By Josh Patterson
Canfield Brother’s Nimble 9 is one of a growing number of 29er hardtails featuring short chainstays and slack—by traditional 29er standards—headtube angles. (Banshee, Chromag, Chumba, Kona and Transition are some of the other companies producing aggressive 29er hardtails of a similar ilk.)
It’s a challenge to build a 29er with short chainstays, ample tire clearance, and the ability to run a front derailleur. Pick any two of these three things and one can design a 29er frame with relative ease. But when all three of these criteria are required, that’s when the designer must get creative.
In the case of the Nimble 9 the seat tube is welded to the downtube, 35mm forward of the bottom bracket.
This provides enough real estate to run a direct-mount front derailleur without running into tire clearance issues. Tire clearance is good; the 2.35-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires have plenty of room, even with the sliding dropouts in the forward most position.
The Nimble 9 is a versatile frame. It can accommodate 80-120mm suspension forks, and the sliding dropouts allow it to be built up geared or singlepspeed. I’m testing the Nimble 9 in singlespeed mode with a 120mm fork.
The goal behind making a 29er with short chainstays is to make the bike more, well, nimble. The Nimble 9’s wheelbase is not much shorter than a traditional 29er hardtail. The difference lies in how that wheelbase length is allocated between the front and rear of the bike. A short rear end and a slack front result in a more rearward weight bias. If a downhill rider were to design a 29er hardtail it would pretty much ride like this—playful, excellent high-speed handling characteristics, and carvy through turns without sacrificing maneuverability.
So far I’ve had a great time riding the Nimble 9. But I would not be doing my job if I said the bike was perfect and left it at that. I have small issues with several aspects of the frame but if you want to read about those you’ll have to pick up the next issue, #162, headed to newsstands and subscribers now.