Patrol C091 review

Review: Patrol C091 a carbon hardtail with all the gear for just $2199

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Low-cost, huge value mountain bike options are drying up fast, so perhaps the Patrol C091 is just what the mountain bike market needs.

It seems like just a couple of years ago when the we filled headlines with news of budget bikes, and shops had stacks of budget rigs just itching to be bought and taken to the nearest bike park. How fast everything has changed!

It feels like the budget bike boom happens in cycles. Every few years a bunch of great low-cost bikes are released then there is nothing for a few years. This could simply because those budget bikes have a life of a few years before they need replacement, it could simply be due to supply chain and factory capacities, or I might just be imagining it. Whatever the reason though, we don’t see as many affordable mountain bikes today as we did 2-3 years ago, and with the current component shortage and the pandemic, I don’t expect us to see many for some time.

However, it is a big world and while we Brits have enjoyed affordable Calibre, Boardman, Voodoo and even Decathlon bikes over the years, cyclists in other territories have been riding bikes from brands that perhaps we have never heard of. Perhaps there are still some amazing bargain bikes to be had out there after all?

Patrol C091 review

Patrol C091, a full carbon hardtail for how much?

If you’re wondering why the price of the Patrol C091 appears in USD in the title do not fear! You haven’t woken in an alternate universe where the UK has become part of the U.S, rather the Patrol C091 isn’t currently available in the UK so I have listed the RRP for the U.S where the bike can be purchased. If you happen to live in Australia you’re in luck too as Patrol are available there too, as well as Indonesia, Hong Kong, Chile and a few other countries. Patrol does hope to begin offering its bikes in the UK, but at the time of writing, they don’t have a distributor.

The C091 sits at the very top of the C09 range with the C092 and C093 sitting beneath it and costing $1899 and $1699. Each of the 3 bikes uses the new carbon fibre hardtail frameset developed in-house by Patrol available in sizes S-XL.

Normally when we see an affordable mountain bike with a carbon frame and decent components, our initial excitement is blunted slightly once we see the geometry, but Patrol has surprised in this department. Our size large test bike boasts a generous reach figure of 475mm, a head angle of 67-degrees and a seat-tube angle of 74-degrees. Those are static measurements, so once the 130mm travel RockShox Recon RL fork is under sag were looking at slightly steeper angles and a little more reach. On the surface, those numbers don’t sound quite as exciting as some of the more aggressive bikes we’ve tested recently, but a quick look at the Santa Cruz Chameleon reveals a very similar geometry and we don’t hear many complaints about that. What’s more, the Patrol gets more reach and a slightly longer wheelbase, suggesting the C091 will be more stable at speed and over the rough stuff too.

While developing the Patrol C091, Patrol’s designers opted to include high-end features that we wouldn’t normally associate with an affordable frame, carbon or not. The BB shell is treaded, there are tabs for a chain-guide, the rear axle is a bolt-thru item and there is even a small compartment located on the downtube to store a spare mech hanger in.

Even the components are surprising for the money. Again, on budget bikes we’re accustomed to seeing brands cut a few corners to reach a price, but that’s not the case for the C091. Instead, we’re presented with a well-thought-out specification that allows new and experienced riders to thoroughly enjoy the capability of the carbon frameset.

Up front, the fork is a RockShox Recon RL air fork with a lock-out, air-spring and rebound controls. This is one of the more affordable 130mm forks in the RockShox family but it offers nice features, and has a good chassis with a 15mm through axle to keep the front wheel pointing in the direction you want it.

The wheels are alloy 29ers that use Patrol branded rims and hubs. They’re the only obvious sign of cost-cutting, but they’ve proved to be tougher than I was expecting. I’m also surprised by the performance of the Vee Tire Co. Crown Gem tyre. It is the same model of tyre found on my youngest daughter’s bike, but it has been surprisingly good and fast-rolling with plenty of grip on hardpacked, dry, and trail-centre conditions. I did find the tyre to be a very loose fit on the rim, but with a little pressure I was able to set them up tubeless and to my surprise, they actually hold air very well.

A geometry dialled for speed, a competent 130mm fork, fast tyres and 29in wheels are all a recipe for a speedy bike. Patrol obviously expect riders of the C091 to be hitting warp speed as they’ve fitted the bike with Shimano 4 piston disc brakes! These are the Shimano MT400 brakes with the larger lever design, but they’re quite powerful and much much better than the usual budget 2-pots we normally see at this price.

