Atherton S170: First Ride Thoughts

by 62

The Atherton S170 is no alloy look-a-like; Atherton has applied excellent engineering and delivered a mighty fine aluminium mountain bike.

  • Brand: Atherton
  • Product: S170
  • From: Atherton Bikes
  • Price: Prices start from £4,799
  • Tested by: Rhys Wainwright for 1 day

Pros

  • Design is beautiful – unless you don’t like round tubes
  • Manufacturing quality is exceptional
  • Beauty and quality are reasonably priced!

Cons

  • The holes could be covered up better
  • Head tube cable routing
  • Offer some customisation of the chainstay length

What is it?

The S170 is a striking silver machine. The straight and round front triangle tubes stand out, brazenly proud of their manufacturing method. Take a step closer and the quality of the machining on the adjoining lugs becomes apparent. Nowhere can you find a machining dwell mark, the final run over these surfaces has been calculated to perfection and emphasis clearly placed on surface quality over production rate and cost. Which is ironic when you consider this is Atherton Bikes’ lower budget offering.

The S170 takes advantage of a DW4 derived suspension design (vs the more complex DW6 of their A-series carbon tubed/titanium lugged bikes). A key advantage of the DW4 design is essentially fewer pivots and consequently fewer frame components with a similar level of anti-squat. The result is a clean design with some rather beautiful, engineered features.

The rear triangle is machined in two halves with the seat stays adopting an L-section and the chain stays machined in an inverted U-section. From the side and back of the bike they look like square tubes; it’s only when you get close you can see the exquisite machining. It’s all logically designed for the inevitable Welsh mud to fall out of, not into these frame pockets.

The entire frame is manufactured from the superior 7075 aluminium alloy and is therefore 60-70% stronger in fatigue, tensile strength and hardness than the more common 6061. Atherton Bikes have clearly let the engineers make the decisions here as the 7075 material comes in roughly 30% more expensive.

How does it ride?

I spent a day riding the S170 at Dyfi Bike Park. Tricky as it might be to set up a bike and give it a fair test in just one day, luck was on my side and the weather was surprisingly deliciously dry.

Sizing almost isn’t worth discussing with Atherton bikes as they offer such a huge range of sizes in 10mm increments I’d be dumb struck if someone couldn’t find their ideal uplift partner in there somewhere.

I guess it’s lucky the 465mm reach test bike available is pretty much bang on my ideal size. The 63.6° head angle is pretty slack and suits the bike with its big travel bike park/enduro bike feel. Although I did relatively little climbing, the 77.6° seat angle is on trend – I say trend because I actually prefer a slacker seat angle for my dinky legs. This is somewhat reflected in the sizing with the smaller bikes coming in with a ~76° seat angle and the larger sizes coming with a ~78° seat angle.

The rear centre lengths are relatively tight at 435mm on the bike I rode. Again, smaller frames come with 430mm and larger frames come with 440mm chianstays. Personally, I like things a bit longer out back for stability and front end grip but I can also see the reasoning of the shorter back end for the inevitable park rats this bike may be aimed at.

Overall the sizing was spot on and this translates into a neutral handling bike with just the right balance of stability vs agility in the bike park environment.

Suspension wise the DW4 design is superbly matched with the S170’s intended use. The initially linear rate progressively ramping up to offer support in the mid to latter part of the stroke through fast berms and compressions. A few flat landings here and there were absorbed without question or bottom out.

I strongly suspect this bike could take downhill levels of abuse and come out unfazed.

One last point on the ride quality; It’s been a while since I rode an aluminium ‘big bike’ and there was a level of compliance and composure that is often missing from the stiff carbon machines I’ve found myself owning the past few years and one that I enjoyed a lot.

Devil in the Details

Although I’ve mostly been frothing about the design and manufacture of the S170 there are some chinks in the armour. The nature of the tube and lug design means that there are some open sections of the lugs that require covers. The pre-production versions fitted to this bike were less than ideal but credit to Atherton’s in house manufacturing I trust they will be engineered to perfection for the production run.

