Short-travel bikes can often act a bit confused, almost like they want to party but they also can’t hold their liquor, end up causing a big scene, and you end up needing days to recover. Sound familiar? You think it’ll be fun, and it is for a while until those decisions start to catch up with you, and then you’re upside down in the rhubarb. The SST can party harder than most, though, and you’re less likely to end up with a hangover and no memory of what happened thanks to its easy-going suspension and handling.
Let’s talk suspension first, with Reeb’s flex-pivot Horst Link-ish system doing some very good things on the trail. It’s quite active and supple over small impacts that you might not see but that definitely affect traction, and that goes a long way to make the SST feel more stuck to the ground than most bikes with this little suspension. That’s a big help when it’s really wet, really dry, or anytime traction is iffy, be it cruising down a section of tame singletrack at maximum pace or creeping into a vertical rock roll that demands zero speed and all the concentration. This isn’t the bike for those do-or-die moves, of course, but I’m not here to tell you how to live your life or that the SST doesn’t like to roll the dice every now and then.
When you roll the dice on a short-travel bike, you might sometimes find that the geometry lets you get into situations that the suspension can’t get you out of. Or vice versa. That’s not the case with the SST, however, with the opposite end of the stroke being nearly as impressive. There’s more than enough ramp-up with the RockShox air shock that my test bike arrived with, and there were times when it felt like I had an extra 10 or 15mm of help, especially on fast sections of trail with big compressions and holes when you ‘re just trying to hang on for dear life. Reeb has done a hell of a lot with just 120mm of travel.
There’s plenty of life to the SST as well, as you’d expect given that it’s on the shorter side of the travel spectrum. Apply all the usual cliches here about it being playful and all that, but I think a big factor is actually how sure-footed the bike is; that stability gives you the confidence to do those side hits and useless but fun moves, much like how a long, slack enduro bike can also be surprisingly playful for the same reasons. If you’re confident on a bike, you’ll relax and have more fun.
On the handling front, Reeb could have easily made the SST a too-slack, too-sloppy short-travel bike that’s fun in a few places and a burden in most… But that’s not what they did. Instead, the SST feels more middle-of-the-road; it has the stability and poise not to feel too on-edge when the trail gets really steep and sketchy but doesn’t mind tame, meandering descents either. The first compliment comes from that classic in-the-bike positioning that most 120mm-travel rigs don’t provide, as well as the 140mm-travel Pike that’s an ideal match for the SST. Far from feeling unbalanced, the 140mm fork suits the SST’s intentions and I don’t think I’d want more or less travel up front.
If I had to look for some criticisms, which is exactly what we’re supposed to be doing here, there are faster, more enjoyable bikes if your rides involve a ton of smooth, rolling terrain rather than sustained descents. Yes, the SST is a decent all-around machine everywhere, but it’s far better suited to rougher trails and longer downhills where the bike’s active suspension and forgiving nature work for your benefit.
How Does It Compare?
A few short-travel bikes I’ve spent a bunch of time on recently were the Fourstroke LT from BMC, Allied’s very impressive BC40, and the new aluminum Norco Fluid. Those three span a pretty wide range of intended use, with the 130mm Fluid and 120mm Allied both being more in line with the SST than the racier and much less forgiving BMC. Obviously, with low weight and carbon fiber in the recipe, Allied is taking a very different approach than Reeb, but there are some interesting similarities on the trail regardless of frame material and intentions.
If you’re looking to do some racing, it’s going to be the BC40 for sure and that’s not a surprise at all. Likewise, if you’re more into covering ground quickly – the BC40 is a rocketship – but either bike could also be your short-travel trail bike that’s ready for more. While the ingredients could not be more different, the two bikes handle similarly on the trail; both are remarkably planted through any and all corners, and both instill more confidence than you might expect. They also share some rear-suspension attributes, although the BC40 feels sportier and more rewarding on the gas.
As for Norco’s Fluid, it has a bit more rear-wheel-travel and is aluminum rather than steel, but it has a similar personality in that both it and the SST are solid, ready-for-anything trail rigs. Obviously, there’s a pretty wide price delta between these three bikes but, that aside, I’d recommend the Reeb for anyone who appreciates something different, the Norco if you want the most bike-for-your-buck, and the Allied if you ‘re a closet cross-country dork who wants more bike but doesn’t want to go up the climbers any slower.