This young South African brand is focussed on steel hardtails. The concept of the Rogue intrigued us in that Contraband claims it is equally efficient as a 29er or a 650b (27.5) trail bike.
– Photos: Dino Lloyd
Steel frames generally have thin, round tubes, which is aesthetically distracting at best and, for some, uncomfortably so. But the Contraband’s slender, raw-polished Reynolds 853 tubing looks dreamy to those that understand steel’s place in the bicycle frame world. The brand and model names are laser etched into the down- and toptubes respectively and on the headtube is a silhouette of a curvy woman in sultry pose. Different strokes…
Unlike aluminium and carbon frames, the headtube isn’t tapered and it’s relatively tall (115mm) for a medium frame. From the side view, the tubes are all straight (no curves or tapers), but from the top view, only the chainstays and seatstays, which are made from Chromoly, are curved in favour of vertical compliance. The bottom bracket is an eccentric one, which has two settings – one designed for the 650b wheels and the other for the 29er wheels. In theory, pretty smart.
Both wheelsets can be fitted onto the frame without adjustments (just need to swap the cluster over). But how does this affect geometry? There’s a difference in BB height of 10mm – 305mm (650b) to 315mm (29er). However, with the eccentric BB, the height can be adjusted by 15mm.
This provides compensation with either wheelset and acts as a chain tensioner on a singlespeed setup. If you’re using a front derailleur, you’ll have to adjust its position accordingly. We were riding a 1×10 system so that wasn’t a concern.
Eccentric BBs have a reputation for warping and not being reliable. Contraband’s solution was to increase the size of the locking screws and to place them in a less stress induced area. Towards the rear of the BB shell under the chainstays. They also increased the material thickness of the BB shell. Seemed to work as we never once noticed any problems with the BB.
The Spank Oozy wheelsets were bold and beautiful – one was silver and the other black. There was a Rock Shox Reba fork with 120mm of travel to manage suspension, while the cockpit comprised a 747mm Spank Subrosa handlebar, Spank Oozy stem, Hope Eternity seatpost and WTB Silverado saddle. The brakeset was Hope’s Tech EVO X2 hydraulic disc while SRAM X9 1×10 took care of shifting, in conjunction with FSA’s Afterburner crankset (34-tooth ring).
All our testers grew rather fond of the Rogue. Why? Well for starters, it’s damn comfortable. It’s not often we can call a hardtail comfortable, not for long rides anyway. But the Rogue was just that. We did some four-hour-plus rides on it over some rough terrain but never felt ‘pounded’ at the end. For those that don’t already know, steel has a just-noticeable suppleness, which smoothes out the ride feel. The 68-degree headtube angle and 72-degree seattube tilt no doubt added to the comfort with a fractionally more upright riding position.
Was there any kind of sacrifice? Well, we did find a lack of snap when accelerating, but this wasn’t unexpected and fairly normal for a steel frame. There were moments on fast, tight turns where we felt the front end was a little vulnerable, but this is unlikely to be a concern for most who won’t be that aggressive. Apparently the next model will address this with a tapered headtube, which should add front-end stability.
At sub-11.96kg, it wasn’t feathery, but it certainly wasn’t heavy. With Strava segment analysis, we were able to determine that we were mostly faster with the 29-inch wheels, but felt the benefits of the smaller wheel maneuverability with the 650b hoops fitted on tight trails. Long, steady climbs were a pleasure, even with the single chainring, but steep climbs required a little body position adjustment to get a bit further forward. Shifting was sure and braking was superb! The very wise Spank bars did take some adjustment, but we still had a few tree-clips on tight forest trails. A narrower bar would definitely be our preferred choice.
The Rogue has been designed as a trail bike. With 650b wheels, we can totally agree. But with the 29-inch wheels, it’s a marathon and stage race bike option that we’d highly recommend. The subtle suppleness of the steel makes it a great option for those that can’t afford a dual-suss or prefer the simplicity of a hardtail. For those that can afford both size wheelsets, well, you have a truly hybrid bike. The Contraband Rogue is a refreshingly innovative bike that’s a true pleasure to ride.
SIZES: S; M (tested); L
TOPTUBE LENGTH: 600mm
SEATTUBE LENGTH: 452mm
HEADTUBE ANGLE: 69 degrees (100mm fork); 68 degrees (120mm fork)
SEATTUBE ANGLE: 72 degrees
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: 445mm
PRICE: R39 000 as tested (Frameset: R6 300)
COLOURS: Raw polished steel with laser-etched graphics
FRAME: Reynolds 853 Steel, Chromoly stays
WEIGHT: 11.96kg (29er) 11.62kg (650b)
FORK: Rock Shox Reba RL with 120mm travel & 20mm thru-axle
SHIFTERS: SRAM X9, 1×10
FRONT DERAILLER: None
REAR DERAILLER: SRAM X9
CRANKSET: FSA Afterburner 175mm, 34 tooth
BRAKESET: Hope Tech EVO X2 hydraulic disc brakeset with 160mm rotors
WHEELS: Spank Oozy 29er / Spank Oozy 650b
TYRES: WTB BEE Line 2.2 (rear); WTB Wolverine 2.2 (front)
OTHERS: Spank Subrosa Bar 747mm, Spank Oozy stem, Hope Headset, Hope Eternity seatpost, WTB Silverado Saddle, Hope seat clamp.
CONTACT: www.intltrade.co.za; 011 781 5324
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 29, 2014 – All rights reserved