If you haven’t heard of Radon before, it’s a German bike company which sells direct to consumers exclusively through the Bike-discount.de website – with the Swoop 170 being the firm’s long-travel enduro machine sporting (you guessed it) 170mm of travel both ends.
Although this is billed as a “first ride” report, I’ve actually had three excursions on the Swoop so far. One trip to the Peak District which was marred by a broken reach adjust lever giving me chronic arm pump and two decent outings on my local trails at Rivington. I would have written this after the first local ride, but I was so impressed with the bike that I wanted to get out on it again – just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.
Superenduro and super value
Billed as a “superenduro” bike, the Swoop has an aluminium frame with a classic four-bar suspension layout, “boost” axle and BB spacing and very modern geometry.
The Swoop 9 1×11 which I’m riding is a total Sram-fest featuring the marvelous Rock Shox Lyrik fork (in 170mm non-boost format), a Rock Shox Vivid Air handling the rear suspension, Sram’s GX transmission and Guide RS brakes – plus a Rock Shox Reverb Stealth seatpost.
Wheels are DT Swiss’s budget E1900 Spline set, which weigh about 2kg and have 25mm internal width rims. The bike also came with Race Face Atlas stem and bar, Continental tyres and Ergon saddle and grips – though I have fitted some tyres, stem, bar and grips that I already owned.
So how much do you reckon for that little lot? OK it’s currently on discount as they sell off 2016 stock, but does £2,100 delivered sound reasonable?
With value for money like that, you could consider it a job lot of components with a free frame thrown in – however the frame is probably the best thing about the Swoop.
My medium (18in) model has a reach of 460mm, 429mm chainstays and a 450mm seat tube. Figures that are almost exactly the same as my large Kona Process 111.
The head and seat angle are adjustable via a neat three-position flip chip. The head angle ranges from 64.8 to 65.8 degrees, with the seat angle going from 74 to 75 degrees. I’ve had the chip in the middle position (65.3 degree HA) for my rides so far.
First impressions aboard the bike are that it feels comfortable right away – the sizing is spot-on for me and it pedals and steers as you’d expect. Spinning along on the flat it makes reasonable progress – for an enduro bike wearing a Hans Dampf and Magic Mary tyre combo.
Climbing doesn’t hold any nasty surprises either. There’s a bit of bob from the Vivid Air (which has no platform switch), but it feels otherwise taut and efficient – and you wouldn’t guess it had 170mm travel unless you were told (or read it on the suspension linkage).
Tarmac is the only place the bike actually feels like a drag (the tyres being a big part of that), but on the other hand it’s an excellent technical climber. The supple Vivid Air gives great traction and I had no problem getting up an awkward ascent that I’ve only cleaned a few times previously.
It’s on the descents that you’d expect the bike to shine though – and the geometry offers a superb balance of stability and responsive handling, with the frame giving the bike just the right level of stiffness in my opinion.
The Vivid Air was an unknown quantity to me, but I’ve been very impressed. It feels a lot like a CCDB coil shock, tracking the ground superbly and giving loads of grip – while feeling utterly composed.
Well-matched with the Lyrik, the bike feels luxuriously damped both ends – but is responsive with not a hint of wallowing.
Heading into rough terrain, it keeps its composure and allows you to make the odd crank of the pedals without getting unbalanced – though the low BB means pedal strikes are likely if you’re not careful.
Of course that low BB also helps give the Swoop excellent cornering manners – with the long front end and short-ish chainstays making it feel planted, yet nimble when it needs to be.
A pleasant surprise
I expected it might be hard work on flatter trails, but ride feel is something you can’t pick up from spec lists and geometry charts – and I was in for a pleasant surprise.
Riding a long-ish bit of rutted and rocky moorland trail with a shallow gradient (Shooting Huts, for those who know Rivi), I was genuinely astonished to find the bike freewheeling and picking up speed where I’d usually be pedaling just to keep going.
The suspension has a lovely fluid action and feels like it’s eating up bumps and turning them into free speed. It felt a bit like having a stiff tailwind – and I almost checked for a hidden motor.
On steeper trails the Swoop feels poised and stable so far, though I have yet to ride anywhere consistently steep and rocky on it.
Despite the DH shock and long wheelbase, the bike is far from a “glued to the ground” ride. It’s easy enough to hop sideways from one line to another – but doesn’t get easily deflected by rocks and roots.
The wheels might have pawls rather than DT’s star ratchet hubs but they are nicely finished and feel sturdy for their reasonable weight. If I do get a snazzier set, I’ll definitely keep these as back-ups or for uplift use.
Mention has to be made of the really smart spec by Radon. A 30t ring is spot on with Sram’s 10-42t cassette in my opinion. 170mm cranks mean less pedal strikes and there’s even a nice E13 chain device included. I did change a few bits as mentioned above, but I really didn’t need to.
The frame is nicely done too, I love the raw finish and the yellow and black decals look better in the metal than on the website. The hardware all seems decent enough and the flip chip is simple to adjust – though I did spend a couple of minutes looking for the instructions before I realised they’re printed on the frame. D’oh!
An unexpected benefit of that brace from the top tube to the seat mast is that it makes an excellent hand hold for porting the bike about or hoiking it over gates.
Weight-wise, it’s quoted as being about 32lbs and it certainly doesn’t feel heavier than that. It’s absolutely on par with other aluminium enduro bikes, and probably lighter than a fair few of them.
I’m already convinced that this is the best bike I’ve ever ridden.
The balance is sublime: with handling and chassis and suspension performance all just right. It’s a delight to ride and I can’t wait to head up to the Lakes and Scotland with it.
Radon bikes might not be a common sight on UK trails at the moment, but the price and performance of the Swoop suggest you’ll be seeing plenty of them over the coming years.
I’m not sure what the exact definition of a superenduro bike is, but I do know that this is a super enduro bike.
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