For the European market, Propain has worked hard to provide a comprehensive bike configurator without adding a lofty price tag. Customers can pick their desired frame, decal and headtube badge colors from the range of options to get their dream look, and either opt for one of the standard build kits or individually tailor nearly every component on the Hugene to create a bike that ticks all their boxes. It is as close to a full custom build as they could make it, allowing you to create your dream ride at a reasonable price without the headache of individually sourcing each and every component. It ultimately gives the customer full control over where their money goes into the build, ensuring the priorities of the build satisfy their desires. Propain plans to offer this full configurator to the North American markets in the long term, but for now are only offering 3 fixed spec levels with the same frame color customizations.
Build kits begin from the €3399 Start level and can go all the way up to nearly €8500 for a maxed out, XX1 AXS and Crankbrothers carbon wheel equipped super bike. The individual, custom build tested comes in at a respectable €4650 euros. It featured a smart selection of lightweight and high-performance high-class components, without adding the flashy top tier Kashima coatings or carbon everything. A Fox Performance Elite level 34 with a Grip 2 damper pairs with a Float X CTD handle the suspension duties. It’s important to note that if you’re buying a Hugene now it will come with the 2022 Fox kit opposed to this 2021 setup, which will be a welcome upgrade. Carbon Sram Descendant cranks power an X01 Eagle drivetrain and stopping is down to their G2 RSC brakes with dual 200mm rotors. A reasonably lightweight Newmen Evolution SL30 wheelset is shod in a Schwalbe Super Trail Magic Mary/Big Betty combination, there’s a Bikeyoke Revive dropper, and finishing kit from Sixpack racing. This adds up to a respectable 13.8 kilos or just a hair over 30lbs without any major weight-weenie activities, so it would be easy to drop the weight a good amount below the 30lb mark if desired.
The US spec levels range from the $4,199 Start Level build with a solid components package that omits the bells and whistles, through to the $6,737 High-end build that’s decked out in Factory Level fox suspension with Carbon Newmen wheels and an XO1 drivetrain. Buyers in the US and Canada are still able to make use of the frame color and decal customizations for any of these builds like in Europe, adding a personal touch to the otherwise stock bikes.
The Hugene is offered in sizes S-XL to suit riders from 5’1” to 6’6”. Common themes throughout the sizing are short seat tubes that allow for multiple size choices for most riders, a constant 445mm rear end length, and a slammed 34mm BB drop to firmly place the rider weight beneath the axles.
Propain opted to modernize the Hugene’s geometry considerably for the second generation, raking out the head angle, increasing the reach and steepening the seat angle. With the 140mm fork option this produces a 65.5-degree head angle, 480mm reach and 630mm stack for the large size tested, producing a descending position that is roomy without going too extreme and hampering the agility. These reach numbers vary in 25mm increments between sizes, keeping them close enough to each other to avoid riders sitting awkwardly in between. The 76.5-degree effective seat angle combines with the fairly long chainstays to avoid a rearward weight bias on the climbs, keeping the front wheel weighted on the steeper terrain without making things too compact for flatter efforts. All added up, you’re left with a fairly average 1242mm wheelbase on the Large tested that should avoid any extreme handling traits.
We were able to hunt down Florian aka Flonky Gärtner, product manager at Propain HQ to learn a bit more about the Hugene’s intentions.
TLW: ONE OF YOUR SELLING POINTS OF THE HUGENE IS HOW FUN AND PLAYFUL IT IS, YET YOU OPTED TO EMPLOY 29” WHEELS – WHY WAS THIS?
Florian Gärtner (FG): The Hugene shows that it isn’t just 29er wheels as the number one factor to decide whether a bike is playful and fun or not. The geometry of the bike itself but also the spec you choose do have a much higher impact on that aspect.
We wanted the bike to be easy and fun to ride. 29er wheels just offer more stability, grip and control which ends up being quite fun and giving you the confidence to ride closer to your limits. Keeping light components, short travel and a well-rounded geometry made the Hugene our type of a “fun and playful” ride.
