ARC8 are a small Swiss company who are entering the market with a lineup that includes a cross-country hardtail, a short travel trail bike, and the Extra, their new 160mm 29er.
ARC8 is made up of two Swiss gentlemen – Serafin Pazdera and Jonas Müller. Serafin is a graphic designer and web developer based out of Basel, Switzerland, and Jonas is a bike engineer based out of Taichung, Taiwan. ARC8 approached us recently with a simple proposal – let's meet up and we'll show you our bikes. Always keen to see all things two wheeled, we organized a weekend in Champéry to take them up on their proposal.
ARC8 Extra DetailsWheel Size:
160mm to 180mmSizes:
S, M and LFrame Weight:
2300g (Bare frame with mech hanger)Price:
1999 CHF (About 1778 EUR or 2009 USD)Availability:
Available to order now, estimated delivery October 2019More info: ARC8 Extra
What we discovered were two guys with a straightforward ideal – to make bikes built for riding. Sounds obvious, but more than you can imagine this is forgotten. We swung a leg over the Extra for two days of riding in to see if their different approach as a company does in the end pay out in the product.
The headset top cap is the entry point for all cables which then go off internally to their destinations.
Like their XC hardtail, ARC8 came up with a different solution to getting the cables into the frame. They enter via the headset top cap and feed down through the top bearing before shooting off into the down tube. To do this the top bearing is the same size as the bottom bearing, hopefully boosting headset lifespan and also boosting the surface area that connects the down and top tubes to the head tube. It’s a vital junction on a bike, so a boost in structural stiffness is going to facilitate less carbon reinforcement layers to handle the forces.
Further structural boosts come from the lack of holes drilled in the frame. And with the fact that you're already needing a headset top cap, you’ve got less parts to faff around with when you build and maintain the bike. Integration, and internal cable routing, aren’t for everyone. But if it is your thing, then ARC8’s solution will be right up your street and one of the cleanest out there.
Both link and chain stay connections are tucked neatly inside the mainframe tubes.
Just like their Essential trail bike, the link and chain stay nestle their connections with the mainframe on the inside of the tubes. The link is a bit bigger than the Essential’s, with its need to provide more travel, but it’s just as tucked right up there and out of the way. Trail deposits do find a place to stay on a rather large loam shelf. But luckily it’s only a pair of well-sealed bearings that live down there and are in harm’s way.
Both link connections and the chain stay main frame connection use long through axles to provide a solid pivot and then lock them in place with a small wedge to stop them coming lose. It also allows the owner to preload the bearings just enough to have no play but not over tighten them and inhibit their smooth movement.
A seat stay bridge helps rigidly connect the left and right sides of the bike, while the pivot hardware makes solid connections between frame parts.
In the quest for balancing good geometry and suspension, lots of manufacturers are quick to ditch the seat stay bridge as a bit of a cheat. They often don’t try and add back its stiffness merits elsewhere in the frame. ARC8 managed to sneak in a robust bridge that goes a long way to tying the left and right seat stays together and reducing the amount of twisting and scissoring forces sent further into the bike.
Another little feature, almost invisible to the untrained eye, is the offset rear wheel. Not a new idea, it sees the Boost hub pushed 4mm to the drive side in an effort to have better balance of spoke tensions and in result a stronger wheel. It does mean that you’ll need to pay attention to your wheel setup for this bike; ARC8 do offer a wheel build specific to this bike, but it’s nice to see attention to all the details on a bike that is supposed to be ridden hard. It also allowed the use of a zero offset chain ring, freeing up precious space in the tight chain stay area that sees the tire and chain ring fighting for space.
Taking a step back from the techy little details shows how good looking this bike is. No doubt in part to ARC8’s use of Spanish design consultancy Cero. Once you know about Cero’s input into this bike, the forms and shapes do pop out as recognisable. This definitely isn’t a bad thing, though, as it looks purposeful and unique to ARC8. Form is subjective, but I enjoyed looking at this little black beauty while ARC8 were in town.Geometry
The Extra will be available in three sizes covering 440mm to 490mm reach. Smaller riders are a bit left out, but it’s often a necessity due to big wheel plus big travel and, unfortunately, low trouser clearance figures on smaller riders. Out front the Extra has a 64 degree head angle with a 160mm fork - switching to a 170 or 180mm fork would be an easy way to slacken things out even further, although that will raise the BB height, which is already a touch high at around 340mm.
One point is the short head tube. If you’re a fan of high bars then you’ll need a few spacers to get you bars where you’d like them. On the flip side, if you’re from a more XC background, you’ll have no problems getting a low bar setup on the Extra. In the middle there’s a short and nicely steep angle. Seated position is one of the most immediately perceivable areas of fit when getting on new bike. The Extra’s seat position feels in a comfortable location over the pedals, rather than falling far behind them.
