NS synonym review

NS Synonym TR1 First Ride Impressions

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We take a ride on the NS Synonym, a cross-country bike with a wild side or is it a short travel enduro bike?

Remember during our Eurobike coverage when we took a look at that stunning aggressive 29er XC bike from NS? Well, we could hardly tease you all with just those few photos and leave it like that, could we? So, for the past few weeks, we have been riding this aggressive XC bike around the trails near the office to see how it performs.

It looks like an XC race bike but it is so much more!

The bike we received for a short test was a size large NS Synonym TR1, this is the ‘trail’ version meaning that it has 120mm of suspension travel rather than 100mm found on the racier version.

Fox 34 StepCast fork with 120mm travel.

In addition to slightly more suspension travel front and rear, our Synonym TR1 also benefits from burlier forks too. The Fox 34’s that come on the front are lighter weight StepCast models, so they’re still more than enough fork for mucking about, but they don’t weigh a ton.

Apart from those suspension differences this NS Synonym still has the heart of an XC racer, only with geometry that suggests something a lot more aggressive. The frame is a complete carbon affair. The front triangle is an uncluttered and refreshingly clean carbon monocoque with internal cable routing and space for a water bottle.

The backend is all made of carbon fibre too, and as this bike has just 120mm of travel NS decided to go for a flexstay type suspension design. Not only does this cut down on moving parts, but it also helps to keep the overall weight of the bike down too.

If we take a step back again to the main triangle, you will have seen that it comes with internal cable routing. This is an issue for some riders as it can mean tricky maintenance and repairs, but in the case of the Synonym, we’re happy that NS decided to go this route. Partly due to the overall clean look of the bike, and partly due to the numerous extra cables that the bike possesses.

In addition to brake hoses and gear cables, the Synonym also has a remote activated lockout for its suspension, front and rear. We’ll be honest that we didn’t once intentionally use the lock-out and we don’t imagine many riders opting for this trial version of the bike would either as the bike pedals and sprints so well without it. Also, we could argue that if you’re the type of rider wanting the lockout you might also prefer to choose the 100mm travel version of the bike.

Though we never intentionally ran the bike locked out we did unintentionally ride it this way. You see the remote on the left side of the handlebar, which forced NS to go for an overbar dropper control, can accidentally be knocked firing the suspension to it’s locked out position. Fine on road or on rolling trails, but quite an eye-opener on the rougher stuff this slacked our racer enjoys.

The Ikon isn’t ideal for mud riding.

As we only had a short time to ride the Synonym before we had to hand it back, and because our trails are extremely wet, muddy and slippy we swapped out a few parts so that we could ride the bike as much as possible.

To be fair the 2.35in Maxxis Ikon tyres that are fitted to the NS are probably only suited to UK riding for a few weeks of the year so swapping them out is something that you would all probably do too. We only swapped the front though and retained that fast-rolling rubber on the rear.

Also due to the sheer size of the bikes, we made a few changes to the cockpit too. You see, while the Synonym might look like a stripped-out racer, the geometry tells a very different story and our large test bike with a 490mm reach and 60mm stem was on the very long, perhaps too long side of things. Swapping to a 35mm Burgtec stem and matching bar brought the reach back in again, while still remaining longer than many of the enduro bikes we’re currently riding!

On top of the long reach, the TR1 has a slack 66° head angle, steep 76° seatpost and 438mm long chainstays. Not numbers we would normally associate with XC racing, and once we hit the trail we soon found that this bike doesn’t ride like a typical XC bike either!

NS Synonym TR1 Geometry

NS Synonym geometry

NS Synonym TR1 First Ride Impressions

Before jumping on the bike we were pretty excited to ride the TR1. The numbers looked special and we’ve been looking for something with a little less travel to play around on in the wet Autumn conditions.

Lightweight and short travel = easy to air!

With the NS set up with a bar and stem we were familiar with and a tyre that promised more traction than stock, we took the NS on a local test loop that takes in rocky climbs, muddy descents and choppy, rutted trails.

It goes without saying that the Synonym TR1 climbs extremely well. The 1 x 12 SRAM gearing and huge Eagle cassette combined with the lightweight carbon frame and rims make for a bike that climbs more like Spiderman than a goat.

The short travel frame is perfect for pumping through berms.

Getting to the top of a climb at a fair old rate of knots and still feeling fresh is something we’ve become used to with more e-Bikes coming through the doors, but it’s refreshing to get to the top under your own steam and still have energy to really tackle the rough.

Turning the NS the other way and hitting the rocky downhills, steep hillsides and berm infested trails we have dotted around the valley was a revelation. The fact the TR1 has 50mm less travel than some of our enduro bikes does mean fast rocky trails can get choppy, but not as much as you might think.

Confident in the steeps.

The sheer speed that this bike allows you to tackle terrain at is impressive. If you’re a fast hardtail rider you’ll get the idea of hitting rocks faster so you can glide over them, now imagine if you had a little suspension and a lighter carbon frame. Just think how fast you could go then.

An aggressive, slack front end makes mincemeat of slick steep terrain, and with the added confidence we felt with the stable angles we had no concerns jumping into trails, hitting gaps and generally riding as hard as we would on a 170mm travel bike.

A fun bike no matter the terrain.

But what if you aren’t a wheel destroyer or EWS wannabe? Is the TR1 still a bike that you should look at? Yes, yes and yes! The shorter travel makes the Synonym a riot even when the trails are mellow and flowing.

Even if you’re a purely wheels on the ground type of rider you’ll benefit from the sorted geometry and lightweight that this bike has to offer.

3 Things we loved

  • We love the clean design of the frame, the amazing paint and the matching components.
  • The geometry is incredible and really shows you that you don’t need monster travel to ride like a loon.
  • The lightweight meant we could throw the TR1 around harder and faster than any enduro bike we’ve tested, and the geo handled it.

3 Things we would change

  • We would probably take the lock-out off it this was our own bike. The TR1 rides and climbs so well without it and the fact that the remote means we have to use an over bar dropper remote is annoying. The extra cables also detract from the clean lines.
  • The tyres might be great for summer riding, but they aren’t really the best choice for UK conditions.
  • We love long bikes but the large with a reach of 490mm and a 60mm stem was a little too much. A shorter stem brings the party to this bike.


Slim, light, slack!

Are bikes like the NS Synonym TR1 the bikes that most of us should really be riding? Almost certainly yes! While we all enjoy having 170mm of bump soaking suspension on tap to get us out of trouble from time to time, the fact of the matter is a sorted shorter travel bike can be just as capable, less effort and possibly more fun for the majority of riding that we do.

The TR1 really does redefine what a lightweight trail bike can do. It might look like an aggressive XC bike but you should really think of it as a lightweight enduro bike.

NS Synonym TR1 Specifications

  • Frame // Full-carbon frame with 120mm travel
  • Fork // Fox 34 StepCast 120mm
  • Shock // Fox Float DPS 120 mm
  • Rims // NS Enigma Lite 29in
  • Tyres // MAXXIS Ikon 2.35in
  • Chainset // SRAM X01 Eagle
  • Rear Mech // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Shifter // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Cassette // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed, 10-50t
  • Brakes // SRAM Level TL, 180mm front / 180mm rear rotors
  • Stem // NS Synonym Race 60mm
  • Bar // NS Licence Carbon Mini Rise 760 mm
  • Seatpost // Fox Transfer Performance Elite
  • Size Tested // Large
  • Sizes Available // Small, Medium, Large & XL
  • RRP // £5399

Review Info

Brand: NS
Product: Synonym TR1
From: Hotlines
Price: £5399
Tested: by Ross and Andi for 1 month

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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