- Edge Blade XC
- £1,099 (frame only, Fox shock); £1,199 (frame only, Fifth Element shock)
- 08707 449362
The Blade XC is the third variant of Edge’s parallelogram-linkage suspension design, following the BSX and DH versions. Edge is based in Sheffield, so they should know a thing or two about UK riding conditions…
All of Edge’s frames are handbuilt in Sheffield, making them one of the small but perfectly-formed band of companies who manufacture in the UK. This matters to some people, perhaps more than it should, but it makes sense for Edge. They’re not turning out thousands of these things and they like the freedom to tweak the designs as they go along.
The tubing is from Easton (which apparently comes via Italy for some reason) and tidily welded up into, well, a bike frame. Sounds obvious, but Edge were keen to build something that looked like a bike. Hence the complete front triangle and a conventionally-profiled rear end. It’s only the linkages separating the two that give the game away…
The suspension system uses a rigid rear end connected to the front end with a pair of vaguely parallel linkages, in the style of bikes like the Rocky Mountain ETS and Santa Cruz Blur. Doing things this way gives the designers lots of options as to how their suspension behaves. Tweaking the angles and lengths of the linkages lets them put the effective pivot point pretty much anywhere they like. Rocky put theirs out in front of the bike, where you couldn’t put a real one. Santa Cruz make theirs move around, giving an S-shaped rear axle path. Edge, meanwhile, have arranged their linkages so that the rear axle is effectively pivoting around the bottom bracket axle.
The idea is to get no chain growth as the suspension compresses. Chain growth is the phenomenon of the distance between bottom bracket and rear axle increasing as the wheel lifts. Significant chain growth has two effects, which are really the same effect in opposite directions. Inputs at either end lead to outputs at the other – pedalling makes the rear wheel move, the rear wheel moving tries to pull the pedals.
Santa Cruz’s VPP system is designed to have a little bit of chain growth where they consider it advantageous, using it to keep the suspension stable under power but getting rid of it where it’s likely to be a hindrance so there’s pretty much none at full travel. Edge are taking advantage of the new generation of anti-bob shocks, and so go for constant chain length and relying on the shock to keep things steady. The chain length is so constant that they’ve got riders running Blades as singlespeeds…
The shock in this case is a Fox Float RL, featuring Pro-Pedal technology. This is essentially just a bit more low-speed compression damping, making the shock less sensitive to gradual inputs like those from pedalling without affecting its responses to sharper inputs like those from hitting things.
All of the Blade’s linkages and pivots are impressively sizable. They’ve gone for large-diameter pivot shafts and a wide linkage stance to keep both halves of the bike going in the same direction. All the pivots run on cartridge bearings.
The rear end uses square section tubing welded to forged yokes behind the bottom bracket and at the top linkage. The yokes give impressive mud clearance, even with the 2.4in tyres fitted. Cables and hoses all run along the top tube, with hook-style hose guides for the brake hoses. The front mech guide was slightly nigglesome on the test bike, leading the cable at an awkward angle that caused it to rub on the upper linkage. But that’s easily tweaked.
Claimed frame weight is 6.5lb and rear wheel travel is four inches.
We’re not going to go into much detail about the components on the test bike, as the Blade is a frame-only deal. Just for the record, the test bike came decked out with a USE SUB fork (prong? tine?), Hope brakes, Middleburn cranks, Shimano transmission, USE carbon bars in a Race Face stem and disc-specific Mavic X317 rims shod in 2.4in WTB Motoraptor tyres. All very much XC in the sense of “big day out in the hills” rather than “four times round a five mile loop flat out”…
Hop on to the Blade and the first thing that strikes you is an impression of size. This is a big old beastie. Edge does two sizes, this one and a smaller one. The larger one measures 19in centre-to-top, but that’s sat on top of a lofty 14in BB (probably pushed up a bit by the voluminous tyres…) – the ground seems quite a long way away. As do the bars, situated as they are at the other end of a 24in top tube. The steep seat angle tends to push you forward, though, so you don’t feel like you’re sat at the back of the bike. There’s quite a lot of it at the back, too, with longish 17.25in chainstays.
The upshot of all this is a bike that initially feels, not ponderous exactly, but certainly steady. It’s certainly not a super-flickable woods bike, but then it’s designed and built in Sheffield – it’s a Peak bike, essentially. It’s stable, planted and unflustered downhill and the high BB means you can keep the power on over all sorts of rockular nastiness. The frame design keeps heavy bits like the shock and linkages quite low down, so it doesn’t feel as top-heavy as some tall bikes are wont to do. And after all, most of the weight is the rider anyway – just bend your limbs an extra inch…
Descending over sizable lumpiness brings home the advantage of the zero chain growth design. Land off a drop and you don’t feel the pedals kicking back, and successions of big hits don’t make your pedal stroke go all lumpy. The disadvantage comes when you try some out-of-the-saddle sprinting action. With no chain tension effect to hold the bike up, the weight of your legs moving down gives a definite sinking sensation as the suspension sags. With the Fox shock, it’s OK if you’re doing a low cadence stood up, but trying to accelerate with a couple of quick pedal jabs bypasses the Pro-Pedal damping completely. We expect it’d be better with the Fifth Element shock, but lots of riders don’t ride like that anyway, and it’s certainly no worse than typical low-pivot swingarm designs.
The other valuable attribute of the Blade frame is the beefy back end and large-diameter pivots – there’s never any sensation of wag or twist back there.
Where the Blade really impressed us was uphill. It’s outrageously plush, and you can sit down and ride at all sorts of things and the bike just swallows them up. Up rooty or rocky climbs that are usually fairly tricky propositions, requiring all sorts of balancing and thrutching, the Blade was unstoppable. It easily cleaned a climb that’s usually at least a two-dabber. Again, it’s the lack of pedal feedback that does it. You simply don’t notice the rear wheel riding up and over things, it just does it while you merrily spin the pedals without distraction.
By designing a bike to absorb bumps effectively without interrupting your pedal stroke, Edge has taken a conscious decision to let a new-generation shock take care of fighting the bob. It’s something we’ve been predicting for a while – most of the things you can do to combat bob with suspension geometry compromise the suspension performance in some way. It’s still not as lively under power as a good single pivot or indeed other vaguely similar linkage bikes like the ETS and Blur, but it’s super-plush and one of the best climbers on bumpy trails we’ve ridden.
As we’ve said, this is a Peak bike. It’s not super-light and it’s not all that quick steering. But it almost feels like cheating up steep, lumpy climbs and loves fast, lumpy descents. We’d probably opt for the Fifth Element shock for a bit of added sprightliness, but if that’s your sort of riding, then the Blade should be on your shortlist. We slightly prefer the ride of a Blur, but the Blade is about two-thirds the price, has better mud clearance and it’s British…