The cable routing at the head tube allowed for two cables/hoses to enter on the left hand side and only one on the right hand side. This results in some awkward twisting of the brake hose or dropper cable to route it down the left side of the head tube. Two ports either side in future please guys – this accommodates all configurations. Perhaps this will also be resolved for the production run.

Overall

Atherton’s ‘budget aluminium bike’ is somewhat of an oxymoron. An irony to itself being sold as the budget sibling to the A-series bikes. It’s a bit like comparing your aluminium private jet to that of a carbon fibre and titanium fifth generation fighter aircraft. You might not be getting the ultimate in stiffness and performance but it’s still exceptionally high quality and rapid to boot.

You’re probably starting to get the picture. The S170 is no budget aluminium look-a-like offering like some other brands. They’ve applied the same excellent engineering skill to a different material and delivered what might just be one of the finest aluminium mountain bike there has ever been.

Pricing

  • Frame-only – Fox DHX2 Coil – £2799/ €2729/$2985
  • Build 1 – RockShox Ultimate Coil and SRAM X01 – £5999/€5849/$6399
  • Build 2 – FOX performance and SRAM GX – £5499/€5359/$5865
  • Build 3 – RockShox Domain and SRAM GX – £4799/€4679/$5119

Review Info

Brand: Atherton
Product: S170
From: Atherton Bikes
Price: Prices start from £4,799
Tested: by Rhys Wainwright for 1 day

Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 62 total)
  • Atherton S170: First Ride Thoughts
  • 1
    a11y
    Full Member

    what might just be one of the finest aluminium mountain bike there has ever been

    I’ll stick with my GeoMetron.

    I’m mixed about this Atherton. Like the idea of aluminium and the price doesn’t seem outrageous at all, but there’s something about the looks I’m not sure about! I should like it without question but the angle/arrangement at the bottom of the downtube isn’t the finest looking angle.

    FunkyDunc
    Free Member

    the price doesn’t seem outrageous at all

    Really ? A bike that starts at £5k ??

    I think it looks much nicer than the carbon bikes, looks like the love child of an original PACE bike and an Orange.

    The bottom bracket area does look its a bit of a plough, maybe its awesome for planting crops out in the fields?

    chakaping
    Full Member

    It looks a bit CDT project, but I don’t dislike it.

    I’d still have preferred to see them come up with a conventionally constructed alu frame at Bird/Privateer prices (or a little above if they’re licensing the DW link).

    As it is, could you get a Geometron (like Ally’s) for a similar price? And enjoy the best customer service in the industry.

    vinnyeh
    Full Member

    Not a gripe, but it must be bloody hard to write a bike review these days- beyond a neutral handling bike with just the right balance of stability vs agility in the bike park environment and The initially linear rate progressively ramping up to offer support in the mid to latter part of the stroke through fast berms and compressions  there’s not really anything said about the ride and handling other than to compare it with the author’s preferences. A few notes about design details and spec sheet and done.

    As someone who only rides the bikes they own, presumably within a market segment most decent bikes are much of a muchness these days?

    hooli
    Full Member

    I like it, I cant do a bike like that justice but I still like it!

    a11y
    Full Member

    Really ? A bike that starts at £5k ??

    I was more looking at the frame + shock price of £2.8k not being an outlier compared to similar stuff. Obviously depends how ‘similar stuff’ is defined, but for the type of bike/company/construction – can we still say ’boutique’? – I don’t think it’s that bad.

    As it is, could you get a Geometron (like Ally’s) for a similar price?

    Almost but not quite: £3.4k for a G1 inc EXT Storia, which is what I’d buy over this Atherton. Not that I’ve looked. Much. My older-but-immaculate G16 was <£1k inc a new CC coil shock.

    stevedoc
    Free Member

    I was liking until I saw the chainstay on the drive side .. from the none drive side ..  Not a good looking piece of metal. And heavier than the gravatational pull of a small moon.

