DEVIATE CYCLES HIGHLANDER 150

THE ULTIMATE ONE BIKE QUIVER JUST GOT BIGGER

Words by Robert Johnston | Photos Courtesy of Deviate Cycles
Video by Adam McGuire / 

Deviate has responded to the requests of many customers who were looking to add further downhill charging capabilities to their Highlander 140 model, by offering a new linkage that boosts the travel to 150mm; slackens the head angle a touch to 65 degrees; and increases the end-stroke progression to produce an all-round more capable package. This new linkage makes the Highlander 150 coil-friendly, further adding to the High Pivot Point’s terrain-ironing ride characteristics.

Deviate was careful to ensure this bolstered downhill performance would not come at the expense of the all-round nature of the bike, which they claim to still provide a happy platform on which to pedal all day.

Deviate Highlander 150

ONE BIKE – TWO FLAVOURS
Offering the two different link options to accompany a shared main frame and shock stroke means the Highlander can be tailored to an individual rider’s preferences as well as switched up for a specific riding condition or style. This allows the Highlander to be almost two bikes in one, with the 140-linkage producing a more agile ride ideal for longer days in the saddle or mellower terrain; and the 150mm option adding big-hit capabilities for bike park and testing enduro days.

Tech Talk
Deviate prefers to keep themselves clear of acronyms and excessive marketing jargon, and instead offers a transparent look at their use of simple engineering concepts.

High Pivot Point
The heart of the Highlander is that high pivot point, linkage driven single pivot rear suspension. Utilizing a high pivot point, which is accompanied by an idler centered on this main pivot, creates a rearward axle path for the majority of the travel. This aligns the movement of the wheel better with the direction of the impacts the wheel will face when charging through rough terrain, which helps to maintain forward momentum of the bike as it reduces the “hang up” of the wheel. The high pivot point also exhibits characteristics which preserve the geometry under heavy braking, maintaining confidence when charging hard through the rough. This makes the Highlander perform as if the rear end has increased travel than the numbers may suggest.

Deviate Highlander 150

Linkage
The linkage design on the Highlander 150 offers a smoothly arcing progressive leverage ratio, which provides extra support as the bike dives deeper into its travel and therefore offers coil-shock compatibility. Thanks to the idler design, chain forces react independently from this leverage ratio, allowing the progression and anti-squat to be tuned separately.

Idler
The Idler is the most visually unique part of the Highlander, setting it apart from most trail and enduro bikes that use a conventional chainline. This Idler routes the chain up and around the high main pivot, allowing the anti-squat levels to be tuned by Deviate and eliminating pedal kickback issues. The resulting ride allows for relatively efficient pedaling whilst avoiding chain-induced feedback through the pedals in rough terrain.

Deviate Highlander 150 Geo
Deviate Highlander 150

SITTING DOWN WITH DEVIATE CYCLES

We were able to pick the mind of Ben Jones, the Managing Director at Deviate Cycles, regarding the Highlander 150’s intentions and development process.

TLW: IN MAKING A BIKE THAT’S DESIGNED TO PEDAL WELL AND PERFORM VERY GOOD ON THE DESCENTS, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAD TO MAKE ANY COMPROMISES?
Ben Jones (BJ): Any trail bike is a compromise between uphill and downhill performance. Our goal with the Highlander was to minimize that compromise, using the unique kinematics of the high pivot combined with playful geometry to create a bike that performs well all over the mountain.

TLW: HOW MANY PROTOTYPES DID YOU GO THROUGH BEFORE YOU SETTLED ON THE FINAL MODEL? DID YOU USE AN ALUMINUM MULE? WE’D LOVE TO SEE IT!
BJ: We prototyped extensively during the development of the Highlander – using adaptable alloy “mules” to test different set-ups such as geometry, leverage curves and rear wheel travel.

Once the numbers are decided upon – we use CAD to design a carbon frame that matches these numbers. Finally, we receive several production samples out of the mold, some of which are tested to destruction, and some are ridden by our development team to ensure the frame has the ride feel we were looking for.

