Words and photos: Dave Arthur
Pyga Bikes are the brainchild of Patrick Morewood, the South African also responsible for a well regarded range of bikes carrying his name a few years ago, but when he embarked upon a new venture Pyga was the result. Bikemagic have already tested, and been impressed with, the Oneten29 a couple of years ago.
This is our first time with the Zero650C, their first hardtail. It builds a very smart looking well engineered carbon fibre frame around 650b wheels, with geometry good for up to 130mm in the fork but can equally be built up with racier intentions, as our test bike was with a 100mm RockShox Sid. That sort of travel keeps you honest on the trail.
It’s a sleek and purposeful looking bike, and those good first impressions are played out on the trail, where it’s fast, agile and full of energy. The top tube curves dramatically all the way to the rear dropouts with just a short section of seat tube popping out the top. That means a lot of exposed seatpost but that does mean plenty of available deflection, which transfers a bit of extra cushioning when you’re in the saddle and riding over rough ground. That low top tube also gives you plenty of space for chucking about, which you will do as the Zero positively encourages that sort of behaviour.
That said, it’s not the sort of bike you spend much time in the saddle of. Every climb sees you lift out of the saddle and power away at the pedals as the low weight and efficient power transfer provides the Pyga with stunning climbing ability. Sure you don’t get the same traction benefits from a full suspension bike on some tricker rooty climbs, but it’s so light it just hops and skips over any rocks.
The 1x10 gearing, comprising a Shimano XT crankset with a Hope Retainer Ring with narrow/wide teeth and XT ShadowPlus clutch rear mech, is a very simple setup when you’re out on the trail and though we did find some steep climbs that proved the lowest gear was a bit on the tall side. But then low 24lb weight of the bike countered it and we just about made it up one particular hill that is a real challenge. If you wanted to stick a front mech on there is a direct mount on the seat tube.
The rolling stock, Stan’s ZTR Crest rims on Hope hubs with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres provide a fast rolling and rapid accelerating wheelset, and fits the purpose of this bike well. Granted there are occasions when you'll be crying out for a bit more bite from the front tyre, but by that point you’re probably going pretty damn quickly and probably a bit sideways too. With the trails getting a bit, shall we say entertaining, it would be prudent to stick some tyres with more bite on.
But we’re not really reviewing the bike here, R53 don’t sell the bike as you see it in the pictures, they’re only selling the frame on its own at the moment, they lent us this build for us to assess the frame. Still it’s hard to separate the frame from the parts hanging of it to a degree. It’s a good build for showing off the Zero in its best light, it’s a well thought out build with some nice attention to detail, the wide bars and short stem for example show consideration.
This is a bike made for covering ground quickly and that it does very impressively. It’s a bike that most rewards when you take it by the scruff of its neck and push and pull it hard around the trails - it’s most certainly not a bike for sitting back, cruising and taking in the view. You’ve got to make the most of the 750mm handlebars and 70mm stem and wrestle it through the tightest singletrack you can find, the handlebar and stem set up really were a highlight of the bike and transformed it from a run of the mill crosscountry bike into a playful trail bike.
All of which makes it a fun bike to ride. The slightly slacker head angle - it’s 69 degrees - than you might find on a typically crosscountry-orientated hardtail gives you a bit more control in technically demanding riding. The 73 degree seat angle pushes the saddle forward enough for a really good climbing and pedalling position, with good weight balance on the climbs. Other measurements worth noting include the 425mm chainstays, 130mm head tube, 1123mm wheelbase and 625mm effective top tube.
There is a stack of tyre clearance around the rear triangle, and the rear brake caliper is neatly tucked inside the rear dropouts. The rear axle is a 142x12mm standard with a Syntace bolt-thru axle clamping the dropouts together. The dropouts are interchangeable with regular quick release dropouts if you’re building the frame from scratch and don’t have compatible rear hubs.
This is the first of the new breed of 650b hardtails I’ve had the chance to test. I’ve ridden and raced many 29er hardtails over the years, it’s been a while since I slung a leg over a 26in hardtail, but I have ridden a good few 650b full-sussers this year. So I had some expectations going into this test, but I wasn’t prepared for just how well the bike handles.
There’s noticeably more pace in the change of direction compared to the bigger wheels, not such a surprise perhaps, but I didn’t feel stymied when it came to outright speed and travelling through rock and root infested trails, the sort of terrain where 29er hardtails usually lick their lips. All things considered the Zero is a seriously impressive frame, and if you build it up anything like this demo bike, you won’t be disappointed.
Currently Pyga UK distributors R53 are only selling the frame, costing £1,449 - which might be too rich for most pockets - so you’ll have to build it up yourself or get your local bike shop to do it for you. I was really impressed with the build kit supplied, it perfectly complemented and ably demonstrated the capability and performance of the frame.
The only thing I’d change if this was my bike would be to fit a longer travel fork. The SID is an excellent fork choice, but the 100mm travel does pose a limitation especially when you consider how quickly you can arrive into rooty corners and steep drops, another 20-30mm would be welcome.
A bundle of fun with super fast performance on the trail and involving handling
Good: Agile, fast, fun, good handling.
Bad: Expensive, frame-only.
What Pyga says:
Light and stiff, our first carbon frame built around 650b wheels. With a 69 degree head angle and short chainstays, the bike makes an excellent trail hardtail that feels right at home at an XC race. Fast and agile, the Zero650c is the bike of choice for serious racing snakes and riders always looking for those personal bests.