First Ride by Robert Johnston

Coal Bicycles is a relatively new player to the mountain bike world, manufacturing a selection of steel mountain bikes in their Nottinghamshire, England workshop. With a background in BMX racing, founder Gavin White wanted to create bikes with his own vision, and having made 500+ steel mountain bike frames and counting, it’s safe to say he knows how to manufacture them. We managed to pay Gav a visit at the Coal Bikes HQ and take their first full suspension enduro mountain bike – the Coal 84 – out for a ride at one of their local spots. Let’s dig into the details and talk about the first impressions of how it performed.


• 160mm TLFS dual-link Suspension
• HTA 64.5
• STA 78 (effective)
• REACH 475 (Large)

Price: £2,800 (Frame with shock)


Frame and Features | The Coal Bicycles 84 is a steel full suspension mountain bike that they’re keen not to pigeon hole into one particular category, although it wouldn’t be too farfetched to suggest it’s a modern enduro bike. It can be run with a pair of 29” wheels and 160mm of rear wheel travel, or a mixed wheel (mullet) setup with a smaller 27.5” rear wheel and 170mm travel; both of which are designed to run a 170mm fork. This switch between wheel sizes is made easy thanks to the flip chip on the lower shock mount, which alternatively offers “high” and “low” geometry settings for each wheel size.

Coal Bicycles 84 First Ride Report

There’s clearance in the rear for a 2.6” tire with mud clearance; compatibility with up to a 200mm rotor; boost rear axle spacing; a threaded bottom bracket; room for a large water bottle within the front triangle on every frame size; stealth dropper cable routing and neat bolt-on external cable guides that run along the top of the downtube.

Coal Bicycles 84 First Ride Report

Suspension | The rear suspension is delivered by Coal’s TLFS (Twin Linkage Floating System) co-rotating dual-link suspension design, which uses a Reynolds 853 and 4130 steel front and triangle connected by two machined 6082 aluminum rockers made by fellow british manufacturer Rideworks. Gavin is proud to say that all of the materials in his frames are sourced from within a 100 mile radius of their HQ. These rockers connect to the shock on both ends to create a fully floating shock. Coal selected this system to obtain the kinematics they desired as well as the overall frame characteristics – the compliant steel to offer improved comfort and grip, with the stiff aluminum links to stiffness and precision in the suspension. Opting to go for their TLFS design meant Coal was able to get the shock positioned low and centrally within the frame, in a bid to keep the center of gravity low and the 84 well balanced.

The Coal 84 is highly progressive with 45% progression in the 29” version over the shock stroke, increasing fairly linearly through the travel. Anti squat numbers hover around the 105% mark at sag in the climbing gears, which should give a reasonable pedaling platform. And the axle path begins with roughly 4mm of rearward movement up until sag, beyond which it starts to return forward until it ends at around 10mm forward of the start position – this axle path is quite comparable with a typical Horst Link bike.

Coal Bicycles 84 First Ride Report

Geometry | Coal selected the geometry on the 84 with the mindset of “able to hang with the best in the EWS but also be fun and agile at the bike park”. They offer the 84 in sizes Medium to Extra-Large as standard, though it may be possible to request custom sizing since every frame is made to order. In the high position of the flip chip, the 29” wheel configuration has a 64.5-degree head tube angle; 78-degree effective seat tube angle; 440mm chainstay and 18mm bottom bracket drop. A size large has a 475mm reach paired to a 616mm stack height; and a resulting 1265mm wheelbase. These are quite typical numbers for a modern enduro bike, aside from a relatively low stack height which may demand a high rise bar for steeper terrain.

Build Options | Every Coal Bicycles frame is handmade to order. They offer five paint color options as standard with two decal color options, with the ability to have full custom colorways for a surcharge. Standard price for the frame with a choice of RockShox Deluxe Coil or Air shock is £2,800, which can be upgraded to an Ohlins shock for extra. Coal will work with you to select and source components if you’d like a full build, with varying prices depending on your selected build.

Coal Bicycles 84 First Ride Report


My time on the Coal Bicycles 84 only amounted to a single ride, but it was at an old testing ground nearby to the Coal workshop that provided a good variety of trail styles and let me quickly get a feel for the character of the bike.

Pedaling the 84 proved to be a pleasant experience. Between its comfortable and centered climbing position; reasonable balance in its geometry to keep plenty of weight on the front wheel; and a healthy – but not excessive – amount of support in the suspension to avoid too much pedal induced suspension movement, the 84 goes uphill as well as your typical enduro bike. The burly tires with sticky rubber and overall no-nonsense prevented it from being an absolute rocket ship, but any notions of sluggishness that the steel frame may conjure should be ignored.

Onto the descents, the Coal produced a somewhat unique feeling from the get-go. It’s clear that Gavin’s BMX background has dictated some of the ride qualities, in that the Coal 84 loves to be ridden actively, popping and playing on the way down the hill. There’s a predictable and direct feeling in the suspension, with that highly progressive rear end encouraging you to push hard to see how close to the bottom out bumper you can get. Through countless drops and jumps to flat, the 84 refused to be phased, and prevented me from hitting the end of the stroke hard enough to feel unnerved. This will lead to less hard charging riders having the dilemma of under-springing the rear end to obtain the full stroke, or saving the last portion of the travel for the times when things get really wild, so it won’t be for everyone. But as a BMX or big hucking mountain biker’s mountain bike, it encourages you to “send it” that little bit harder. The frame packs slightly more stiffness overall than many steel machines, giving a reassuringly sturdy feeling that backs up this suspension platform.

In the single day of testing, the time spent tweaking the suspension was limited, so there’s undoubtedly some more performance to be unlocked. There were a few instances where the rear wheel felt to hang up more than I’d expected, carrying less speed through rougher sections in the process. Whether this is a tuning issue or a factor of the axle path and kinematic I’m unsure, and I’d need to spend some more time tuning to confirm. Aside from this though, the Coal 84 remained composed and fun for the duration of testing, loved ripping a turn and held its own through the majority of terrain encountered. As a unique steel machine with some healthy capability, it’s certainly worth considering for your next machine.

Price: £2,800 (Frame and RockShox shock)


Frame: Reynolds 853 and 4130 front/rear triangles, 6082 alloy rockers | 160mm TLFS suspension
Fork: EXT Era V2 | 170mm
Shock: EXT Storia LOK | 205x65mm

Brakes: Magura MT7 | 200mm rotors
Bar: Burgtec Ride High 35mm | 800mm Wide | 40mm Rise
Stem: Burgtec Enduro MK3 35mm | 40mm Length
Seatpost: Brand X Ascend | 200mm
Saddle: Fabric

Wheelset: Hunt Endurowide V2 29
Front tire: Schwalbe Magic Mary | Addix Ultra Soft | Super Gravity | 29″ x 2.5″
Rear tire: Schwalbe Big Betty | Addix Ultra Soft | Super DH | 29″ x 2.35″

Cassette: SRAM XG 1275 | 10-50T | 12spd
Cranks: Unite Alloy | 170mm
Shifter: SRAM XO1 Eagle | 12spd
Derailleur: SRAM GX Eagle | 12spd

We Dig

Competent pedaler
Predictable and direct feeling
Reasonably agile
Takes a big hit well

We Don’t

Not the best through the rough
May be overly progressive for less aggressive riding


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