The drivetrain is an SRAM SX Eagle 1 x 12 system with an NX chainset. It’s the more affordable brother of GX, and doesn’t quite offer the same range as the more up-market systems. The trick to ensuring smooth and consistent shifts with SRAM SX is to take care of it, the slightest hit of the rear mech can really upset the shifting. At this price point, I would much prefer to see a 1 x 10 Microshift Advent X. In my experience Advent X has proven to be more durable, and it is lighter. The good news is the cassette of the SRAM SX drivetrain uses the same Shimano HG freehub as Advent X so you could switch it at some point or even move to Deore 10-speed without needing to mess around with the wheels.

While seated, your posterior will meet an SDG saddle that is attached to an X-Fusion Manic dropper post. Our large bike has a 170mm travel post, whereas Small and Medium bikes get 150mm. Well done Patrol for the smart dropper selection!

The handlebar and stem are Patrol branded, but you do get an oversized 35mm diameter. Grips are SDG lock-on and the headset features cable ports and internal cable and hose routing. Threading cables and hoses through the headset is a new feature, again usually seen on more expensive bikes, and when we received the C091 earlier this year it was only the 2nd bike we had tested with it.

Patrol C091 Geometry

Head Tube Angle67°67°67°67°
Head Tube Length105110110115
Top Tube Horizontal606631655685
Seat Tube Length400420460510
Seat Angle74°74°74°74°
Bottom Bracket Height308308308308
Bottom Bracket Drop-62.5-62.5-62.5-62.5
Chainstay Length430430430430

Patrol C091 on the trail

Patrol ships the C091 with plenty of spacers to get the bars where you want them, but with quite a low headtube and low-rise bars, there is a slight XC race feel to the bike when seated. However, the extra length is also instantly noticeable offering the rider plenty of room in either a seated or standing position. At 178cm, if I had wanted something a little more playful and more suited to jumping I would have chosen a medium, the size large though offers plenty of room to move the carbon frame around beneath you and once standing it’s very easy to feel centred on the bike.

Patrol C091 review
SRAM SX is an affordable entry to the world of 1×12 Eagle, but it needs to be well cared for.

Speaking of size, the 170mm dropper can be slammed completely in the frame and when extended it gives me a perfect seated position. If you’re shorter than 178cm then you’ll want to either consider the M or a shorter dropper in the L.

The long carbon frame, 130mm forks and XC/trail tyres all point at a bike that would love trail-centre laps, classic Peak District loops, and the odd trip down some cheeky stuff, and that’s what the C091 got.

On the trail, the 29in wheels and XC tyres roll along very efficiently and while the carbon frame is quite chunky it does dampen the trail and take the sting out for hard hits. The 130mm travel RockShox Recon isn’t a bad fork if ridden within its design parameters, give it some time and distance between repeated hits and the simple damper has time to recover but point it at a rock garden at full gas and you’ll soon find the limits. Thankfully those 4-piston brakes are there to keep you in control, together with the long stable wheelbase.

Patrol C091 review
170mm travel X-Fusion Manic dropper is a nice treat on such an affordable bike.

The low BB height of the Patrol C091 and head angle ensures a low centre of gravity and agile handling. Carve into a corner at high speed or throw it through a switchback and you’ll soon earn yourself a large grin.

I did find that there was a little front wheel float on some climbs, but again the length of the bike allowed me to adjust the saddle to compensate for this. It’s also worth keeping in mind that although it might look like an XC bike, the C091 has the heart of an enduro bike, and it certainly comes to life once gravity is on your side.

What we would like to see:

  • I would prefer a straight top-tube for a little extra standover.
  • I love the storage on the downtube, I only wish it was a little larger.
  • SRAM SX is delicate.

What we loved

  • A no nonsense specification. Some very nice highlights and great component surprises.
  • A stable, fast and inspiring performance especially on fast, rough terrain.
  • The price. A complete bike with Santa Cruz Chameleon geometry for the price of a Chameleon frame.

Patrol C091 Conclusion

You might think testing a bike that isn’t actually available in the UK (yet) was a bit pointless, but at a time where no bike is available, we feel that this is a little irrelevant. Even if our shops were filled to the brim with budget bikes the Patrol C091 is a standout model, and we love to see something different to the usual brands, especially one that opens our eyes to what is possible at a price point. The Patrol C091 is a comfortable XC bike, a hoot at the trail centre and more capable than a gravel bike for long-distance touring. Forget about enduro, trail, down-country, it’s good to see a bike that represents what a mountain bike should be, a great all-around off-roader.

Review Info

Brand: Patrol
Product: C091
From: Patrol Mountain
Price: $2199
Tested: by Andi Sykes for 6 months
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