Our very own Bruce Willis lookalike, Andi Sykes, tested out three titanium hardtails from Kingdom, Nordest and Sonder for Issue 122 of Singletrack Magazine. Here is his review of the Nordest Bardino Ti.
Easily the rarest of our titanium trio is the Nordest Bardino Ti. This plus-sized hardtail is designed in Tenerife where local riders shred singletrack created from cooled lava flows. The Bardino Ti is based on an already existing steel frame, but the change in material is said to lower the overall weight by as much as 30% while bringing all those lovely titanium qualities to the table.
Nordest has been selling frames since 2016, but the founding member of the team, Jerónimo, has been designing and manufacturing titanium frames since 2010 under the Jerónimo Cycles brand.
As well as enduro hardtails made of steel and titanium, Nordest also builds hardtail frames with built-in Pinion gearboxes, and it plans to release a bikepacking-specific bike in the near future.
Of the three titanium bikes on test, the Nordest Bardino is the one that really stands out from the rest. Whereas the Kingdom and Sonder bikes on test are designed to run on 29in wheels, our Bardino Ti is designed for 27.5 plus wheels and tyres. Now this is where I must make it perfectly clear that our test frame is a pre-production sample and that the Bardino Ti frames on sale now are compatible with both 27.5 Plus and 29er wheels, but ours is a plus-size only frame. We’re also told that the production versions of the Bardino Ti will come with interchangeable dropouts too, so if you’re looking for some versatility and are interested in experimenting with different wheel sizes then the Nordest is the frame to look at.
A standard frame manufactured from TiAl/2.5V double-butted titanium tubing will cost €1,299 and comes in M and L sizing plus SM and ML in-between sizing. In theory there should be a Bardino Ti to suit most size riders and the geometry should also suit riders who prefer to size up and take advantage of a longer reach while retaining a lower standover.
After studying the stock geometry we asked for a size L frame to be sent which has a reach of 475mm and wheelbase of 1227mm – this would have been similar to the full-suspension bike that I personally ride; however, only a ML-sized frame was available which has a shorter reach of 455mm and wheelbase of 1205mm.
All Bardino Ti frames get a 74.5° seat tube and 65° headtube angle, and are designed around a 160mm travel fork with 20% sag, but apparently the bike will happily accept forks with travel ranging from 140mm to a whopping 170mm travel, making it easily the longest travel hardtail on test. Combine this with the plus-sized tyres and longest wheelbase on test and we had a clear idea that this bike would be the most stable out of the bunch once the trail gets choppy.
If you’re looking at the numbers on the Nordest website and fancied a bike with a steeper seat tube or slacker head angle, or wanted other changes, Nordest can build you a custom frame from €1,449.
Like the Kingdom, each size of Bardino Ti has the same length 425mm chainstays, but as our bike is a pre-release sample the chainstays are even shorter at 415mm. This gives the bike enough room for a 27.5 x 2.8in WTB Vigilante tyre, and chunky plus-sized wheelset, but unfortunately not enough for a 29 x 2.4in.
Nordest intends the Bardino Ti to be a “silent, fun and fast enduro model” and with this in mind, features internal cable/hose routing, stealth dropper compatibility, Boost hub spacing with bolt-thru axle and ISGC 05 chain device tabs, just so you can be 100% sure you won’t drop your chain.
The kit on our test bike is a bit of a mix of brands and components – some of the items, like the fork, will become options in the future but it’s likely many of the components on our build won’t. We have a Cane Creek Helm fork, but in this case a coil variant is supplied rather than an air fork. The Coil Helm offers preload, rebound and compression adjustment, but as it’s a coil shock you’ll need to play around with spring weights if the stock one doesn’t suit. A 40mm Thomson stem is the longest on test, but is the exact length the Bardino is designed around, while the Thomson carbon bar is the narrowest on test at 740mm wide. After months of riding bikes with 780–800mm bars, it seems a little odd to jump on an enduro hardtail with such ‘small’ bars, especially one with 160mm travel.
Fastened to those narrowish bars are a set of Orbea grips, a Bontrager dropper lever for the matching dropper post, and SRAM Guide RSC brakes levers for modulating power through accompanying four-pot callipers. Oddly, Shimano discs are used on this build. They work fine; they just look strange when paired to SRAM callipers. SRAM’s 1×12 Eagle system shows up across the drivetrain in GX guise. We’ve used plenty of these mid-range Eagle systems over the past year and really rate it.
The final items are those chunky wheels. Nordest supplied our test bike with silky smooth Chris King hubs built onto unnamed rims shod with 27.5 x 2.8in WTP Vigilante tyres, adding to the comfort and squish already promised with the titanium tubing.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all rides could begin with a downhill to start? Unfortunately our local rides all begin with sharp, steep climbs, which can either mean a really positive bonding experience with a bike, or a really dreadful grind to the top.
Being that the Nordest team spend their days riding up volcanoes you would hope the Bardino Ti would climb quite well and it does, for a few reasons. First of all is that decent reach. At 455mm our M/L frame is pretty long, but combine that with the 40mm stem and you have a very roomy cockpit which stretches you out into a comfortable climbing position. With your weight far over the front of the bike the super-short chainstays don’t have a negative effect on climbing, and in fact ensures that plus-sized rear tyre is nicely compressed into the dirt for maximum traction.
Again, we’re not talking full-suspension levels of grip and comfort, but those larger tyres certainly help to keep trail bumps and buzz at bay, and they’re quite a welcome addition when climbing, crawling and exploring. The issue with some plus tyres though is that the carcass thickness is a little on the thin side, so you’re caught in a situation where you need to run less pressure to enjoy the big traction benefits, but you need to run enough pressure so the tyres don’t fold or puncture when pushed hard. Given that the 160mm travel Bardino is obviously aimed at hard riding – it has a coil fork for goodness’ sakes – the WTB tyres proved to be the weak link. I managed to puncture the rear quite a few times even at higher pressures, which really isn’t the point of plus is it? If you’re planning on tackling rocky terrain at speed then you’re going to want to choose a tougher casing, on the rear at the very least.
While we’re talking about hard riding, it did take a little longer to feel confident on the Bardino when entering rock gardens, drops or berms due to that narrow bar. Eventually I swapped to a shorter 35mm stem and wider 780mm bar which instantly improved the handling, and boosted my trust in the chunky-wheeled Nordest.
The coil fork is especially happy in these point, shoot, commit situations. It’s exactly where a plush long travel fork likes to be, and once you get used to the linear feel of the Coil Helm, especially noticeable when bunny hopping, you may soon start pricing one up for your other bikes.
With the changes made, the Bardino turns into a bit of a brute – a surprisingly agile one. Use the short chainstays and efficient pick-up of the Chris King rear hub to accelerate, choose your line, commit and let the big travel fork, long wheelbase and chunky tyres do their thing and you might shock yourself by the types of terrain you’ll start to steer towards.
Nordest Bardino Ti Specification
Price // £3680.00 (as tested)
Frame // Nordest Bardino Ti
Fork // Cane Creek Helm Coil, 160mm travel
Hubs // Chris King
Rims // Unbranded
Tyres // WTB Vigilante 27.5 Plus 2.8 front and rear
Chainset // SRAM GX Eagle 1×12
Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle 1×12
Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle 1×12
Brakes // SRAM Guide RSC
Stem // Thomson 40mm
Bars // Thomson 740mm
Grips // Orbea
Seatpost // Bontrager
Saddle // WTB Volt
Size Tested // M/L
Sizes Available // SM, M, ML, L
Weight // 29.09lbs/13.41kg
|Price:||£3680.00 (as tested)|
|Tested:||by Andi for|