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Howler Frameworks' High Pivot Steel Frame - Bespoked Show 2021

Oct 18, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  

2021 has seen the spread of high pivot bikes from small brands to big brands with frames made from everything including carbon, aluminium and even bamboo Billy, the founder of Howler Frameworks is now throwing his own hat into the ring with his new frame, the Howler Fenrir.

Based in London, Billy established Howler Frameworks in 2018 after taking a frame building course at the Bicycle Academy, complementing his career as a bike mechanic. Like most frame builders, Billy started out with a hardcore hardtail build but following a period of furlough in 2020, decided to push his skills a bit further with the Fenrir. This is only the 12th frame Billy has built but SRAM took notice of his work and asked him to exhibit it as part of their stand at the Bespoked Show.

The bike uses a linkage-driven single-pivot suspension system designed by Billy that bears more than a passing resemblance to the old Scott Gambler. The bike has 150mm of travel in the configuration shown here but increasing the shock stroke by 5mm will allow the bike to become 160mm travel. The linkage has been designed around a coil shock with a linear progression.

This prototype is roughly equivalent to a size medium and has a 446mm reach, 75° seat tube angle, 64.5° head tube angle and 6mm bottom bracket drop. Currently, the prototype frame is built from 4130 Cromoly but as a production model Billy would look to use Reynolds or Columbus steel. Eventually, Howler will stretch to a four model range with a dirt jump bike, the 27.5" Rune hardtail, a 29er bike packing bike and this 27.5" full suspension bike. The Fenrir is set to be released in Q2 of 2022. For more info and to follow its progress, follow Billy on Instagram at @howlerframeworks.
Howler Fenrir

Frame material: Steel, 4130 chromoly
Intended use: aggressive trail/enduro
Travel: 150mm or 160mm (depending on shock stroke length)
Wheelsize: 27.5"
Head tube angle: 64.5°
Seat tube angle: 75°
More info: @howlerframeworks


The aluminium parts of the linkage have been machined by Rideworks but the rest of the frame is Billy's handiwork

Rideworks also made some smaller custom bits for the bike like this chainguide and a custom seat clamp.

The bottom of the shock is mounted to this bridge between the seat and down tubes.

As the idler sits behind the chainring, there's enough chain wrap to not need a lower guide.


Thanks to his partnership with SRAM, Billy's prototype only had one housing heading to the back of the bike. The rear brake hose is routed behind the linkage and down to the chainstay.

The bike is finished off with one of the coolest head badges going.



123 Comments

  • 89 0
 #restoreOutsideCEO
  • 5 0
 They were on quite a hilarious troll roll
  • 11 0
 did he get banned or...?
  • 6 0
 Et tu, pb? Do you not want us to be safe, and be well?
  • 1 0
 @stumphumper92: that would be helpful
  • 16 0
 @stumphumper92 sounds like Outside/pb restricted or censored the account which was trolling the comments sections with hilarious quotes from the CEO himself, Robin. Be safe and be well, Robin.
  • 4 0
 @krustykarlos: It would appear the account has been reinstated as “notoutsideceo”.

Brian’s going to miss that next check.
  • 12 0
 @Fullsend2-13: I'm back boys. As I explained in a couple other threads already; Brian Park is the real hero I never knew I needed. My own CTO turned his back on me when I needed him the most...any of you desk jockeys interested in running IT for the largest Outdoor Recreation Media conglomerate in the world!?! Comes with a free Outside+ membership...

Be safe be well,
Incognito Robin
  • 3 0
 @notoutsideceo: Not the return of the prodigal son
  • 57 2
 All these bespoke full suss High pivot steel bikes but not a single mention of weight anywhere. Obviously its up there but would be nice to know how far up there.
  • 44 16
 How's that old saying go?

If you gotta ask, then it's not for you.

