Project 1.2 Review: On-One’s convention-challenging $800 Lurcher carbon 29er frame

Catch up on all of our Project 1.2 posts here!

For many of us, there’s no denying carbon fiber’s sex appeal.  Be it the associations with cutting edge, high-end bikes and components (and race cars and fighter jets), the ways in which it can be crafted into seemingly endless combinations of weight, stiffness, vibration damping, and durability, or the way in which is frees designers from the formal constraints of metal construction, the stuff is pretty darn cool.  But carbon fiber components, wheels, and frames have long been out of financial reach for many riders- destined to remain objects of desire, unsullied by contact with everyday riding.

With their 29er Lurcher, rough and tumble 456, ‘cross Dirty Disco, and racy Whippet carbon fiber frames, British brand On-One (which is in the same family as Planet X and more recently Titus) have set out to bring the material to a much broader audience.  Between consumer-direct sales, canny purchasing, and lean margins, each of these frames has an MSRP under US$800 (the Dirty Disco adds a carbon fork for US$900).  It should be noted that, on their website at the time of this writing, not one of these frames is priced at MSRP.  Some are significantly lower.

The Lurcher is On-One’s all-around carbon fiber 29er frame.  At $800, the MSRP is half to one third that of bigger brands’ offerings- and provided inspiration for our Project 1.2 singlespeed‘s “Reasonably-Priced Carbon” theme.  Interchangeable $25 “Swapouts” make for easy geared or singlespeed configuration and the frame is bang up-to-date with a tapered head tube, press-fit bottom bracket, direct-mount front derailleur, and a 31.6mm seatpost.  Advertised at 1,550g, it’s not the lightest frame on the market- but then lightest and least expensive would be a scary combination.  After six months with the Lurcher, is On-One’s latest a price point killer- or a horrific mailorder pigdog?  Hit the jump to find out…

Let’s start with the Lurcher’s geometry, which is shared with the steel Inbred 29er and the aluminum Scandal 29er.  There isn’t anything groundbreaking here- fairly standard 70/71deg head/seat angles with a 100mm fork (a bit steeper if you prefer an 80mm model) and a reasonable 444mm chainstay length.  Top tubes run fashionably long, with our 19.5in frame coming a rangy 24.4in.  When paired with a 80-90mm stem, the fit works well for my 6′- though it wasn’t long ago that I would’ve preferred the 18in frame’s 23.7in TT and a longer stem.  Color options include green/black, orange/black, and the gloss/matte black shown here.

The build process was fairly straightforward.  Well thought-out full-length external cable housing makes routing simple- though dropper cables will need to piggyback on shift cables if front and rear derailleurs are chosen.  The recessed press-in headset (44mm upper/49.6mm lower) is as clean as can be and allows for the use of virtually any fork on the market.  In this case, a Hope Pick-n-Mix model helped me fit a straight-steerer’d SID without any issues whatsoever.  The head tube junction is, in a word, massive.

The PF89.5 bottom bracket takes BBs from any number of companies but requires a 2.5mm cup or hard-to-find spindle spacer to work properly with most cranks.  The FSA and Shimano BBs that we’ve tried have slid in alarmingly easily but, on On-One’s recommendation, a bit of red Loctite has held them securely and quietly since day one.  Like the head tube junction, the Lurcher’s bottom bracket area is massive, each ‘tube’ flowing into the next with generous radii.  When assembling, I wished that the large M6 thread for the direct-mount front derailleur had come with some sort of a plug or screw.  Some parts bin digging yielded the license plate bolt on there now- but not everyone has a ready assortment of metric hardware at the ready.

All Lurcher dropouts tuck the rear brake caliper between the seatstay and chainstay.  Not just a for its clean looks, this position allows braking forces to push the axle into the dropout and allows for the brake to follow the rear wheel on slot-dropout versions.  The top bolts’ location can make on-trail brake adjustments a hassle- but that’s preferable to having the rear wheel forced out the back of the dropout.

On the trail, the Lurcher is a playful and a bit of a troublemaker.  The geometry and big wheels encourage confidence at speed- something that the frame’s solidity makes easy to achieve.  While agile, On-One have kept the frame’s geometry a few steps away from that of many twitchy, high-strung race bikes.  Despite our stepped-down steerer and wide Gravity Light handlebars, the front end is solid and allows for precise wheel placement (the Roval carbon wheels and RockShox SID’s thru-axle don’t hurt either).  With the right tires, the On-One can be a bit tail-happy and easily provoked into oversteer- a whole lot of fun.

