Hannah reports back on her time on the Stanton Switch9er FS, a hand made steel and alloy bike from the UK.
Stanton Bikes has a well established reputation for building steel hardtails, so it was with some excitement that the move into full suspension frames was announced, with the prototype Stanton Switch9er FS being revealed at the London Bike Show in February 2018. It took until late autumn last year to be ready for production, and we went to check out how Dan Stanton has structured his business to allow the building of the frames from scratch at the Matlock HQ.
Billed as a bike for enduro racing or aggressive trail riding – ‘a Trail Slayer’, says the website – the Switch9er FS (that we have here) has 140mm of rear travel, 160mm front, 29 inch wheels, and sits alongside its 27.5in wheeled sibling, the Switchback FS. This comes in two guises: a 140mm travel ‘aggressive trail’ bike, and 160mm travel ‘enduro/park’ bike. Both the Switch9er FS and Switchback FS come in at the same price, £3,975 and up for a complete bike, or £2,500 for a frame and shock.
Choose Your Own Adventurer
Because the bikes are made to order, each Stanton Switch9er FS can be adjusted to your geometry and colour needs. You can mix and match the stack, reach and seat tube length. In the interests of keeping things simple, I went for a standard 16.5in geometry bike:
- Stack: 622mm
- Reach: 445mm
- Virtual TT: 600mm
- Actual TT: 610mm
- Seat Tube: 419mm
- Head Angle: 63.73°
- Seat Tube: 76°
In the interests of aesthetics, and because you can, I opted for my own personal colour scheme and a special Singletrack decal. RAL 3004 ‘Purple Red’ for the frame, with RAL 8019 ‘Grey Brown’ for the downtube decals. You can go as wild as you want to (for a small upcharge), or not, and just choose from one of the Standard or Elite colours already chosen by Stanton. There are some really nice options in there.
The bike comes in four basic sizes, 15, 16.5, 18, and 19.5in – but all with that mix and match option across stack, reach and seat tube. The standard geometry falls into the long and slack of modern trends, and if you go for custom options you can make that even longer and slacker – or not.
If you’re looking at this bike, you’re perhaps already sold on the idea of having a British built steel bike. Certainly Stanton seems to have something of a cult following, and their steel hardtails are shipped all over the world, with many customers opting for multiple models, or nice new paint jobs from time to time. Perhaps you’re just interested in whether a steel bike can deliver the same performance as a carbon full-susser, maybe you’re questioning the environmental credentials of plastic bikes, or maybe you just like the shape of a nice metal tube? You’re probably not looking at this bike as a first foray into the world of full suspension – it’s definitely got a degree of boutiqueness to it. But is it all in the ‘steel is real’ myth and aesthetic, or does it perform differently?
I’ve been riding a few full suspension 29ers over the last year, in a selection of carbon and alloy models. But I confess I am in the ‘ooh, round tubing, let me stroke it’ camp. There’s something about how a steel (or titanium) bike looks that is just…well… a bit hot. This would be my first chance to ride a steel FS bike, and I was looking forward to it. The website promised ‘the most well engineered playful natured, confidence inspiring, aggressive 29er full-suspension frame’. Would it be a case of form meeting function?
The Switch9er FS combines a steel front triangle with rear alloy triangle, joined by CNC machined linkages and integrated bottom bracket and first link pivot. It’s all welded together, order by order, on site in Matlock. It’s perhaps testament to the quality of the welds that quite a few customers ask for a ‘raw’ finish to Stanton bikes.
Steel has an inherent flex to it, which is great for some things, but not so good if you want your shock to move in a straight line without stiction, or you want to transfer power through the pedals into movement. Dan has designed this bike to have as little lateral flex as possible in the front triangle and through the linkages, to give direct power transfer. The bottom bracket shell and first link pivot is constructed from a single piece of steel to create that lateral stiffness. Also in the interests of lateral stiffness are the CNCd aluminium linkages, plus the two CNCd ‘dog legs’ that form the front of the rear triangle, around the linkage assembly. In contrast, the back of the rear triangle is made with tubing with wall thicknesses designed specifically to give the flex that you want for cornering.
An interesting point to note is that the left and right halves of the rear triangle are just that – two halves. The drive and non drive sides are separate, linked by bolts, not a welded bridge. So if you happen to smash up your rear triangle, you can replace just the damaged half. It’s like Meccano got rad. That swap and replace option is part of Dan’s design ethos – he wants his bikes to be ‘hop-up-able’, so you can change linkages, shock mounts, and triangles as his designs or your riding evolve.
Once I’d stopped fondling the frame tubing and took a step back, it’s fair to say that it looked quite tall at the front end. It has quite a long head tube and an external headset – so with no spacers up front and a 35mm stem there didn’t seem to be a lot of room for adjustment.
My test bike came with an approximation of the ‘Elite’ build. I say approximation because it was built up mostly with used parts, and one or two of them weren’t quite as the Elite spec would be. I swapped one or two items round during the test too. Plus Dan shipped me both the Fox Air Shock and Ohlins Coil shock, for a bit of a comparison. As if having to decide your geometry and finish wasn’t choice enough. Oh, and you have to choose if you go for internal or external rear triangle routing. I went for internal. Enough decision making – time to ride.
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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. Frame only £2500 including coil or air shock.
|Tested:||by Hannah for 3 months|