High Pivot Hijinks with the Deviate Highlander Trail Bike [In for Test]

High pivot bikes with idler pulleys are somewhat common in the downhill racing world, lauded for their rearward axle path and negligible pedal kickback characteristics. Reducing travel to the trail bike level, the 140mm carbon Highlander 29er from UK-based Deviate Cycles is among the few to incorporate a high-idler rear suspension platform. The few trail bikes with similar rear suspension systems include the Acto5 P-Train with 135 or 145mm of rear travel of travel and the Forbidden Druid with its 130mm rear axle path. The Ancillotti Scarab Evo 29 we reviewed last year also uses a high single pivot, though it foregoes the idler pulley.

A single chain takes care of the drivetrain with one link removed instead of the usual two or three.

While the Highlander’s rearward axle path is said to help the bike blast through square edge hits without the rear wheel hanging up and decreasing momentum, the idler pulley spins to decrease pedal kickback while allowing for what Deviate calls a balanced anti-squat curve. According to the brand, in “the real world, this means the bike pedals incredibly well, without bobbing, while the suspension remains active providing traction. The lack of pedal kickback is instantly noticeable with the Highlander showing an uncanny ability to pedal smoothly through rough terrain.” We will test those claims over the next few months on the trail.

The carbon fiber Highlander is sold as a frameset for $3,000, or with your choice of air or coil-sprung shocks for $3,200-$3,500 depending on the damper. This test bike came with a Shimano XT drivetrain and a pair of 4-piston brakes, a OneUp cockpit and 210mm dropper post, a Cane Creek Kitsuma shock and 160mm Helm V2 fork. We’ll be mounting a set of Syncros Revelstoke 1.5 alloy wheels and spikey Onza Porcupine RC tires that will both receive their own separate reviews. This build weighs 15kg (33Lbs) with a set of Crankbrothers Mallet E pedals mounted.

In addition to its somewhat rare idler pulley, the Highlander uses a cable channel under the top tube to give the bike a clean profile while keeping cables quiet and easily accessible. The dropper cable is the only internally-routed tube on the frame, though the shift cable housing does slide through the drive-side seat stay briefly. The alloy clamps that hold the cables in place are perfectly spaced for attaching a gear mount or bottle, and there’s also a bottle cage mount in the typical inner down tube location.

The idler pulley negates any need for chain stay protection, and the bike’s drive-side seat stay receives that familiar piece of rubber instead. We’ll let you know how quietly it rides in the full review.

Deviate sent over a size medium bike, with a 410mm seat tube to accommodate the massive 210mm dropper post, stabilizing 440mm chain stays across all three sizes, and a 444mm reach on this smallest 29er frame. The Highlander bounces happily with a 140, 150, or 160mm fork, and the head tube angle leans back to 66° ahead of a 76° seat tube angle with a 150mm fork. The test machine has a 160mm fork, tipping those angles back slightly.

Now it’s time to mount a fender up front and get this thing filthy. Please share your questions for this coming review in the comments below and we will do our best to answer them.

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