    2
    Speeder
    Full Member

    I’d save up a bit longer and get the carbon one myself. (Which I love, by the way)

    dirkpitt74
    Full Member

    I like it – frame/shock price isn’t too bad, especially when you consider it’s hand built in the UK.

    Might look at one if my Mega 290 ever gives up the ghost.

    Can’t see wheel size(s) in the review – I believe it’s a mullet.

    jastheblade
    Full Member

    Tempted…. How noisy? no tube in tube routing so is it noisy?

    2
    DaveyBoyWonder
    Free Member

    Good first ride impression on Pinkbike, just a bit up from the story about why Bernard Kerr’s bonded Pivot frame broke :)

    Is bonding frames just a solution to a non-existant problem?

    Maybe its just the camera angles but for a slack “hardcore” type frame it looks really squashed up with a short wheelbase (not checked the figures, I’m not that bothered!).

    Like the rear end. Very neat. BB/lower shock mount area looks “industrial”.

    walleater
    Full Member

    ^It’s bonded due to the type of aluminium used. Same as the Pole bikes.

    1
    kayak23
    Full Member

    Nice. 👍

    chrismac
    Full Member

    It’s 38 lb with the high spec build. That’s means 40lb for the cheapest build. It’s clearly not meant to be pedalled anywhere at that weight

    1
    noeffsgiven
    Free Member

    Oh no, it’s got the worst down tube/BB shelf I’ve seen so far with no protection on it either, I wish that design trend would fro, it’s not just ugly it’s also inviting rocks to hit it.

    chrismac
    Full Member

    What are you getting v ibis ripmo af which has the same suspension platform and cost less for a complete bike than this frame

    Northwind
    Full Member

    Always highly skeptical when a company makes their expensive bike with their ideal suspension platform which does exactly what they want and then makes another cheaper bike which also uses their ideal suspension platform which does exactly what they want but is completely different.

    That aside, I love the looks, sure it’s pretty clunky looking in places but it carries it well and it all seems functional (is it? I don’t know, I’m not a bike engineer, but it’s good enough that it looks functional and purposeful I think. I’ve seen similiar downtube/bb unions that are every bit as hideous but don’t have a shock in the middle frinstance.

    The article does mention that the hole covers etc are still a work in progress.

    1
    rockhopper70
    Full Member

    Reviews are sometimes confusing to me, it’s seems to be that a pricey, favoured brand, can turn out a heavy and flexible frame and call it compliant (or have 3d traction) and weight doesn’t matter, does it, yet a less favourable brand, it appears, would be criticised for it being a flexy boat anchor. Even in this article, veiled comparison is made with a the carbon version, suggesting that stiffness is lacking.  But compliance is good.

    Confused.

    As an aside, those voids under the chain stays would be a mud magnet round here.  Will need moto foam in them.

    1
    Northwind
    Full Member

    <quote thing not working and I’m too stupid to add the html>
    rockhopper70
    Full Member

    Reviews are sometimes confusing to me, it’s seems to be that a pricey, favoured brand, can turn out a heavy and flexible frame and call it compliant (or have 3d traction) and weight doesn’t matter, does it, yet a less favourable brand, it appears, would be criticised for it being a flexy boat anchor. Even in this article, veiled comparison is made with a the carbon version, suggesting that stiffness is lacking. But compliance is good.

    Confused.
    <ununquote>

    The future mags once reviewed the exact same stem twice in a year but being sold with different branding, and described it as “too flexy” the first time and “stiff and solid” the second time.

    And in fairness, I loved my Soda because it was a noodle, other people would hate it for the exact things I liked. Reviews are always going to be subjective. Up to us to read them and think “well I don’t like a soft feeling frame” or whatever- if I see comments about how efficiently a long travel bike pedals because of it’s antisquat I know it’s not for me even if the reviewer thinks that’s a good thing, etc etc.

