Unno Bikes - Exclusive first ride - Dirt

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Trail and Enduro Bikes

Unno Bikes – Exclusive first ride

Raw, distinct and with Catalonian chic


Words and images: Steven Jones

Let’s be clear, this is a prototype bike. But with production aimed at the beginning of 2017 Unno are on the move.

By concentrating all design, testing and production out of their Barcelona headquarters this is a very exclusive, very expensive bike. Our mission was simply to see whether there is a value to such an approach during a time when most mountainbike business models are all about research and design in the west, production in the east, sometimes with a disconnect but nearly always coming out shiny and light.

Unno have gone raw, distinct and with a real edge of Catalonian chic about them. Yet the range of five carbon bikes from hardtail, 130mm trail, 150mm enduro and full downhill are just part of the workload from a design studio that is contracted to other two wheel business such as KTM and Honda motorcycles and has been central to some of Mondraker’s key bikes no more so than the forward geometry models.

It’s now almost eight years since I visited Cesar in Barcelona to ride one of the first Mondraker Summum bikes, one that Fabien Barel had taken to world cup glory. In that time I’ve visited Cesar on a few other occasions, raced with (and been overtaken by) him at Trans Provence when he raced the first forward geometry Dune bike back in 2011. Since then he’s won the World Masters downhill title and been busy setting up his design studio Cero, which employs nearly three dozen employees.

It’s a focussed environment. People arrive at 7.30 and leave at 3.30. They work hard, its an intense work ethic, but team Cesar have a life outside the office too. And what a location to work. I tell Cesar I like Barcelona a lot. He replies, “I cannot argue, its my favourite place too.” There’s a lot of love here.

Unlike nearly all brands or mountainbike design company’s  – remember some brands are after all just that with other company’s taking care of manufacture – the entire process from drawings to testing, lay up and cooking are done from the old textile mill in the north part of the city. A short ride also takes you into some interesting terrain where the testing is done. What this means is no long haul flights for Rojo, no expensive and polluting transport costs, and no cheap labour. What this also means is expensive, exclusive. But as good as Cesar’s intentions are with the environment, Unno bikes are going to be out of reach to many people. So is this bike really THAT much better than any other european designed carbon bike? We went over to find out. We started with the TR 130mm trail bike.


One of the main features of Unno’s thinking is to produce one size frame for the average rider. the most important number here is the 455mm reach which is found on all bikes, and just the one size. It might well be a narrow outlook, one which might for now be necessary due to the small size scale of the operation and the costly process of making moulds, but when this is viewed in the wider mountainbike world and the wildly conflicting idea of what dimensions are applicable to a certain persons shape, then it makes sense to some degree.

Yet this can be relative on so many levels. Take for example the range of sizes different brands offer for ‘medium’ bikes, a size which after all people consider to be the ‘average’ size. The ‘reach’ on medium Commencal Supreme for example is 392mm, a Santa Cruz V10 measures at 398mm whereas Canyon Sender is 440mm. Cesar’s philosophy would equate to a size in between a XL and XXL for V10 and not even within the range offered by Commencal. His sizing in downhill terms would equate to the top five largest size ‘L’  bikes. Yes the world of mountainbike sizing is pretty fucked up.

And then even within brands we see a range of reach which varies between bike type. For example Danny Hart (less than 6’) rides around 442mm reach on his size ‘large’ bikes, whilst a Dune carbon Mondraker in size ‘small’ has a reach of 452mm whilst a Foxy in similar size is 458mm.

Its difficult to know who to believe but the 455mm reach on the Unno bikes does seem to add up nicely to the European average of 5’ 10” for males.

FEELING. The hills north of Barcelona proved an ideal location to check out the climbing and descending characteristics of the Unno. What’s immediately noticeable is something missing from so many 29” wheel bikes and that’s a good bar height up front. We’re not just talking height of the bar itself here but relative to the shape of the bike as a whole. This comes from a correctly sized bar, stem plus headtube length (85mm) giving this bike arguably one of the best ride positions I’ve ever experienced on a bike this travel. And it’s from here that everything follows, for together with the aggressive 65.5 head angle and low bottom bracket it’s a bike that drives hard and fast on the descents – perfect poise, perfect rider position.

The rear suspension pays out the right proportions of sensitivity and support to its five plus inches of travel, the carbon structure not too stiff, not too yielding to a 90kg rider loading it into corners. But it’s here I’ll reserve judgement, for now at least, as the terrain which was on the soft side may have played a part, plus i didn’t get as much time as i’d liked or have a comparison bike. We’ll be able to get a bigger picture when ridden on some nastier limestone against other bikes. Let’s just say the feeling is very, very good with one eye on not getting too much hype going.

LIMITATIONS. As much as Cesar has a very legitimate case for eliminating the bamboozling geometry that the bike industry suffers from, there’s an equally compelling case for producing bikes to fit for a wide range of riders. For me at 6’ it’s on the limit. How long Cesar’s ‘one size fits all’ philosophy lasts will be an interesting one to follow because I can see real demand for this hugely relevant bike.

VERDICT. There’s nothing new here in the process of production. Some sheets of synthetic material hand pressed into position and inflated into the aluminium mould by a plastic bag. Yes there’s a lot of individual pieces (about 400), yes it’s one of the few European made carbon bikes, but even in Asia and the USA it’s still a handmade process. So is it worth the high price tag, one which comes from the decision on European build costs?

The most striking aspect of Unno is the material used, what appears to be a beautiful fabric mix in the correct places, of compliant lay-up of that fabric, and a geometry which is quite simply superb. Maybe more importantly is that the decision making is made here in Spain, that changes can be made quickly between R&D the manufacture.

And to answer the question, is it better? The geometry is certainly the best I’ve ridden on any 130mm bike, my gut and body feeling on the carbon fabric used in construction is good. But more than this, the fact the brand is a little anomalous but young and already boasting great legacy will lead many to put their hand in their pocket pretty sharpish.

Frames from around €5000

Contact Unno


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