pace rc529 review andi sykes

Pace RC529 review: the business in front, party in the back hardtail

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Andi reviews Pace Cycles’ low-slung Pace RC529 steel 29er to see what this versatile hardcore hardtail is made of.

I remember leafing through mountain bike magazines in the mid-’90s and being drawn to Pace Cycles’ radical products. The Yorkshire based brand was at the cutting edge of suspension technology back then, and their attention-grabbing, square tubed alloy frames were always the highlight of any trip to the local bike shop.

pace cycles
Remember this?

While the suspension arm of Pace is now owned by DT Swiss, the UK brand is still sitting on the cutting edge of bicycle design, and though the square tubing has long gone, Pace bikes are just as radical as ever.

The UK has always been home to the hardcore hardtail, and Pace has been offering steel frames to meet hardtail fans’ demands for past few years, and as those riders started to ask for longer reach and more progressive geometry Pace happily obliged.

2019 pace RC529
29er up front, 27.5+ in the rear.

For 2019, both the Pace RC529 29er and RC527 27.5in bikes received major geometry overhauls adding as much as 70mm of reach to some sizes compared to previous bikes. Though the new steel frames are more radical than anything we’ve seen from Pace in years, they’ve still retained their versatility making them something to consider if you’re after one bike to do it all.

The Pace RC529 is the only 29er hardtail available in the Pace range and can be ordered as a frame only for £575, as a rolling chassis including suspension forks and wheels, or as a complete bike starting at £2590. Frame options include a choice of colour, either Icelandic Gloss (shown in our review) or Matt Stealth Black, a choice of 4 gloss colour sticker options and three frame sizes, medium, large, and XL.

At this price, Pace is going up against similar steel frames from the likes of Production Privée, Cotic, and Orange.

Pace RC529: First look

Pace RC529 Review: The Bike

Pace uses a mixture of steel tubing to layout the long RC529. The slender steel tubes are made up of high-quality Chromoly and Reynold’s legendary 853 steel which is often seen as one of the best materials to build a hardcore hardtail from.

2019 Pace RC529 first look
Slender steel hardcore hardtail.

The tubes are arranged to Pace’s updated geometry and TIG welded with super strong, neat welds that we’ve come to expect from top-end steel frames.

2019 pace rc529 review andi sykes
Pace RC529 geometry.

Our size large frame has a reach of 483mm, a seat tube angle of 76° and a head tube angle of 66° based around a 140mm travel fork.

2019 Pace RC529 first look
Adjustable dropouts.

The wheelbase is 1218mm but there is a little adjustment there thanks to the Boost sliding dropout system. Although we didn’t try it for our review, you could, in theory, build the RC529 up as a single speed and use the dropouts to tension the chain correctly without the need of a separate tensioner. In its shortest setting the chainstays can be set at 430mm, 5mm less than the 2018 bike.

2019 pace RC529
Plenty of stand over.

The 450mm seat tube and low BB, means the Pace RC529 has plenty of standover height and also means that riders can choose to size up or size down depending on the style of riding they intend to use the bike for most. At 178cm I was worried that the Large might be too long, but actually found the bike the perfect size for my style of riding, but I could easily size down to a medium frame if I planned on visiting dirt jumps more frequently.

Cable/hose routing is all along the downtube of the frame, and although most riders will choose to build the RC529 up with a 1x drivetrain, there is still a cable guide bolted to the bottom bracket shell should you wish to run a front derailleur. The only internal routing is for the stealth dropper post.

2019 pace rc529 review andi sykes
There isn’t much room between the disc and hose.

If you take a look at the non-drive side of the Pace you see the disc brake and the 180mm disc attached to the rear wheel. 180mm looks like the max disc you could run in the RC529 due to the hose routing which is extremely close, perhaps too close. I didn’t run into issues during our test time, but a little more wiggle room between the spinning brake disc and the vital brake hose would have been appreciated.

2019 pace rc529 review andi sykes
Rack mounts for those who want an adventure.

There is space for a single bottle cage on the RC529 and there are rack mounts on the rear of the bike so you could pop on a set of panniers and head off for an adventure with this hooligan if you fancied it.

Pace Cycles offers the RC529 in a range of options but our complete bike isn’t listed on the Pace website. It does represent the type of bike many of us would choose to build though with a trusty set of RockShox Pike forks up front, RockShox Reverb dropper, and SRAM GX Eagle and 4 pot brakes all being items I would likely spec myself.

