PRIVATEER 141 REVIEW
THE PROGRESSIVE AND VERSATILE TRAIL CRUSHER
Words by Robert Johnston
Photography by Adam Lievesley
After much success and buzz around the 161, our testers were anxious to get some time on the shorter travel Privateer 141. Privateer Bikes has been on our radar since we first learned of their inception a couple years ago by the enthusiastic guys at mother brand, The Rider’s Firm. Learning that a bike brand was to be founded with the same ethos as the great performance-to-value-oriented brand, Hunt Wheels, we were excited at what this proposition would bring to the mountain bike frame world.
Fast forward a couple years and Privateer is a brand that is on many riders wish lists, with their race-proven 161 enduro machine firmly carving their unique position into the densely packed mountain bike market. Offering progressive geometry, suspension capable of handling the meatiest terrain and a value proposition that puts many brands to shame, the Privateer 161 quickly gained a large fan base, but its race-focused nature was perhaps a touch too much for your typical rider. To cater to the wider market, they set about producing a more manageable and versatile rig for the slightly less gnarly trails out there and came up with the Privateer 141. Read on to find out how it fared over a winter of abuse in the UK midlands.
Privateer bikes already had a winning formula in their 161 platform, so it is no surprise to see a very similar silhouette and all the same features on the 141. It is hard to find fault in their box-ticking frame design, with every element being well thought out, though it is not as polished around the edges as the more “premium” manufacturers. This should come as no surprise though, as the performance on offer for the very reasonable price tag must be achieved with some compromise.
The frame is constructed from 6066-T6 Aluminum throughout, with every tube hydroformed to a specific shape to offer the desired stiffness and looks. Privateer were able to save some cash by opting to use off-the-shelf tubing as opposed to having a custom tube set made, so it is safe to assume the 141 is somewhat overbuilt, but extra durability is hardly a terrible thing in isolation. The welding is quite rough and industrial to look at when compared to the likes of Trek’s post-smoothed seams but should not detract from the frame strength. Their Horst Link suspension features a one-piece rocker link, which should offer better performance than a 2-piece unit and is a sensible use of some frame budget. Reassuringly big bearings are used throughout the pivots for extra durability and stiffness, with the main pivot seeing a third bearing added to the drive side to manage the extra forces – a nice touch for riders hoping to abuse the 141 for the long haul. These bearings are all very readily available for pennies from your average bearing store, further innkeeping with the Privateer ethos when the time comes to replace them.
Privateer dialed the geometry back slightly for the 141 when compared to their ultra-progressive 161 model. However, this still leaves the Privateer 141 firmly at the extreme end of the spectrum for the trail category, being more aggressive than many bikes in even the enduro sector. Sizes are mainly governed by reach and stack figures instead of seat tube lengths, with the sizes numbered P1-P4, opposed to small through extra-large. This is made possible by short seat tube lengths with plentiful post insertion, allowing riders to happily size up or down and still run a healthy length of dropper. The P1 size features 27.5” wheels to suit the needs of shorter riders, with the rest sporting 29” front and back. There is not a mixed-wheel Privateer 141 option and they suggest against modifying an existing setup due to the geometry effects. Reach numbers are generous across the range spanning from 440mm on the P1 through to 510mm on the P4, and stacks are equally large at 607mm-646mm. The size P3 tested for my 6’2” (189cm) stature roughly equates to a Large and features a stubby 450mm seat tube to complement the generous 485mm reach and tall 637mm stack. A 64.5-degree head angle pairs with a 78.5-degree effective seat angle at max extension. The BB has 15mm drop for the P1 and sits 30mm below the axles for larger 29” wheeled sizes. Size-specific chainstays are in place to maintain the balance of the Privateer 141 across the size range. The 6mm increases for each size step from 434mm on the P1 up to a whopping 452mm on the P4, which is about as long as anyone is offering. These numbers are certainly progressive; however, some may suggest they’ll soon become the norm for the aggressive trail and enduro categories.
