Review: Singular Swift 29er frame and fork
Does the fact that I get a bit weak in the knees when I see our test Singular Swift hanging in the workshop make me shallow? After all, what first drew me to the Swift was the company’s beautifully shot ads in British bike mags. The clean lines, polished Phil Wood eccentric bottom bracket, and rich cornflower blue paint all appealed to my inner aesthete. The ability to run multiple gears if the mood struck or one for its simplicity combined with the massive tire clearance, sterling silver head badge, and cowled dropouts suggested a details-oriented designer that was in tune with my kind of riding.
A feeler was put out, and US importers The Prairie Peddler loaned us a frame to get to know. As noted in my initial build report, the headset pressed in with the appropriate amount of resistance, the seat tube didn’t need deburring, and my road compact bottom bracket threaded in nicely. The frame came liberally treated with JP Weigle Framesaver in order to hold rust at bay- something that I’d just as soon not have to do myself. Though I started my riding career on fully rigid steel bikes, I’m now over three times the age I was then- and the rigid fork did worry me a bit. Still, I couldn’t help but want to ride the Singular. Hit the jump to see how our time has been together…
The Swift is easily one of the most ‘normal’ feeling 29ers I’ve ridden. Is that a good thing? Part of me does like the steer-from-the-hips feel of early 29in-wheeled bikes. Those are especially well suited to the sort of wide-open, high-speed trail that most of my single speeding is done on. The Singular, on the other hand, is noticeably more agile, making picking through twisty bits and technical sections easier, but somehow feeling less like a 29er. This will suit people in more wooded areas well and was easy enough to adjust to on my part. The momentum-maintaining big wheels are still there, and I think that most people will prefer the Singular’s handling over first-generation 29ers, if only because it requires less adjustment after riding 26in bikes. I actually don’t have a strong preference either way- it’s just something worth noting.
As I mentioned, much of the Singular’s initial appeal comes from its aesthetics. More than skin deep, those looks are well-grounded in function. The slender seat- and chainstays provide loads of mud clearance (or room for big, cushy tires) and a surprising amount of stiffness. My narrow Truvativ road crankset left only about 2mm clearance between the arms and chainstays on each side, but never once rubbed, aided by the slick KGB (Koski-Guy-Breeze) -style dropouts. The 27.2 seatpost is looking awfully skinny these days- but provides a measure of compliance that larger posts can’t. Despite having been subjected to several months’ worth of Southwest riding, the Singular’s lovely paint looks nearly as good as it did when it came out of the box.
Still, despite its steel construction and 29in wheels, the Swift is a fully rigid bike, a fact that had a way of limiting my time on it. Though I built the bike up with my biggest tires and flexiest bars, I have to admit that I like suspension- and missed it while riding the Swift. I was finding and feeling bumps on trails that are considered by local standards to be smooth and fast, and the lack of a sprung fork had me backing off in areas where I tend to load the front wheel and rail corners. Of course the only reason that the Swift didn’t see a suspension fork was that I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the provided rigid fork off the bike. As good an aesthetic match as the polished aluminum Ritchey Classic post was for the frame, a carbon post would probably have helped to damp trail vibration a bit more.
Did the Swift make me a better rider? It certainly helped me rediscover skills and find lines made obsolete by suspension. I found myself reading the trail in more detail and weaving more than I might have otherwise. The complete (single speed) bike’s 23lb weight was reasonable, given the 5.9lb frame/ebb/seat clamp and 2.5lb fork weights- and most suspension forks wouldn’t add much more than a pound to that total. At $590 for the frame and fork, the Singular is a great value- at a higher price point, it might be reasonable to ask for lighter, or more forgiving, frame tubing, but the Swift does seem built for the long haul. A frame-only option would be nice, as would white (rather than cream) panels to better match suspension forks. Everywhere I’ve gone with the Swift, it’s attracted appreciative looks and questions from riders and non-riders alike. Anyone in the market for a comfortable, reasonably priced 29er frame that will perform with the best should give the Swift a look. Despite my reservations about riding fully rigid, I enjoyed every ride- but think that given more time adding a bit of bounce to the front end would have made me more likely to hop on the Swift more often and for longer.