Any new bike day is pretty exciting, even if it is a test bike that you’re going to have to bid adieu to in due course. This one, however, is a little more exciting than some – it’s not every day you get to have a hand in making your test bike. Hannah spent a day with Stanton checking out how its bikes are built and having a go at ‘helping’ out with a few bits. Over to Hannah to have a look at the birth of finished product…
Stanton makes both full suspension and hardtail bikes. Manufacturing of the full suspension bikes is done exclusively in house at their mini-factory in Matlock, Derbyshire. Steel hardtails have previously been built abroad, but owner Dan Stanton is in the process of bringing this back in house too. You can check out his explanation for how that will work, and why he’s making that move, in this interview.
Stanton HQ might have the look of a big shed from the outside, but this is no shed builder. Bikes are built to the same standards that you would expect of any factory built bike, and Dan is keen to implement and follow business theory in the quest for improved quality and efficiency. Premier subscribers can read the full write up of my visit here.
Since their bikes are built to exacting standards, there was a limit to what I was allowed to ‘help’ with when building my new Switch9er FS test bike. But first, let’s skip to the end and check out the final product.
It’s a 29 inch wheeled full suspension bike with 140mm rear travel and 160mm up front. Built with a steel front triangle and aluminium rear, it’s available to buy as follows:
- Frame and shock: £2,500
- choose between Ohlins TTX coil or Fox X2 Air shock
- Standard build: £3,975
- RS Lyrik fork and SRAM NX drivetrain
- Elite build: £5,500
- Fox 36 fork and Shimano XT drivetrain
My test frame has been built up with the key elements of the Elite build kit, albeit with a range of preloved parts and a few swaps from the true Elite package. But before we go any further, let’s go back to the beginning.
Born In The UK
The Switch9er FS front triangle starts life in Birmingham (the one in the UK) as Reynolds DZB 631 steel tubing heat treated to 853 properties. These are cut and mitred on site in Matlock and I was allowed to have a go at this bit – it took me a spot of hand filing to get the fit just right. Tubing is fitted together on a custom designed and built jig, made by Paton (who are good enough for Rolls Royce…) for exact fitting.
What those lengths should be will depend on what the customer has ordered. I went for a straight 16.5in geometry bike:
- Stack: 622mm
- Reach: 445mm
- Virtual TT: 600mm
- Actual TT: 610mm
- Seat Tube: 419mm
- Head Angle: 63.73°
- Seat Tube: 76°
However, since each bike is cut to order, you can mix and match the stack, reach and seat tube to suit your riding needs or style. I debated over whether to go for something slightly longer, or with a lower standover, but decided to keep things simple. For reference, here are your sizing parameters:
Initially, each time someone chooses custom sizing, Dan and the team will have to make up a new toleranced drawing, but by keeping each on file they will gradually build up a stock of drawings to work from each time a specific selection is made.
Once the tube lengths and mitres are correct, holes for bottle cages and shock mounts are plotted and drilled. Again, I was able to to some of this myself – plotting the spots to make the holes took me a little bit of doing, but watching Gavin do the same task made it look easy. Blue spray is used to provide a markable surface to plot the correct positions of the holes before drilling.
Blinded By The Light
Having got all the tube lengths ready, it’s time to braze on the bottle cage mounts. My effort (a first shot at brazing) was a little sloppier than Gavin’s, but then he’s a super experienced welder with a background in oil and gas, used to working with some seriously complicated stuff. Anyway, once it’s painted, you can’t see the slightly burnished finish to my braze.
With all the tubing details done, it’s time to join them all together to make the front triangle. Anyone with half an eye on buying an ex demo bike will be relieved to know that I didn’t actually weld this frame myself, though I did have a go on some spare tubes. You can judge for yourself whether you’d like me to build you a bike, but bear in mind I had never ever done this before.
Under normal circumstances, Gav welds everything neatly together – as indeed he did with my test frame. I opted to include ISCG tabs on my build (not that I ever run a chain guide or bash guard, but I figure you can not use what’s there, you can’t use what’s not there). Front triangle done, attentions turn to the rear.
