The word innovation is something I've always been interested in, but so many times it's used to describe simple things that may not be that different from mainstream designs. The Pole Machine represents the true meaning of this word though. It starts with two pieces of machined aluminium that are glued together and then fitted with bolts to make sure the flex is kept at bay - and that's just the beginning. Here's our first look at this new design.
Words: Ieuan Williams Photos: Alex Hunter, Ieuan Williams
This Finnish company has not just come out of the woodwork. Its previous shorter travel 29er had some pretty wild sizing along with Pole's own suspension system.
The Machine sticks with existing design cues such as the single sided shock and Pole's suspension system and rolls on 29" wheels. There's more rear travel this time though, coming in at 160mm and the frame is designed around a 180mm fork. This bike was offered to ride while on holiday with Switchbacks over in Malaga and I jumped at the opportunity to swing my leg over, especially after recently spending plenty of time on long travel 29" enduro bikes (for our Dirty Dozen test). I was keen to see how this bike compared to the best of this new breed as well as the recently launched YT Capra 29.
For more tech details on this new bike, keep on reading. We will have a full review to follow when we've spent more time on this bike on familiar UK tracks.
The first thing to mention here is the standover height which has been kept as low as possible. Leo has rotated the rear damper 90° to allow the standover to be as low as it is and the measurement of 360mm throughout the size range is good in my book.
Pole has aimed to make the Machine totally future proof. With massive tyre clearance (allowing for up to 3" wide rubber on the 29" wheel set up) it also bodes well for mud clearance when things get sloppy, especially here in the UK. Another nice feature on the Pole is the ability to run with three water bottles if needed. This could be substituted for other things like tool kits inside bottles - Fabric and Specialized produce good options. It's always great to have the freedom to leave the backpack at home.
"Leo has rotated the rear damper 90° to allow the standover to be as low as it is"
The external cable routing is a welcome sight as so many brands keep missing the mark on internal systems. There really is nothing worse than cables rattling about inside the frame, but we are now seeing better designs - the new 2018 Canyon Spectral is a good example.
The issue of having to change a rear brake when the hose runs through the frame is always a faff too, so it's great to see some clean hose and cable routing that is well thought out and user friendly. Also worth noting is that there's very little carbon in sight on this bike, other than the bar and the crank arms.
Shape and fit
The prototype Machine that was ridden out in Spain had a great feel to the size, with a size M having a 480mm reach and an exceptionally long 1305mm wheelbase. Matching up the long reach with a 63.9° head angle gives room and stability. This really gives most brands something to look at when sizing a bike.
The Machine has not been designed just for descending but also as a bike that works well for a long day out in the mountains. The steep 78° (79° effective) seat tube angle and roomy sizing really allow for great power transfer without sacrificing the body position.
First ride feeling
Fast, that’s the first feeling that was obvious, even after smashing the mech off and the front axle quick release lever. It didn't slow the ride down, or hold back the riding over in Malaga, where I was hitting downhill tracks like it had 200mm of travel.
The harder the Machine was pushed the more I got out of it, even when things got out of hand. The Machine just hunkers down giving the confidence to keep the brakes off and the throttle open. Upfront on this build was a 180mm travel RockShox Lyrik fork and with this firepower on tap really gave the bike a hard hitting edge.
The climbing could very well be where this bike surprised me most though. The super steep seat angle measuring in at 79° gives one of the most positive climbing positions on a bike today.
First impressions of The Machine are all very positive. This may have been a brief experience getting some time on the hill but a more in-depth UK test will be carried out later in the year to try to find any issues.
This test bike was still a prototype yet felt complete and, although Leo from Pole will be making some subtle changes to the bike pictured, the overall idea and look will stay much the same for the production frames. It really was great hearing about the passion and sheer want to create a 'next level product' and I feel that Pole has hit the nail on the head when it comes to offering something different. The Machine is fast, smooth and full of design innovation - this really is a bike to keep an eye on.
Price: EN €6.950 TR €5.500 FRAME €3.450
More info and orders: www.polebicycles.com
CLICK HERE TO READ OUR LONG TRAVEL 29ER TEST - THE DIRTY DOZEN