2021 PROPAIN HUGENE

IT CLIMBS, IT JIBS, IT SHREDS

Words by Robert Johnston  | Photos by Adam Lievesley
Video by Adam McGuire/McGuire Visuals

SPONSORED CONTENT

Propain Bikes introduced the Hugene back in 2018; a bike they were motivated to make in order to offer themselves a more agile platform for their less gnarly home trails, that would still be capable for adventures into the unknown. This was the first model they had released with 29” wheels and piloted their updated Pro10 configuration, with the rear shock relocated to within the front triangle. Not only did this give aesthetic benefits, but removed the concerns from riders about shock longevity in the firing line of dirt and further centralized the center of gravity. This new configuration was so successful that Propain then updated the remainder of their lineup to follow suit. After a few years of service, it was time for the Hugene to get a facelift to bring it closer in line with their new design language and stay on-trend with the current geometry and customer desires – enter the Hugene 2021.

Following feedback from their team and customers, Propain opted to add 10mm of travel to the Hugene to produce a 140mm travel bike they say has phenomenal uphill performance but doesn’t hesitate to go full speed on rough terrain. But they didn’t stop there, and thanks to their Bike Configurator they offer customers the option to spec a 150mm fork to boost the descending capabilities of the bike. Add to this the on-trend geometry adjustments, and you’ve got a significantly more capable bike for the descents. However, they didn’t want to lose the all-mountain, well rounded essence of the Hugene, so looked to improve the climbing performance at the same time. The seat tube is steeper, the weight lower, and the anti-squat higher in order to add climbing prowess to a bike that was no slouch to begin with.

As with all of our Dissected Features, this is not intended to be a long term review or endorsement of a product but is instead a chance for our viewers and readers to get a deep dive look into some of the newest tech and products in the mountain bike space. We thank Propain Bikes for the opportunity to create this feature and working with us on exclusive interviews. Our impressions of the bike are 100% our own and we will be working on a long-term review over the coming months.

Propain Hugene Dissected

PRO10 SUSPENSION

As with the rest of Propain’s adult full suspension bikes, the Hugene utilizes their Pro10, full floating, dual-link suspension design. This design has been modified and optimized over the years, but retains the same properties that founder Robert Krauss had sought when first starting the company. The shock is driven by a link at each end, the top which sees a relatively large anti-clockwise rotation, whereas the bottom rotates a small amount clockwise. For the first time in a Propain frame, the upper link is produced out of carbon fiber to reduce the weight and add stiffness, and is color-matched to the main frame to add an extra touch of class to the looks. Having total control of pivot placement allows Propain to tune the handling characteristics of their rear suspension to their liking.

Propain Hugene Pro10 Suspension Linkage

The Pro10 name stems from the 10 values that Mr. Krauss had considered key to the performance of a rear suspension design, and are as follows:

  1. Highest drive neutrality – separating the drivetrain forces from the rear suspension.
  2. Sensitive response – reacting to the terrain to offer grip and cushion.
  3. Best possible traction – to keep the tires stuck to the ground.
  4. Ideal progression to optimally utilize the suspension travel and prevent sagging. – For the Hugene, Propain opted to design exclusively around air shocks in order to control the overall progression as tightly as possible and ensure you get the most desirable suspension response.
  5. Excellent anti-squat values – low bobbing when pedaling to improve efficiency
  6. High frame stiffness – to let you push hard
  7. Favorable force transmission into the main frame – to give a lightweight construction without risking failures
  8. Robust bearings – to keep you riding instead of maintaining
  9. Low & central center of gravity – to give the best ride feel
  10. Low braking influence – to keep the wheel tracking the ground when on the anchors.
Propain Hugene in Action

BIKE CONFIGURATOR

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.

GEOMETRY

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.

Propain Hugene Dissected

Q&A TIME

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.

Propain Hugene Dissected

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.

Propain Hugene Dissected

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.

FSA eMTB Carbon i29 Wheels Dissected

THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Prior to filming the Dissected episode, I was able to put a good amount of time on the Hugene, so I can give quite a good indication of the bike’s character, but until I’ve made a final few tweaks I can’t quite give my verdict overall.

