- Pipedream Aonach Mor
- £1,295 (tbc/frame only)
- Reasonably-priced titanium full-suspension frame
- Still a prototype
- 4.7 or 6in travel
This isn’t a bike test of the traditional sort, because the Pipedream Aonach Mor full suspension bike is currently just a prototype. There’s every chance that the production version will differ from this one, so we’re not going to give it a score or anything. Instead we’re going to tell you a bit about the prototype and how it rides before “opening the floor” for feedback that may influence what the finished product turns out like.
What we’ve got here is one of very few titanium full suspension bikes out there, and about the only one that isn’t the product of a manufacturer known for making fairly pricey bikes – the others we know of are from the likes of Litespeed, Titus and Seven. Pipedream has taken a conventional aluminium four-bar back end and connected it to a plain-gauge titanium front end to come up with something that looks rather like a Turner, largely on account of the seat tube strut. The rear end features bearings at all the pivots, although there’s no additional shielding beyond the seals on the bearings themselves.
You may be wondering why there aren’t more titanium full suspension bikes out there. There are a few reasons. Cost is a big one, but there’s some debate over how appropriate titanium is for a full suspension bike. Some argue that it’s too flexible, but that’s really only a problem in areas where the tubing diameters are constrained – like, for example, the back end, which has to work its way between tyres, chainrings and the rider’s legs. Pipedream has sidestepped that one with the aluminium back end (as indeed have most of the other Ti FS manufacturers), leaving them just needing to put together a stout front triangle. It’s got all the features that anyone familiar with Pipedream’s hardtails will recognise – machined head tube, oversized and flared down tube, tidy welding – with the addition of mounts for the rocker pivot and shock and the aforementioned strut.
Mention of the shock mount brings us to one of the key advantages of aluminium for full suspension bikes. The Pipedream’s shock is mounted to a pair of welded-on tabs on the down tube. There’s nothing much wrong with that as long as the down tube is strong enough to take it, which we’re sure it is. But with the plain gauge titanium tubes there’s no scope to strengthen it in some places and not others, so it ends up being pretty beefy all over the place. The low density and easy working of aluminium means that manufacturers have a lot more flexibility in terms of positioning the material where it’ll do the most good and getting rid of it everywhere else – see Turner’s machined bottom bracket/swingarm pivot/shock mount piece or Specialized’s elaborate forgings. Denied that opportunity, Pipedream has had to just make sure that all the tubes are pretty strong, and the result is a fairly heavy frame.
To be fair, 3.6kg (7.9lb) for a large frame that offers up to 6in of travel doesn’t look bad, but comparing it to other stuff on the market you find that other frames of similar travel either weigh about the same but have coil shocks (or meatier air shocks than the RP3 on the Pipedream) or have air shocks and weigh less. The Aonach Mor’s shorter travel setting is 4.7in, and it does look a little portly as an about-5in travel bike.
But how does it ride? Given the stout construction and travel, we stuck some fairly meaty bits on it, including a Manitou Nixon through-axle fork and Shimano Saint groupset. The completed bike came out with fairly relaxed geometry, letting you take full advantage of the solid frame and well-controlled travel at speed but without being too unwieldy in the singletrack. If your tastes run more to the twisties then it’ll take a slightly shorter fork without getting upset. In the longer-travel setting the bike did seem to run through the travel fairly easily, but it was pleasantly free of bob even with the RP3’s ProPedal set on minimum.
Mud clearance was fine, although tyres bigger than 2.3s are going to start getting a bit snug at the stop of the seatstays. We had a bit of an issue with the cable and hose routing – the rear brake house route has zip-tie cradles on the seatstay and in the middle of the top tube but slotted guides at the ends of the top tube, so if you want to route a hose through them you’ll have to detach it from the brake and if you want to use a cable brake you’ll need some stepped ferrules. That’s exactly the sort of niggle we’d expect from a prototype, though.
The Aonach Mor is certainly something different, and even if the projected price of £1,295 isn’t one that you’d usually associate with the term “budget” it’s certainly fairly low in titanium FS bike terms. It’s more than, say, an S-Works Enduro and not far off the price of something like a Turner, though. We’re not convinced of the benefits of titanium in this application, but we’re sure that plenty of people have been waiting for something exactly like this and we doubt that they’ll be disappointed. We think that the production bike perhaps needs to play to one of its travel settings or the other – it’s heavy for a 5in travel trail bike but would need a beefier shock to excel as a 6in travel freeridey bike. That said, one man’s compromise is another’s versatility…
Bear in mind that it’s entirely possible to influence what form the production frame takes – the reason Pipedream lets people ride these things is to get feedback, so head for the forum and make your thoughts known.