First Ride: Atherton AM.130.X at Dyfi Bike Park
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First Ride: Atherton AM.130.X at Dyfi Bike Park

Jan 06, 2024

Atherton Bikes has finally announced its long-awaited trail bike, the AM.130. Like the AM.150 all-mountain bike and the AM.200M DH Bike, the new 130mm travel Atherton Bike is assembled from carbon tubing and titanium lugs, the latter made using the somewhat mesmerizing process of additive manufacturing. The made-to-order business model gives the brand flexibility to offer a much more comprehensive approach to sizing. As a result, the AM.130 is available in no fewer than twenty-two sizes.

There are two models to choose from, too. The AM.130 gets a 140mm travel fork delivering a 65.5 degree head angle, while the AM.130.X is bumped up to a 150mm fork and has a slightly slacker head angle of 65 degrees as a result.

All design, development, and a large portion of the manufacturing happens at the Atherton Bikes HQ in Machynlleth, Wales, a short drive away from Dan Atherton's Dyfi Bike Park, and within reach of the hundreds of kilometers worth of hand-cut natural trails on which this bike was tested.

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The AM.130 is a complete 29er pitched as a do-it-all trail bike, light and efficient enough for big days pedaling from peak to peak, but burly and supportive enough for bike park laps. As such, the carbon-titanium frameset has passed all of the most stringent EFBE Cat 4 (Enduro) and Cat 5 tests (Downhill), and is sold with a lifetime warranty that extends to the first owner only.

"We set out to design a bike that delivered a super fun ride whatever the terrain. The AM130 handles trickier, technical terrain in its stride but it's still super playful on a mellower trail. We went back to the drawing board with lug construction, stripping out even more material where it didn't directly contribute to the bike's strength which makes for a lighter ride and fantastic handling on the climbs; but this bike still descends like an Atherton – it's the perfect combination for a big adventure or a blast round the local woods." – Dan Brown, Atherton Bikes CEO.

The AM.130 delivers its rear wheel travel through a suspension platform designed in collaboration with the prolific Dave Weagle; the DW6 linkage runs a 6-bar layout, a similar version of which can be seen on Atherton's longer travel frames.

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The platform is said to offer "suppleness at the top of the stroke for outstanding small bump sensitivity, good support in the mid-stroke for optimal ride height and the progressive nature of the kinematic accommodates even the biggest of hits".

Across the 22 frame sizes, there are 13 reach figures to choose from, stretching from 410mm up to 530mm, with 10mm increments between each. For most reach figures, the frame is offered in "Low" or a "Regular". The former sports the shorter seat tube and head tube length options, while the latter sports a seat tube length that is 20mm taller and a head tube that is 10mm taller. Angles and chainstay length remain unchanged between the two.

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Head tube angles remain fixed at 65.5 degrees, but the seat tube angles vary through the sizing; the smaller options come in at an effective 77 degrees, steepening to a maximum of 79 degrees on the largest options, all in a bid to prevent taller riders experiencing too much of a rearward bias in the seated pedaling position.

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"The AM.130 is designed to be super playful, wherever you want to ride, so don't limit yourself. I frequently take this bike on a long pedal ending up in Dyfi Bike Park and riding the hardest trails down to the café. It's always such a fun ride, I don't even mind pedalling uphill, and I hate pedalling!" – Rachel Atherton.

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I was fortunate enough to get a day's riding on the Atherton AM.130.X at Dyfi Bike Park back in March, when Continental were showcasing their new line of Trail, Enduro and DH tires. CEO Dan Brown (aka the 4th Atherton) supplied me with his very own AM.130 with a 430mm reach. It has a 430mm chainstay length to match, a BB drop of 38mm and a stack of 608mm. For reference, I am 5ft 4″ tall, and often ride trail and enduro bikes with reach figures within the 415-440mm range.

It was fitted with a 150mm travel Fox 36 Factory Fork, a Fox Float X Factory shock, Trickstuff Direttissima Brakes and a Stan's Arch wheelset fitted with Continental Kryptotal DH Casing SuperSoft tires. Not the lightest trail bike build in the world, granted, but suitable for a day riding fast slate-rock tracks sculpted by Dan Atherton.

The day was entirely uplifted, so I can't comment on how the bike pedals. I’m fairly limited as to what I can say about how it descends, too, given the day was spent on unfamiliar terrain and on unfamiliar tires. What I can say is the following…

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Firstly, it is well balanced; with the chainstay length exactly matching the reach, this may come as no surprise. Often, I spend the first few rides on any test bike trying to "find the middle". What I mean by that is that I spend much time learning how small, subtle changes in weight distribution affect the bike's handling. On the AM.130 this process happened almost immediately; it quickly felt intuitive, and just like home.

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That is also a function of a well balanced suspension set-up. As I got up to speed on Dyfi's popular Super Swooper track, I found I wasn't quite using all of the rear wheel travel, despite having set it to the recommended 30% sag. It's possible the shock was running too many volume spacers to suit my riding style, and the track I was riding, and given that the Continental tires were the focus of the day, I didn't spend much time fettling with the bike itself.

Despite not having pushed through all of the bike's 130mm rear wheel travel, it never as harsh as I might expect a bike of this travel bracket to feel. Flat pedals and all, the rear end tracked smoothly, with no drama to report. On the whole, I had no qualms with how it rode. It sort of disappeared underneath me, allowing me to focus on the fresh features without any worries about the bike at all. If that's not a sign of a good bike, I don't know what is.

Finally, the bike is noticeably quiet. It has fully guided tube-in-tube internal cable routing which seems to be well managed. A more in-depth review of the AM.130 will have to wait until I’ve had the chance to spend more time on it on my local trails of the Tweed Valley. All in good time!

After a day of shredding Dyfi Bike Park, we had a whistle-stop tour of the Atherton Bikes HQ in Machynlleth, which included me ogling at the laser-sintering process they use to additively manufacture the frames’ titanium lugs.

Theoretically, it takes around 16 hours to manufacture all of the titanium lugs necessary to build up one frame. In reality, building one bike per plate would be a very inefficient way of manufacturing the lugs. The engineers take a more economical approach, optimizing use of the space available on each manufacturing run. In the video above, you can see five headtubes being created as well as dropouts.

For each cycle of the laser sintering process, a layer of titanium powder is deposited onto the surface of the plate prior to four lasers working away across the surface to fuse layers of that fresh titanium powder to the emergent structures. The environment is almost entirely purged of oxygen. Why? Because at oxygen concentrations higher than 15 ppm, the mechanical properties of the finished lug aren't acceptable. The environment is continually monitored, and when the oxygen levels go above that threshold, the titanium powder being cycled around the environment at that time must be discarded and replaced with titanium powder that has not come into contact with oxygen.

The laser sintering process is automated, but it is followed by many hours of manual post-processing to remove the lugs from the plate and shape them into usable components.

The Atherton AM.130 is available as a frameset with a Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, retailing at £4,200. Complete bikes are also available, with options starting from £6,600; key components include a Rockshox Pike Select fork, Super Deluxe Ultimate shock and SRAM GX 12 Speed Drivetrain – that build weighs a claimed 14.9 kg. Custom dream builds are available upon request.