Realistically, it weighs within a pound of other steel FS frames.
  • 42 4
 @nurseben: Who is it for though? Bike park laps with uplifts is about the only time I wouldn't be concerned with having a bike in the 17kg plus realm. Surely anyone who pedals their bike uphills has some interest in what their bike weighs?
  • 36 6
 Steel is real....heavy
  • 13 31
flag jaame (Oct 18, 2021 at 14:32) (Below Threshold)
 I also don’t really get the point of them. I’d never want one myself. I guess they are for the old school, British dyed in the wool aficionados of “proper” engineering and frame fabrication methods. The kind they aspired to in A Level CDT classes in the early 90s.
  • 47 0
 Just spoken to Billy and 16.3 kg for this build but it will be lighter with the Reynolds tubes.
  • 36 4
 And yet, how much lighter are carbon bikes these days? We're seeing bikes such as the Norco Range come in around 37lbs. So for people to say steel is much heavier, it isn't really true.
  • 10 31
flag packfill (Oct 18, 2021 at 15:06) (Below Threshold)
 @jamessmurthwaite: 36lbs for a bike that’s going to be flexy AF…
  • 16 0
 @jamessmurthwaite: Same weight as my Megatower with carbon everything haha.
  • 14 1
 @jamessmurthwaite: colour me skeptical. 36lbs for a steel framed, long travel, high-pivot bike with a coil shock. Hmm… sure it’s got all the fancy bits hanging off it that’ll knock a chunk out, but I’d like to see that on the scales.
  • 11 4
 @packfill: Have you ever ridden a steel bike before? Do you honestly think the average rider is going to feel any sort of flex?
  • 1 0
 @thebradjohns: To be fair I'm on a Dreadnought, and more bothersome than the weight is the chain drag in smaller cogs. It's ~17kg with Cush Core, my pump, water bottle, and EDC... Yet, aside from long, long, climbs, I don't really notice it at all. I find I notice sprints while ringed out and on the pedals far more!
  • 1 3
 @kwl1: An Enduro Elite is ~32lbs.
  • 3 16
flag packfill (Oct 18, 2021 at 16:24) (Below Threshold)
 @kwl1: I rode a steel hard tail ages ago. Never ridden a steel FS bike. I don’t need to. Those stays are substantially more compliant than what you’d get on a carbon bike, no more than half the stiffness laterally. I’ll pass.
  • 4 0
 @thebradjohns: not at all i could not care less how much my pedal bike weighs, as long as it gets me to the top i'll take it
  • 3 1
 @jaame: wait for the trestle frame steel e bike …..
  • 2 1
 @draggingbrake: unless it's a hardtail. Then it's "real" nice riding.
  • 7 0
 @packfill: I built a 37lbs single pivot mtb. It deflects less than my Firebird on the parking lot flex test. Definitely not a proper test, but yeah a carbon bike is not immediately 2x stiffer.
  • 4 0
 @packfill: And what exactly are the benefits of a super stiff frame? Besides, still tubes aren't wet noodles.
  • 1 2
 @johannensc: several Pivot models are surprisingly very flexy in the rear end. Well over double the deflection of my Epic
  • 28 0
 For reference (I've been building these sorts of dorky things for years) a typical steel FS frame with shock and hardware that I do is between 7 and 8 pounds, depending on the rider/purpose. So figure an extra 1.5-2 pounds over carbon for the same type/geometry of frame. My own personal 150mm travel trail/enduro thing (fairly similar in general theme to this bike) is about 27 pounds/12.5kg with pedals and not particularly light (no carbon outside of bars) parts.

This frame has some extra stuff going on (idler, rocker link, some gussets, etc) that probably end up meaning it's 9-10 pounds with the shock. That's just a guess, though.

I assume he used straightgauge for the DT and TT here, so you could save maybe 100-150g by going with butted tubes (assuming that's what's meant by using Reynolds on future iterations).

This isn't really the kind of item that weight weenies are going to line up to buy regardless. I enjoy seeing framebuilders, even if they're very new at it, try full suspension stuff.

