Polygon Entiat TR8
Think of Polygon and I think of bikes that represent amazing value for money, at least in regards to the spec that you get at a given price-point. To achieve this, they follow an online sales model via the Bicycles Online site—order a Polygon and it'll land on your doorstep a day or two later.
Not being able to sit on a bike before buying certainly presents a hurdle for some, however Bicycles Online has a number of strategies aimed at mitigating these concerns. First up, they offer a customer service line where you can discuss any buying quandaries. They also use live chat via their website and have staff on hand to promptly answer email queries.
In lieu of the typical car park test ride, Bicycles Online offers a '14 day free test'. With this you order the bike and get to ride it on your local trails. If the sizing isn’t right, the quality of finish isn’t what you expected or whatever, you can call Bicycles Online and they’ll arrange a courier to pick it up with a refund to follow. You just need to ensure the bike is still in good condition (the terms are spelt out clearly on their website).
The Entiat definitely fits the bill as a new-school design. Where the hardtails of old were always modelled on XC race bikes, the Entiat TR8 is a plus-tyred machine with comparatively relaxed frame geometry and a dropper post—it’s built for all-round fun rather than hill-climbing speed.
Polygon offers the Entiat at two relatively affordable price-points. The entry-level TR6 sells for $1,099 and comes with a RockShox Recon Silver fork and Shimano Deore gears that are set up 1X10 using a Sunrace cassette and a generic alloy crank. While the entry level build doesn’t have a dropper post, it runs Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and should be a totally trail-worthy package.
The TR8 definitely steps it up a notch. It comes with an XT rear derailleur, SLX triggers and a 1X11 drivetrain with a huge 11-46 gear range on the XT cassette. Brakes are from the no-frills but super effective Deore range, the wheels and cockpit components are Entity (Polygon’s own-brand parts) and the tyres are Schwalbe Nobby Nics with Performance series casing. The 120mm RockShox Yari is a fantastic fork that performs much like an upmarket Lyric and you even get a Tranz X dropper post—it’s a super impressive spec for the $1,799 asking price.
SCALES OF TRUTH
All show and no go perhaps? Well not really. We stripped it back to a bare frame and it tipped the scales at 2,015g (in a medium size), which is towards the lighter end of the bikes that we’ve reviewed in this alloy plus hardtail division. The Entity wheels came in at 2,370g—about par for the course on a mid-range wheelset with proper plus-width rims. Even the 3.0 inch wide tyres impress on the scales; at 780g a piece they're lighter than many regular width tyres. All-up the complete bike weighed 13.5kg (including pedals), which is pretty healthy for a plus tyre and dropper post equipped hardtail.
Cable routing is internal for the dropper post and gears but the rear brake hose runs externally, which is fine by us (it makes things easier when it comes to maintenance). Our only gripe lies with the placement of the brake hose on the left-side of the down tube; this works well if you run the rear brake on the right side of the bars but it’s not so good for left-rear brake setups and can lead to a bit of cable rub (protect the head tube with some clear tape). Rubber grommets minimise rattles at the entry points but the internal cable ports are on the small side—make sure you’re not in a hurry when it comes to cable replacement.
Measuring in at 425mm, the chainstays are definitely on the short side, especially when you consider the capacity to handle big 3.0-inch wide tyres with ample mud clearance. At 308mm the bottom bracket is low enough to promote stability and cornering speed without being annoying when pedalling through rocky terrain. While the reach may be shorter than current trends, the other dimensions certainly fit the bill.
The final parameter we typically look at is the head tube angle; a place where most seem to believe that slack is where it’s at for rugged trail riding. Polygon’s geometry chart lists the Entiat with a super-slack 66.5 degree head angle but ours measured in at 68-degrees.
Analysing figures is great but you don’t really know how it’s going to play out until you hit the trail. The Entiat comes fitted with a modern and comfortable cockpit; the Entity stem is 60mm long and the matching 780mm bars have a natural and comfortable shape. While the lack of reach was noticeable when climbing, I slowly grew accustomed to the slightly cramped cockpit. The payback came with sensational manoeuvrability and playfulness; it’s like riding a beefed up BMX bike and I nearly flipped onto my tail the first time I went to wheelie the Entiat over a rut!
The abbreviated front end and tight 425mm stays result in a 1,120mm wheelbase. This makes the bike super nimble and easy to thread through the singletrack. The frame and fork package is also super stiff which adds an element of directness and immediacy to the handling—it’s a lot of fun, especially when the trails aren’t too rough.
While all this talk of agility and nimbleness is great, you’d normally expect it to suffer in steep or really rough terrain—situations where a little more forgiveness is desirable. Well it does suffer, but not as much as you might expect. It's true that in the high-speed tough stuff, you'll need to be a little more on your game with the Entiat than a longer-slacker plus hardtail, but it isn’t all that bad and much will come down to where you ride as to whether it presents a hindrance or simply spices things up.
Run the tyres tubeless at 12-15psi and the Entiat is still easy to manage on technical trails. The 3.0 rubber offers velcro-like traction and a good deal of cushion that will give a mid-travel dually a run for its money as long as things aren't too rowdy. For a fair portion of the formal trail networks that we ride in Australia, the sharp and responsive handling is refreshing; it keeps the ride interesting and engaging.
While the frame, and more specifically the frame geometry, really is the key to the performance of any bike, the parts do play a role—especially when you're looking at this sub-$2K price area. Sure you can buy a dually that sits in the same price bracket, but it probably won't have a dropper post, the brakes and drivetrain components will be of a much lower grade and it would also be a fair bit heavier.