When the small Swiss company Bold Cycles introduced their first bike model with a stand-alone design - the Linkin Trail Classic, with 130 mm of travel - people immediately got curious. And not in a bad way, as so many unique design ideas inevitably tend to look more like a contraption out of a Frankenstein movie, rather than a bike.
At first look, the submerged shock inside the sleek, full carbon frame might even be mistaken for a hardtail rolling down the trail. The Unplugged is based on the same concept as the Linkin Trail, but pushing the new model into the enduro segment, with 165 mm of travel and enough space for a shock with piggyback reservoir and adjustable geometry with a wide range of adjustment.
Bold Unplugged Volume 1 Details
• Intended use: enduro
• Wheel size: 27.5" or 29"
• Rear wheel travel: 161 to 165 mm
• 63.3º or 65.9º head angle
• Frame material: Carbon
• RockShox Super Deluxe or DT Swiss R 535 One rear shock
• Trunnion mount
• Boost hub spacing
• Weight: 14.2 kg (with RockShox spec)
• Price: $4,568 to $8,793www.boldcycles.com
At the Eurobike Media Days, I grabbed a size small Unplugged with 27.5” wheels from Bold and RockShox suspension, and a medium-sized Unplugged with 29” wheels from the DT Swiss booth with its new Holistic suspension mounted front and rear, for some laps in the bike park
The protective cover can be removed by loosening a knurled-head screw by hand.
Additionally, the cover is held in place by two magnets. There's enough room to fit a Trunnion-style shock with an external reservoir.
A little window gives access to the shock's upper bolt, once the lower bolt is removed.
A sag meter on the link makes setup easy.
Keeping the chain in check.
Protecting the frame from mud and offering water bottle mounts for a full-size bottle.
Exchangeable flip chips at the dropouts (Bold calls that system Variotech) adjust the chainstay length and bottom bracket height. Its four available positions (made possible by two sets of flip chips with different offsets) allows for running either 29" or 27.5" wheels with different tire widths. This option, Bold calls oneplus. Level 01 is for 29" x 2.6", level 02 for 29" x 2.4", level 03 for 27.5" x 2.8" and level 04 for 27.5" x 2.4" tires. The bottom bracket height varies by 20 mm in length and chainstay length by 11 mm.
It's hard to nail down the exact geometry specs for each frame size with one setting affecting the other. We were checking the CAD program to get the numbers for our test bikes. For the size S model, with a 170 mm travel fork (the bike is recommended for forks between 160 and 180 mm of travel), headset cup in the slack position and flip chip in the L02 position, the head angle reads 63,3 degrees, the seat angle 76.5-degrees, with a reach of 421 mm and a 1,200 mm wheelbase. Compare that to a 63.6-degree head angle, 76.6-degree seat angle, 466 mm reach, 1,251 mm wheelbase, 23 mm bottom bracket drop, 606 mm stack and 162.5 mm of rear wheel travel on the size M frame size of the test setup.
By utilizing rotatable offset headset bearings (Double-Spin headset from Newmen), the head angle can be adjusted by two degrees on paper. Due to pushing the dropouts of the fork into a different spot, the head angle changes by 1.5 degrees effectively with its wheels on the ground.
Variotech flip chips at the Horst link give you the option to change chainstay length, bottom bracket height and ultimately, wheel and tire size.
With a custom shop on their website, you can pick and choose from various components when putting together your ride. In its cheapest spec, prices start at $4,568.24 (€4,568.24) and go all the way up to $8,793.11 (€8,793.11) without taxes. The Bold Unplugged is available in grey-white or red-black in autumn of 2018. You can already pre-order the bike directly from their website.
By fall, a fully integrated dropper solution from KS will be offered. All Unplugged frames can be equipped with it at a later point as well.
The Unplugged will be available with a DT Swiss R 535 One shock as an option. Our second test rig also came equipped with a DT Swiss F 535 One fork.