-W
  • 14 9
 @speedfreek: 36 lbs is frame only.
  • 3 5
 @kwl1: the bike goes where you steer it. If stiffness wasn’t a desirable trait, we would have thru-axles, dual crown forks, boost spacing, etc. man, if somebody wants to carry around an extra kg for a super flexy bike, more power to you. I’ll stick with the evolution of the mtb.
  • 1 0
 Bike looks sick tho
  • 2 0
 @jamessmurthwaite: well that seems reasonable. If i went on a diet I could loose the difference.
  • 1 0
 @draggingbrake: I have a Xprezo Ad hoc Aluminium front and steel rear triangle. 12 kg, this bike is stronger and lighter than my Norco Sight that cracked on Crank it up.
  • 4 0
 @waltworks: Thanks for sharing, great insight! Bikes are cool.
  • 1 2
 @draggingbrake: @kwl1: Ignorants and weight maniacs are much heavier than steel.
  • 6 0
 This is funny, bla bla rabble rabble it's too heavy, the parts are wrong and the rear end "looks" flexy... OH, it's the same weight as some brand new carbon high pivots? OH one of the most knowledgeable steel builders lets us know well done steel can be the same weight as aluminum and using narrow tubes in the back makes sense?

But still, OBVIOUSLY SRAM doesn't know anything about specing parts so it's still WRONG rabble rabble...


Smile Nice bike!
  • 1 0
 @draggingbrake: Not really, I've seen a couple of cotics out on the trails and they don't feel much different to alloy bikes to me. I think your build particularly wheel and tyre choice will affect your perception of weight of a bike
  • 2 1
 @thebradjohns

I think all queries about weight need to be prefixed with the riders weight. It's not just the bike that has to move, but bike plus rider. So a 15kg bike, is typically only 20% of full system (bike plus rider) weight. Obviously less of a percentage the bigger you are..

Read here: www.starlingcycles.com/does-bike-weight-matter
  • 2 1
 People get too wound up about weight anyway. I see wheel weight concerns a hair but frame weight is so unimportant within reason.
  • 3 0
 @cougar797: probably true. A few grams here or there, a few mm of travel here or there. They probably don’t make anywhere near as much difference as people think.
Heavy soft tyres do, but it’s probably limited to that.
  • 2 0
 @Bikerdude137: Shouldn't that be as long as I get it to the top? _LOL
  • 2 0
 @Tykebike: agreed, big walking up climbs guy right here
  • 30 0
 Head tube badge is gorgeous
  • 1 2
 The welds, not so much.
  • 8 0
 Many MFG's jumping on the high pivot bandwagon. Unsure who's driving the enthusiasm, and wondering how long before it gets shelved.
  • 3 0
 I already have a bike that requires two chains in order to replace the chain. The second chain only needs about 10 links taken out of it, so it stays around for a while but it's still aggravating and requires two quick links, etc. I keep wondering what the real world use of these massive chains with tensioners is like say... 75% into chain wear.
  • 7 1
 All the oversize construction parts like Carbon Cranks and 38mm Forks look out of place on such a frame.
  • 6 0
 i beg to differ, gives it a great cyborg feel, love it (though I get what you're saying)
  • 3 0
 I think ZEB fits there pretty well Smile
  • 2 0
 needs some of those canecreek ti cranks
  • 3 2
 That's the birth of unnecessary shit like 35mm bar clamps.
  • 12 0
 @papaweelie: but we needed 35mm bar clamps to hold our 35mm bars. I found them quite necessary.
  • 2 0
 steel frame + AXS dreailleur?
  • 1 0
 My feeling as well, not to mention these horrible Zipp carbon rims.
  • 1 1
 @danstonQ: Why do you say Zipp is horrible? I've been using a Zipp on the front of a couple bikes and my Reserves, XM481 and Synthesis wheel don't track or feel as nice as that Zipp. Going in two years and hands down my favorite front wheel. Haven't tried a rear one yet though.
  • 4 0
 High pivots... I thought the pinkbike field test and EWS results would have put that one to bed for another decade! Don't fall for them, will only cost you loads of money in the long run to change back to a normal bike.
  • 2 0
 I disgree. I got one this year and it has been incredibly good. Yes, there are trade offs, but overall the suspension feels far, far better than anything else that I have ridden, and (I know, its a rather loose metric) my strava times have reflected it. I am extremely pleased with my purchase. They will only continue to evolve and improve with time, as well.
  • 2 1
 @Matturalistic: they have been around for a very long time.
I just think the field test showed what those of old enough to have been around last time they were the next big thing found out last time.

