Initial impressions

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I’d cobbled together everything needed to build the OneTen29 in the two weeks leading up to the Argus, which forced me to spend a few nights tinkering myself, seeing as the friendly local mechanic was fully booked with servicing road bikes. This gave me an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with the frame, and to completely take it apart and inspect every little gusset, weld, bolt, bushing, bolt and bearing.

The PYGA is an exceptionally well bolted together piece of kit. The pivot design has clearly been carefully considered and lends itself to easy servicing and very little chance of anything loosening over months of riding, not something which can be said of many other bikes I've owned. In fact, the only bolts which have loosened at all have been the shock eyelets. Nothing a bit of Loctite can't resolve, and certainly not PYGA's fault. The X12 rear axle is a surprisingly simple system to use, counter-intuitively much less hassle than a traditional QR setup. It provides a real sense of security and compliments the generally solid and stiff nature of the frame. It means business, something which can be immediately felt when picking it up. Yes, it's slightly portly, but not excessively so. I think the most apt word would be "robust".

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The bulging seat tube and pivot setup takes no prisoners

My build spec can probably be best classified under a "trail" heading, with a few weight weenie parts (XX1 cranks, Truvativ Noir T40 bar) but mostly efficient (120mm Revelation RCT3 with 2014 upper assembly, Novatec Flowtrail 29 wheelset, X0/X9 short cage shifting, Rocket Ron rear & Hans Dampf front tyre combo, XT trail pedals). All in all, the build compliments the bike's best attributes well, with enough weight saving to prevent bulge, but enough strength to encourage properly fast riding.

On the pedals

When I first jumped on the PYGA and started hammering the pedals, I thought "wait, this pedals like an XC race machine, I wonder if the shock's locked out…" It wasn't. The OneTen29 is very, very quick under power. Even with the Monarch fully open, it responds rapidly to pedal input, something I found quite surprising when taking into account my expectations (a bike which has been known to be capable of whipping All Mountain machines under the right conditions, thus logically sensitive to small undulations, plush through the midstroke, and rapidly progressive after that). It's hugely impressive how little pedal feedback the pivot and rocker design pushes back to the rider. Conventional wisdom says that a linkage-driven VPP/Maestro/DW design should pedal better, and offer better anti-squat characteristics, but it feels like that flies out the window when you crank some power into the OneTen29. It's well and truly fast, even running 30% sag (as recommended) and on relatively smooth terrain. There's that initial hint of bob as your weight transfers into the pedal stroke, but as soon as you build up rhythm, it's barely noticeable.

After the first 10km of road and pavement hopping on the way to the trails, I was wondering why I'd been lugging a hardtail around for the last 12-odd months; the answer being to get away from the bob and sluggish feel of a VPP (albeit first generation) bike. It was a silly decision though, over anything other than a perfectly smooth fire road, the additional traction of the sprung rear end outweighs the kilo or two weight penalty, as well as the slight bob. Generally speaking, I'd be more than happy throwing this bike at XC or even Marathon format races, it feels that efficient.

On the trail

Pointing this bike downhill is what reviews generally rave about, so over the past few rides the PYGA has been flung down increasingly gnarly singletrack, each time in an attempt to find its limits. At first, I was tentative over anything rougher than a few large roots, seeing as on paper the relatively steep head angle (69.5deg) only promises a slight amount of hooliganism on steep stuff. Off camber sections were approached with the same caution, but I realised after a few runs that this was unnecessary. As nimble as the OneTen is in tight manoeuvring, it's equally stable under load, such as when lofting over a root and landing squarely on off-camber dirt. The combination of burly build (that massive bulging hydro-formed seat tube around the main pivot is impressive) and thru-axles front and rear lend themselves to an impressively stiff chassis, which can be felt when weight gets thrown around at odd angles. This is a bike which wants to be leaned into corners, hard. It rewards an aggressive rider, as I discovered after letting caution go and nailing it into the bends with gusto. You don't ride a PYGA through corners tentatively, you rail it. The faster, the better and more composed it feels.

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Preparing to hit a berm on DH2 in Jonkershoek

Generally speaking, 29ers can feel awkward in situations where wheels need to leave the ground forcefully. Getting a perfect manual initiated with a big wheel can be tricky, and flicking up both wheels across larger trail obstacles is usually a chore. The PYGA suffers to some extent from this ailment, but it compensates in the simplest way by being amazingly well balanced. The 120mm Revelation suits its character very well, even though it requires awareness of the fact that the super-plush front end (the 2014 Fast Black stanchions run with as close to zero stiction as I've ever felt) tends to cancel the kick from lips ever so slightly more than the rear, with a slight amount of bucking as a result. It's not unnerving, just something you need to get used to. Possibly, it could be remedied by running the fork slightly harder and slower, but then its plushness capabilities wouldn't be fully exploited. Regardless, in the air and on landings, the PYGA is as composed as bikes with 150mm or more travel. This is really impressive, taking into account how well it pedals.

In conclusion

The PYGA OneTen29 is a true enthusiast's bike. It's not something you buy because you want to show your new carbon ride off to colleagues, it's something you ride, hard. There is no pretence, no hyperbole in its character, it just does what it does incredibly well. What does it do? It blends otherworldly stability and plantedness with the kind of pedalling performance you'd usually expect only from bikes which don't have close to the amount of gnarly-terrain-covering capability it has. It's a rare breed in a world of bikes which are increasingly built for very narrow purposes. The OneTen29 is the most all-round capable bike I've ridden in 25 years of mountain biking.

Video: Having some fun on a run somewhere on DH2 in Jonkershoek