Tougher Than The Rest
Continuing the ‘made in the UK’ theme, the rear triangle is made from a ‘dog leg’ piece which is CNC’d by a friend of Dan’s in the UK. These are joined to the rest of the triangle components using aluminium parts from Aalco in Leicester. This 29er has wall thicknesses of 1.6mm on the rear stays to give a reasonable level of elasticity (The longer travel 27.5in Switchback FS has a shorter stay and thicker wall to stiffen them up).
Dan explained that the rear triangle is in two halves, joined together with 15mm and 12mm axles, through a steel yoke, rather than welding them together into one piece. This is to allow the pivot and bottom bracket to work together in a straight line so that there is no lateral twisting on the shock – important on any bike, but especially with the inherent flex of steel. Want to know more? Check out Dan’s explanation of the suspension kinematics.
Structure complete, the bike gets sent off for ED coating to prevent rusting, and then it’s ready for a paint job – or rather, powder coat. There are five standard colours, 15 ‘Elite’ colours (which include some really lovely iridescent metal finishes), plus you can choose from any RAL colour you like. There are a lot of RAL colours, so if you’re not a terribly decisive type, don’t look. To make things worse, you can have your front and rear triangles in different colours, and you can choose to have your down tube decals in any RAL colour you like too…oh, and you can add custom decals to other parts of the bike if you like. This is certainly more choice than I can handle, luckily I have a designer on hand to help with this sort of thing.
After much debate (‘no, you can’t just have grey, it needs to be a colour for the photos’) I opted for RAL 3004 ‘Purple Red’ (Translates as a rather pleasing purpurrot in German) for the frame, with RAL 8019 ‘Grey Brown’ for the downtube decals. We also opted to add a Singletrack logo on the inside of the rear chainstay, just because we could. As well as being pretty in their own right, we thought that these colours would coordinate well with both the orange Fox suspension decals and the yellow Ohlins shock that I plan to test on this bike.
In hindsight, we should have had the Singletrack logo further down the rear stay so that it wouldn’t be blocked from view by the rim and tyre. It’s a simple enough job to get Stanton to strip and respray your bike, or part of it, if you decide you’ve made a poor choice. Much easier than tattoo removal.
Each frame is fitted with a selection of bungs to keep the powder out of threads and holes where you don’t want it. Then it’s sprayed with the colour of your choice, baked, and the decals applied, whether painted or stuck on. A clear coat provides a final layer of protection, and the bike is ready to be either shipped as a frame, or built into a bike.
Born To Run
Stanton sells more frames than it does complete bikes, however I wanted a bike for the test, not just the frame, so I’ve got approximately the Elite build kit, put together by Dan himself. Apart from the shock, all the parts I have are preloved, and some aren’t quite the spec of the true Elite build. You’ll get new parts, don’t worry. With the Elite build, you get Shimano XT, plus you get to choose from a Fox X2 air shock or Ohlins TTX coil shock. Lucky for me, I’ve not had to choose, so I’ll be testing the bike with both shock options and letting you know how I get on. Look out trails, here I come.
Stanton Switch9er FS, As Tested
- Frame // Steel front, aluminium rear, 140mm travel
- Fork // Fox Factory 36, 160mm travel
- Shock // Fox Factory X2 and Ohlins TTX Coil Shock
- Wheels // Stans Arch CB7 Carbon
- Tyres // Goodyear Newton ST 29×2.4in
- Cranks // Shimano XT 32T narrow, wide chainring
- Rear mech // Shimano XT 11-spd
- Shifter // Shimano XT 11-spd
- Cassette // Shimano 11-42T
- Brakes // Shimano XT
- Stem // Stanton Super Series
- Bar // Race Face Turbine2
- Grips // Stanton Super Series Lock-on
- Seatpost // RockShox Reverb Dropper, 170mm
- Saddle // Stanton Rigel
- Size Tested // 16.5in
- Sizes Available // 15, 16.5 18, 19in and custom options
- Weight // 15.44kg / 34lbs (with Fox Shock)
- RRP // £5,500