You might have seen Deviate Cycles' first bike in 2017, the 160mm-travel Guide that employs a 12-speed gearbox from Pinion and 27.5'' wheels. It's a wild-looking carbon fiber thing with swoopy tubes and, much like the new Highlander, a high single-pivot suspension layout. The longer-travel Guide (pictured here
) is intended for enduro-ish riding, or even lapping the bike park, where the focus is on the descents and there's a case to be made for the reliability and suspension performance that a gearbox can offer.
But if you've used a gearbox before, any company's gearbox, you'll know that one thing they don't offer is efficiency. ''We're sold on the gearbox for a winch up/tear down kinda riding, and the suspension performance and low unsprung mass it offers is frankly incredible,
'' Deviate's Ben Jones said of their Guide, although he's far more pragmatic about gearboxes than you'd expect given that 50-percent of their model range uses them.
''However, for our trail bike, the gearbox had to go - it feels draggy during undulating riding or when accelerating hard,
'' he continued.
The 140mm-travel Highlander was designed as a trail bike, hence Deviate's call to ditch the gearbox in favor of a more efficient traditional drivetrain.
''The gearbox is not suitable for all types of riding. It’s just not. It really works for the Guide - which is an enduro bike tending towards a mini-DH bike. The Guide was a bike with a purpose and we make no apology for that - that purpose was not trail centers or undulating terrain, it was big mountains with big descents.
''The Highlander is designed from the ground up to be a trail bike. We’ve always said that we’ll choose the most appropriate design for the end-use and after many years using the gearbox we’re going to make the claim that for the end use of a trail bike - the conventional derailleur system is a great solution. In the future - gearbox technology may move on and it may become a sensible option for a trail bike. When that happens we’ll do our best to be the first to the party.
Historically, when a brand designs a bike around a gearbox drivetrain, it likely means two things: All of their models will be using a gearbox, and they'll evangelize the gearbox like it can cure everything from bent derailleur hangers to your persistent cough. Gearboxes do a lot of neat things, no doubt about that, but I'd rather not have a gearbox on my trail bike. Thankfully, and unexpectedly, the folks at Deviate agree.
Without the idler pulley directing the chain high up close to the main pivot, chain tension would keep the Highlander's suspension from moving as freely as it should.
The Highlander is carbon from tip to tail, including its sturdy-looking swingarm that offers gobs of tire clearance. Rear brake and shift lines are both tucked up in a channel on the underside of the top tube (a bit like how Guerrilla Gravity does it on their down tube), a feature that tricks you into thinking they're routed inside the frame, but Deviate's solution provides much easier access than internal routing.
The dropper post line is run internally, as is the shift line when it passes through the swingarm, and there's room for a large-sized bottle inside the front triangle where it belongs.
The other things I'm supposed to mention include a threaded bottom bracket, a two ISCG-05 tabs that are ready for a taco or mini-guide, and some "accessory mounting points" on the underside of the top tube where you can attach your, er, accessories and stuff.
All that adds up to 31.6 pounds (14.3 kg), which seems a bit husky for a 140mm trail bike... Until you factor the 160mm Fox 36 and sturdy Maxxis tires into the equation. The idler pulley and all of the associated bits mean that the Highlander is never going to be your flyweight trail bike - that's not the idea, of course - but less demanding terrain and a few wise component could easily knock off some weight. Then again, this probably isn't the trail bike for you if that's a major concern.
The Deviate's high single-pivot, linkage-activated suspension layout delivers 140mm of travel.