Bike Check: Dan Atherton's Prototype 29er DH Bike

Apr 5, 2019
by Ed Spratt  

With spending a lot of his time on a BMX (he recently built a custom 22" wheeled version) and years on 27.5" bikes, Dan found the switch to the 29" prototype hard as it offers a different dynamic to the smaller wheel sizes. From a time perspective, he said that he understands the advantages and would choose the big wheel size if he was racing, but as Dan now spends most of his time riding for fun and tackling more bike parks. When asked about trying a smaller wheel in the rear he said that would mean still having a 29" front wheel which is actually the bigger problem: "I dunno about putting a smaller wheel in the back, even the front felt weird. In the air, turning and playing around, it's fast but it's just not as fun," he explained.

"It's actually the first 29” bike that I have ever ridden. I have struggled with it, to be honest. It's definitely faster, it is bloody fast, but it is such a different thing to ride," Dan said of his early time on his prototype.

Rider Name Dan Atherton // Atherton Bikes
Instagram: @dan_atherton

bigquotesIt's actually the first 29” bike that I have ever ridden.

For suspension duties, the Athertons have all stuck with Fox; they've been with them for years which gives a bit of familiarity to the new bike. There's a Fox 49 up and a DHX2 out the back with a 475 in/lb spring. In terms of air pressure for the fork, Dan says: "I have put a bit of weight on recently as I have been doing too much in the office, so I have gone up to 93/94 psi. I have no idea how many tokens though."

Dan and Gee wanted to adjust the rocker to run lower spring rates for the early part of the season.

Because they have had input at every stage of the development of the bike, Dan says that working with Dave Weagle on the DW6 link has been amazing. Getting to make even the smallest adjustment to the kinematics has had a big change on how the bike feels to ride. "In January, me and Gee were already up on the 525 in/lb spring. It was early in the season and we weren't riding that fast and already being on such a high spring rate was not what we were looking for."

"We then worked with Dave to play with the function of the rocker and change its kinematics slightly in order to come down two spring rates to 475 in/lb. This means we have more room to play with in terms of riding harder and faster." The rocker on the bike Dan brought to the London Bike Show is from before the change.

The mostly hidden back side of the suspension design. There's a lot more going on here than it might look like at first.

Stans was a long time partner for the Athertons before riding with Trek and Bontrager, but now that they're running their own team they've returned to the brand. They're using the new Flow EX3s, and Dan says it's great to be back riding their wheels. "You know the guy who owns the company, Stan, is a super passionate guy who also loves Land Rovers, so we get on quite well."

Another returning brand for the Athertons this year is Continental. Living in west Wales, Dan says Cambrian Tyres, one of the biggest distributors of for Continental in the UK, is close by to offer plenty of local support. He also says the guys over in Germany are great to work with and are really good in terms of product development. Dan is currently running a 2.4'' Der Kaiser tire at 27/28 psi, although for bike park duties he would run them between 32 to 34 psi.

bigquotesI wish I could go back and do my whole career with these pedals. They are f*cking amazing, they are unreal, honestly mindblowing

Dan runs FSA's new Gradient DH cranks.

One interesting thing spotted on Dan's bike was the FSA Gradient cranks. Dan says these are pretty rare to see and are the beginning of FSA moving into downhill and supporting the Atherton team in a big way. He says FSA has been an interesting company to work with so far and its a good to be linking with them when moving forward with their own frames.

The Trickstuff Maxima brakes are expensive, rare, and very powerful.

Another new sponsor for the team is Trickstuff and their Maxima brakes. All three Atherton siblings can't stop talking about how impressive and powerful the brakes are. Dan has found them to be the hardest thing on the new bike to get used to. "They are so powerful its nuts, the difference in arm pump is amazing. You are just working less." Although offering a ton of power, Dan also says that it offers a nice amount of modulation.

Currently, he is running 203mm rotors front and rear but because of the power offered by the brakes, Dan is thinking he may be able to go for a smaller rotor and not miss out. This would not be for every track but for bike park terrain Dan doesn't see why with the brakes power you would need a such a large rotor.