The 31.6mm seatpost keeps the bike from ever feeling really comfy (a Syntace HiFlex or Ritchey FlexLogic seatpost would be a great addition)- but the Lurcher is far from abusive at saddle.  Befitting a frame that sees damp and mud in the way that the Southwest sees blue skies and dust, there’s plenty of room for 29×2.3in tires and gobs of mud (the 2.2in Schwalbes shown are swimming between the stays)- and some 2.4s will work in a pinch.

Some readers have found the Lurcher’s “droopy” lines offensive, but they work much better on the complete bike than frame alone.  We could point to some theoretically increased compliance as justification- but have the feeling that the shape is more the result of of a hey, why not? decision.  The only real drawback is a disappointing lack of crotchal clearance on what could otherwise be a solid XC/light trail frame.

As far as XC frames go, the Lurcher is awfully hard to argue with.  The geometry really is dialed for fast and technical riding.  The stiffness and won’t leave anyone disappointed on the race course and the price leaves plenty of room in the budget for a nice wheel upgrade.  Some slightly-off downtube bottle boss spacing join the loose-ish bottom bracket shell as the only quality concerns:  it’s no excuse, but we have seen worse on much costlier frames.

On-One’s business model is a disruptive one and has the potential to upset not only competitors, but also your local bike shop.  That said, we know of some shops that order or welcome the frames as foundation for customers’ custom builds.  It’s not the way that things have traditionally been done, but as the market evolves this is one way for IBDs to keep pace and to offer considerable value to their customers.  Independent of cost or business model, the On-One leaves me wanting for virtually nothing:  the frame is stiff, light, handles great, and I find it attractive.  Is the Lurcher significantly better than the $450 aluminum Scandal?  Maybe not- but as it’s stiffer and a whole lot sexier, the cost makes this upgrade a whole lot easier to justify than most.

Thanks to Kip Malone Photographer for the awesome action shots!

marc

on-one.co.uk (UK, RoW)

shop.titusti.com (USA)

Comments

kyle - 02/05/13 - 11:28am

“Maybe not- but as it’s stiffer”

do you guys have editors?

Alex K - 02/05/13 - 11:58am

Why do people keep churning out long chainstay 29ers? The sub 17″ ones are an absolute blast to ride, the longer ones, not so much.

NotAMachinist - 02/05/13 - 12:06pm

@Kyle

“makes for the brake to follow the rear wheel”
” is far from abusive at saddle. ”

No.

Bob Loblaw - 02/05/13 - 12:06pm

@kyle

While we’re on grammar patrol, don’t you need an ellipsis at the end of your partial quote? The sentence is odd but makes sense to me and uses “it’s” correctly.

Bob

batson - 02/05/13 - 1:13pm

Some folks have their spandties in a wad.

ascar larkinyar - 02/05/13 - 1:28pm

@Alex K, I am with you. longer than 17″ chainstays are just no fun and makes the rear tire slip while stand up climbing.

also this frame is just a re-bandaged “hong-fu” frame($349.00). google mtbr and hong fu for more details.

ijws - 02/05/13 - 2:17pm

Quote: “but then lightest and least expensive would be a scary combination.” Wouldn’t it just be a mass produced aluminum frame possibly from the likes of Specialized or Cannondale? Not too scary if you ask me.

nrkocyclist - 02/05/13 - 3:03pm

@Alex K and ascar larkinyar
What 29er has chainstays shorter than 17 inches? I’d love to know.
Not being a troll, I’ve just never seen one (and would love to ride one).

Marc - 02/05/13 - 3:16pm

NotAMachinist,

Thanks- corrected the first but am not sure what you’d like to see the second quote changed to.

marc

Marc - 02/05/13 - 3:19pm

Ascar,

Thanks for the info- but in a quick look at their site can’t find any Hongfu frames that are the same as the Lurcher. The On-One may be made by Hongfu (I don’t know), but it’s not looking like a straight re-badge.

marc

Saris - 02/05/13 - 3:38pm

@NRKO Cyclist

There two niners I can think of with sub 17″ chainstays are the Transition TransAm 29 and Kona Honzo. Both are amazing. A little heavy but perfect for someone looking for a fun all mountain hardtail with a downhill background. Check out the review NSMB did of the Honzo a few months ago for more details.

NotAMachinist - 02/05/13 - 3:44pm

Marc,

Since you’re asking me to channel my mother the Newspaper Editor/English Teacher/Librarian/Author, I would rewrite those as:

“Not just for its clean looks, this position allows braking forces to push the axle into the dropout and allows the brake to follow the rear wheel on slot-dropout versions.”

“-but the Lurcher is far from abusive at the saddle.” Or “in the saddle.” would work as well.

And yes, it was always fun asking her to review a book report before handing it in. You’ve never seen so much red ink in one place.

