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

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Review Info

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

Viewing 22 posts - 41 through 62 (of 62 total)
  • Atherton S170: First Ride Thoughts
  • ampthill
    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

    Well you get 12 sizes to choose from, not the 2 left in stock

    I don’t think the Athertons can be expected to compete with made in the far east bikes in the sale at 38% off

    This sort of bike has no relevance to my cycling. But I hope it does well for the people who buy it. Whilst it’s not cheap I hope that buyers can come away with a bike that works well for this price point, continues to work well into the future and gives owners a sense of buying into something.

    Maybe they will do a far east frame. But you’re entering a different world. I like that for the moment they’ve stuck with their USP. From memory 7xxx aluminium is weakened by welding so wear they are doing makes sense. I’m holding out for the bikes being really strong and hence the weight

    mildred
    Full Member

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

    Ah, Sam Hill ripping it up on an Iron Horse Sunday was just a beautiful thing to watch. I still think it’s one of the best looking DH bikes ever made (along with the Transition TR450).

    weeksy
    Full Member

    I’d love one, but bigger priorities currently.

    Wouldn’t shock me if the boy races a 200 one day

    noeffsgiven
    Free Member

    I think an alloy copy of the carbon ones would’ve been a better option, ball burnished like the old GT zaskars and LTSs, imagine an anodised one with next years red Zebs, that would be a sexy looking bike.

    cookeaa
    Full Member

    So the lugs are machines? And it’s bonded aluminium tubes? My worry over whatever ‘lifetime’ actually is wouldn’t be the aluminium but whatever epoxy is in those joints and how long it’s going to last. Still they must have some faith to be launching it in a higher travel bike pitched at bike park riding.

    What I do wonder is if they’ll end up making a “mid-tier” frame with the machined Al lugs and bonded carbon tubes rather than the stupidly expensive sintered Ti novelty lugs.

    Either way it’s still a ‘meh’ for me, interesting as they are, the cost and technical novelty in something you’re expecting to lob down rocky hills just doesn’t appeal.

    FunkyDunc
    Free Member

    Oh just one moan

    The carbon bikes are ‘A’ series and the aluminium bikes ‘C’ series

    just doesn’t make sense in my simple brain

    cheers_drive
    Full Member

    S not C.
    S for subtractive
    A for additive

    the_lecht_rocks
    Full Member

    Bern Kerrs’ bonded frame failed at Rotarua………….

    MartynS
    Full Member

    Gee Athertons bonded frame  didn’t fail at Rampage despite a massive crash…

    submarined
    Free Member

    So the lugs are machines? And it’s bonded aluminium tubes? My worry over whatever ‘lifetime’ actually is wouldn’t be the aluminium but whatever epoxy is in those joints and how long it’s going to last. Still they must have some faith to be launching it in a higher travel bike pitched at bike park riding.

    I don’t think people realise how often they’ve been in something that’s assembled using bonded aluminum. Manufacturers of cars, aeroplanes, boats etc have been using the process for quite some time. It’s been used in top level motorsports for yonks, but I obviously the service life is pretty short in that use case!Eg Iirc the Elise had been using it since it’s first iteration. Merc, BMW and Audi use it on some of their cars AFAIK, and they can’t really risk a large court case and the reputational damage of bits of chassis falling off. As to Aston, and as much as everything else breaks all the time on their cars, the chassis are usually one of the things that doesn’t fall apart.

    Kerr’s failure was due to a bit of an iffy design and a cock up, it’s an outlier. I’d have no qualms whatsoever about riding a glued together bike.
    I would, however, have qualms about riding something this ugly, heavy and expensive:p My Ripmo AF is ugly and heavy, but it cost me less than the frameset for this (at pretty much full RRP) – i appreciate the manufacturing is not comparable, but I can’t overlook that for the significant price difference.

    muggomagic
    Full Member

    I would, however, have qualms about riding something this ugly :p

    Don’t you ride a Ripmo AF 😀 (I have one too BTW)

    Not too sure about the BB area but other than that I think the bike looks great. Going to start saving up now for when they make a 120mm version.

    submarined
    Free Member

    Ha! You preempted my edit 😀

    noeffsgiven
    Free Member

    Bernard kerr’s pivot failed due to a mistake with the corrosion treatment on the alloy, apparently the glue stayed firmly attached to the carbon tubes but completely came away from the alloy lugs, I’ve had similar issues with Araldite doing that after a few years 😀, hopefully the Athertons have got it dialled with it being alloy to alloy.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    It’s lucky for Pivot those bikes are just prototypes, for a future standard carbon-framed bike.

    Unless they were planning to bring the lugged carbon frames to production in future?

    I’d be very confident in one of Atherton frames, seeing how they’ve been thrashed by Kolb, Hatton, Dan, Rachel, Gee and others.

    weeksy
    Full Member

    “I’d be very confident in one of Atherton frames, seeing how they’ve been thrashed by Kolb, Hatton, Dan, Rachel, Gee and others” absolutely… they get hammered day after day after day by riders like those and plenty more at Dyfi… I’d be completely confident in buying one.

    dirkpitt74
    Full Member

    I believe that the shorter travel versions will be released later in the year – much like they did with the ‘A’ series bikes.

    Also agree that may be do the machined lug with carbon tubes.

    mashr
    Full Member

    Bernard kerr’s pivot failed due to a mistake with the corrosion treatment on the alloy, apparently the glue stayed firmly attached to the carbon tubes but completely came away from the alloy lugs

    I doubt we’ll ever get the full detail of what’s happened, but abrading the treated metal before bonding is standard practice with equipment we build. Otherwise this happens.

    FunkyDunc
    Free Member

    Bernard kerr’s pivot failed due to a mistake with the corrosion treatment on the alloy, apparently the glue stayed firmly attached to the carbon tubes but completely came away from the alloy lug

    Funny that he never mentioned about his bike falling apart in his Vlog, cant think why ?

    Edit: Sorry thinking of completely difference event !

    Kamakazie
    Full Member

    What use is a motor though without a battery ?

    Plenty of room in that setup to increase the size of the downtube with minimal change to both the HT & BB lugs.

    honourablegeorge
    Full Member

    chiefgrooveguru

    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.

    Wow, so without all the need for that, it must be really cheap…..

    oh

    Jokes aside, i think it looks ace. I’d seriously consider it, if I didn’t already have a G1 that fills the exact same niche

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    I don’t have anything to say about bonding and lugs, but weirdly the S170 reminds me of the old Blur 4X. No inferences or owt, it just does:

     

    original_P4_Blur_4X_13

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