2019 pace RC529
Pace’s own stem holds a set of Renthal bars.

The rest of the build comes from various UK brands, Renthal for the bars, Charge for the saddle, Pace fits its own 32mm RC46 stem there’s a smattering of Hope here and there too.

2019 Pace RC529 first look
Reach has been greatly increased for 2019.

Out of the box our test bike was built up with a 29in DT Swiss EX 471 rim laced to a Hope Pro 4 hub up front, but a 27.5in plus wheel on the rear. I’ve tested a few bikes with this ‘mullet’ set up which is mostly found on e-Bikes, but I’ve also experimented with it on my own Production Privée Shan GT too. Pace also sent us a 29er rear wheel to test the bike with too, and during the review, I actually rode the RC529 with 3 different rear wheels.

Pace RC529 Review: The Ride

2019 pace rc529 andi sykes
Party time!

Although I was the person who originally wrote about the radical jump in size that RC529 had undergone, the length of the bike still surprised me once it arrived in the office. With a reach of 483mm, it’s longer than my Transition Scout and much longer than the Commencal Meta 29er that I’m also currently testing, and I worried it might be a little too much. Once on the bike though you soon forget about those numbers and just get on and enjoy the ride.

2019 pace rc529 andi sykes
Getting ready to tip it in.

The longer front end combined with the low BB, slack head angle and low handlebar position had me weighing up the front wheel and leaning through corners more confidently than I normally would. With more speed at my disposal at the exit of corners, I soon found myself hitting lines as fast as I might on a full suspension bike. Trust the Pace to get you up to speed and you soon forget about the lack of rear suspension and begin to revel in the stability of this light blue beauty.

pace rc529 review andi sykes
Mullet mode is my preferred wheel choice on the Pace.

Initially, I ran the bike as it came from Pace, with that fat 2.8in Schwalbe tyre wrapped around a 27.5in + wheel fitted in the rear and 29er wheel up front, and instantly I felt at home on the Pace. The chunkier rear tyre can be run at lower pressures to ensure a more forgiving backend, perfect for smashing down rocky descents, but the amount of traction available for climbs was equally welcome. I’ve tested this wheel combo on multiple bikes over the years and the only time I feel the plus wheel is a hindrance is in the winter months as it doesn’t dig through the slop so well unless you’re on a heavy e-bike.

pace rc529
29er up front, plus in the year.

After thoroughly loving the RC529 in mullet mode, I popped in the 29in wheel Pace supplied and took it for a spin around the same test loop. The wheel was built up using a Hope Pro 4 hub, Hope 29er rim and a Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyre, but the older tread design. Older Hope rims are known for being fairly narrow and this was instantly noticeable once fitted to this hardcore hardtail. While the narrower rim got me up the climbs faster it had a negative effect on rocky descents and I was significantly slower in the rough technical sections of the ride.

As the Hope rim has been superseded now I felt that leaving the test there would be unfair, so I took the wider Spank Oozy 350 29er wheel with a modern 2.35in Hans Dampf tyre out of my Commencal and popped it in the Pace. The extra width in the rim might only be a few mm but the difference in tyre shape and shock absorbing capabilities was immediate. With a modern 29er rear wheel the RC529 was just as fast on the climbs as before, but much faster and more capable in the rough too.

2019 pace rc529 review andi sykes
The RC529 is a damn fine climber too.

If I was to build an RC529 though I think I would probably go for the mullet combination for the drier months. The extra traction on the climbs and the shock absorbing properties of the large rear tyre really cannot be ignored. Fitting the plus tyre actually also has a slight effect on the geometry too, shortening the reach by a few mm and slackening the head angle a little. I’m sure I didn’t notice those few mm in reach, but the RC529 did seem more fun on steep trails and sharp berms in this setup.

Durability Notes

Our test bike was 8 months old and was beginning to show a few marks in the paint here and there. There were rub marks in the finish from cable and hose routing, and a scratch in one of the seat stays. That’s not a dreadful amount of damage for a demo bike, but personally, I’d want to put some budget aside to get the frame Invisiframed or similar. A protective finish would also help to keep those decals on too, a few on our bike were starting to peel off.

