Bike Check: Leigh Johnson's Pole Taival Steel Hardtail

Jun 30, 2020
by Ed Spratt  



The British Pole Enduro Team rider had an incredible 2019 season with two top-ten finishes and closing out the year with a 12th place finish in the overall. With racing still a couple of months away, Leigh Johnson has built himself his first hardcore hardtail as an all-day trail weapon. Leigh says, "Although I’m itching to get back racing, I’m also itching to get out on this and explore some more hidden gems at home." Check out all the details about Leigh's steel hardtail below.

Leigh Johnson on stage 3 and in 15th after the first day of racing

Rider Name // Leigh Johnson
Hometown: Neath, Wales
Height: 188cm
Weight: 86kg
Instagram: @leighjohnsonmtb

Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape
Photo: Lewis Bradley / Behindthetape

Frame: Pole Taival // Size: Large
Headset: Cane Creek
Fork: RockShox Pike Ultimate 140mm
Handlebar: Spank Oozy 780 Vibrocore 25mm rise
Stem: Spank split 43mm 31.8 clamp
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC
Rotors: SRAM Centerline 200mm
Crank: SRAM X01 Eagle Carbon 170mm
Chainring: SRAM Eagle 34t
Chain: SRAM Eagle XX1
Wheels: Front - Spank 350 Vibrocore // Rear - Spank 359 Vibrocore
Tires: Michelin Wild Enduro
Inserts: Huck Norris
Cassette: Sram XX1 Eagle
Pedals: Crankbrothers Mallet E
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle
Shifter: SRAM XX1 Eagle
Seat/Seatpost: Spank Spike 160 // Bikeyoke Revive 185mm
Bike Weight: 14.5kg / 32lbs with pedals
Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape

Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape

How long have you been riding for Pole?


This is my 3rd year with Pole, I started with them in 2018 and we have been growing together ever since.

How are you finding the Pole Taival?


It’s soo good, I’ve never had a hardcore hardtail before, but this has opened up a lot of opportunities for me, I have been using it to ride to trails even further away from home, sometimes stopping at a pump track or jump spot on route, and because it is made from steel tubing it’s very comfortable for all-day missions. I’m a big fan, and although I’m itching to get back racing, I’m also itching to get out on this and explore some more hidden gems at home.

Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape
Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape

Can you run us through suspension setup?


Of course, so obviously being a hardtail, it’s the easiest bike I’ve had to set up. The RockShox Pike Ultimate sit at 140mm travel, I have fitted 2 tokens and 115 psi, 2 clicks on of LSC and HSC, and rebound 4 clicks off from fully on. It feels real good but things may change slightly as I get to spend more time riding this bike.

What does your cockpit setup look like?


The cockpit is exactly the same as what I use on my other bikes thanks to Spank, I use a Spank Oozy Vibrocore 780mm wide, 25mm rise handlebar, I prefer the feel on the 31.8mm version and think the Vibrocore foam combined with 31.8 clamp helps save some energy on the longer tracks. I’ve chosen a 43mm Spank Split stem, the split stem comes in 4 different sizes all under 50mm so this is what I felt worked best combined with the longer reach of my bikes. The grips are also the same throughout my bikes, I prefer the larger Spank spike 33mm as my hands are on the larger side.

Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape
Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape

What about tyre setup?


I’ve really been enjoying the Michelin Wld Enduro combo for riding at home, paired with Huck Norris inserts front are rear with 25 and 30psi. I think this is the best set up I have found so far for speed and durability.

Do you know the weight?


Yes, it’s exactly 14.5kg with pedals. I’ve never even thought about the weight of it before answering this question as it’s so fun I don’t care haha.

Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape

Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape
Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape

Is there anything custom on the bike?


Apart from a sticker with my name on the frame, everything is “off the shelf” which just shows how capable everything is these days.

Do you have any personal setup tricks that are unique to you?


I don’t think there’s anything too unique going on on my bikes, I like everything to be neat and tidy, especially the cable routing. There’s a neat Garmin mount on the headset top cap too. Also, it’s essential to fit a Fidlock bottle and mount to my bikes, they are just the best.

I think my wheel set up could be unique to me, I choose to run a Spank 350 front wheel and a 359 rear wheel, this is because the front 350 has a 17mm rim depth over the 19mm of the 359 rear wheel allowing a lighter and more compliant front wheel and a stiffer rear wheel.

Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape
Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape

Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape

Photo Lewis Bradley Behindthetape



79 Comments

  • 61 0
 Now that's a stiff pink Pole.
  • 12 13
 Poke holes in it with a fork before you put it in the microwave?
  • 10 2
 Do you wanna ride my... ah let’s forget about that.