MENTIONS: @athertonracing


  • 152 15
 that bike is a work of art. it's taken me totally by surprise, it's so simple yet powerful looking. i can't wait to see a trail bike from these guys. i was sceptical, didn't really care, not a natural Atherton fan, but it's a stunning rig.
  • 14 1
 robot bike co
  • 10 2
 @Oregon29: com'n they'll change the colour at least
  • 4 2
 @Oregon29: Funny, the bottom back side of suspension looks identical. Is it the same company/early model? How does it work?
  • 7 0
 @stereo87: very similar yeah, basically from what I can garner, robot was almost a proof of concept that this design can work, and the guys then joined the Athertons to create their bikes. Someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong
  • 4 0
 I wish someone would look at me the way that kid in the background looks at this bike.
  • 1 0
 @gtill9000: which one? there are a couple stares in those pics lol
  • 4 2
 I personally like the look of a simple design. I don't really get into all the odd shaped construction of a lot of frames. The way I see it is the odder the tubes are shaped... the shorted the lifespan.
  • 3 0
 @lozzerbiker: Perhaps, or maybe Robot Bike Co. knew entering a highly competitive market profit-sharing with the Athertons (who were looking to make more money by representing a company they had invested-interest in) was the better alternative to entering the market alone. In other words, you can make a little money on your own, or a lot of money sharing it with other people. It’s just business.
  • 6 1
 My plumber suddenly an artist, now wants $10K work!
  • 14 2
 Does anybody else find it a bit concerning that Dan, who's supposed to be the brains behind this, has never ridden a 29er before this prototype? Wonder how effectively you can develop bikes and be sure you know whats best if you haven't ridden half of the new bikes out there today.

Also does that make it seem like they've gone for 29 because that's what they've decided is best, or because it's just the trendy new thing that everyone is doing? It sounds like Dan doesn't even like it that much.

It does look really nice though, I'll give them that.
  • 1 0
 @lozzerbiker: It's the same thing, like you said. Robot doesn't exist any more (the website has been taken down, too. Atherton's bought it, just like happens with tons of other startups.
  • 1 0
 Rachel posted the trail bike on her ig story today
  • 69 1
 that linkage needs to be anodized gold
  • 8 3
 Or kashima
  • 14 1
 Or puuurple hahaha
  • 4 0
 That linkage can be Titanium as the lugs.
  • 42 0
 It's 2019..... Oil slick.
  • 2 0
 @qreative-bicycle: this
  • 30 4
 In an industry where bikes don't look like bikes, I'm amazed by bikes that have straight round tubing and actually looks like a bike.
  • 18 2
 How can a bike not look like a bike?
  • 11 13
 @fiatpolski: asymmetric designs, extra pivots, extraneous bracing, unneeded complexity, funky shaped tubing.

Ask a kid to draw a bike, or think of the bike you wanted as a kid... probably looked more timeless like this, than say a new stump jumper
  • 8 0
 @fiatpolski: the same way a fish should not smell like fish haha that always tricked my mind as a kid
  • 2 3
 Looks to me like ordinary carbon tube stock, glued into aluminum bits. That methods seems like it could lead to lower material and production costs. If it is just carbon tube stock, press tooling for custom carbon frames has been eliminated. I see a bike with a very inexpensive development. Will the savings make it back to consumers?
  • 9 0
 @fiatpolski: see Marin Wolf Ridge
  • 1 1
 @generationfourth: You just called out the stumpjumper, which I would argue has a simple elegance to it. No weird shapes, it's all function over form. I have one and it's absolutely perfect.
  • 2 1
 @Trailmaster12: @Trailmaster12: How do you keep a fish from smelling ?

Cut off its nose !
  • 22 0
 The more I see if this bike the more I actually like it. I think I admire the simplicity - straight tubes, no pretentious kinks or curves. As others have said it's definitely function over form, but the form isn't bad either.
  • 2 1
 Yeah was thinking the same. When the first pics came out I thought it was just a bit meh.. but it's definitely growing on me.
  • 1 0
 The concept seems great to me. A smart engineer, access to 3-d printer and tubes seems like an easier entry than building molds for carbon and having them baked. I hope this leads to more ideas and concepts of what we can do with bikes.
  • 1 0
 I look forward to a long term test and slo-mo suspension-in-action video.
  • 1 0
 Are you kinkshaming bikes now?

