PROPAIN TYEE CF 29 REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston | Photography by Adam Lievesley
Based in the South West of Germany, Propain Bikes is a rider owned, direct-to-consumer sales brand, sporting a range of Aluminium and Carbon bikes. Their lines include models designed for 4 year old shredders to e-bikes; and a range of mountain bikes from a 29er trail rig to a full blown downhill race machine. A team of 40 handles their operation from Vogt in the Alpine foreland, close to the Austrian and Swiss borders.
Propain was imagined in 2006 by Robert Krauss, an Engineer who was working for a helicopter manufacturer at the time whilst racing downhill on the side. He set about on the quest to design the best linkage system for a Downhill bike. He called this Pro10 because it had to fulfill the 10 points he believed would make a perfect system; which included pedaling neutrality, high sensitivity, low center of mass and good weight distribution between the wheels. Ever since, the Pro10 system has been at the heart of Propain and the reason for their unique Frame design. In the inception, Propain was a solely Downhill oriented brand, but six years ago they diversified their portfolio into the Enduro market with the addition of the Tyee, which has seen a few iterations including a very recent update to bring it up to 2020 standards, and is the bike they kindly supplied to test.
Naturally, with their roots firmly in downhill racing, Propain have had a factory World cup team, seeing top riders like Phil Atwill and Joe Smith on the roster over the years. For this season they welcomed established rider George Brannigan on board, which can only be a good thing for any company!
One of the most unique things about Propain is that they don’t have any fully built bikes on the rack. Each bike sold is produced to order, ensuring the customer gets the bike according to their exact preferences and budget. Being fully rider owned, and with most of the staff being mountain bikers, the company is filled with passion for two wheels; ensuring that as they grew, they never took themselves too seriously and were always approachable. They strive to keep this close connection to their customers, with a credo to “build the best bikes for themselves and their friends”, which they understand to be the reason people love Propain.
Propain offers the 160mm travel Tyee in Aluminum and Carbon Fiber varieties, in both 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes; with the 27.5” spanning sizes S-L, and 29” M-XL. This gives riders between 168cm and 192cm the choice of the two wheel sizes depending on their preference. My 189cm stature would have allowed me to ride the Large on either bike, but I opted for the XL 29er CF model since it sported my familiar 490mm reach figure.
The 29er shares a 64.5° head angle, 77.1° effective seat angle (73.5° actual), 445mm chainstay and 26mm bb drop across all sizes. Reach figures are modern but not extreme; at 451mm, 471mm and 491mm; for medium, large and extra-large respectively; but accompanied by the big 630mm, 639mm and 648mm stack figures the riding position is quite roomy when out of the saddle. Average length 440mm, 460mm and 480mm seat tubes don’t give riders the potential to easily size-up, though most riders should be able to fit a reasonably long dropper on their most appropriate size. The relatively long rear end and slack head angle do add up to create a fairly sprawled-out bike; but the relatively steep seat angle creates a nicely centered climbing position for getting up the hills.
Propain have been evolving their “Pro10” system since their inception, and their most recent iteration sees the shock moved inside the front triangle, removing the concerns that many had voiced previously regarding the potential for shock damage and wear. They’ve managed to package their dual counter-rotating link; full floating shock, linkage design in such a compact way that there’s room for a large water bottle in the front triangle, whilst still offering clearance for large air and coil shocks. This system features a healthy amount of anti-squat (over 100% in all cogs at all points in the travel), which should help to keep the 160mm rear end from feeling too sluggish when on the gas, and there’s a great deal of progression to support hard-charging with both coil and large-volume air shocks. The Tyee is designed to be a true all-round mountain bike, so Propain has focused on providing great pedaling characteristics and healthy amounts of pop.
The “Blend” Carbon construction that Propain use on the Tyee CF contains a blend (hence the name) of different types of pre-preg fabrics (carbon layers that are pre-impregnated with the resin matrix prior to laying up and curing the frame), to obtain the desired properties in each area of the frame. The industrial designers at Propain have done a great job with the lines on the frame, with its looks gathering many positive comments over the testing period. Internal routing is made simple due to the internal channeling, and there’s nicely shaped downtube and chainstay protection fitted from factory to fend off the most likely damage and wear. Propain fitted “dirt shield” hardware on the linkage (an extra set of seals to keep water and mud out), which should keep the rear end running smoothly for many miles.
Propain bikes can be purchased directly from their website in Europe and North America. Propain explained their current situation in the North American market: “We just started selling bikes in the US in February. Since the North American market is huge and for a quite small company like us it’s a mammoth task so we wanted to start low key. Custom bikes are super complex when it comes to purchasing all the different parts from various manufactures and building them up. We decided to start slowly so everything can evolve and grow. So we can keep our word when it comes to quality, delivery time and service. Currently we only have pre-configured bikes available for North America. Soon we will offer a “light” version of the configurator for the Tyee, which includes the frame color, decals and the suspension.”
For European customers, there’s a full customization service on offer. They offer three different spec levels as a recommendation, but Propain say the majority of their bikes see the custom configuration treatment. The alloy version starts at €2.399 with the base spec, with the carbon fiber frame bumping the base price up to €2.999. The Tyee CF on test was a custom build coming in at €5.254, leaving very little to be desired with its top spec Fox Factory suspension; full SRAM XO1 groupset with Code RSC brakes; and a host of German components top it off in the form of the Newmen Evolution SL A.30 wheels; the excellent BikeYoke Revive dropper; a good quality cockpit and saddle from Sixpack Racing; and some Schwalbe Magic Mary rubber.
Propain supplied this Tyee for an extended test period, during which time the world was facing the wrath of the covid-19 pandemic. This made for a lot of local testing on the tight and technical trails of the midlands of England, combined with some simulated bike park and downhill testing on the shorter local runs. Although there were no serious bike park trips that the Tyee was calling for, the testing period allowed for the full spectrum of the capabilities of the bike to be assessed.