STIF SQUATCH REVIEW
– THE TROUBLEMAKER –
Words by Robert Johnston // @robert_johnston
Photography by Adam Lievesley // @adamlievesleybmx
Stif Bicycles are the spawn of Stif Mountain Bikes, a prolific UK bike shop in operation since 1984. 4 years ago, Stif put their heads together to create the first bike that sported the Stif name – their Morf hardcore hardtail. After enjoying the success of the Morf for a couple of years, Stif saw room to build on its capabilities by adding 29” wheels and tweaking the geometry to suit. The result is their second bike to the market: the Stif Squatch. They kindly lent me their Pro build for a thrashing in the depths of the UK Midland’s Winter.
The Squatch is constructed from a 4130 chromoly steel tube set that has been shaped and curved throughout to produce the desired ride characteristic that led their original Morf to being such a success. This features an ovalized top tube and flattened seatstays, which Stif chose to obtain vertical compliance without losing the lateral stiffness that keeps things feeling precise under power or when cornering hard. Connecting the drive side chainstay to the bottom bracket is their unique “12 bore” bridge which not only looks interesting, but also allows for impressive tire clearance for the fitment of chunky 2.6” rubber and a 34t chainring with the compact 430mm rear end. The seat tube is mostly straight to offer plentiful dropper insertion depth; with a slight offset forwards, and a curve down by the bottom bracket, that allows for the rear wheel to be squeezed in whilst maintaining adequate mud clearance. There is also some visible external butting on this seat tube, adding further proof that careful thought has been put into each and every tube on the Squatch.
The Squatch ticks all the boxes when it comes to the desirables for consumers and mechanics alike: ISCG-05 tabs sit around the bb for those looking to add some drivetrain security; there is a threaded bb and external cable routing all around to make maintenance a breeze; a 44mm headtube and 12x148mm rear axle for the most universal compatibility; and bolt-on dropouts to ensure it’s not the end of the frames life if the worst was to happen. Bottle bosses are in place on the downtube, and there is a 160mm post mount to accommodate any rotor size. To keep it as weatherproof as possible, Stif applies an Ed-black anti-rust treatment to the frames which should resist any rusting of the steel tubes in even the worst winter conditions.
Stif wanted the Squatch to be at the forefront of capabilities for an all-mountain hardtail; so it sports some fairly extreme geometry numbers that would have been considered obscene a few years ago, without tipping into the insane realm. Thankfully, geometry has come on leaps and bounds since the beefed-up road bike days, and we can now have no-compromise machines that climb and descend equally impressively.
The foundation of the Squatch is a relatively short travel 130mm fork. Stif selected this lower travel number to preserve the geometry as best as possible when pushing hard, with the premise that a more consistent and predictable geometry is better than extra travel across most situations. This is an important consideration on a hardtail since the compression of the fork makes for drastic steepening of the head angle in addition to the lowering of the BB. This fork features a short 42mm offset to increase the trail value and offer stable handling without having to add to the overall length of the bike.
Stif makes the Squatch in three sizes (M-XL) to suit riders from 5’5”- 6’6” (165cm -198cm). Common to these sizes is a 64-degree head angle; 78-degree seat angle (effective, at max extension); 430mm chainstays and 80mm bottom bracket drop. This bb drop is set to mimic a full suspension bike of similar intentions when sagged, so it should not ring alarm bells when compared to a static figure from a full suspension bike geometry chart. Reaches are a roomy 460-500mm, with relatively short 420-480mm seat tube lengths allowing most riders to comfortably run a 175 or even 200mm post. Stack reads high on paper at 653mm for M and L and 661mm on the XL frame (with the differences dictated by the 10mm extra length on the headtube of the XL), but again this number should not feel so extreme when compared to a full suspension machine.
Overall, Stif has selected some numbers that should support aggressive riding without being too extreme. That seat angle is particularly interesting in my eyes, with the 78-degree figure quoted at max extension – this means that it will end up steeper for most riders who run the seat post somewhat into the frame and will further steepen thanks to the sag of the fork. To put it simply, this is one very modern seat angle!
The Squatch frame alone can be purchased for £599.99 if you want to build your own custom dream machine; or Stif offers full builds in two spec levels. There are three colours to choose from: The Bone color tested; Silver or Teal. The more budget-minded “AM” build retails at £1899.99 (roughly $2650) with the “Pro” spec tested coming in at £2499.99 ($3450). The builds share the same general themes, with a 130mm RockShox Pike fork up front; SRAM brakes and Eagle 12spd drivetrain; WTB KOM trail i30 rims; Burgtec contact points, and a KS dropper. The difference between them lies in the product tiers and the finishing details of the spec, with generally “workhorse” entry to mid-level components on the AM being replaced with mid to high tier equivalents on the Pro.
The Pro model leads with the RockShox Pike ultimate fork, sporting its flashy silver paint. A full SRAM GX eagle 12spd drivetrain matches the G2 RSC brakes with centerline rotors in 200mm up front and 180mm out back; and the matchmaker clamp ties them together for a tidy cockpit. Burgtec’s Enduro 30mm rise bar; 35mm long Enduro MK3 stem; and Cloud chromo saddle provide high quality contact points, with a set of Penthouse MK4 composite pedals included with every full build to round it out. Hope supplies the headset, in addition to their Pro 4 hubs which are laced to WTB KOM Trail i30 rims with DT swiss spokes. Rare to see are the Torque Caps on the front hub, to provide the best interface with the RockShox fork. A KS Lev Integra handles dropper duty, with options of 175mm or 200mm available depending on rider preference. Rounding out the build are Maxxis tires: A Minion DHF 29×2.6” 3C EXO TR on the front pairs with a Rekon 29×2.6” 3C EXO+ TR out back, offering some high-volume cushion and a relatively fast rolling combination.