Dan Atherton: designing a dream bike - AM.170.M
Nov 10th, 2022
Now that we’re into the final testing stages of our prototype AM.170.M, Dan talks about the bike’s development and the characteristics that are most important to him.
Dan: I’m so stoked on this bike. Especially as it wasn’t in the company plan so it began life as a bit of a secret project between me, Rob Gow and Dan Brown in the days before he was CEO! It’s pretty cool to have a bike designed for me - though I recognise that maybe in its first prototype we went a bit racy on the numbers but the subsequent changes that we’ve made during development hopefully make it the perfect bike for a lot of other riders…
I’m not best known for compromising … in fact, perfectionism is a bit of an Atherton trait so the changes that we’ve made have only added to the bike’s appeal. We went through three very distinct prototyping phases with this bike. Phase 1 was an out-and-out 27.5 trail bike, but we struggled for a while getting that bike to ride right so we delved into a re-work of geo and built something very racy on the numbers. Phase 2 was a bike that shredded super hard in the park, low BB, high stack and 170mm of travel….. we were almost ready to go to market with that bike but when I took it out on a staff ride to White Rocks I realised that it pedalled like our AM.150 … and that’s no mean feat! Honestly it felt like a waste to narrow down the usage so hard; the DW6 platform lends itself so well to enduro style riding. In went a 29er front wheel and some modified hardware to pull the angles back a bit and we were off! The bike rode amazing and really handled itself on the new 20 minute long Enduro trails that we’ve been building for the last couple of years…
So onto phase 3, the final sign off. The lugs are off the printer, machined and ready for bonding next week. Normally this is a pretty quick process , working the bike through production is the first test followed by a few more rides to confirm that the last few tweaks we made to geo have done what we wanted them to do and boom….you guys can buy it!
So the final spec looks to be a 29” wheel upfront, slightly slacker on the head angle at 63.5 and slightly raised BB… it’s still pretty low, in fact 20mm lower than the smaller travel 150… all in all the riding position is pretty aggressive! This bike is designed to go down steep stuff and is most at home charging downhill but it also happens to pedal really well and you can throw it around the Oakley line nicely! It’s very much a product of its environment - I built those long Dyfi Enduro tracks for EWS training and to be honest most of that EWS style riding is a bit uncomfortable – the new geometry and the DW6 platform work together to make those big mountain style missions more comfortable altogether.
What I want to ride in the Bike Park and what I want to ride out on the trails is similar (for me, a bike has to tick all the boxes of strength, comfort on the gnarly stuff, a big-hitter, delivering confidence on the steeps and a playful ride) so moving to the more all-round bike didn’t feel like a huge step. In the Bike Park the bike’s strength and the longer travel comes into its own – I can boost jumps, land heavy, really push it, without worrying that it’s going to bottom out… the idea for a big-hitting trail bike was born in the bike park – it’s spot-on for riders who want more fun than a DH bike offers or who want one bike that will do it all.
Outside the park the DW6 comes to the fore, it’s a balance… I want that confidence on the downhills and for my bike to be really playful and nimble but it can also climb. Offering a mullet bike means we can move to a straight seat tube so I can slam the dropper right in while I’m at the park! It’s awesome for taller riders like me, you can make the seat low for the descent but still get maximum pop for the climb - the seat tube angle varies with size too ( like in the rest of our range) to make sure that you’re in a great position on the bike.
The best thing? I always feel like I can ride it as hard as I want - at the end it will be me who lets the bike down, not the other way round… … these tracks I’ve been testing on, they are so full on, so gnarly and so long, feature after feature… This bike just keeps giving.