The calendar might say that it’s May, but Christmas came early to Prestige Cycles today in the shape of a R160 demo bike from Robot Bike Co.
Born in 2013 and based in Monmouthshire, Robot Bike Co. is comprised of half a dozen engineers, designers and mechanics with backgrounds in aerospace, Formula One and bikes. Of these, probably the name best known to mountain bikers is bike suspension guru Dave Weagle, who developed the DW-link (used by Ibis, Pivot Cycles and Turner Bicycles), Evil Bikes’ Delta system and the Split-Pivot design (Devinci and Salsa).
Robot Bike Co. currently only offer one model, the R160. This is a 160mm travel full suspension bike rolling on 650B wheels. It is made from proprietary, straight, round carbon tubes connected to state-of-the-art titanium additive manufactured lugs, with double lap shear joints between the two. Robot settled on this configuration as titanium offers a very high strength-to-weight ratio for the areas of maximum stress, such as the head tube, BB junction and pivot anchor points, connected by high stiffness-to-weight carbon. The R160 has been engineered to the most exacting of standards and is also bespoke, ie. each one is made to measure to match the size of the rider, with customisation also available for the geometry.
Our demo bike arrived sporting a Rockshox Monarch RC3 damper and matching Lyric RCT3 160mm fork, Sram XO drivetrain and Guide Ultimate brakes, Sram Roam 60 wheels wrapped in Schwalbe Magic Marys, Reverb post, Renthal carbon bar and 77-Designs 35mm stem. This build comes in at 29.5lbs/13.4kg (weighed with a set of DMR Vault pedals).
At first glance, the suspension layout looks much like a four-bar or Horst link set-up, with a chainstay pivot just ahead of the rear dropout. However it is actually a new and unique-to-this bike system designed by Dave Weagle and dubbed the DW6. The aim of this design was to take everything that is great about the existing 4-bar DW-link - notably the anti-squat feature which gives excellent pedalling performance - and add further tunability to the leverage ratio and braking characteristics. This is achieved with the addition of two short links just behind the BB. Now, some of you may be thinking, “6 pivot points? that’s a lot of bearings to maintain…” Robot are acutely aware of this, and have put processes in place to ensure that, rather than working to typical bicycle industry tolerances of +/-0.5mm, their frames are accurate to +/- 5 microns….! This alignment hugely extends the life of those pivots and bearings, as everything is running as true as possible. On top of this, the only frame member with a thread cut into it is the BB shell (no press-fit woes here); all the other bolts have sleeves or nuts and so are easily replaceable should the need arise.
So how does it ride? Well, the first thing I noticed was how stiff and taut this bike is - it sounds a bit strange but from front to back the bike feels like everything is in a dead straight line. Combined with the 65.5º head angle it has a very precise, confident steering response and an enviable point-and-shoot character. The back end tracks beautifully, feeling supple with gobs of traction. I ran the shock fully open throughout my short test and found it pedals really well, the anti-squat design meaning there's no unnecessary shock movement or bob, but the bike is happy to deliver full travel when required. This bike walks a fine line between stable and agile, composed and playful, and I'm happy to report I was pretty blown away. I can't wait to have another go!