The Horst Link suspension system is one that many companies have favored over the years, but Privateer has applied their own ideas for the optimum kinematics, with some quite extreme figures in place to control its 141mm of rear travel. In the biggest 50t cog on the cassette, a healthy 150% anti-squat (AS) at sag is in place to counteract pedaling forces, rising through the gears up to a whopping 200% in the 10t cog. The increasing AS as you move down the cassette is a smart design ploy since there is more weight transfer in place when mashing the pedals in the harder gears. This should offer great pedaling support at all times, however, may not make for the most compliant rear end when on the gas. The leverage ratio drops from 2.6 in the beginning of the stroke down to 2.2 at bottom out, offering coil-friendly progression without becoming too extreme to utilize air shocks such as the Fox DPX2 that comes fitted as standard. Anti-rise is a low 48% at sag, which should allow the rear end to conform to the trail well at the expense of an extension of the rear end pitching the rider more towards the front of the bike.
As previously mentioned, the Privateer 141 really does tick all the boxes when it comes to the trail and enduro mountain bike desirables. There’s a threaded 73mm BB surrounded by ISCG-05 chain guide tabs; a Boost rear axle; 31.6mm seat tube; 180mm brake post mount; and ample clearance for 2.6” rubber and a 34t chainring. Cable routing is a good compromise of clean looks and service friendliness, with the gear and seat post cables internally routed with clamping ports, and the rear brake routed externally. There are bolted guides in place on the headtube which help to keep the cables neatly fixed at the most favorable angle. The most obvious cost-cutting measure is in the chainstay protection, which is rough and ineffective at preventing chain slap, leading to a noisy bike in the rough. This can be easily remedied by investing in some rubber mastic tape or another mountain bike-specific solution. Small touches like this confirm that the Privateer 141 is not intended for the boutique end of the market. We’ve since been informed that Privateer will soon offer a higher quality ribbed rubber protector to remedy this and we welcome to addition. The durable frame does come at a price, at a seriously portly 8.15lbs (3.7kg) for the smallest size without shock and axle. This places the 141 firmly at the top end of the weight list for the class, though exactly which class it belongs in is very much open to debate with the contrasting geometry and rear travel figures.
Privateer offers the 141 as a frame only with a Fox performance elite DPX2 shock for £1489 (roughly $2,050), or as a single complete build at £3149/$4,300. This complete SLX XT build tested is spec’d with a very well thought out build that offers faultless performance for the relatively cheap price tag. A 150mm travel Fox 36 Performance Elite fork featuring the excellent GRIP2 damper is a perfect match to the custom tuned DPX2 Performance Elite rear shock. As the name of the build suggests, the Privateer 141 is spec’d with a mixture of Shimano’s SLX and XT 12spd group set. This consists of an XT shifter mated to a SLX cassette, derailleur, and crank – very much the smart rider’s choice, providing the phenomenal Hyperglide+ shifting at a good compromise of cost and quality. Braking duties are handled by Magura with their capable MT5’s, featuring a 203mm rotor in the front paired to a 180mm out back. In-house brand Hunt are called upon for the wheels, with the 30mm internal Trail Wide wheelset in place to offer good performance without breaking the bank.
All size Privateer 141s feature the same Raceface 35mm cockpit with 20mm rise Turbine R bar and 40mm long Aeffect R stem; and a 180mm OneUp V2 dropper supporting a Fabric Scoop Elite saddle. The bike to ground connection is managed by 2.35” Schwalbe Super trail Addix soft rubber, with a Magic Mary in the front paired to a Hans Dampf out back producing a good compromise of grip and rolling resistance across most terrain conditions. There is nothing in the build list that calls for an immediate swap-out in my eyes, with all components offering stellar performance though avoiding any level of “bling”. The result is an undeniably heavy complete bike, but one that should allow for countless miles of mindless riding with minimal maintenance and prove to be fairly cheap to maintain in the long run.