It’s abundantly clear if you’ve been reading PB bike reviews for the past handful of years that trail bikes are getting incredibly capable when it comes to the business of descending. This is where the HB.130 shines - the suspension, geometry and equipment let you blaze some blistering lines on your favorite descents and reap the rewards of battling gravity on the previous climb.
On the descents it’s a case of just enough: just enough suspension travel, just enough slackness and length in the geometry, just enough weight, to produce a bike that is easy to slide into corners, twist through narrow gaps, air over crests, plummet down fall lines and send off drops. It’s all the good things - sure-footed, planted and stable - that you want in a trail bike without going full-bore enduro.
I spent time with the flip-chip in high and low, settling on the slacker mode because the payback on the descents was worth the small compromise on the climbs. The biggest challenge this presented was the low bottom bracket; the cranks spin close to the ground and I clouted pedals into the ground a few times, something to be aware of rather than worried about. The upshot is cornering stability that lets you hold off the brakes longer past the point when you thought you should be scrubbing off speed before the apex.
The low flip-chip setting also lends a little more progression to the suspension too, which is needed if you like to push it hard on the descents. The trade-off to the overly-active suspension when climbing is that it's super plush and extremely supple when coming down the hill. The suspension is supple on all the small-sized bumps and undulations, keeping the wheel glued to the ground, and it’s very forgiving on bigger impacts, whether landing off a drop or slamming into an Anaconda sized tree root. I regularly used all the travel but never noticed a slam dunk bottom out.
The bike displays a high level of stiffness too. I certainly couldn’t detect any wag from the skinny swingarm and the carbon frame feels taut when you’re pedalling as hard as you can or slamming into corners. The high-quality components, from the Fox 36 fork to the Hope brakes and Maxxis tires hit all the right notes, complementing the high-quality frame and delivering enough burliness for harder trails.
I want a trail bike to be reasonably fast on the way up, and fun and capable on the way down, and the HB.130 ticked both boxes. It’s a hugely rewarding bike giving you the ability to cover ground fast and have fun in a controlled manner when smashing down the hillside. It’s not the slackest or longest trail bike, but for me I found it the right tradeoff, with impressive descending and climbing skills. It keeps you on your toes in the best way possible and lets you exploit the tamer trails that you encounter on an all-day epic as well as the rad descents where the HB.130 shines.