Does the Vibrocore dampen the pounding from the pole... nah, sorry for that one...

Did someone check already if those are prototype chainstays?

Thanks, I’m here all week (and will see myself out now.)
  • 31 2
 Love the look of that bike, but the last time there was a Pole review on here we all seemed to get really get bent out of shape
  • 2 0
 Yea, the results left me feeling a little broken
  • 22 1
 Nice pink bike pinkbike.
  • 15 1
 According to Instagram this was built 1 week ago - so the 'how are you finding' it bit is probably best taken with a pinch of salt
  • 11 0
 and paprika
  • 5 2
 Also says he likes the Michelin Rear so he clearly hasn’t taken it out on more than 10 rides.
  • 1 0
 @browner: Oooh yeah, and some freshly ground black pepper.
  • 2 0
 The bike hadn’t been ridden at the time of the photo shoot / interview .
  • 8 0
 160 miles in 3 days can give a pretty good impression haha
  • 4 0
 @carlitouk: Tone it down on the salt and add some coriander instead.
  • 3 1
 @Lornholio: Have you considered the possibility that someone might have a different opinion to you?
  • 1 0
 @james-skipper: Yep. But two local friends and I all had the same experience. Starts off decent but side knobs are done very quickly compared to everything else I’ve ridden, other Michelins included (happily back on WR2 rears now). NSMB, whose opinion I value over most websites, said about the same in their review. But hey, buy them, try them, see for yourself. It’s what I did.
  • 1 0
 @Lornholio: Must just depend on the nature of the trails they're being ridden on, I've been running mine on bike park and soft local type tech in Wales for about 6 months now and they haven't given up on me yet! In fact I'd say they were an improvement over the DHR I was running previously. For the increase in grip they offer I'd definitely recommend them to anyone whos considering them
  • 1 0
 @james-skipper: Fair enough. Our local trails are very rough and rocky.
  • 1 0
 @Lornholio: That'd probably do it, I'd be tempted to switch to something else if I know it going to be riding that sort of thing then!
  • 1 0
 @Dailom:

He cleaned it, I know because I took the photos.

And, also put a fresh set of tyres on for the images
  • 14 0
 Johnson’s pole? Redundant?
  • 11 1
 Nice to see another hardtail bike check! Keep ‘me coming pinkbike.
  • 6 0
 Love seeing all the Vibrocore parts here. Bars really do work in my experience (blows away the damping abilities of even the best carbon bars), and the strength increase on the rims is considerable. One of the few rims that can safely be tensioned as high as 140 Kgf as a manufacturer recommendation (DS rear; see Spank's thorough wheelbuilding FAQ section). Baller combination mixing the 350 and 359 rims! Just love this hardcore hardtail overall.
  • 2 0
 I ran the vibracore bars and some RF carbon bars, both in 31.8, on a rigid bike, and could tell zero difference.
  • 3 0
 @hllclmbr: I run them and probably wouldn’t notice if you swapped them, but they are hardly expensive or heavy so why not just believe in them haha

I’m finding the 350 rims (non foam) like flat spotting however
  • 4 1
 @toad321: "why not just believe in them haha"

Because my goal, in my very few turns around the sun, is to believe as many true things as possible, and to reject as many false things as possible.
  • 5 0
 I bought one of these last year to be my secondary bike for the CO front range (also have an Orbea Rallon). Somehow it has turned into my daily, and I now ride it 4x as often as my twice-as-expensive Rallon.
  • 6 0
 It’s almost like a hardtail is sufficient for the front range.
  • 3 0
 @speed10: I will say I wouldn't want it as my only bike. There are certain trails around here that wouldn't be much fun without at least 120mm of travel. What gets me is when I'm on my favorite trails for my hardtail and pass people riding things like the SB150 and Megatower. They have no idea what they're missing out on.
  • 4 0
 @DaneL: I feel personally attacked as someone who rides a 150 on Betasso weekly. :p

Building up a Kona honzo at the moment actually!
  • 2 1
 I’m just joshing of course. Everyone should be allowed to bring their favorite toys to the beach. I just marvel at how overbiked most people seem to be, not just the front range. But as long as it ain’t ebike, have your fun.
  • 2 0
 @DaneL: but enduro brah
  • 6 0
 Just curious, is this set up as 29" or 27.5" ? Does not seem to be stated anywhere in this article.
  • 4 0
 I suspect it’s a wagon wheeler
  • 2 0
 @tobiusmaximum: Yeah, the Taival is 29" (or 27.5+) specific. These are 2.4" tires and don't look too small for bike and fork so clearly 29" wheels.
  • 6 4
 "this has opened up a lot of opportunities for me, I have been using it to ride to trails even further away from home" - because a full sus has a limit on how far you can ride it.

