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First Ride: Heller Barghest

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Heller Bikes launched last year as a QBP-affiliated brand that aims to give the customer “the best bang for the buck” and create quality bikes at an affordable (relatively-speaking) price point.

The brand’s first bike was the Bloodhound carbon fatbike, soon followed by the Shagamaw, a 27plus carbon hardtail. For Saddle Drive this year, the Barghest joined the lineup as a sub-$3,000 27plus carbon full suspension bike.

Barghest comes stock with a 140 mm Manitou Machete fork while a Manitou McLeod King Can shock provides 130 mm of travel in the rear. The bike is designed to run up to a 150 mm fork up front if the rider desires a little extra squish.

The drivetrain is 1 x 11 SRAM NX, though the frame is 2x compatible. A 32t crankset is all you’ll fit on the frame if you’re going 1x, or a 36/22 2x. The Barghest is also Di2 compatible, if you’re so inclined. Tektro M285 brakes provide the stopping power.

The frame can run 27.5 x 3.0 or 29 x 2.5 inch tires, though only comes complete as the 27plus version with Sun Ringlé Duroc 40 mm rims and Maxxis Recon+ 27.5 x 2.8 inch tires. It comes tubed, but the spec’d tires and rims are tubeless compatible and pre-taped. And it’s Boost, of course.

I grabbed the Barghest for a quick run at Northstar Resort in California. After taking the lift partway up the mountain, I climbed a little higher under my own power to see how the bike actually pedaled. I immediately noticed that the fit was comfy and I felt at home right away. On the singletrack, the bike was maneuverable and fun, going both uphill and down.

After a short singletrack connector, I took a gravel road a little farther up the mountain. While seated and spinning, I didn’t feel sluggish or inefficient, and the bike climbed surprisingly well. However, neither the shock nor the fork locked out completely, so while standing and grinding there was some suspension bob even in locked out mode. This isn’t a total dealbreaker but might bother me on long climbs.

Pointed down back towards the lodge, I opened ‘er up, let loose and had a blast. Especially after riding a number of rigid and hardtail bikes during the Saddle Drive demo, carving the berms and blasting through chunk was ridiculously easy. I quickly caught up to and passed a number of other riders, which doesn’t often happen on a downhill. When I reached the bottom, I didn’t want to give it back.

When I was asked what I thought when I returned the demo, I said, “It rides like a more expensive bike than what it is.” Of course, it’s tough to give a definitive impression after only ridden the bike for a few miles, but based on my initial ride, I would say that the Barghest seems to be a promising bike for the $2,999 price point, especially if you love to point your wheels downhill.

We may be getting one in for a long term review, so stay tuned.