- Pipedream Nevis
- £699 (standard frame); £759 (with custom options as tested)
- 3Al/2.5V titanium tubing
- Long-fork geometry
- Custom options
“Microbrand” is getting to be a rather overused term these days, but that’s largely because there’s so many of them. Some of them seem to be trying to occupy the same niches, but Pipedream Cycles’s USP is that it only does titanium frames. It’s even got a full titanium FS bike in the works. The Nevis (in its various guises – more on that shortly) is Pipedream’s hardtail frame.
The Pipedream range is simultaneously simple and confusing. It makes essentially one hardtail mountain bike frame (plus road and forthcoming full suspension frames), but that one frame can be had with (or without) a considerable range of options. The £699 standard frame is round, plain gauge 3Al/2.5V titanium tubing throughout and available in three sizes. There’s also a £749 model which is the same but with cunning interchangeable dropouts, allowing you to run with vertical dropouts and gears or as a singlespeed with track ends.
Then you’ve got the rest of the options list, which includes double-butted tubing, a welded pierced wishbone back end, different finishes and decals, an eccentric bottom bracket (for singlespeeding or hub gearing on vertical dropouts without needing a tensioner) and various other bits and bobs. Our test frame had a horizontally-ovalised down tube at the bottom bracket, an oversized seat tube (it took a 28.6mm seatpost – the current batch of bikes will take a more readily-available 27.2mm and use thinner tubing) and the optional strengthening gusset under the down tube/head tube junction. We had some issues with this gusset – it was the wrong shape, being convex across the end rather than concave – but Pipedream tell us that the current gusset is the right way round. We’re not completely convinced by the concept of an optional gusset – to our minds either the frame’s strong enough without one or it isn’t – but if it’s done right there’s no harm in it being there.
The stays are neat bullet-ended tubes that wiggle their way to the BB and seat cluster to good tyre- and heel-clearing effect. The top tube is extravagantly sloped, and along with the extended seat tube and forward-facing clamp slot gives the whole thing a very Kona-esque profile. The head tube is externally machined to remove excess material from the lightly-loaded bits.Other subtle differences between the test frame and what you’d get if you bought one are the top tube (28.6mm diameter on ours, 31.8mm now) and new dropouts – they’re largely the same shape as the ones you’ll see here, but with nifty “PD” logos cut into them in the style of the rather nice head badge.
The fatter/thicker seat tube and flared down tube added to the frame’s weight a bit – Pipedream says a 19in frame should weigh “from 3.3lb”, ours came in at 3.9lb. That puts this particular example in the hard-riding ti camp alongside things like the Cove Hummer and Dialled Bikes Morning Glory – all frames that are titanium because it’s strong and corrosion resistant, rather than pursuing any sort of magical material-related ride properties.
It’s very tidily put together, with subtle, even welds everywhere. Details like the head badge are neatly executed. All the cables and hoses run along the top tube – the rear brake hose guides use a combination of zip-tie “cradles” and a pair of rather curious slotted tube guides. They look like the gear cable stops, but they’re not stops – if you wanted to run a cable-operated rear brake you’d need to put some stepped ferrules in there, and if you want ot run a hose through them you’ll need to detach it from the lever or caliper, so they don’t seem to do either thing terribly well. If we’d been building this up for keeps we’d have gone to the trouble of detaching the hose and feeding it through, but for testing purposes we just ziptied it on…
Pipedream just sells frames, but for the record here’s what we bolted to it. The slightly contradictory information on Pipedream’s website says that the frame is designed for 100-135mm travel forks and then says it’s designed around “105mm travel Marzocchi and 130mm Fox forks” – we fitted a Magura Phaon coil fork with travel adjustable between 80 and 125mm. The Phaon is a whisker longer for its travel than the Fox, so we wound it down a few mm to give the same static length as the recommended item.
Transmission was the same Ritchey crank/SRAM X-9 combination that’s graced our test frames for a while now, with Magura Louise FR brakes doing the stopping. We ran Conti Gravity 2.3in tyres.
The first thing we noticed hopping on to the Pipedream was how tall it was. This was something of a surprise, given that the stated geometry includes a very conventional 12.5in bottom bracket height. The tape measure gave us more like 13.5in, which is the sort of height you’d associate with a longish travel full suspension bike. The advantage of that, of course, is that if you’re hopping off a longish travel full suspension bike on to this, you’ll feel right at home. The very sloped top tube gives back any standover clearance that the high BB may have taken away.
Some of the other numbers were a bit out from the claimed ones, too, but not really in a bad way – the top tube was a bit longer and the back end a bit shorter, neither of which we object to in the slightest.
We fiddled around with fork lengths a bit, and found the best balance to be around the length of the designed-for Fox fork. At that length, the bike was pleasingly agile in the twisties but didn’t wander unduly on steep climbs. It was still on the speedy side of agile, and actually felt like it’d take a slightly longer fork, but it’s already very high up and demands attention at speed, so we’d be tempted to stick with the recommendations.
We’ve already likened the Pipedream to bikes like the Hummer and Morning Glory, and like those it doesn’t feel all that “titaniumy” to ride. The “traditional” Ti feel is steel-like and springy, but that’s as much to do with skinny tubes as the material – early Ti builders were going for light weight, used thin tubes, ended up with some quite whippy bikes and lodged the idea that titanium frame = springy ride in the collective MTB conciousness. It’s not necessarily so, though – everyone who threw a leg over the Pipedream said the same thing: solid. The upside of a high bottom bracket is, of course, gobs of pedal clearance, which is a real boon on rocky trails. There’s rarely a need to time your pedal strokes or pay too much attention to anything other than pedalling – you’ll be well clear of most stuff.
It’s good solid, though. If you’re looking for magic-carpet compliance then look elsewhere – fat tyres and plenty of seatpost are what’s giving you comfort here. But it feels great under power and doesn’t do anything weird in corners. It’s easy to go too far with the springy thing and end up with a frame that loads up in the bends and then pings out in an unpredictable fashion, but there’s no danger of that here. The combination of stout feel, agile geometry and plenty of clearance both above and below the frame makes for a bike that loves technical trails, up and down. If we had the option, we’d have a slightly steeper seat angle, but you can always push the saddle forward – there’s enough top tube length to take it.
Positives: Very nicely put together, looks like a Kona, solid feel, agile geometry, tall BB lets you pedal over everything
Negatives: Tall BB may give you vertigo, might not be what you’re looking for from a titanium frame, price starts to mount up with custom options
The “budget” titanium market is quite a crowded one these days, and there’s no denying that Pipedream’s offering isn’t quite as budget as some – Pastey’s Howler Ti is fifty quid less than the standard Pipedream, including a Thomson post, and Setavento’ll do you a full custom Ti frame for £625. We’d happily do without the ovalised down tube and extra gusset on the test frame and feel that the current generation of the standard frame offers better value than this particular one. It’s a slightly unusual, but effective shape and it’s very well put together – if you like your trails smooth, fast and sweeping you might be better served elsewhere, but if you’re after a robust, stout technical trail hardtail, the Pipedream’s well worth a look.