Wait for Hammerschmidt to come back some day and its the solution to wide range cassettes and fragile chains.
  • 1 0
 @bestie I really don't think the field test proved anything, and frankly they raved about the Range. It's the geo on most of them that is still the most defining factor. Forbidden and Norco are both extremely long and therefore not as quick in tighter trails. I can attest to that. Regardless, strictly based on my riding experience so far, I would not consider another Enduro/Park bike that is not high pivot unless it was overwhelmingly incredible at some small nuanced aspect to blow me away while riding it.
  • 1 1
 @Matturalistic: each to their own I suppose. You have to read between the lines sometimes, or listen to the keep points about a bike.
As for Forbidden.. I heard a very real review of those bikes from the best source possible! Just don't believe the internet content that someone is paid to say!
  • 1 0
 @betsie: For sure, and I bought my Dreadnought knowing that I was trying something I may very well have not liked. I still find that the rebound is a bit tricky to get right, because the rebound path is forward, so it can get out of sync with the hits. Overall, though, it is the most stable and supportive bike I've ever ridden on tech trails, and at higher speeds. That growth of the rear end and the 0 anti-rise are actually supper noticeable. May not be for everyone, and the front end is still very plowy (my brother's Chilcotin handles way better up front, for example), but overall I am pleased with it.
  • 1 1
 @Matturalistic:
I was at the Nationals round at Inners and stood in front of their old rider and his pals who gave a frank and honest review.
I ride a 2016 mega and it climbs like an old dog, loses speed in continuous high speed hits but is really stable. I just wish it would climb better and carry speed better. I will change it when I ride enough to justify changing it.
  • 6 1
 Great to see most of his stable built around 27.5, the fun size wheel
  • 2 0
 High pivot with Scott Gambler linkage in steel take my money now please. Still have never owned a carbon bike, and never want to. As far as I'm concerned there's plenty of carbon I those steel tubes!
  • 4 0
 Sick tig work for your 12th frame!
  • 4 0
 Steel is Evil?
  • 3 0
 Beat Evil to high pivot DELTA
  • 1 0
 Is Evil steel?
  • 2 0
 Billy Who? Billy Thackray? Been looking for the guy for over a decade or so. Good to see he's been busy.
  • 1 2
 kinda funny that he managed to pick up a sram sponsorship, and then put a straight steerer converted zeb on it lol. Like I'm all for it, but surprising sram let him. sick bike, those (I'm guessing forged?) links are clean as f*ck
  • 4 0
 it's a standard tapered steerer tube. it's a straight head tube with an zero stack upper and external lower. ZS44 top EC44 lower is spec. I use it on my bikes and so lots of others
  • 1 0
 @rifrafi: oh yeah I see that now, I guess I didn’t realize how oversized the crowns were on zebs, threw my sense of scale off in that last pic. Thanks for the response.
  • 2 1
 Carbon for show, steel for a pro! Ok I just made that up but you can't bend carbon back after it gets run over by a car. Know what I mean.
  • 1 0
 Neat looking bike. Sometimes you just want something different and don't care about weight. I want a Tora for similar reasons.
  • 2 0
 The exterior placed cables are beautiful to look at through the eyes of a mechanic. Overall this is a sweet looking bike.
  • 4 2
 so a high(er) pivot last gen Scott Gamber, nice
  • 5 3
 kinda looks like a Scott Gambler
  • 3 2
 Why do the steel full suspension bikes have such tiny rear end tubing diameters?
  • 10 2
 Because steel is crazy stiff and you don't need big tubes to get things to work well.