Jumping between the two frame (and wheel) sizes, a pretty big gap in reach is immediately noticeable. With their three frame sizes offered, Bold wanted to cover a wide range for differently sized riders and with the size large going all the way up to a reach of 513 mm, I guess they succeeded.
However, both the small- and medium-sized Unplugged behave in a highly stable and controlled manner - no wonder, with a head angle below 64 degrees and the weight of the shock sitting low in the frame. Naturally, the size small Bold is much more nimble and easy to flick around the corners - enhanced by the smaller wheel size - with the front end moving off the ground willingly when pulling at the bars.
With a steep seat angle, the seating position and pedaling efficiency felt very promising, although I spent very little time trying to climb a hill during the time window I had for testing, so I'm not going to pretend that I have a lot to say in that matter.
Being able to run different tire and wheel sizes is a real treat. While most riders will probably decide on one setup and stick with it, it's nice to know that there's the option to change the riding characteristics of the bike down the road if you feel like it. Of course, that would also require buying a different fork and wheels, but that's another story.
Starting with the recommended setup of 35 percent sag on the rear end, both the RockShox and DT Swiss equipped models bottomed out as soon as I hit medium-sized obstacles or jumps at higher speeds. Digging deeper, it turned out that all volume spacers in the RockShox Super Deluxe shock were removed on the test bikes. Dropping to 30-percent sag helped, but I still ended up bottoming out on jumps and drops regularly. I would assume that many riders that don't try to push the bike to the limits would be very happy with the more plush setup between 30 and 35 % sag in most situations.
Adding pressure to the shocks requires removing a protective cover by loosening a knurled-head screw by hand and lifting the piece that's also held in place by two magnets off the frame. It only takes a few seconds. Additional pressure got the rear end to where it supported an aggressive riding style nicely. And while the small bump compliance wasn’t affected too badly, if I spent more time on the bike I’d definitely add some volume spacers to the rear shock and lower the air pressure again, to achieve a comfortable small and mid bump compliance without bottoming out on the bigger stuff. I am confident, that with the extra shock tune, the Unplugged would make for a great platform in racing conditions as well.
Overall, the rear end tracked the ground with aplomb and recovered quickly from successive quick hits that I encountered in plenty of root-carpeted sections. The Horst link at the rear dropouts keeps the suspension active under braking. RockShox’ Super Deluxe shock is a nice match for the Unplugged’s enduro ambitions, and the new DT Swiss R 535 One shock offered a similar feel but how it is going to fare on long downhill runs in heat without a remote reservoir remains to be seen. Also, I couldn't figure out at this point if the the R 535 shock offers volume spacers to adjust progression, which might be a problem for more aggressive riders.
The initial setup of DT Swiss' brand new F 535 One fork with its Plushport damping and Coilpair suspension (mix of a rather long coil spring for the first third of the travel and air spring with adaptable progression throughout the rest of the travel) looks to be a winner out of the gate. Without having looked into its technology beforehand, it pretty much acted on the trail as advertised, with a pretty sensitive beginning stroke, great mid-stroke support and it didn't get fazed by big hits and landings. I can't wait to see how much performance can be squeezed out of the new DT Swiss fork after spending more time with the different settings.
I was warned beforehand that chain slap was pretty loud on these early production models, as the chainstay protector wasn't up to final spec yet and would be replaced with a much softer material to absorb the noise. Also, the chainstays on the production versions will be filled with foam to cancel out noise further, which should take care of that problem.
If using the shock's platform lever is on your agenda (which I assume for most people it is), you won’t get around using a remote lockout lever. The Grip Shift version on the Unplugged’s RockShox equipped model didn’t get me excited initially, but at least during the rather short test session I didn’t have any issues with it. I still prefer DT's lever-style version, though.
Working on the shock will require some extra effort to pull it out of the frame housing. On the other hand, it's perfectly protected there from the elements and impacts, which should reduce maintenance cycles.
With the rocker links and all moving parts forming a compact unit, side-to-side stiffness is rather high, although being a lightweight rider, I’m probably the wrong person to justify that statement.Pinkbike's Take