There’s one thing for sure, the Hugene has excellent climbing prowess, both in terms of its efficient pedaling platform as well as it’s geometry. Whether seated or stood up, there’s limited wallowing when you mash on the pedals and good weight on the front wheel to make the steeper climbs pleasant. The light weight helps in this regard too, where the Hugene accelerates well for its class and lets you hop up steps with less effort. Whether it’s the technical climbs or longer fire road slogs, the Hugene is a pleasant ride.

When it comes to the descents, the Hugene definitely lives up to its “it Jibs” marketing slogan. There’s a whole load of support in that rear end to push off, encouraging poppy and playful behavior and making use of the progressive rear end often. The geometry is more aggressive than you’d perhaps expect a play-oriented bike to sport, but it doesn’t limit the agility of the bike too bad as you may notice in the video. I had concerns over the Fox 34 spec’d up front, which materialized once I’d got the setup to a zone that let me push the Hugene hard. I’d certainly look to spec a 36 if I was planning to use the Hugene for anything particularly gnarly or steep, but I am a bigger guy who likes to attack – for less aggressive riding it’s great.

I’ve struggled a touch to get an ultra-plush response out of the Hugene in rough terrain thus far, but I’m not done playing with it. Stay tuned for the long-term review coming to the site soon where I give my final verdict.

VISIT PROPAIN’S WEBSITE TO GET YOUR HUGENE, OR CHECK OUT THEIR OTHER MODELS
Propain Hugene in Action

“HIGHEND” BUILD KIT
Price: 7.129 €

Fork: Fox 34 Float FIT4 Factory Kashima 140mm
Shock: Fox Float X 2. Pos Factory 140mm

Brakes: SRAM G2 Ultimate Carbon 200/200mm
Drivetrain unit: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS (1×12)
Trigger: SRAM AXS Eagle Controller (1×12)
Derailleur: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS (1×12)
Cassette: SRAM XG-1299 Eagle Rainbow 10-52 (1×12)
Crank: SRAM XX1 Carbon 32Z

Handlebar: SIXPACK Millenium Carbon 805
Stem: SIXPACK Millenium 45
Saddle: SIXPACK Kamikaze
Seatpost: Fox Transfer Factory

Wheels: NEWMEN Advanced SL A 30
Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic Supertrail

CUSTOMIZE NOW!

“PERFORMANCE” BUILD KIT
Price: 4.599 €

Fork: RockShox Pike Ultimate RCT3 140mm
Shock: RockShox Deluxe Ultimate RCT 140mm

Brakes: SRAM G2 RSC 200/200mm
Drivetrain unit: SRAM X01 Eagle (1×12)
Trigger: SRAM X01 Eagle (1×12)
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle (1×12)
Cassette: SRAM XG-1275 10-52 (1×12)
Crank: Truvativ Descendant Carbon Eagle 32Z

Handlebar: SIXPACK Millenium 805
Stem: SIXPACK Vertic 50
Saddle: SIXPACK Kamikaze
Seatpost: Bikeyoke Revive

Wheels: NEWMEN Evolution A 30
Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic Supertrail

CUSTOMIZE NOW!

“START” BUILD KIT
Price: 3.399 €

Fork: RockShox Pike Select RC 140mm
Shock: RockShox Deluxe Select+ RT 140mm

Brakes: SRAM G2 R 200/200mm
Drivetrain unit: SRAM GX Eagle (1×12)
Trigger: SRAM GX Eagle (1×12)
Derailleur: SRAM GX Eagle (1×12)
Cassette: SRAM XG-1275 10-52 (1×12)
Crank: Truvativ Descendant Eagle 32Z

Handlebar: SIXPACK Millenium 805
Stem: SIXPACK Vertic 50
Saddle: SIXPACK Kamikaze
Seatpost: PROPAIN Seatpost

Wheels: NEWMEN Performance 30
Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic Supertrail

CUSTOMIZE NOW!
Propain Hugene in Action