The Beta Tests: Privateer 141 SLX-XT
-141mm travel rear, 150mm front
-29-inch wheels (27.5-inch in P1 or size small)
-Two builds available, Shimano XT/SLX and SRAM GX
-Progressive, future-proof geometry
-Specced with practical and durable parts
-Riders shorter than 5-foot-3 may not be able to fit the smallest frame
-Suspension platform isn’t as sophisticated as competitors
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When the Privateer 141 landed in our test stable, a few of us were skeptical. Another new brand? Aren’t there enough companies making mid-travel, full-suspension trail bikes, and really, what could this U.K. consumer-direct company possibly be doing that differently?
But after each respective ride lap, every tester displayed the same giddiness reserved for a bike that does everything just right.
Anyone hungry for some crow?
With its super-steep seat angle, slack head angle and stretched-out silhouette, the Privateer looks, at first glance, like a bike that requires a high skill level, or a high minimum speed to truly reap its benefits. But its beauty lies in the fact that on the trail, it rides like a bike that can truly feel at home under a beginner or an advanced rider.
Our test track started with a gradual, but sustained, mostly smooth climb, with a few steep, punchy bits that required slightly more gas, and benefited from out-of-the-saddle efforts. When you first sit on the Privateer, the nearly 79-degree seat-tube angle makes the fit feel funky if you’re on flat ground, almost like you’re pedaling backward, as one tester commented. But as soon you start ascending, it all clicks and the geometry instantly makes sense. This bike climbs superbly with plenty of pedaling platform—switching the DPX2 shock into the middle setting provided some extra support, but didn’t make a marked difference—and allows you to sit and comfortably grind out the climbs. It won’t feel as lively as one of its carbon-fiber counterparts, like the Kona Process 134 or the Ibis Ripley, but its efficiency is notable. When the trail steepens sharply, the rear suspension tends to bob a bit as the weight bias shifted backward, but that is a small sacrifice for how well this bike descends.
On the downs, the Privateer racked up all the buzzwords: plush, supportive, linear without a harsh bottom-out, but mostly, ridiculously capable and enjoyable to ride. Despite its long wheelbase—1,266mm on P3, which is Privateer Speak for size large—and long chainstays, 446mm on P3 (the frame has size-specific stays), the bike doesn’t feel like a tank or like it prioritizes plantedness over playfulness. It’s light underfoot, maneuverable and easy to move your body around the bike, hence all that fun. At the same time, it manages to soak up way bigger bumps than expected from a bike with this travel number stamped on it.
This application of the Horst Link suspension works supremely well paired with the Fox’s piggyback trail shock (it can also accommodate a coil shock), although one tester noted that the tune may not be optimized for riders’ sizes and weights. Overall, the Privateer 141 gives you the benefits of a bike with more travel without the burliness of one. And if you want more burl, the Privateer 161 is built for the bigger tracks.
That longer-travel bike is the only other offering in Privateer’s line, which is refreshingly simple, as is the brand’s entire ethos. The 141 comes in just two builds: our test bike, with a Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain, Fox Performance-level 36 Grip 2 fork and DPX2 shock, a One Up post with 180mm of drop, 800mm Race Face Turbine bars, Magura MT5 brakes and Hunt Trail wheels wrapped in Schwalbe Magic Mary (front) and Hans Dampf tires, and a similar build but with a SRAM GX drivetrain, RockShox Pike Ultimate fork and Hayes Dominion brakes for another $430. A frameset is also available in Raw or Green.
The pricing is competitive, though you can get into an Ibis Ripmo AF, arguably the category leader, for $3,400, albeit with a lower parts spec. But the Privateer feels like a solid value, not just because of what you get now, but because of what you’ll still have in a few years. Bikes in this price range can sometimes feel like they’re a good buy now, but you make the investment knowing it’ll likely need to be replaced as technology advances. On the 141, the geometry is so progressive that it’s going to be years before it feels outdated.
Like a privateer racer wearing an unbranded jersey and riding a frame built with the best parts attainable on a tight budget, the 141 has a clean, simplistic look, understated marketing and solid parts that feel they were selected deliberately to perform well and last long.
The Privateer 141 is not only a worthy addition to the mid-travel 29er category, it fills a space that will always need filling no matter how crowded the market gets: a bike that is well-priced, well-designed, well-rounded and damn fun.
As mentioned above, the Privateer 141 only comes in two builds, one Shimano, one SRAM, and at $3,950, our test bike is the least expensive of the two. The SRAM build runs $4,380. Either is a good value, and competitively priced with other aluminum bikes in this category. Privateer sells consumer-direct, and there’s up-to-date delivery timeframes posted regularly on the website (a fully refundable deposit made in advance holds a spot when the next shipment arrives). As of now, the XT/SLX build is available in late October, while GX won’t be in until May 2022, so your spec choice might just come down to how quickly you want to get it.
Photos: Anthony Smith