Keep up the good work (and if you ever want to trade jobs, I get to ride bikes and let people pick on my grammar, I’m game!)

NotAMachinist - 02/05/13 - 4:42pm

Reading that once again it would scan better as:

“Not just for its clean looks, this position causes braking forces to push the axle into the dropout and allows the brake to follow the rear wheel on slot-dropout versions.”

Time to put the keyboard down and step away from the computer.

Kailua - 02/05/13 - 6:06pm

@NRKO

Also check out the Canfield Nimble 9 for a short stay/slack head tube 29er.

nick - 02/05/13 - 8:02pm

have been eyeing one of these for a while.

Marc, interested to know your thoughts on the handling of these Vs the “new” 29ers (Rocky Mtn, etc) that have resolved many of the handling concerns of 29ers.

Also, did you try this set to 80mm on the fork? what does this do to the handling?

MCR - 02/06/13 - 4:58pm

Don’t buy these substandard frames from On-one. may it be the lurcher or carbon race. Just recently bought carbon race 29er in from titususa. frame has a broken internal cable housing. Bad customer service and would not replace it.

Marc - 02/06/13 - 9:11pm

Nick,

While it depends on your intended use, I’d say that if you’re looking for a singlespeed, this is a heck of a bike- and a purchase that I don’t regret one bit. As far as the handling concerns, it depends on what your issues with 29ers is: there are people who criticize them for being too slow (handling-wise) and those (like Kailua, above), who like a slacker front end for more aggressive riding.

Personally, I’m not necessarily a “29er guy.” I like the On-One as a singlespeed because the big wheels make the most of what singlespeeds demand: conservation of momentum. Once up to speed, they do a great job of maintaining that speed. For technical trail riding, however, my riding style and 24(!) years’ experience keep drawing me back to 26in wheels (or 650b, if you really need to be up-to-date) and full suspension. Maybe I’m blind or stubborn (or have too much invested in wheels), but everyone is entitled to their opinion. The only remotely scientific, evidence-based studies that I’ve seen put the speed and efficiency differences in the noise- and note that wheel size has a lower impact on rolling resistance than a few psi of tire pressure. While I don’t see 26in hardtails ever really coming back, go with the wheel size that makes you want to ride and enjoy riding while you’re out there- that’ll be the fastest and most rewarding for you. If you’re more of a beginner/intermediate or less-confident rider or unusually tall (see: Tyler), a 29er will be more forgiving and give you a nice confidence boost.

My Lurcher is geared at 34×19, which means that I’m working the tires and corners hard to maintain speed. The geometry here works well- neither too twitchy on the straights nor too slack in the techy bits. The chainstay length is very similar to my 5in and 6in XC and trail bikes, which I suppose could make me feel at home. What the Lurcher isn’t trying to be is a 26in bike- which is what a lot of 29er handling criticism seems aimed at (not quick/maneuverable enough). Rather than trying to handle like something it isn’t (a 26in XC race bike or an aggressive trail bike), the On-One is very good at being a 29er. I hope that this helps!

Where and how were you thinking of using the Lurcher?

marc

Ryan - 02/07/13 - 12:14am

I wouldn’t trade my Yelli Screamy for ANY other production 29er frame. No amount of weight shavings is worth bad geometry. If I raced XC I would take a BMC TE29 or a Devinci Atlas.

MBR - 02/07/13 - 12:13pm

How to make it lighter? If you’re going to do the trendy single-speed thing, then more needs to be done to help out those poor knees… Put on a rigid carbon fork… 140mm rotors… Toss those heavy Gravity [not] Light bars for some generic carbon bars [which alone will save at least 1/4#]…

chsad - 05/05/13 - 7:47am

In one of those pictures the front wheel is not a Roval. How did/are they holding up?

Marc Basiliere - 05/05/13 - 2:33pm

Chsad,

The front wheel was a backup that I slapped on after cutting a tire- no issues with the Rovals whatsoever. Look for a review soon…

marc

Chsad - 05/06/13 - 5:28am

Sounds good, looking forward to it. The width and price are appealing. The lack of bead hook and psi rec. make me think twice.

jallll - 06/10/13 - 8:47am

hi, have a doubt with the bottom bracket, which is the spacer is needed? it,s the first frame pf i heard it needs it
thanks

JR Rodgers - 01/03/14 - 3:38pm

I have had a 21″ Carbon Lurcher for last few years and its just been fantastic. I have built it as a 1×10, but mostly as a SS. The best deal out there, period. One One , fantastic customer service. I had a few questions building it up and Mike totally took care of me. I have ran XTR M970 and M980 cranksets with their PF BB, no issues whatsoever.

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