18 Bikes No 9 | Sheffield Steel Hardtail

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First published in Issue 127 of Singletrack Magazine, this 18 Bikes No 9 was reviewed as part of our British Steel test of steel hardtails built in the UK.

18 Bikes No 9

18 Bikes is a well-loved bike shop in the tranquil Derbyshire town of Hope, run by a two-man band. Si Bowns is the business brain of the outfit and is very active in local trail advocacy. Si’s brother Matt is the other half of the 18 equation, and has been building custom frames for over a decade. While previously concentrating on full custom bikes (with Pinion gearbox frames being a particular speciality), this year 18 Bikes has introduced the Workshop Series frames, of which the No 9 is the 29in-wheeled version. (There’s also a 27.5in frame called, unsurprisingly, the No 7.) These off-the-peg frames come at a lower price than a full custom build, but still embody Matt’s ideas about what a hardtail should be. If you happened to see Matt’s ‘Project Stupid’ full suspension bike that was exhibited at Bespoked a couple of years ago, which sported a 525mm reach and a 62° head angle, you’ll know that he’s happy to push the geometry envelope until it rips – in the good sense of the word.

So let’s get the No 9’s most noticeable attribute out of the way first – it’s long. The reach on my test bike is 475mm. That’s a full 10cm longer than many cutting-edge trail bikes were just a few years ago. It’s longer than many manufacturers’ XL frames. And this is the shortest version of the No 9 that 18 Bikes produce. If you want, you can size up to a 500mm or even a 525mm. 18 Bikes doesn’t size its frames conventionally, and all the frames feature extremely short seat tubes, so you’re free to choose your preferred length of bike regardless of what size you usually ride.

Long? Or only partly long?

I say the No 9 is long, but that’s only partly true. The rear triangle brings the wheel right up to the seat tube, to the point where it’s almost buzzing it. Interestingly, the longer frames have proportionally longer chainstays. 18 Bikes claims this is to make all the sizes ride similarly but I’m not entirely convinced, given the effect on handling that even a few centimetres of chainstay length can have. That said, a taller rider with longer arms may well find a slightly more stretched-out rear triangle doesn’t change the way the bike rides too much.

The BB is low, but thanks to a 66.5° head angle, a 110mm head tube, and a set of Truvativ 20mm riser bars for good measure, the front end of our test bike sat pretty high. The very short seat tube is a concession to smaller riders and on this size it means your saddle will probably be hitting the back wheel before it achieves its lowest possible height. It does look great though, with the top tube forming a continuous line with the chainstays – the sort of aesthetic usually seen on dirt jump bikes.

Unlike one of the other bikes on test, which is also designed to accept 27.5 Plus set-ups, the low BB height makes the No 9 very much a 29in-specific frame. The main tubes are Reynolds 853, mated to a Dedacciai Zero back end, and under the paint job the frame features a manganese phosphate coating for corrosion resistance. Cable routing is taken care of by some chunky bolt-on downtube guides which also conceal a single set of bottle cage bosses, and there’s an ISCG mount if you’re intending to get properly rowdy.

There’s no fancy tube manipulation on the No 9, but some savvy choice of raw materials means it’s a fair bit lighter than its hench appearance suggests. Cosmetically, our test bike was a little below par, with some pimply welds and some barely perceptible bubbly paint. The decals are stickers with no clear coat over them, and there’s a choice of just two colours. However, with this bike, you get the impression that it’s meant to be ridden, not photographed. Given the proclivity of bike journos to wreck the bikes they review, the slight surface imperfections could also explain how it came to end up as our test bike in the first place.

Seeing how it is a bike shop as well as a frame builder, 18 Bikes is happy to fit out your frame with everything else you need to get rolling. The No 9 arrived with a respectable but not flashy build, including a RockShox Pike Select fork, SRAM NX groupset and Guide R brakes. Unlike the other bikes in the test, 18 has eschewed fatter new-school rubber, and specced conventional 2.3in Maxxis tyres on DT Swiss E1900 wheels. The 125mm KS dropper post is probably a bit shorter than most riders would choose, but again, this is a test bike, and you’ll be able to build yours up how you like.

Made in Sheffield, UK.

The length of the bike means that even the 760mm handlebars on our build looked a bit like something from the start line of a mid-1990s cross-country race. In the flesh, the No 9 is quite aesthetically pleasing, but it undeniably deviates more from my old-school ideas of a hardtail than the other two bikes in this test.

The Ride

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18 Bikes No 9 Specification

  • Frame // Reynolds 853 steel, 130mm travel, 12×148
  • Fork // RockShox Pike Select, 130mm travel
  • Hubs // DT Swiss E1900
  • Rims // DT Swiss E1900
  • Tyres // Maxxis Minion 3C, 29×2.3, Aggressor 3C 29×2.25
  • Chainset // SRAM NX Eagle 170mm, 32T
  • Rear Mech // SRAM NX Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Shifters // SRAM NX Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Cassette // SRAM Eagle, 12-Speed, 10-50T
  • Brakes // SRAM Guide R
  • Stem // Truvativ Descendant 45mm, 35.0
  • Bars // Truvativ Descendant, 760mm, 20mm rise
  • Grips // Burgtec lock-on
  • Seatpost // KS Lev Integra 31.8 x 125mm
  • Saddle // Burgtec The Cloud
  • Size Tested // 475mm
  • Sizes available // 475mm, 500mm, 525mm
  • Weight // 29.7lbs / 13.5kg (as tested)
  • From // 18bikes

Review Info

Brand:18 Bikes
Product:No 9
Price:: £900.00 (frame only)
Tested:by Antony de Heveningham for

Antony de Heveningham

Singletrack Contributor

Antony was a latecomer to the joys of riding off-road, and he’s continued to be a late adopter of many of his favourite things, including full suspension, dropper posts, 29ers, and adult responsibility. At some point he decided to compensate for his lack of natural riding talent by organising maintenance days on his local trails. This led, inadvertently, to writing for Singletrack, after one of his online rants about lazy, spoilt mountain bikers who never fix trails was spotted and reprinted on this website during a particularly slow news week.

Now based just up the road from the magazine in West Yorkshire, he’s expanded his remit to include reviews and features as well as rants. He’s also moved on from filling holes in the woods to campaigning for changes to the UK’s antiquated land access laws, and probing the relationship between mountain biking and the places we ride.

He’s a firm believer in bringing mountain biking to the people, whether that’s through affordable bikes, accessible trails, enabling technology, or supportive networks. He’s also studied sustainable transport, and will happily explain to anyone who’ll listen why the UK is a terrible place for everyday utility cycling, even though it shouldn’t be.

If that all sounds a bit worthy, he’s also happy to share tales of rides gone awry, or delicate bike parts burst asunder by ham-fisted maintenance. Because ultimately, there are enough talented professionals in mountain bike journalism, and it needs more rank amateurs.

Comments (2)

    First article read after becoming a subscriber….oooo the added content 😀

    Got a demo No.9 in 500mm at the moment, most fun hardtail I’ve ever ridden.

    So good in fact that I’ve ordered one.

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