Deviate Highlander 150 Dissected

TLW: BEING BASED IN SCOTLAND, HAVE YOU DONE ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY TO THE BIKE TO MAKE IT HANDLE THE USUAL WET AND MUDDY CONDITIONS?
BJ: Ultimately, we ride all year and many of our customers do too. It’s really important to us that the Highlander frame is designed from the ground up for the worst of conditions. Every bearing has additional sealing in the form of industrial spec single lip wiper seals. Each bearing point has grease injection as well to keep things running smoothly all winter.

TLW: SHOULD PEOPLE BE CONCERNED ABOUT MAINTENANCE WITH THE IDLER?
BJ: In a word, no. We learnt a lot from the Guide, and we’ve carried on those lessons to the Highlander to make the idler simple, reliable, stiff, and silent. The idler wears out at about the same rate as a front chainring, and we suggest replacing at the same time. A replacement costs £25. It really is a very minor extra wear part to replace, for a huge increase in performance.

TLW: WHAT WERE YOUR MAIN MOTIVES FOR MOVING TO A CONVENTIONAL DERAILLEUR SETUP?
BJ: Gearboxes have their place and we loved it for big climbs and big descents. The advantages to suspension performance are noticeable and something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

For more undulating terrain and certainly when the riding is fairly “power on, power off”, the gearbox feels a bit draggy, and engagement is poor. For this reason, we decided, for a trail bike, a conventional derailleur system was well suited.

TLW: WHAT SORT OF RIDER IS THE HIGHLANDER 150 AIMED AT?
BJ: Anyone that is looking for one bike to do it all. We’ve worked hard to balance the capability of the bike so that it’s equally at home on the most technical of downhill tracks as it is on a cross country loop through the countryside. Even if you are lucky enough to have a stable of bikes for all occasions – having a bike that is at home in such a broad range of terrain is a huge advantage as ultimately you can only ride one at a time.

Deviate Highlander 150 Dissected

THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSION

Deviate’s Highlander was in such high demand at the time of filming this video, that they were only able to lend a bike out for two days, during which we filmed the Dissected video. This left minimal time to get the Highlander set up perfectly and become accustomed to the ride, so the take-aways are far from a final and definitive verdict.

One thing that’s for sure is the Highlander 150 tested was a comfortable machine to climb. The angles are not ultra-progressive, with a 75-degree seat angle that required the seat to be pushed forward on the rails. The size Large’s 467mm reach was slightly shorter than our 6’2” tester Rob would have preferred, with the XL’s 491mm figure perhaps being a more suitable figure in hindsight, but it did little to detract from the comfort on the way up the hill. The relatively long 443mm chainstays, which grow to around 455mm at SAG, offset the slightly slack seat tube angle and help to keep weight on the front wheel on the steeper sections of climb, giving the Highlander reasonable capability to winch up steep technical climbs.

Deviate Highlander 150 Dissected

On the way down the hill, the Highlander 150 proved to be a comfortable machine to hop onto and ride hard from the get-go, providing a stable ride with a suspension action that really took the sting off the rough sections of trail. The pedaling performance on flatter sprints was impressive, with a real feeling of disconnect between the bump-eating and pedaling sides of its character. Hitting square edges whilst pedaling, the Highlander did an impressive job of maintaining momentum without the “hook-up” you’d usually expect, yet it didn’t wallow all over the place when laying down the watts on smoother terrain either. The rear wheel was impressively free to conform to the terrain and iron out the chatter, but still provided a good level of trail feel and control. The extending wheelbase throughout the travel encouraged hard charging, with impressive composure on the bigger hits for a bike with 150mm travel. It wasn’t a particularly playful bike, requiring a little more speed and “yank” than many bikes in its class to get airborne. This isn’t to say you couldn’t still have fun hitting side hits and natural trail gaps, just that it’s a bike that is keen to take the racier lines.

With only a weekend under my belt on board the Highlander 150, I wasn’t able to fully develop my opinions and play with the setup at all in order to give a final verdict to the performance and durability of the bike, but if the first impressions are anything to go by then it’s clear that Deviate has made something special with this All Mountain machine, and I’ll be crossing my fingers that Deviate will be able to find a spare bike kicking about for me to put some time into to produce a long term review.

VISIT DEVIATE’S WEBSITE TO LEARN MORE
Deviate Highlander 150 Dissected