    1
    sillyoldman
    Full Member

    Cold drawn tubes welded together FTW.

    Kamakazie
    Full Member

    Not a bike I’m interested in, but hoping to see a shorter travel, somewhat lighter 140-150mm version.

     

    The suspension layout around the BB looks suspiciously like it’s been setup to accommodate a motor in a future revision.

    didnthurt
    Full Member

    Looks wise I’m mixed, in the close up photos it is stunning, with all its fine details but from afar, the downtube/bottom bracket junction is very function over form. Which in general I do like on brands like Nicolai and Orange but on the Atherton it would take a bit of getting used to.

    didnthurt
    Full Member

    As with all reviews, the reviewer’s riding style, personal preferences and terrain/location the bike will heavily influence the final outcome. Not to mention what side of the bed the reviewer got out of that morning.

    Maybe all reviews should start with the reviewer’s name, age, experience and how long they’ve been a cycling journalist. Maybe not as that would be really annoying (Guy Kesteven anyone?)

    sharkattack
    Full Member

    Looks like a lot of fancy engineering just for the sake of it. I can’t believe the absolute pasting the new Privateer got for its looks and this is somehow better or more acceptable. It’s a mess of pockets and holes and angles.

    I’d buy a G1.

    mashr
    Full Member

    I can’t believe the absolute pasting the new Privateer got for its looks and this is somehow better or more acceptable

    No hump > hump.

    monkeyboyjc
    Full Member

    I quite like the industrial look of the bike, but i cirtainly prefer the cleaner look of the A series frames. Also a fan of lug and bonded frames and their advantages, same for the material choice – but It’s in the wrong category of bike for me to be interested though, maybe it they had a lighter 130mm travel trail bike 🤔

    1
    chakaping
    Full Member

    Is bonding frames just a solution to a non-existant problem?

    Feels like they’re trying to retain a USP when it doesn’t really make sense.

    Surely a normal welded Taiwanese frame would be lighter and cheaper? They’re not using the lugs to enable semi-custom sizing like on the carbon frames, are they?

    a11y
    Full Member

    No hump > hump.

    Whatcha gon’ do with all that junk
    All that junk inside your trunk?
    I’ma get, get, get, get you drunk
    Get you love drunk off my hump

    FunkyDunc
    Free Member

    The suspension layout around the BB looks suspiciously like it’s been setup to accommodate a motor in a future revision.

    What use is a motor though without a battery ?

    monkeyboyjc
    Full Member

    Is bonding frames just a solution to a non-existant problem?

    I can’t see a company offering a welded frame in 18 different sizes – or using 7075 tubes. Not many able.to offer a full lifetime warranty on an alloy frame either.

    As someone that’s always been, at 5’10”, between a large and medium frame, getting the correct size frame for me (custom ti) was an eye opener of how much of a compromise all other bikes I’ve owned has been.

    1
    FunkyDunc
    Free Member

    It’s 38 lb with the high spec build. That’s means 40lb for the cheapest build. It’s clearly not meant to be pedalled anywhere at that weight

    To be honest watching there YouTube sales pitch they are clearly aiming it a bike park riders, so weight not so much an issue.

    Would be nice to see a proper 140/150mm trail bike that can actually be pedalled. But just get the impression their price would still be silly.

    Not many able.to offer a full lifetime warranty on an alloy frame either.

    Agreed, but what is lifetime these days? With standards changing that quickly you probably wouldnt get 20 years out of it

    FunkyDunc
    Free Member

    It’s 38 lb with the high spec build. That’s means 40lb for the cheapest build. It’s clearly not meant to be pedalled anywhere at that weight

    To be honest watching there YouTube sales pitch they are clearly aiming it a bike park riders, so weight not so much an issue.

