Polygon Entiat TR8
Think of Polygon and I think of bikes that represent amazing value for money, at least in regards to the spec that you get at a given price-point. To achieve this, they follow an online sales model via the Bicycles Online site—order a Polygon and it'll land on your doorstep a day or two later.
Not being able to sit on a bike before buying certainly presents a hurdle for some, however Bicycles Online has a number of strategies aimed at mitigating these concerns. First up, they offer a customer service line where you can discuss any buying quandaries. They also use live chat via their website and have staff on hand to promptly answer email queries.
In lieu of the typical car park test ride, Bicycles Online offers a '14 day free test'. With this you order the bike and get to ride it on your local trails. If the sizing isn’t right, the quality of finish isn’t what you expected or whatever, you can call Bicycles Online and they’ll arrange a courier to pick it up with a refund to follow. You just need to ensure the bike is still in good condition (the terms are spelt out clearly on their website).
Taking delivery of a partially assembled bike in a box can present a range of issues. Your local bike shop normally deals with anything that hasn’t been assembled or adjusted in the factory—there can be quite a bit to do before your average production line bike is ready to hit the trail. To combat this, Bicycles Online unboxes and builds each Polygon that they sell; the gears are adjusted, brakes checked and it’s taken for a test ride to ensure that everything works as intended. From there the bike is packed back into a large box and sent straight to you.
That’s exactly how we received our test bike and the assembly process was very easy; just attach the handlebars, thread the pedals on and fit the front wheel. They even include some basic tools and you’ll find online tutorials to talk you through the assembly process. Our Entiat was ready to ride in no time and the gear and brake adjustment was spot-on from the outset. In this regard, it was pretty clear that things have improved since our last Polygon review in 2015.
While we expect the spec and value to be sharp, past experience suggests that Polygon’s geometry and design isn’t always at the cutting edge, especially in the ever-changing world of mountain bikes. This aspect also appears to be changing; recently they’ve introduced some unique suspension designs (the Square One for example) and their involvement with the UR Team has lifted the profile of the brand amongst gravity racing enthusiasts.
The Entiat definitely fits the bill as a new-school design. Where the hardtails of old were always modelled on XC race bikes, the Entiat TR8 is a plus-tyred machine with comparatively relaxed frame geometry and a dropper post—it’s built for all-round fun rather than hill-climbing speed.
Polygon offers the Entiat at two relatively affordable price-points. The entry-level TR6 sells for $1,099 and comes with a RockShox Recon Silver fork and Shimano Deore gears that are set up 1X10 using a Sunrace cassette and a generic alloy crank. While the entry level build doesn’t have a dropper post, it runs Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and should be a totally trail-worthy package.
The TR8 definitely steps it up a notch. It comes with an XT rear derailleur, SLX triggers and a 1X11 drivetrain with a huge 11-46 gear range on the XT cassette. Brakes are from the no-frills but super effective Deore range, the wheels and cockpit components are Entity (Polygon’s own-brand parts) and the tyres are Schwalbe Nobby Nics with Performance series casing. The 120mm RockShox Yari is a fantastic fork that performs much like an upmarket Lyric and you even get a Tranz X dropper post—it’s a super impressive spec for the $1,799 asking price.
With such a solid set of components, you’d normally expect a bit of corner cutting on the frame. It’s really not the case however; the welds are smoothed off to produce some very clean tube junctions, the rear wheel is secured by a Maxle thru-axle and even the matte black, blue and red graphics look far nicer than I’d expect for the money—the frame wouldn’t look out of place on a $2,700 bike.
Scales of Truth
All show and no go perhaps? Well not really. We stripped it back to a bare frame and it tipped the scales at 2,015g (in a medium size), which is towards the lighter end of the bikes that we’ve reviewed in this alloy plus hardtail division. The Entity wheels came in at 2,370g—about par for the course on a mid-range wheelset with proper plus-width rims. Even the 3.0 inch wide tyres impress on the scales; at 780g a piece they're lighter than many regular width tyres. All-up the complete bike weighed 13.5kg (including pedals), which is pretty healthy for a plus tyre and dropper post equipped hardtail.
Cable routing is internal for the dropper post and gears but the rear brake hose runs externally, which is fine by us (it makes things easier when it comes to maintenance). Our only gripe lies with the placement of the brake hose on the left-side of the down tube; this works well if you run the rear brake on the right side of the bars but it’s not so good for left-rear brake setups and can lead to a bit of cable rub (protect the head tube with some clear tape). Rubber grommets minimise rattles at the entry points but the internal cable ports are on the small side—make sure you’re not in a hurry when it comes to cable replacement.
Before hitting the dirt, one of the first things we do is convert the test bike to tubeless. It’s something that most riders will do at some point, so it’s good to know if the rim and tyre combination is up to it. We left the stock rim strips in place, fitted some valves, dropped in a couple of scoops of sealant and called it good; the Schwalbe tyres aired up just fine and the Entity rims locked the beads solidly in place. With a 40mm inner rim width, the rims offered plenty of sidewall support and allowed us to drop the air pressures right down to the low-teens without issue—just what you want on a plus hardtail. Don't expect massive weight savings though; the stock tubes are pretty light (215g each) and you'll need to run around 120-150ml of sealant per wheel due to the tyre volume. In this case the tubeless conversion is more about puncture prevention and the ability to run low pressures.
