Remember that radical downhill bike from Empire Cycles? It was 2008 (nearly 10 yeas ago – WHA?!) when the small UK manufacturer wowed the mountain bike world with a totally unique cast alloy downhill frame called the AP-1. With its girder-like frame construction, elevated swingarm and needle roller bearing-equipped single pivot suspension design, the tough UK-made frame offered a level of simplicity and reliability that appealed to many British riders. Empire Cycles then followed that up with the MX6 trail bike, which offered a similar design ethos with strength, durability and serviceability in mind.
Things went a bit quiet for Empire Cycles in recent years, though the brand made a resurgent splash at this year’s Fort William World Cup, where we caught up with owner, designer and fabricator, Chris Williams, who brought along an eye-catching MX6-EVO. However, Chris informed us at the time that he was working on something quite different, and potentially, something that could appeal to a much broader market.
After a long chat with Chris on the phone this week, we can now reveal the early design plans for an all-new trail bike currently dubbed in-house as the ‘TX130’.
Designed to accommodate 29in wheels with 130mm of travel, the TX130 will be pitched as a do-it-all trail bike that will be manufactured right here in the UK out of 6000-series alloy. Chris will be engineering and fabricating the frames in his Bolton factory, using similar construction methods to the current MX6-EVO with a combination of billet machined junction points, extruded tubing, and potentially a bonded swingarm. With the billet machined components and the square-profile tubing, Chris explained that the frame will have a very trick and industrialist look to it, not unlike a Thomson seatpost or a set of Hope cranks.
The most striking difference with the TX130 and any other frame that has worn the Empire Cycles badge is of course, the four-bar suspension design. Compared to the original AP-1, this frame cuts quite a different silhouette that is far less radical than that early cast alloy frame. The move to a more conventional suspension system is likely to open up the Empire Cycles brand to more potential riders, who may have discounted the brand previously due to the perceptions around the single pivot frame design.
Geometry isn’t confirmed as of yet, and Chris is open to feedback on both the design and features on the TX130, so by all means let him know your thoughts in the comments section below. At this point in time, the geometry and feature list will look something like this;
- Recommended fork travel: 130/140mm
- Clearance for 29×3.0in tyres
- Head angle: 66°
- Seat angle: 75°
- Chainstay length: 450mm
- Bottom bracket drop: 30mm
- 1.5in headset
- 148mm x 12mm rear hub
- 31.6mm seatpost diameter
- 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell
Despite the TX130 using three more pivot junctions than the MX6-EVO (which Chris will continue to manufacture and sell), it will feature a similar sealed bearing design with proper dual-rubber seals covering each cartridge bearing in the swingarm, which Chris says is paramount to bearing durability.
Pricing is yet to be confirmed, and Chris is still a few months away before he’ll have a rideable prototype. Because of the extra components, you can expect this to be more than the current MX6-EVO, but in Chris’ words “around the same price as an Orange frame“, which is Empire Cycles’ logical competitor for a British-made full suspension frame.
We’re keen to hear your thoughts on this one, and Chris is too. Do you like the design of the TX130? What don’t you like? Drop your feedback into the comments section below!