This New Full Suspension Bike From Empire Cycles Features A UK-Proof Bearing Design

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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’.

empire cycles tx130 cad rendering design uk made
The TX130 will be designed around 29in wheels and 130mm of travel on the rear via a four-bar suspension design.

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.

empire cycles tx130 cad rendering design uk made
The frame will be made of 6000-series alloy right here in the UK.

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
empire cycles tx130 geometry
Empire Cycles TX 130 Geometry.
pivot bearing assembly technical drawing empire cycles
Each bearing will have a full rubber seal on each side (that’s #2 and #4 in the table above), to prevent contamination in the first place.

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!

Comments (16)

    Looks good and nice to see more UK made FS options in.
    Being it will be a small production, I’d like to see a slacker HA in particular but get that it is pretty bang on for the mainstream.

    Looks amazing! Cant wait to see this in prototype

    Looks like a UK made Nicolai for less cash

    So long as the frame is at least 5lbs lighter than the MX6 and the BB threads are cut properly i am sure it will be great. Details count when you are a small manufacturer.

    Chris – have you thought of integrating frame details like Liteville does esp with its 301 frame?
    Furthermore I recently read of cavalerie bikes and effigear transmission – it could be quite a great thing to see at your bikes.
    Chris’ frame artwork is fantastic and in my eyes on its own level even above hope and pace.
    Your new design looks like there will be great details unmatched in industry and promising great value.

    I got all excited until I saw it was 29er. It would be rad with small wheels a shorter chainstay and properly strong for jumps and general sending and rowdyness as no one really makes such a thing. As much as I love my evo, as a 29er I’m out.

    29X3 is very interesting. Not many 29 plus full sussers out there.

    My 2p:

    I hope they sell a boatload.

    It seems to me that Empire have been stung a little by changes in bike fashions / standards: wheels sizes, etc. It can’t have been easy to keep up.

    I wonder if they’re about to try and catch up with the recent must-have : enduro-specific long reach (which some people are already starting to raise questioning eyebrows at – it makes sense for smashing through steep rough stuff, but there are drawbacks), Just in time for the winds of fashion to change again…

    420mm Seat-tube? That’s a ‘small’.

    But 470mm reach? – on a ‘small’…? That’s very 2017…

    (Next year will see the appearance of bimble-core specific geometry, you heard it here first)

    I am of course, an idiot.

    @Van Halen – I forgot to mention in the article that Chris said his next design would be a similar trail frame built around 27.5in wheels, so that may be more up your alley. He’s got other ideas too, which I’m sure we’ll hear more about in time 🙂

    Threaded BB and 140mm travel on the rear as well and in a small size as Orange has stopped doing a small 29er.
    Love the replaceable threaded rear brake mounts too, nice touch.

    140mm travel on the rear as well would be a nice touch and in a small size as Orange has stopped doing a small 29er.
    Love the replaceable threaded rear brake mounts too.

    Personally I would slacken the head angle a lot more, but that’s my personal taste. At 65/65 I think it’s a good market, ie anyone who wants to make slacker and longer can do with a slack set.
    If I could buy one now, I’d buy! Keep the 29” wheels as well. Then if you want to put 27” on do so.
    Pleae don’t shorten the chainstays.
    Good work I say

    I think you should make it a 34.9mm ID seat tube and integrate the Eightpins dropper into it. I have a Liteville and the Eightpins is by far the best dropper I’ve used to date. But I like the idea of a UK 130mm 29er made from Aluminium. Carbon can and jump in the ocean (which is where a lot of it ends up)…

    I’m no bearing specialist but all the bearings in my frames already have rubber seals and they get dirty in grim conditions anyway..

    With that said, I know industrial technicians that don’t understand what kind of lousy bearings the bike industry uses. They say they have bearing surviving much harsher conditions for longer times.

    Hmmm, still wish it was a TX 115 with 650b, and 140 forks.

    Very interesting, good to see a local firm with its finger on the pulse.
    Nice long chainstays and long reach. Correct choice of wheel size.
    Maybe include a flip-chip to give option of slightly slacker geometry? The one on the Radon Swoop is a great example, drop me a line if you want a look at it in the flesh.

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