Climbing the Shan No.5 is a fairly pleasant affair, with the relatively steep seat angle providing a neutral position between the wheels, and the suspension having adequate anti-squat to minimize bobbing when pedaling and keeping the pedals off of the floor. The mid-length chainstays and relatively steep seat angle means there is minimal rider input needed to stop the front end from becoming light under power, which helps to reduce the wandering effect of the slack head tube angle. The weight of the bike, at 36.1lbs for this reasonably burly build, does become apparent quickly though. It is definitely not as spirited as other bikes in the class.
On relatively flat descents, there’s enough support in the rear end to allow for any back-side to be pumped to generate speed. The low bottom bracket necessitates this approach through flat rock gardens, where pedaling puts the pedals at real risk of catching due to the reduced anti-squat in the higher gears. On fast sections of track, the low BB and slack head angle combine to produce a healthy amount of straight-line stability, making it easy to hold her wide open.
Where the Shan No.5 really shines is through the turns. Whether it’s flat out open turns, or tight switchbacks in quick succession, the low bottom bracket and standover make this bike an absolute animal. I’ve never taken quite so much pleasure in riding super twisty tracks – this thing is absolutely on rails, with the subtle flex in the rear end giving it incredible grip and the geometry allowing for quick direction changes on a dime.
As steel rear ends go, this bike is on the stiffer side, but still provides that little bit of give that helps the tires conform to the terrain below, especially in the wet slop. Throughout the testing period there were multiple instances where I’d come out of a set of corners in amazement of just how well I’d gone through them. For me this bike has set a new standard in cornering prowess.
Through rough terrain, there’s not as much control or momentum carrying ability as some others in the class, perhaps due to the reduced negative travel that the lower-than-average 25% sag produces. That’s not to say it shies away from chunky terrain, just that it transmits a little more feedback to the rider and requires a little more attention to be paid to line choice and avoiding the square edges where possible. Speed can instead be found through a more pumptrack style approach, clearing the square edges and pumping any backsides rather than plowing through.
Big hits are handled fairly well given the 140mm rear travel, with the bottom out bumper only being felt on the harshest of flat landings. I’d even say the geometry and feel of the base tune on the CC rear shock feels more like there’s 160 millimeters out back, which does encourage some rowdiness that perhaps the bike should not see; but it never presented any real issues. Given its ability to tackle near enough any trail, it does result in more rider fatigue over the course of time than its longer legged counterparts, but this is to be expected.
There were a few minor points to note regarding the operation of the bike as a system. Firstly, the bike was initially fitted with a Fox DPS rear shock with a Production Privée custom tune. With this out back, the limited set up options meant that finding a balance between comfort and efficiency was a real struggle, and I never felt as if the rear end was performing quite like it should. Swapping this out for the Cane Creek Double Barrel air shock instantly transformed the rear end, sacrificing a small amount of pedaling support for oodles of traction and sensitivity that really did the Shan No.5 justice. Maybe some more time on board the Fox shock could have improved the set up to an acceptable level, but I’d certainly suggest the linkage driven, single pivot rear end deserves a high quality suspension unit to eek out the best from it.
The 2.4” Michelin tires fitted are quite tall in their profile, and as such on full compression on the muddiest of days, there was a little rubbing on the backside of the seat tube. Nothing that was ever felt when riding, but a rub mark was there to be seen. Under hard cornering forces, which were very frequent on this cornering animal, the combined flex of the Spank custom-tuned rear wheel and sum of the frame parts around the rear axle allowed the rear tire to contact the inside of the stays, producing a “Brrrp” noise that lets you know that you created some G’s. Again, not a huge cause for concern in my eyes, and to be fair there’s few bikes that don’t rub in the corners with my 200lb mass piloting them, but it’s worth pointing out. Clearance around the 32t front chainring is also quite tight, but didn’t manifest as any wear on the frame.
The final critique was the lack of a bashguard fitted to the bike I reviewed. A significant quantity of my riding involves navigating janky rock gardens, and the low bottom bracket puts that exposed chainring at a serious risk of damage. The final ride on board the bike saw this omission manifest in the ugliest manner, as the chainring met a pointy rock under a harsh bottom out, warping the ring enough for it to jam against the chainstay. Given the aggressive feeling of this bike, and its’ low BB, I’d consider it a necessity to equip it with a bash, especially since the ISCG tabs are provided to do so.