Come on pinkbike, just mark it as an advert and be done with it.
  • 2 0
 Oh man, try pedaling a HT and a full Sus for a while and you'll know that there is a massive distance. I pedal about 10 miles to my local trails, and riding my "progressive" Hardtail is just so much less straining...
  • 1 0
 Here comes @paulaston and says your full sus bikes aren’t just effective enough
Now, speaking of G1...
  • 4 0
 @Kainerm: I did oramm on a hardtail. 10k of climbing and 75 miles. At the end I was begging for a full suspension bike. I had to rest the nose of the saddle on my tailbone on descents because it was the only combo that felt good and I couldn’t stand without getting a cramp. There is a reason most top athletes are on full suspension and I’m not a top athlete
  • 1 1
 @usedbikestuff: most top athletes in which discipline?
Climbing is way more efficient on a Hardtail.
Descending in rough conditions is way harder on a Hardtail. But it's also much more fun - which does not count in racing.

ALL of my riding buddies are super critical about the HT - and every single one who has tried it is blown away by how capable and fun it is.
  • 3 1
 @Kainerm: well, if you pay attention to context, then he was referring to marathon xc racing, in which case yes most of the top pros are on full suspension
  • 2 2
 @Kainerm: False, even in the most recent world champs round up some 20 out of 25 xc pros are on full suspension. If I wanted climbing efficiency I’d ride a chair lift and if I wanted fun descending it wouldn’t be on a hardtail where I’d constantly have my rear wheel buck around and break traction when I went up on the front wheel from heavy braking. I’m sure competitive 4x, dual slalom and fat biking there is an advantage for racers but no where else. Ht has its place as a great way for riders to get into riding and sure it is efficient. It’s a different challenge which is probably why your friends were surprised, but I doubt anyone was lining up to trade
  • 1 3
 @usedbikestuff: what exactly about my statement is wrong? Hardtails are much, much faster uphill, absolutely no denying that. And they aren't as fast downhill. And they are more fun - but fun is no metric in racing. Which one of these statements is false?

I took both bikes my (170mm Enduro and 160mm Hardtail) for a long park weekend recently. I rode the HT for two out of three of those days, because it's just much more fun.

Clearly, you don't know the capabilities of a good "progressive" hardtail, likely because you've never ridden one. Give it a try if you can - you'll be very surprised.
  • 1 3
 @thegoodflow: nice one!
  • 7 1
 Nice example of a bloody nice hardtail, nice.
  • 2 0
 Hey Pinkbike! It would be amazing if you actually gave a damn and tagged my profile on Pinkbike and Instagram where you used my photos which I nicely took my time out of my day to take for you to do an article on the bike. All I asked for in return was for my profiles to be properly tagged. Cheers, Taken for a mug, Lewis
  • 5 0
 I want! Oh wait, I have already bought one!! Come on Mr. Postman...
  • 6 2
 How do I cook a flank steak?
  • 13 0
 "Flip twice. Grille Mark's bud."
  • 5 0
 @Trudeez: s & p!
  • 3 0
 @dockboy: The choice for me!
  • 2 0
 Wipe its arse,and leave the horns on.
  • 3 0
 Where to get a Fidlock bottle cover like that? HAHA Need one haha.
  • 3 0
 2nd gen 600 ml bottle. Quite nice since the cap is sealing the bottle when closed.
  • 1 0
 @Knollensteppe: OOH So that's the 2nd gone one... they were all sold out when I was purchasing mine. Sadness. hahaha.
  • 3 0
 He's one of my favourite riders and that is a sick bike!
  • 1 0
 Looking at this frame may want to go back to riding a Small frame size, but now a small is right size as regards height & length?
  • 4 1
 Sweet ride!
  • 1 0
 It's not often you're reading a Pinkbike article look out of the window and said bike and rider spin past!
  • 1 0
 Looks just like an Evil DOC. Love it.
  • 3 1
 I love hardtails
  • 1 0
 Reminds me of my Hello Dave
  • 1 0
 Big Dog checking in. They make a nice steel hardtail.
  • 2 1
 That Pole has just given me a Pole.
  • 1 0
 Wait a sec... fidlock with a flip-top cap?? I need this!
  • 1 0
 Would rather to see how it rides and what is capable off...
  • 4 2
 Hardtail > ebike
  • 1 0
 Who disliked this?
  • 1 0
 Loving all the hardtail content lately.
  • 1 0
 simple, bagus
  • 1 1
 "....14.5kg / 32lbs with pedals..." I didnt read futher ...lol
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