Not of major importance but worth noting, our test bike’s head badge didn’t sit flat against the frame and looks as though it could easily be lost if caught and pulled on something.

3 things that could be improved

  • The rear disc brake hose routing is too close to the rear disc for my liking. We didn’t have any issues during our test time, but I’d like to see a little more clearance.
  • Speaking of clearance, with a modern wide 29er rim in place and a 2.35in Schwalbe tyre mounted, the mud clearance isn’t huge.
  • I think I would prefer a lacquer over the decals and paint just to stop the stickers from coming off, although that would mean you would lose the option of speccing your own colour choice.

3 things that I loved

  • Confidence inspiring modern geometry. At first, I worried that the large frame might have been a little too long for me, but I absolutely loved it and didn’t feel I lost any playfulness with the extra reach.
  • The stability on high speed, rocky descents is incredible which is just as well, as I entered most of our local trails at a similar speed as I do on a full suspension bike.
  • Climbing, even with the large plus tyre, is a breeze. I’ve got some of my fastest climbing times onboard the RC529.

Pace RC529 Review: Overall

pace rc529 2019 rodwell steel hardtail hannah
Andi eventually let Hannah have a go.

Don’t let the progressive geometry and extra length of the Pace RC529 worry you, this is an extremely well-rounded bike that managed to get me to the top and bottom of our local test loop faster than some of the full-suspension bikes I’ve ridden over the years.

The long wheelbase makes for fast and stable rock taming, and the sorted geometry means you’ll be tipping the front wheel into turns with more confidence, but it’s happy to munch the miles and comfortable enough to take you on your next backpacking adventure.

Pace has put together one of the most sorted hardtails out there.

Review Info

Brand: Pace
Product: RC529
From: Pace Cycles
Price: £575 frame only
Tested: by Andi Sykes for 2 weeks

Andi is a gadget guru and mountain biker who has lived and ridden bikes in China and Spain before settling down in the Peak District to become Singletrack's social media expert. He is definitely more big travel fun than XC sufferer but his bike collection does include some rare hardtails - He's a collector and curator as well as a rider. Theory and practice in perfect balance with his inner chi, or something. As well as living life based on what he last read in a fortune cookie Andi likes nothing better than riding big travel bikes.

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Comments (10)

    Thanks for the review Andi.

    Does the 2.8 look like the largest rear tyre that would fit or could you squeeze in a 3?

    What does this bike do better than your Shan GT? In what ways is it worse?

    Were the adjustable rear dropouts problem free and easy to use during the test?


    Chris (trying to decide between this, a SolarisMax & a Shan GT)

    You have the frame listed as £1575 early in the article and I spent the whole review wondering wtf. Actually it’s £575 as listed in the ‘review info’ at the end so I’m glad Pace may actually sell some!!

    @gavinpearce Hi, yup frame is £575 fixed now and thanks for pointing it out 😉

    @chrisdavis Yup, 2.8 would the largest I would happily go. I didn’t have a 3.0 to try, it could possibly fit but there wouldn’t be much clearance.

    If your after a hardtail that will keep up with full-suspension bikes in the rough then the Pace. If you’re more interested in popping and hopping over obstacles then the Shan GT. I feel the Shan GT is a more ‘lively’ bike, but the geo is a little dated now.

    I had no issues with the dropouts while testing the bike or swapping between the various wheels.

    I’ve not tried the Cotic myself put it looks like a good combination of the Shan GT and the Pace. There’s also the Sonder Signal Ti, to consider but it’s a little more expensive.

    I have the 27.5 wheel version, the RC 627. The tire clearance increases quite a lot as you slide the dropouts back.

    I’m torn between the pace rc529 and pipedream moxie, any one rode both to give some insight??

    @herdwick sorry, I’ve not ridden a Moxie but would love to give one a go.


    If I want a more all rounder bike, which one is better between Pace RC 529, Pace RC 627, and Ragley Piglet?

    I’m intrigued by the “mullet” combination – what benefits does a 29er in the front bring, compared to matching 27.5+ front and rear?

    @specializedneeds I run my SolarisMax in the reverse mullet and also prefer it this way. The 29er wheel up front helps get over obstacles easier and I also prefer the precision of the skinnier tyre too, I have better control of where the wheel goes so ruts and narrow gaps seem easier to ride through. The full plus setup is fun though.

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