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