PINKBIKE FIELD TRIP
The Boss of Low Cost
Words by Mike Levy, Photography by Anthony Smith
Calibre is a direct-to-consumer British brand focused on relatively inexpensive mountain bikes that, according to them, can still be ridden hard. How inexpensive? The Bossnut costs just 1,100 pounds, or around $1,400 USD, depending on the inevitable taxes and duties. Some perspective: You get an entire 130mm-travel trail bike for around $600 less than the last drivetrain I reviewed.
Like the majority of bikes in the price range, Calibre has used SRAM’s 12-speed SX drivetrain, along with a set of Level T brakes (with a 180mm front rotor) to slow you down. Can you spot what's missing? A dropper post, of course, so you’ll need to factor in another $200-ish dollars if you want to unlock the 'nut. The not-tubeless-friendly WTB tires also refused to seal up, so add another $100-ish, too.
Fork travel: 130mm
Wheel size: 27.5"
Frame construction: aluminum
Head angle: 66-degrees
Chainstay length: 436mm
Reach: 460mm (lrg)
Sizes: Sm, med, lrg (tested), xlrg
Weight: 33.4 lb / 15.1 kg
Price: $1,400 USD (depending on duties, taxes)
More info: www.calibrebicycles.com
You might expect some sketchy geometry at this price, but that’s not the case. I’m 5’10” on a good day, putting me on a large-sized Bossnut with a modest 460mm reach, 66 and 74.5-degree head and seat angles, and 436mm chainstays. Those numbers are relatively contemporary and wouldn’t be out of place on something much pricer, so the Bossnut won't need retiring as an entry-level rider progresses their skills to mid-level status. Buuuuut anymore than that might require some re-thinking. More on that later.
The suspension design is a single-pivot, linkage activated system that drives a RockShox Monarch R shock, paired with a 130mm-travel Recon RL on the front of the bike. That’s hung off a fairly basic aluminum frame; it uses steel pivot hardware and simple tube shapes, but you’ll also see things like ISCG tabs, a (non-Boost) thru-axle, and while it doesn’t come with a dropper post because you can't have everything at this price, goddamnit, it does have the frame holes to accept one. Speaking of holes, the only place to carry water is on the underside of the Bossnut's down tube. Climbing
The Bossnut is the lone 27.5" wheeled bike in our Field Trip group test, along with also being the least expensive full-suspension bike by $400, so I mistakenly assumed that it'd be the worst climber of the bunch to boot. Okay, it wouldn't be my first choice (that's the Vitus) or my last (shoutout to the Giant Stance), but the Bossnut does a remarkable job of hiding its low-cost price tag on the climbs, trucking along just as well as bikes costing more than twice as much.
The 130mm-travel single-pivot rear-suspension doesn't feel like it wastes any watts, which is nice given that I don't have any to waste and the shock doesn't have a pedal-assist switch. It's efficient, but its real forte is on the tight, technical climbs where it makes short work of those low-speed tests of balance. Not even the fast-rolling, low-traction rear tire could stymie the 'nut, although it sure did its best on the dusty, loose Sedona singletrack. With plenty of pep, a compact feeling cockpit, and a head angle that I would have guessed to be a full degree steeper than it actually is, the Calibre has that darty personality that can make technical climbs fun.
Speaking of fun, heatstroke, and cactus, here's a spoiler alert: The 27.5" wheeled Calibre was the underdog of the Impossible Climb pseudo-science test (yes, there's a video coming) but ended up surprising everyone. Out of the eight value bikes, how do you think the Bossnut fared? Descending
With my expectations set to a medium-low level, a few extra psi in each tire to keep me from pinching on the first rock, and the seat lowered via the trick quick-release lever, it took all of three or four rough corners for me to realize that the Bossnut is the real deal. Then again, geometry is what matters most and the Calibre's numbers suit its trail bike intentions well.
In fact, the Bossnut could take a new rider to their next level, and it's probably more than enough bike for a lot of shit talkers out there, and their trails.
It has a zippy personality to it through the tight, slow-speed stuff which, much like the climbing, is where it seems to excel the most. The small wheels and modern but short-ish reach help, no doubt, and unlike some longer machines, this is a bike that will dance if you know the moves.
Those slow and medium speed descents also ask less of the Bossnut's fork than faster trails where the Recon feels overwhelmed. This fork's damper proved to be consistent (it wasn't on the Hightower), but its very linear air spring needs to be over-pressurized by around 30 psi.
On smoother terrain, the Bossnut has no problems hanging with the likes of the Commencal Meta, YT's Jeffsy, and the other bikes that cost twice as much. But put it on a chunky, fast trail and it doesn't offer the same planted and predictable ride of pricier machines.
At the other end of the bike, the Bossnut's 130mm of travel and little Monarch R shock gave us nothing to moan about. The suspension sensitivity is just as good as its competition, and there's both support and ramp-up to run 30-percent sag and still hit all of the trail bike-appropriate lines without worry. Sure, push it hard and you'll find the difference between it and the back of the Vitus - it could feel noticeably choppier over repeated high-speed impacts - but what do you want from your $1,400 trail bike?
Onto the cage match, and this time it's the Bossnut going up against the $1,800 Giant Stance and the $2,000 Vitus Mythique 29 VRX. The Bossnut makes short work of the Stance - pushing the Giant on rough (but appropriate) terrain feels a bit like trying to push a rope; it's an over-cooked noodle of a frame that's still using a quick-release rear-end. If we're talking Stance versus Bossnut, choose the 'nut and spend the difference on a dropper post and tubeless-ready rubber.
The $2,000 Vitus is an entirely different beast, and it walks all over the Stance and Bossnut anytime it's fast and rough.
Impressive rear-suspension +
Best at slow speeds, smoother terrain +
Pivot hardware rattle loose multiple times -
Fork can't keep up-
Limited availability outside the UK
Photos: Anthony Smith
Additional footage: Lear Miller