox Yari 29er fork with 160mm of travel.
With Trillion listing the Prime as “Designed for 29er, compatible with 27.5”, the frame geometry has been set around running 29in wheels. That’s resulted in a 65° head angle, a 74° seat angle, and a 44mm bottom bracket drop. There will be three sizes available in the Prime, with Trillion claiming that’ll suit riders from as short as 5ft 6in up to 6ft 3in. However, the company has also hinted that custom frame geometry may be an option in the future.
Our test bike came set up with Mavic XA Elite 27.5in wheels and 2.4in wide tyres, and quite a high-end build kit that would set you back £4,599 for the whole bike. Decked out with Hope brakes and headset along with a SRAM X01 Eagle 1×12 drivetrain, the complete Prime weighs in at an impressive 12.13kg.
Being a prototype frame, the Prime we’ve been testing is somewhat rough around the edges. The paint is patchy, and the welds aren’t exactly what you’d call exquisite. The seat tube is slightly oversized, resulting in the seatpost twisting even with the seat clamp tightened up to spec. The dropouts also require heavy spreading to fit and remove the rear wheel from the frame. Apparently this issue was caused by heat deformation on early prototypes from welding without the correct jig on hand. The splayed dropouts have also robbed available chainstay clearance with the drive-side crank arm, resulting in an annoying knock on every revolution.
Trillion has informed us that all these issues have since been resolved with later prototypes, and that there are substantial changes due for production models, so we set all of that aside and got on with testing the Prime to see how it rode on the trail.
Following Trillion’s sizing advice, I tested the M/L frame size based on my 175cm height. With its sloping top tube and short seat tube, I was able to fully appreciate all 170mm of travel on the Reverb dropper post – unusual for a rider of my height. With the saddle slammed out of the way, it becomes so much easier to move around the frame for cornering and descending, and I’ve since struggled going back to anything with less than 150mm of drop.
With the longest fork on test, the Prime feels big the moment you board. Due to the external headset and 160mm 29er fork, the Prime has a substantial stack height of 634mm, putting the grips up quite high – about 50mm higher off the ground than the grips on the Nukeproof. Reach is decent, with the M/L frame measuring in at 448mm (422mm for the S/M and 470mm on the L/XL sizes). To quicken up steering, Trillion has built each frame size around a compact 33–35mm stem length.
All told, with the uber-stiff 780mm wide Renthal handlebar and 27.5in wheels fitted, the Prime feels big and bold. It has a very stable and sure-footed feel that makes an over-the-bars excursion feel very unlikely. The Yari forks complement that feel, with the bulky chassis and smooth action keeping the front wheel tracking true.
With the Prime being wheel-size ambidextrous, I subbed in 29in wheels to see how the bike would handle. Immediately apparent was the increase in BB height, which lifted 1.5cm to sit 33cm off the ground. I also had to pull the dropouts rearwards to accommodate the larger diameter wheel. With this set-up the Prime felt calmer overall, and I had no issues with pedalling through deep blown-out ruts thanks to the extra ground clearance. However, the whole bike just felt a little too cumbersome for my liking.
To remedy this, I left the 29er up front and put the 27.5in wheel back into the rear. This dropped the BB height back down, shortened the chainstays to 430mm, and slackened off the head angle a touch to 64.5°.
Once back on the trail, the Prime felt the best it had throughout testing. It’s still too tall at the front, it doesn’t climb particularly well, and you really need to boss the bike about to make the tighter corners, but it’s very solid. Commit to the Prime’s ‘tip and dip’ cornering style, and it’ll sling in and out of high-speed corners well. And as your confidence (and speed) increases, the wheels begin to skip over the top of the chatter, which feeds into further acceleration to let you really pinball downhill.
However, like other big forked hardtails, the 160mm of travel up front can lead you into a false sense of security. So be prepared to handle your way out of some dicey trail situations. The head angle also effectively steepens as you sag through the travel, and I’m not totally convinced the Prime needs such a big fork. Retaining the slack head angle but running a shorter 130–140mm travel fork would help to preserve the Prime’s dynamic geometry at speed, while also lowering the overall ride height too.
While I’m making suggestions, the arty brace on the back of the seatstay looks neat, but it is both a mud collector and a physical barrier for running a shorter chainstay length.
Being a prototype frame, there’s only so many conclusions we can make about the Prime’s performance. There’s no doubt that it’s a burly and capable steel hardtail, but I’d like to see further refinements to the frame and geometry. The bike sits tall at the front, and it isn’t immediately intuitive to ride. And while the wheel size flexibility is nice, the Prime chassis does feel somewhat compromised to afford such allowances.
However, there have been enough moments of brilliance on the trail where the capable Prime has demolished sections with far greater speed than a hardtail should, that we’re excited to see what changes are to come for the production versions. We’re also big fans of the UK-manufacturing ethos and the company’s bold plans, and if Trillion is indeed heading where it says it is, this will be a name to watch.
Note: Since testing and reviewing the Trillion Prime prototype, Trillion has announced its partnership with Shand Cycles in Scotland. Shand intends to continue making its own drop-bar bikes, though will market Trillion as an off-road focussed brand, whilst building the steel frames in-house in its Livingston factory. For more information on the merger, check out our detailed interview with both companies here.
Trillion Prime 27.5 Specifications
- Frame // Reynolds 853 & Colombus Zona Steel
- Fork // Rockshox Yari RC, 160mm Travel
- Hubs // Mavic XA Elite, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
- Rims // Mavic XA Elite, Hookless, UST Tubeless
- Tyres // Mavic Quest Pro UST 2.4in Front & Rear
- Chainset // SRAM X01 Eagle 32t
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // SRAM X01 Eagle 12-Speed
- Shifters // SRAM X01 Eagle 12-Speed
- Cassette // SRAM XG-1295 Eagle, 10-50t, 12-Speed
- Brakes // Hope Race Evo E4, 180mm Front & 160mm Rear
- Stem // Renthal Apex 35, 40mm Long
- Bars // Renthal Fatbar Carbon 35, 780mm Wide
- Grips // ODI Ruffian Lock-On
- Seatpost // RockShox Reverb Stealth, mm Diameter, 170mm Travel
- Saddle // Fabric Scoop Flat
- Size Tested // M/L
- Sizes available // S/M, M/L, L/XL
- Weight // 12.13 kg (26.86 lbs)
|Price:||£999 (frame only)|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 3 months|