Review: Atherton AM.150.1 – Pinkbike

Descending

When it comes to describing how the AM.150 handles while descending, the word I keep coming back to is “solid”.

Despite minimal chainstay protection, it’s reassuringly quiet, which always helps instill a sense of calmness. The suspension is businesslike in the way it operates. Even with 30% sag and a volume spacer removed, there’s loads of progression (I never felt it bottom-out) but at the same time, there’s no sudden ramp-up of force making it feel like you’ve hit an invisible barrier before the end. Sensitivity near the start of the stroke is impressive, which is great for skimming across cambers or webs of roots without losing traction or momentum, but at the same time, there’s plenty of support holding you up when pushing deeper into a corner. It’s always measured with its use of travel, but it never feels harsh.

Much of the sense of composure comes from the suspension’s built-in mechanical support (anti-squat and anti-rise) which stops it from slouching when you stamp on the pedals or pitching forwards when you jam on the brakes. The chassis feels stable and unfussy when things get hectic. This is partly why I preferred a less damped shock setup (especially on rebound) than recommended – you can run less damping for a more sensitive and lively feel without it becoming unsettled.

Even with my softer than recommended settings, it doesn’t isolate you from the trail as much as some enduro bikes, especially when it comes to bigger hits, but the AM.150 is designed to be more of an all-rounder, and this is just a consequence of that support later in the travel which feels so good when pushing into corners and compressions.

The geometry is well-rounded, with no unusual quirks to get used to. Combined with the supportive and stable suspension, this makes for a composed and predictable ride in most terrain. At 65-degrees, the head angle is at the steeper end of the spectrum these days. When riding trails with little gradient and lots of tight bermed corners, jumps and rollers, this is no bad thing; it reduces the wheel flop and makes the steering quicker. With the rear suspension rewarding pumping and pedalling, this makes it feel nice and responsive. It’s easy to muscle through tight turns and generate speed through them.

I briefly rode Gee Atherton’s AM.150 at Dyfi bike park, which had the older tube set with a stiffer back end. Atherton say they updated the seatstay and chainstay since then, partly to add compliance on off-camber turns, although the bike I tested here still feels pretty stiff, which contributes to the solid and responsive feel when cornering hard.

When it came to the steeper trails in the Tweed Valley, the steering wasn’t as predictable and steady as many of the slacker bikes these days. This is particularly true when there’s a steep section with a step or trough into a corner. I definitely wouldn’t describe it as twitchy, but not quite as steadfast in those situations as bikes that are a couple of degrees slacker. This is why I gravitated towards a setup with a softer shock, higher bar and shorter stem. The Fox 36 fork may not be as stout as the 38 mm chassis forks found on most enduro bikes these days either, and this may contribute to this steering sensation, but when I’ve tested the Fox 36 and Fox 38 back-to-back I found the handling differences in corners to be small. It’s over large bumps and holes where the stiffer fork performs better.

The AM.150’s supportive suspension and relatively steep head angle put it closer to the trail category than most thoroughbred enduro race bikes. This is easily forgotten given the downhill tires and the downhill pedigree of the siblings it’s named after. But while there are enduro bikes that are more comfortable in the rough and more stable in the steepest chutes, the AM.150 holds its own compared to those bikes while feeling more at home on mellower and flatter terrain. It’s a highly versatile bike.


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