Doing a good job with the pivot(s) is more important for lateral flex on FS bikes anyway. You can have the stiffest stays on earth and a wimpy main pivot and it'll flex all over the place.

-Walt
  • 3 4
 @waltworks: is that sales speak for "nobody makes steel stay tuned with a decent section, so we're stuck with having to use puny round tubing because nothing bigger will fit"? I know the struggle with steel tubing, but you've still got to call a spade a spade.
  • 1 0
 *tubes
  • 5 0
 @Tambo: Go look up the Young's modulus of steel. You can use skinny tubes because it's stiffer than aluminum., and yes, they work fine.

There is a massive selection of thin wall large diameter 4130 out there because people still build aircraft out of it (and bikes, of course). So these tubes were chosen for a reason, not because of supply constraints.
  • 1 0
 @waltworks: Thanks. Was just curious since 4130 DJ bikes I've had have larger tubes on the rear end.
  • 4 0
 @mtbschrader: That's usually for looks. People are used to a certain appearance for DJ/BMX bikes and they get weirded out (and don't buy the bike) if it's got small stays.

-Walt
  • 5 2
 Looks like a Gambler...
  • 1 0
 I thought that
  • 1 0
 Colocating idler on pivot axis likely will not yield good anti-squat. Beautiful bike otherwise though
  • 1 0
 True, possible—— but high pivots need less mechanical chain tension to achieve similar anti-squat, as compared to lower pivots.
  • 1 0
 Love that head badge, personally I like a simpler looking bike but I wish Billy all the best with his bike building career!
  • 2 0
 The paint job looks alot like a marin
  • 1 0
 Ahh, that's what was bothering me about it.
  • 1 0
 Love it Billy. That thing is a beauty. Will spare link parts be available to purchase?
  • 1 0
 Lacking a bit of weld where the bb meets the down tube, is this rideable or just a showroom piece?
  • 2 4
 For anyone that hasn't ridden steel bikes....they are always overrated. I've had plenty of them over the past 27 years and I can't say I'd opt to buy one these days....for anything other than a cruise to the store craigslist special. Much less would I opt to buy a high-end steel bike!
  • 7 7
 You're yet to see a British brand with a high pivot for sale? The Deviate Highlander has been around for a bit.
  • 9 0
 There’s even an article about them by someone called James? www.pinkbike.com/news/spotted-a-new-165mm-travel-enduro-race-bike-from-deviate.html
  • 3 1
 @maxc: ....first high pivot from England maybe??? Deviate being from Scotland and all.
  • 6 2
 Trade show brain fart there! Thanks for the correction!
  • 2 0
 The new Hope bike is a high pivot also, though not for sale as of yet.
  • 1 0
 @maxc: yes but that was only a prototype this never had prototype plastered across it so must be most legit
  • 1 0
 Has a bit of steam punk vibe going on. I dig it.
  • 1 1
 that candy apple red is gorgeous. Cant ready the brand very easily but now I want an apple.
  • 1 0
 Bamboo Billy builds bikes of steel?
  • 1 0
 Well it doesnt look like a session
  • 1 0
 make one in 29, slacker, and a steeper seattube please!
  • 1 0
 I'm kinda over all of this high pivot stuff. What's the next thing?
  • 1 0
 Looks busier than the M25 on a Friday afternoon.
  • 1 0
 like a Sinister Splinter!
  • 1 0
 i dunno, too much chain for me
  • 1 2
 This must be the only bike where the fork stanchions are the same size as the frame tubing.
  • 1 0
 Idler trending!
  • 1 2
 It’s totes making me want a black chain
  • 2 0
 cringe
  • 4 7
 rear end looks flexy as hell.
  • 7 0
 Slim doesnt = flexy. Alu has to be oversized to make it stiff - steel doesnt
  • 1 4
 @Karve: Not talking about the tubes. I used to have a steel mountain bike before Alu became cheaper.
  • 1 1
 @kwl1: he chats a lot of shite

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