Pete heads south to Shrewsbury to see if the steel is real, made-in-the-UK hype around the Radical Bike Co. Chili Dog is real or not.
If you’re into your UK-made steel hardtails then the Radical Bike Co. Chili Dog might well be on your radar, if not, then it certainly should be. Pete swings a leg over the green machine on some classic Shropshire gold.
Custom reach ranging from 445m to 505mm
Recommended travel: 150mm.
Travel range: 140-160mm.
Short, steep and straight seat tube
Tall stack height
A slack head angle
Full Reynolds 853 DZB (Triple butted) TT & DT, mated to 631 & 525 steel frame
Frame treated internally utilising Anti Corrosion formula, with routing grommets & BB drainage to give a better rust/corrosion protection.
The Chili Dog is available in seven different reach options in 10mm increments between 445mm and 505mm.
Seat tube length on the 465mm is 415mm. Head angle is 63.5 degrees with a seat tube angle of 77.5 degrees. Chainstays are 432mm with a wheelbase of 1285mm.
As we rolled out to some stone cold classic Shropshire riding, I had the feeling that things had come full circle. I started my riding on a hardtail, a Saracen X-Ile no less at a Pearce Winter Series race at Hopton Castle. Here I was, a stone’s throw away from where it all began, with Radical Bike Co. main man Kieran Crosby, ready to throw my leg over their flagship hardtail. The Chili Dog Mk3.
Also in tow would be Tom Dunn, hardtail pinner extraordinaire and one of Radical’s sponsored riders who would show me just how fast the bike could be ridden. The sun was out and I would be getting to grips with riding a hardtail for the first time since my Ragley BigWig review a few years ago.
Whilst Radical Bike Co. don’t offer full builds, the build kit on this particular bike was very much indicative of how the Chili Dog should be shod. A coil sprung Marzocchi Z1 out front, SRAM XO1 drive train, Hunt Enduro Wide V2 wheels, Michelin Wild Enduro tyres, Magura 4-pots… the works.
The only downside to the coil fork is that the soft spring was… Not soft enough. Sag didn’t quite get close to the 30% mark but we cracked on regardless. The soft spring is the softest Marzocchi offer, so a different fork would likely be required for a longer test to really eek out the most from the bike.
That said, the bike buzzed up the climbs happily, the steep seat angle keeping me well perched over the cranks. While we didn’t do much else but fire roads that day in the Marches, some were punchy enough.
As soon as the bike turned downhill, it came alive. I found myself forgetting I was on a hardtail. Even though the big chainstay yoke added plenty of stiffness compared to the Grim Ripper, it wasn’t at the expense of compliance and feel whilst descending. The lack of fork suppleness didn’t seem to hold me back any either. Happy to just get on with the task of trying to ride the wheels off the bike paid dividends.
Before long I’d foolishly suggested to Tom that we try doubling out of a set of rollers, we both looked at it and shrugged it off. On the next lap, I was happily steaming into everything, pulled up on the bars and had sailed well beyond the gap I’d dismissed the previous lap.
As the lap count rose, so did the speed. The steepness increased and the Chili Dog felt like it was only warming up. Most of the trails we rode, we rode once, so it was testament to the bike that it kept me out of the hedges and pointing down the trail.
I would very much like to swing a leg over a Chili Dog with a fork that works for my weight. This bike just wants to go, and go fast. It took me faster off road than I have likely done on a hardtail in a long time and did it in a manner that felt entirely within both the bike’s and my limits.
You can check out the Radical Bike Co. Chili Dog over on their website here.