With myriad prototype downhill bikes under his belt at this point, Neko Mulally has been hard at work dialing his designs, honing in on the construction methods and suspension kinematics that perform best on track. As either a byproduct or fellow intention to that effort, he focused some time on the shorter travel end of the spectrum, and the initial result is what you see here. Fittingly dubbed the Trail Bike, this 160mm machine is meant for a bit of everything, intended to pedal as well as it can while still maintaining descending prowess.
Frameworks Trail Bike Details
• Aluminum front triangle and chainstays
• Mixed wheel size
• 160mm suspension (170 w/ longer shock)
• 160mm or 170mm fork
• 64° head angle
• 480mm reach
• 455mm chainstay
• 80.8° seat angle
Pardon the crude screenshot, but it paints the picture well.
Sized to fit Neko, his outstanding junior racer Asa, and his mechanic Anxo, the Trail Bike has fairly neutral geometry numbers that are adaptable and suited to a wide variety of terrain. There are a couple extreme standout numbers, such as the 80.8° seat angle and the 455mm chainstays, but for the most part things aren't too out of the ordinary.
Construction-wise, the frame carries a lot of details over from the downhill bike, with the tubing spec, gussets, and carbon stays doing double duty between the two frames. Due to the clearances of a trail bike drivetrain, the carbon chainstays from the DH bike couldn't be used, but that's a change that will likely come with the next version of the Trail Bike, to reduce weight and play into the overall frame stiffness. Some of the most impressive details are the CNC-milled elements on the frame, such as the bottom bracket - main pivot - shock mount cluster, which makes for a more elegant look while also increasing the ease of manufacturing. Ride Impressions
I get the opportunity to ride a lot of bikes, and have grown pretty used to the learning curve and adaptation period that happens when you jump on a new bike. Typically, after a couple rides and some tweaking, you're in a pretty solid place to start pushing the bike. I took the Frameworks bike out for a first lap in the Whistler Bike Park and immediately started pushing the pace and checking off features, with a feeling of confidence I don't typically have on a first ride. Sounds like high praise, and it is, but I think a fair bit of this is due to the similarity between the Frameworks Trail Bike and the Santa Cruz Nomad, which I've been riding a ton this summer.
The geometry is well sorted, with modern yet reasonable angles and measures all around. The head angle can be slackened out by about half a degree by moving to a 170mm fork, which would also make the comfortable stack height even more elevated - this might be the move for people who like a more defensive position while riding steep terrain, though I never found the 160mm fork terribly lacking when things got vertical. The 480mm reach pairs very nicely with the 455mm chainstays, giving you a very planted and mobile feel within the bike. I like the pocket of space this gives you to move your weight around, without feeling like you're pulling the bike out of its happy place.
Unsurprisingly, the 80° seat tube angle puts you in an almost comically upright position, but it makes climbing the bike a breeze. Since you're sitting right in the middle of things, the suspension doesn't cycle very much, which was welcomed to me as the spring weight on the bike was definitely a bit light for me.
One very impressive attribute was just how active the suspension remained under braking, with the bike riding relatively high and maintaining excellent grip even when I was yanking on the brakes. This allows for the chassis to take hits when you're bearing down steeper sections of trail without packing in too deep. For folks who like to be back on their heels in steeps, this might feel a bit daunting, but I really enjoy the sensation.
The bike wasn't dead quiet, but a big part of that was just long cables tapping against the frame, which is fairly resonant given the large tube diameters. Overall the frame feels robust, stiff, and smooth, with truly excellent suspension performance. I'm looking forward to spending more time on this one, hopefully that can come soon. Build Details
This is far from a production bike, so the parts kit is interesting and well considered for the needs of serious racing and riding.
At the moment, the Trail Bike isn't for sale, as development is still ongoing. However, Frameworks do have plans to sell downhill frames next year, so hopefully that means the Trail Bike will follow suit.
There are plenty more photos to check out here, should you be compelled.