When it came to bike fit, the sizing of the Entiat left us in a bit of a quandary. It's offered in three sizes; the small is for riders in the 155-170mm height range, medium is 170-185mm and the large is said to suit riders in the 180-195mm range. At 177cm I fall squarely in the medium bracket but the reach measurement on that size is listed at 406mm—a good 30mm shorter than what I’d normally ride. Going to a large frame would have given me a 416mm reach, which still isn’t super roomy. Opting for the bigger size would also leave me with a 483mm seat tube and not a lot of room for a long travel dropper post (the 432mm seat tube on the medium was clearly a better fit). We talk a lot about ‘modern geometry’ and the Entiat is modern in many ways, but the reach is 20-40mm shorter than current trends.
Measuring in at 425mm, the chainstays are definitely on the short side, especially when you consider the capacity to handle big 3.0-inch wide tyres with ample mud clearance. At 308mm the bottom bracket is low enough to promote stability and cornering speed without being annoying when pedalling through rocky terrain. While the reach may be shorter than current trends, the other dimensions certainly fit the bill.
The final parameter we typically look at is the head tube angle; a place where most seem to believe that slack is where it’s at for rugged trail riding. Polygon’s geometry chart lists the Entiat with a super-slack 66.5 degree head angle but ours measured in at 68-degrees.
Analysing figures is great but you don’t really know how it’s going to play out until you hit the trail. The Entiat comes fitted with a modern and comfortable cockpit; the Entity stem is 60mm long and the matching 780mm bars have a natural and comfortable shape. While the lack of reach was noticeable when climbing, I slowly grew accustomed to the slightly cramped cockpit. The payback came with sensational manoeuvrability and playfulness; it’s like riding a beefed up BMX bike and I nearly flipped onto my tail the first time I went to wheelie the Entiat over a rut!
The abbreviated front end and tight 425mm stays result in a 1,120mm wheelbase. This makes the bike super nimble and easy to thread through the singletrack. The frame and fork package is also super stiff which adds an element of directness and immediacy to the handling—it’s a lot of fun, especially when the trails aren’t too rough.
While all this talk of agility and nimbleness is great, you’d normally expect it to suffer in steep or really rough terrain—situations where a little more forgiveness is desirable. Well it does suffer, but not as much as you might expect. It's true that in the high-speed tough stuff, you'll need to be a little more on your game with the Entiat than a longer-slacker plus hardtail, but it isn’t all that bad and much will come down to where you ride as to whether it presents a hindrance or simply spices things up.
Run the tyres tubeless at 12-15psi and the Entiat is still easy to manage on technical trails. The 3.0 rubber offers velcro-like traction and a good deal of cushion that will give a mid-travel dually a run for its money as long as things aren't too rowdy. For a fair portion of the formal trail networks that we ride in Australia, the sharp and responsive handling is refreshing; it keeps the ride interesting and engaging.
While the frame, and more specifically the frame geometry, really is the key to the performance of any bike, the parts do play a role—especially when you're looking at this sub-$2K price area. Sure you can buy a dually that sits in the same price bracket, but it probably won't have a dropper post, the brakes and drivetrain components will be of a much lower grade and it would also be a fair bit heavier.
The Entiat TR8 mightn't have rear suspension but the burly Yari fork is worth its weight in gold—it's a real performer. The XT/SLX drivetrain is solid, reliable and excellent for a bike at this price. The Entity wheels sealed up easily, stayed true and weren't excessively heavy. Best of all, the Tranz-X dropper doesn't feel like a cheap post; it offers 125mm of really smooth travel, the return speed is responsive whilst being well controlled and the left-side under-bar remote is ergonomically shaped with a nice light action. This certainly doesn't rate as a long-term review, but based on its performance here I'd happily run this dropper on my own bike.
So the frame is well made and the gear is way better than you'd expect for the money. It all ads up to an enjoyable ride and makes the Entiat a legit alternative to an entry-level dually. Tall riders may struggle to find a good fit with the 417mm reach on their largest frame and others mightn't be keen on the direct-sales model. However, if you like a shorter cockpit with a fairly upright position, ride tight and twisty trails, and want the massive traction and simplicity that a plus hardtail can offer, the Entiat may well have your name on it.
Well finished alloy frame
Exceptional value component spec
Great dropper post
Can't try before you buy with the online sales model (although you can return it)
Sizing may prove restrictive for taller riders
Frame ALX Advanced Alloy
Fork RockShox Yari 120mm Travel
Headset Sealed Bearing
Handlebars Entity Xpert, Alloy 31.8, 780mm
Stem Entity Xpert, Alloy 60mm
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT
Cassette Shimano XT 11-speed, 11-46
Chain KMC X11
Cranks Race Face Ride 32T
Bottom Bracket Shimano Threaded
Pedals VP alloy platform
BrakesShimano M615, Hydraulic
Wheels Entity Boost 40mm wide
Tyres Schwalbe Nobby Nic Performance 3.0
Saddle Entity Assault Saddle, Steel Rail
Seatpost Tranz-X, 125mm drop
Weight 13.5kg including pedals (medium frame 2,015g)
Wheel Size 27.5 plus
Available Sizes S, M (tested), L