The chain stay length is shorter than most sender bikes of this category. It puts good grip on the real wheel while seated, and is a little easier to maneuver in steep and tight tech, but it can sometimes feel a bit out of balance with the capability and stability of the front. Despite the top tube reliant suspension layout, there are no standover issues, and this low standover is carried on through all sizes.Suspension
Using a similar layout to their other full suspension bike, the Extra employs a Horst pivot and top tube mounted link suspension layout to generate its 160mm of travel from a 230mm long shock with 60mm stroke. Standard eyelets are at both ends, but there's ample room around the link for shocks with bearing mounts.
The leverage ratio follows a mostly progressive curve but with regressive humps at start and end of travel. 26.7% sag took 250psi and gave good balance between ride height and bottom outs. The O-ring could be pushed to the end of travel with a good huck to flat, but with no hard metal on metal bottom outs that have you mentally preparing your ankle bones.
At just above 100% anti squat at sag in a 30T chain ring and 28T cog, the Extra does a good job of combating mass transfer, but the suspension does bob from the mass of legs spinning while climbing. Steeper seat angles put more of this cyclical mass into the suspension, and so higher than 100% anti-squat figures work well to combat it. Flipping the lockout switch remedied this and helped it climb more efficiently on smooth surfaces, but will no doubt make it a more rough ride when climbing off road.
Usually, the first rides of bikes are carried out against all the odds with foreign trails, climates and cultures all adding to the distraction of what’s going on at the wheels.
This case was different with ARC8 visiting Champéry and the Valais region of Switzerland. Home trails and familiarity allowed more of a focus on listening to the bike quickly getting accustomed to its handling.
Initially we planned to ride Champéry, but the skies turned black and we dove in the cars for Sierre where coats weren’t necessary and the vast majority of the trail was dry and dusty. Sag was set at 25% for the shock and the fork was easily set up due to familiarity of the 36.
Once at the trail, we had a bit of rain on the roots to contend with. And this is where Onza tyres got put on a Do Not Buy list. Thin sidewalls and hard compound make them sketchy and unpredictable and was the defining character of the first ride. But, you always adapt to your new environment and once more accustomed to the light switch like drops in traction it started to come through about the bike’s mix of stability and playfulness.
// Technical ContributorAge:
75kg (165 lbs)Industry affiliations / sponsors:
Garage Bike Project, former engineer at Scott SportsInstagram: @le_crusher
Even on an M size (L sizes aren’t available until later in the year) there’s a bunch of stability up front from the generous reach, slack head angle and short offset fork. If I were to ride an M size, which could be done, there would be a swinging towards a 50mm stem to have a bit more stability in the steering and tune the fit. Moving to an L size would open up the option of running either a 50mm or coming down to a 35mm stem, depending on preferences.
Most bikes of this travel category have longer chain stays and some even grow them with size. This balances out the characters of the front and back of the bike. ARC8 went for short on all and it shows in the ability to whip it round trees and pull up at ease on the bars. This shortness does in some situations find a mismatch with the stability and single-minded purpose of the front. But if you enjoy a bit of jibbing mixed in with your sending then it works quite well.
This is where it stated to become a little clearer about the Extra's intentions. There is no single focus on absolute all-out bike speed and stability. It has an ability to do that, albeit to less of degree than, for example, the RAAW Madonna. But this nature, combined with the bike’s low weight, open up an adjustment window for what the bike is capable off. Configure it with burlier tires, and a more sending focused build and it will do that just nicely. Shave some weight off with more weight focused components and you have a bike that you could take for long days out or trips covering long distances with relative ease. It’s a versatile bike.
Day two enabled us to do a grand old loop around Champéry, taking in some lesser known trails hiding away in the woods and some of the better know, completely fresh, bike park tracks. The previous day’s rain had led to some more British conditions and so with a change of tyres to a trusty Dirty Dan and Magic Mary we set off.
We tackled the morning's climb with ease, albeit with the aid of a climb switch, and now the butt puckering of the Onza tyres was gone and the flavor of reach combined with stem came through a bit stronger. An L size would be a better fit for the terrain of Valais and the riding we do, but still, the M danced down the trail nicely to a different tune, encouraging a little less of straight flat out line and a bit more of a wiggle down the trails finding interesting features that usually flash by un-noticed.
The seated climbing position is excellent, and I’m sure it would remain just as comfortable four hours into a big old loop around the mountains. It also feels like you get every bit of juice out of your legs and needs less conscious effort to retain a good posture to avoid a tired back.
Up in the glorious vert berms it was a blast, high lines into turns and head movements akin to Stevie Wonder in full flow at his keyboard were real fun, and the back of the bike wagged around like a dog’s tail in the slightly more soft patches of trail. Through the roots and rocks it was predictable and fun all rolled into one. You can either keep your wheels on the ground or pick them up with minimal effort and skip over the nastiest roots eager to swipe your wheels out from underneath you.First Impressions