Honestly though I've always liked the straight-tubed 'industrial' style
  • 31 9
 You are inside and have not yet dropped your rap album. Stop it.
  • 7 3
 Wearing a hoodie up indoors? Probably just a bit of shyness on Dan's part and/or he doesn't much like being in front of the camera.
  • 13 0
 @DaMilkyBarKid: Or...he has a giant scar on his head,or something
  • 13 1
 @DaMilkyBarKid: My money is on him covering his bald spot!
  • 4 1
 Going for the good, old fashioned historical monk look maybe?
  • 19 6
 Is this supposed to be a dig at dan wearing a hood indoors? Pretty dad-on-Facebook caliber post
  • 2 1
 @scary1: If he's self conscious about it then he has made an excellent choice in haircuts.
  • 5 1
 @Bob-Agg: do you have any more shit-tier unwitty insults to throw out here or are you done
  • 1 3
 @anchoricex: Sure man, what would you like?
  • 1 1
 @Bob-Agg: hahaa!. GoodpointSmile
  • 24 6
 Best description of a 29er "it's fast but it's just not as fun"
  • 7 2
 Yup! I recently switched to a 29er for racing. It was a good decision in that regard. But damn, my trail rides are absolutely missing that pinned 'in the zone' feeling that was there with my 27.5 bike.
  • 5 2
 @thesharkman: I have a 29er and brought a 27.5 again so I can get the best of both worlds
  • 4 14
flag A-HIGHLY-EDUCATED-PROFESSIONAL (Apr 5, 2019 at 8:59) (Below Threshold)
 If you can tell the difference between 29 and old 27.5, you have the wrong bike.
  • 12 0
 @A-HIGHLY-EDUCATED-PROFESSIONAL: If you can't tell the difference you may be defective.
  • 1 3
 @drunknride: Ah shucks you're right.
  • 5 3
 @drunknride: I really phrased that incorrectly. What I had meant to say but didn't articulate is the following:
•29ers are faster because they roll over things better and while biking you're usually rolling (not stop/start)
•26ers accelerate better but roll over things worse (think moment of inertia)
•27.5ers are in the middle
^^We know these things^^
○If 29ers aren't as fun for you, you shouldn't ride a 29er most of the time.
○That being said, if 29ers aren't fun for you and you're riding for fun, you should be on a 26 because the difference really is very small, and a 26 inch wheel will fit you better for fun
○I like 29ers. I'm large, and I don't have any issue throwing around big wheels. I think it's more fun to truck over little tiny rocks a little better and I can still pop off of tiny stuff. Plus I like going fast on grass.
○If you don't like 29ers, it's probably because there isn't a bike that fits you. It's not that 29ers aren't fun.
○29ers are fun.
  • 3 0
 @A-HIGHLY-EDUCATED-PROFESSIONAL: I think most people would agree with most of that. I'm not a 26 fer life guy though. I think the 27.5 (for me) is the best happy compromise. I can feel the 29er fighting me sometimes. If I only had one bike I wouldn't worry about wheel size. I also have a lot of kitchen knives even though I only "need" a 8-9in chefs knife. Not that anyone cares
  • 2 1
 @A-HIGHLY-EDUCATED-PROFESSIONAL: the difference is small on a paper, but huge while in charge, that's something everyone who spend some time on each wheel size will tell you
  • 1 0
 I've been riding 29ers for years exclusively. I've been wanting to get a 27.5 bike to get back to the small wheel feel.
  • 9 1
 "I wish I could go back and do my whole career with these pedals. They are f*cking amazing, they are unreal, honestly mindblowing"

And I wish I could go back to this morning and avoid reading such bullcrap!
  • 2 1
 CB Stamp pedals are dogshit, the cheaper ones break if you look at them wrong, and all of them have terrible grip. I slipped on mine and shattered my heel, lost one full season of biking, and still have issues with my ankle nearly 2 years later. Would not have slipped if I had used my current HT or Spank pedals.
  • 7 1
 It’s slightly unfortunate that the hype around these is generated more by the athertons being involved than the bikes themselves, if marketing and big names / sponsorship didn’t matter and it was truly all about the engineering and design we would all of bought Robot bikes, it’s cool to see people doing it different with 3D printing and that should of been rewarded with sales, not just now the Athertons name is on it.
  • 7 1
 When I was 60 kg 350 lb spring seemed too stiff. Now I bottom out a lot. stepped on the scale and had the most difficult decision to make. Swap to 400 lb spring or loose some weight. I feel ya Dan
  • 1 0
 I'm right between two springs at the moment too. The coil struggle is real.
  • 8 0
 Sam Hill needs to ride this ; )
  • 3 0
 with some period-correct Iron Horse decals for sure!
  • 6 0
 That second pic, that one by the bio. I think that's Dan trying to smile
  • 5 0
 He speaks the truth! yes, 29 is faster; but that does not always = more fun!
  • 2 0
 Let them ride that straight to the podium then maybe people will quit with the armchair engineering. It says it's still a prototype in the article so of course it looks like one.