TLW: JIB-STYLE RIDING CAN BE VERY STRENUOUS ON A BIKE, IS THE HUGENE STRONG ENOUGH FOR THIS?
FG: No doubt about that. The Hugene is going through the same stability tests as all our other bikes do. The Hugene actually took bench testing like a champ and showed how capable a “Trailbike” can be these days. Other than that, we obviously did hand the bikes out to our WC rider to put the bikes to another limit which they would not see in “real-life” use which ended up with broken hearts as they had to give back the frames, but none of the frames really cared.
TLW: WHAT PUSHED YOU TO DESIGN THE CARBON FIBER UPPER LINK?
FG: We wanted to save some weight on the frame, as parts on those bikes are getting more and more heavy.
TLW: WHY DID YOU OPT TO ONLY OFFER A CARBON FIBER FRAME IN THE HUGENE?
FG: For that kind of a bike, Carbon fiber was pretty obvious to us. We are always looking into other options, but right now we are super happy with the solution we came up with. Weight saving is especially critical on these kinds of bikes. As mentioned before, the bike should still be playful and agile which suffers a lot when making the bike not light enough.
TLW: DO PEOPLE STILL REQUEST THE HUGENE WITH A COIL SHOCK? SUCH AS WITH A PROGRESSIVE SPRING? WILL THIS VOID THE WARRANTY OR HAVE ANY OTHER POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS?
FG: No, not that much. Air shocks just got better and better the last couple of years, and I am 100% confident that won’t stop. We didn’t really see the Hugene going with a coil shock. Testing a lot, we decided to keep the slim design and the weight low and not be compatible with a coil shock. We are also offering other bikes which do have full coil support where that setup fits the use case much better.
TLW: HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE USING THE CONFIGURATOR? DOES IT CREATE ANY TROUBLE ON YOUR END?
FG: 85% to 95%. Indeed, it is difficult. Especially in times like these, but it also helps us to keep the company “running” as we are still able to offer the customer another option even if the desired one is not available for a longer time period.
TLW: ARE CUSTOMERS LIMITED TO THE CONFIGURATOR OPTIONS OR CAN YOU CUSTOM ORDER OTHER PARTS FOR THEM?
FG: Yeah. Sad but true. Most of us are riders and did start with a custom bike. That’s why we go the extra mile and offer the custom bike configurator to you guys. But there is a limit. Behind every supplier and every part we offer, there is a process behind which helps us to keep up the quality and improve the products we want to offer to you. It is not as simple as it seems sometimes. But we’re constantly working on further options to always be up to date and to fulfil the needs of our customers.
TLW: WHY DID YOU INCREASE THE TRAVEL ON THE REAR END BY 10MM FOR THIS ITERATION OF HUGENE?
FG: We felt that the Hugene could use a little more potential to match the forks we did already use in the last model. But we also didn’t want to sacrifice the poppy feel of that bike. That 10mm was the perfect measure for us.
TLW: YOU OFFER SPEC OPTIONS TO INCREASE FORK TRAVEL TO THE 150MM FOX 36. HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THIS IMPACTS THE ALL-ROUND AGILITY AND CLIMBING ABILITY OF THE BIKE?
FG: It is changing more than you would expect. But to most of the customers it is giving more than it takes. You get more stability and more potential for rough trails etc. Climbing and the agility are obviously not as good anymore but still on par with the best in class I reckon. We offer that to give our customers the chance to push the bike a little more in one or the other direction and maybe make it fit even better to their intended use.
TLW: WHO IS THE HUGENE DESIGNED FOR?
FG: We wanted to create a bike which is perfect for our local trails here which can be quite rough but mixed with transfer sections. It should be more lightweight than the Tyee and a bit more efficient on the uphill. It should be a one-for-all bike, for everyone who wants a bike which is efficient on the uphill and capable on the descents.
Thanks to the configurator you can build the bike more robust (150mm fork with Magic Mary) or more lightweight and efficient with 140mm Pike or Fox34 with Nobby Nics.