British, Bespoke and Beautiful, Sam Armstrong's A.200

February 9th, 2024

Originally from Cambridgeshire in the UK, Sam Armstrong now lives in Virginia, USA. He’s an ex F/A – 18 super Hornet pilot, Vice-President of an American youth football club and an MTB coach who has ridden bikes his whole life. Sam’s wife (Aine) also loves MTB and weekends exploring new trails in the Airstream Basecamp. Sam is living the dream, he even has the world’s cutest trail dogs - Otis, a labradoodle, is a devoted trail dog, Fern, the Bernadoodle, not so much!!


SA: Despite owning a green and pink Enduro bike I’ve always been drawn to anything “stealth”...  I tend to enjoy an understated look when it comes to bikes, I remember when Atherton released the first pictures of their new bike line-up, it looked sleek and to the point.  Nothing on the bikes was there for show.  Everything had a purpose. Much to my delight even the black paint could be excluded to reveal the beautiful titanium and raw carbon tubes, leaving them exposed like the livery of an aircraft carrier.  When I saw all this loveliness in the press photos I thought I might like to try one out.

If I’m asked what’s better, an enduro bike or a downhill bike, I always say a downhill bike.  If you’re ripping down the chunk and taking a lift up to the top, you’ll want a downhill bike.  Many people will respond with “but my enduro bike can do everything!” I do agree to a point but a single-crown enduro rig will just never be as good as a dual-crown, purpose-built DH bike on the true gnar (one possible exception being the A.170!) I was always aware of this fact but didn’t get a full appreciation for it until I was riding some of the Snowshoe Bike Park tech in the biblically dramatic rain.  I ride Snowshoe Bike Park, WV and Ride Rock Creek, NC as much as possible during the season so it’s familiar territory.


Riding the enduro bike I became extremely aware of the smaller suspension and different kinematic setups.  I was able to shred down, but not as confidently as I would on a DH bike.  This is when my hunt for a new big-mountain shred monster began.  I started with some of the household names, but the idea of the small-company, bespoke philosophy of the Atherton brand kept ringing in the back of my head.  The only downside was their DH bike at the time was a full 29er.  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against full-wagon-wheeled bikes! If you Ben Cathro or Greg Minaar… a full 29er might be for you.  In my case, I’m not backwards pedalling at the start gate or racing the clock for a few extra tenths.  I’m out there just looking for a good time (and some help in the sharp corners).

This is where the big Atherton party trick comes in; their communication with their buyers.  I reached out and asked them sheepishly if there was a way to mullet their beautiful DH bike.  Rather than laugh at my ludicrous idea to ruin the years of hard work they put into the bike by throwing a party wheel on the back, they admitted they had the mullet edition launching in a few weeks.  They even went as far as to offer me the last slot on the pre-order list. So, much to American Express’s delight and my bank account’s demise, I whipped out my credit card and bought a frame.

This is where the excitement truly begins.  I input all my bodily measurements into the online fit calculator and the recommended size it put out was 470mm reach.  Very cool!  I did some soul-searching and discussion with the guys at Atherton who advised that the race team all tended to size down on the 200 and we decided I would probably fair better on a 460mm., even Dan got involved!  Whilst I do come out at 6ft exactly (okay occasionally 5ft11!), my body is proportioned like an inverse Big Bird.  All legs and a short torso.  This means I can get away with running a slightly smaller bike.  Huzzah for fun!

Once the bike arrives and you begin to build it, you start to see where the craftsmanship stands out from the competition.  Small details such as the port-to-port cable routing made a huge difference and took away the hours of swearing and sweating usually associated with cable routing.  One detail I was unaware of until its arrival was the usage of barrel nuts and industry-standard fasteners.  I’m quite heavy-handed when it comes to torquing bolts, even with the aid of a torque wrench, so this small detail made me rather weak at the knees.


When it comes to what I noticed first when riding the A.200, I wish I could say something sexy like “anti-squat” or “progressive kinematics” or some exciting buzz words.  Unfortunately, the first thought I had dropping in at Rock Creek Bike Park was “This bike is…..quiet.”  As in if Emily Blunt used one of these in A Quiet Place it would have been a much shorter film.  The only sound was, quite rightly, the soulful buzz of the i9 Hydra hubs.  After just one lap I understood what other customers and reviewers meant when they said they immediately felt at home on the bike.  About halfway down the track, I was riding as if I had been on the bike for a year. 

The smoothness of the DW6 linkage provides incredible calmness and stability, even in larger hits.  In my eyes, the very best thing about this bike is the small-bump sensitivity.  You can feel where the wheels are tracking and if paired with the Fox DHX2, it simply grips and grips along small chatter.  I’m rather heavy-handed with braking, usually taking an all-or-nothing approach which means that frames have a tendency to get a bit unsettled but the Atherton handles these rookie moves with grace!  I have never been so confident about hitting the brakes in the steep and technical sections before.  The bike feels composed and entirely unphased by such harsh treatment. It makes this average rider feel like Charlie Hatton.

I’ve had the 200 for about a year now and I love it.  I even find myself ogling the Atherton A.170 and occasionally inputting my measurements for fun… it’s probably just a matter of time! It isn't just the bike you’re buying from Atherton.  It’s the experience.  You get the feeling the bike was built by people in aprons with wooden tools, not rushing in the process to build the perfect bike for the rider.  The Atherton brand is what I imagine would happen if a bike shop opened on Savile Row. British, Bespoke, Beautiful and easily the best bike I’ve ever owned.