It's still a dw design so no surprise it looks like other dw bikes with that similar lay out. Yes it's the same people who started Robot bike co. The Athertons either bought rm partnered with em or whatever. So naturally it looks like a Robot bike. It's a different way to make a bike. It looks odd but I'm sure the lugs work fine and wont magically deglue at speed. Ots not like they have a qc r&d testing department right?
  • 5 0
 Will pinkbike get an atherton bike to demo (DH or trail)?
  • 16 1
 maybe they can let us know if it climbs well
  • 5 3
 @enduroNZ: Im sure the DH bike climbs much better than you would expect
  • 2 1
 @enduroNZ: But does it take a bottle on the downtube...
  • 1 0
 @enduroNZ: It probably climbs uphill like a goat.
  • 9 8
 It still Screams Iron Horse Sunday with a few tweeks no Gussets , smaller rocker link, smaller rear triangle with more streamline angle to top tube than the IHS ( Hill-mobile ) its a new skool Sunday with a new name and Geo.#s ... kool to see that design comeback with the new DW link cant wait to see them in action in WC.
  • 46 0
 So basically it screams iron horse sunday with everything different?
  • 5 0
 @gooseman310 Gave you an upvote so people can read zyoungson's comment.
  • 1 0
 @zyoungson: it screams Carbon Stalion.
  • 2 1
 Recently got some SLS metal parts quoted and was astounded by the high prices. For the flexibility of making a part exactly as you want it, the process and tech doesn’t come cheap. I’d reckon these frames would be $10k retail and still not have a fat profit margin.
  • 2 0
 Interested to see how Atherton Bikes do over the next 23 years, particularly in the UK, where they are likely to be competing with an expanding Hope range and the ever popular Orange.
  • 1 0
 I love this. New suspension design, new manufacturing techniques/materials. Designed/built directly with pilot input. Would be nice if more companies followed suit instead of rehashing the same stuff every season.

Thank you Atherton bikes.
  • 1 0
 I'm not sure that admitting he's never ridden a 29er is something an aspiring bike designer should say...
Granted, there aren't many DH 29ers, but still. The whole firm is basically based on Atherton's experience. Saying "we have zero riding time on this wheel size" isn't very reassuring.
Hate to sound negative, but just sayin...
  • 1 0
 Hey Dan, we've invested in this and we need to build the hype and get people interested so when we release them, people buy them.

