First Look Review: Pete’s Deviate Highlander II.

Pete gives his opening verdict on Scotland-based Deviate Cycles’ do-it-all machine, the 145mm travel, high pivot Highlander II.

With a high pivot offering 145mm travel, 29″ wheels and a full carbon frame, the Deviate Highlander II has plenty going for it. Does it stack up on the trails? Pete has been finding out.

Photos by Pete Scullion.

Key features:

  • Öhlins RXF36 m.2 160mm fork
  • Öhlins TTX2 Air shock
  • Shimano XT 12-speed drive
  • Shimano XT 4-piston brakes
  • Industry Nine Enduro S wheels
  • OneUp V2 dropper
  • £7,818.20 RRP

The second iteration of Deviate’s Highlander platform builds on the high pivot idea, offering a full carbon fibre frame with 145mm travel via that high pivot with an idler. The main benefit being stable geometry, high anti-rise and rearward axle path.

Lower frame weight, revised geometry and tweaked suspension kinematics are what separates the Highlander II from it’s outgoing counterpart. Official numbers state half a degree slacker head tube and two degree steeper seat tube.

Custom build options are seemingly limitless on the Deviate bike builder, but this bike came with Öhlins air units in the form of an RFX36 m.2 out front and a TTX22 out the back. Drive train and brakes handled the ever-reliable XT setup, the brakes being 4-pot units. Wheels are Industry Nine Enduro S shod with Vittoria rubber. Cockpit and dropper are OneUp Components offerings


The Highlander II seen here is a Medium.

Reach on the Medium is 460mm combined with a seat tube of 410mm. Head angle is 65 degrees with a seat tube angle of 77 degrees. Chainstays are 441mm across the sizes, with a wheelbase on the Medium of 1221mm.

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Opening moves

As ever, set up was the standard car park affair to get dampers and lever angle and reach dialled in. The first few rides would be with the bars uncut at the full 800mm, which would offer some amount of leverage in the rough but pretty much top my shoulders out from the get-go.

Setting the air pressure and damping on the Swedish suspension as I would any other proved to leave the bike fast but a little uncomfortable on the opening laps. I find the Öhlins dampers a little firm off the top compared to their Fox or Rockshox rivals, so compression was run fully open and I sped the rebound up front and rear too.

Those opening laps did give the impression that this bike was going to be very fast indeed, and once the top end of the suspension opened up, the bike really came alive. Like I did with the Specialized Enduro and Santa Cruz Hightower, I’d be left to try and get my head in front of the bike’s ability to fling me down a hill. The XT 4-pots doing a solid job of hauling things back into line when I ran out of processing power.

Whilst the Highlander II isn’t the raciest up a climb, it’s not sluggish either and the fast Vittoria rear tyre certainly helps with that. It’s when things get slow and technical on the ups, that the Deviate shines. That rear wheel hits square edges on the climbs and simply moves backwards out of the way, keeping your momentum going, and on the second ask, it cleaned the Randy climb. No bother.

From there it was a case of enjoying the stability in attack. Almost the faster I’d go, the happier the bike would be. The way the rear centre grows as you push on really does encourage you to ride at silly speeds. Possibly the only thing holding any further downward momentum is the rear tyre’s limited braking grip. That’s an easy enough change though, and the flip side is fast climbing or speed on flatter trails.

So far so good then. I’m going to get some more sensibly-sized bars on this thing so I can tell it what to do a little better, and maybe sling something a little stickier on the rear wheel and see how we go. For now, this bike is plenty fast enough.

You can check out the Deviate Highlander II on their website here.