    Would be nice to see a proper 140/150mm trail bike that can actually be pedalled. But just get the impression their price would still be silly. And I guess for now they are selling bikes that they are familiar with ie they run a bike park, not a trail centre

    Not many able.to offer a full lifetime warranty on an alloy frame either.

    Agreed, but what is lifetime these days? With standards changing that quickly you probably wouldnt get 20 years out of it

    1
    Speeder
    Full Member

    noeffsgiven
    Oh no, it’s got the worst down tube/BB shelf I’ve seen so far with no protection on it either, I wish that design trend would fro, it’s not just ugly it’s also inviting rocks to hit it.

    Agreed

    THIS is how you do a DW Link DT/ST/BB junction

    p5pb21935989

     

     

    1
    cheers_drive
    Full Member

    Surely a normal welded Taiwanese frame would be lighter and cheaper? They’re not using the lugs to enable semi-custom sizing like on the carbon frames, are they?

    Or perhaps they wanted to make the frame in the UK but couldn’t due to the lack of skilled aluminium welders in this country? Even if they had got someone like Fivelands to make the frame there is still a premium over Taiwan. And no Taiwanese factory will want to deal with all those sizes. Now one can argue what’s the point of some many size options on a long travel MTB, but that’s another argument.

    We’ve been making prototype blanking covers for it for a while but yesterday was the first time we got to see it. Personally I like the industrial look and would prefer that frame over a mid range far eastern carbon one.

    chakaping
    Full Member

    And no Taiwanese factory will want to deal with all those sizes.

    Are they doing all the sizes in aluminium? In that case I retract my criticism.

    Though I do think a range of Taiwanese welded frames in S, M, L & XL might have been a better idea to make the brand more attainable.

    1
    weeksy
    Full Member

    12 sizes

    1
    fooman
    Full Member

    Or perhaps they wanted to make the frame in the UK but couldn’t due to the lack of skilled aluminium welders in this country?

    The Athertons took over Robot Bike Co as a starting point, and bonded lug frames was how they were making bikes. It’s an interesting way to manufacture, glue rather than weld, one off geometry is possible etc. Sometimes it just comes down to a USP, doing something different. I like them.

    1
    the_lecht_rocks
    Full Member

    Watched the video and am nonplussed…
    My Geometron G1 offers more adaptability and probable performance and can be ridden everywhere….
    🤷🏻

    3
    chiefgrooveguru
    Full Member

    I like it. I like the geometry. I like the range of sizes. I’m confident that the suspension will do the right things in terms of pedalling, braking and how it uses the travel (the DW6 AM170 does and DW4 should be barely any different – I’m sure DW6 was to allow custom geometry inc chainstay length with their AM manufacturing technique). I like that it’s made of aluminium.

    I like that it allows them to continue UK manufacturing at a larger scale and more affordable price. I suspect that it’ll be very strong and durable – partly because the Athertons own Dyfi and like to ride stupidly gnarly stuff and enormous jumps and partly because this construction method looks really strong and fatigue resistant.

    I don’t ride gnarly enough terrain often enough or get enough air to justify a bike like this but if I had more riding time then I’d be interested in a shorter travel version.

    The obvious route they could have taken would have been a Taiwanese-made welded hydroformed alloy DW-link frame – basically an Atherton Ibis HD6. This approach means no hydroforming, no welding, no realignment, no heat treatment, no final realignment, no painting. Just cut the tubes to length and glue them into the machined parts, with all the parts anodised before assembly. Even the tube cutting is simpler because you don’t need to shape the ends for how they meet another cylindrical shape.

    Without the Taiwanese supply chains and expertise, this approach makes a lot of sense. And then you get loads of sizes so we can all have a bike that fits. And probably much longer fatigue life, especially for a park bike (I’m not a serial frame snapper but I’m impressed/scared at the rate some riders go through frames!)

    1
    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    When does yours arrive @weeksy ?

    😜

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