Dan: I haven't ridden a 29er before - it's fast but it's just not as fun

Hardly encouraging me to go and hand over whatever insane amount of money they will ask for these!
  • 2 0
 Basically put the bottom, front pivot from a DW link design with a horst link, then drive the shock with a rocker arm. It's like all the suspension designs in one!
  • 1 1
 It's a great achievement to get this bike prepped and looking so good ahead of the 2019 season. My only gripe is the plain looking shock linkage, it might benefit from something pretty printed into the material, it looks a bit plain against the rest of the machine, but as others have noted, it might be a part which gets modded to taste. All the same brilliant to see this innovation coming to life and ready to race.
  • 3 1
 If your pedals are "mind-blowing," you're thinking about them too much. I too have the Stamps, and I don't notice them, which is what you want in a pedal.
  • 2 1
 please print also some nice brake adapter pls. you 3D print your frame with nice shapes, you have crazy powerfull brakes, and then put this punkstyle adapter on it, yuck!
  • 2 0
 Honestly looks like a no frills early 90's bike - straight tubes lugged together. Reminds me of my brother's 90's Raleigh.
  • 1 0
 For sure, but with modern carbon instead of chromemoly, and modern geometry.
  • 3 3
 Not really a fan of the appearance. Looks like it's built out of ABS and PVC fittings. But... I guess being a really tall person the customization aspect makes a lot of sense.
  • 1 1
 I cant help but think this frame will come loose somewhere along the line . as much as I want to see it perform well I just cant help thinking a few big cases and some things gonna move
  • 5 2
 Cold breeze in there?
  • 3 0
 He’d probably rather answer this question instead of questions/comments from people who aren’t aware of his scar collection.
Sick bike Dan! I want to know more! Hopefully I’ll get to see one of these in person soon!
  • 3 0
 I like it Wink
  • 1 0
 Someone better check the copyright of that logo looks like a startrek hoodie.
  • 2 0
 Reminds me of the Trek lugged carbon design from back in the day.
  • 1 0
 It doesn't look like the rear tire has much clearance. And that brake adapter looks like it would snap if it took a hit.
  • 17 0
 Because it is!
  • 36 1
 When your new year's resolution is to not read the internet until April
  • 1 0
 a full on chain guide, seems to make sense
  • 7 10
 So Dan and Gee make a bike and he says he doesn't really like it? That kind of sucks. Cool to see them doing the R&D here and working with Weagle. I like the look of it. Kind of has a steel DJ look to it. That being said, there is no way I could pick this over the Commencal Supreme...that bike is insanely cool looking.
  • 11 0
 I think he means that he doesn't like it for the kind of riding he is doing now - mentioned it is a fast bike, but not a playful one.
I've heard the same thing said about the Commy, goes real fast over rough stuff - the steeper and nastier the better, but is "meh" to ride at a bike park on jump tracks and more effort to corner on berms.
Be cool if he makes a park 26" version.
  • 2 5
 @Clarkeh: I mean, cornering is EXACTLY where the money is at for racers. He said he didn't like it for that. I think a 26+ Park Bike would be pretty sick for smaller riders.
  • 5 0
 he was talking about the 29" wheels, never having ridden them before.....
  • 1 4
 @ColquhounerHooner: He was talking about riding that bike right? The one that he helped make? Am i missing something? (fwiw I ride an XL 29er as I'm took a couple of months to get used to it).
  • 2 0
 He looks pissed!
  • 1 0
 Such a sweet looking bike
  • 4 3
 I want to see the numbers. Is it longer than DJ bike from Geometron?
  • 4 1
 C'mon Waki, you know you can order one with whatever geo you want... In fact I'm waiting for a them to drop some with ultra extreme examples just to show that they can do it, reckon it'd be awesome to see and a great way to get it across to dudes who just don't understand why they have gone this way of manufacturing. I mean the pure very own personal geo?? What would you get?
  • 3 4
 @ColquhounerHooner: I am interested in how slack and long Gee's bike is. It would help to settle a bit of "how long is too long" issue. I don't have much wish to wonder what geo would I like on a DH or Enduro bike. My current Carbon Jack serves me extremely well. If I had to build a 160 29er, the numbers would be close to E29. if 140, it would be close to Stumpy 29 evo. I like Spec geos a lot even if suspension is a bit worse compared to Anti. I am much more particular about geos of hardtails I would like to have and those are not long and slack by any means, simply because I like nimble hardtails. And nimble means fkng nimble, very short CS, 67HA, 120 forks, not some elitist BS for upper middle class folks with more bikes in the garage and first world problems in their heads than skills.
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: yes, well l guess well all find out the exact geo of Gee's bike when he is fine tuned it. Maybe another model or two. I guess I've been surprised by the number of comments slagging on the bike, the looks, lugs, straight tubes etc. without realising the individual design benefit the manufacturing approach brings. Good luck to them. I like it.
  • 1 0
 First pic looks like he's ready to beat someone up
  • 1 0
 great looking bike IMHO. It has a classic bmx look to it.
  • 1 0
 He looks thrilled in that first shot
  • 2 1
 Sooo do they ever plan on actually selling bikes?
  • 1 0
 The force is strong with this one.
  • 5 3
 so ugly.....
  • 1 0
 What happened to the gearbox everyone’s raving about?
  • 1 0
 Love the simplistic look of these bikes.
  • 1 1
 Funny the mixed emotions to this bike. Personally it looks like a prototype .Not a finished bike!
  • 1 0
 It somehow looks like a World Cup Dirt Jumper ????
  • 1 0
 Think I seen that bike last sunday
  • 1 0
 That’s a podium worthy bike!
  • 1 0
 Looks like the Trek 9800 from the mid 90’s...
  • 3 6
 Ah so that's who's making them! well found Sir!
  • 11 14
 Have to agree, don’t see where people are seeing beautiful lines and a nice linkage, sorry this looks unrefined and something I would buy from China. Unimpressed by the Atherton brand so far trying to carry a name into bike building. Ok hurt feelings reply!
  • 5 1
 so stoked, looks well engineered with good sending construction
  • 6 6
 i thought its made from bamboo.. its seem like one..
  • 3 4
 Oh and I'd like to add... make some narrow pipe fittings and let me stick some skinny steel tubing in there.
  • 1 0
 looks fragile
  • 4 6
 Who cares what it looks like if it rides well. Does it ride well? Who fvcking knows?
  • 5 7
 Stan’s whips a denali 1500 that land rover line is fake news
  • 5 7
 down vote me all you want ive golfed with him about 50 times, sons
  • 6 8
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