Review: Silverback Sphere 1

The Sphere 1 is Silverback's reimagination of the hardtail with plus sized wheels. It features 3.0" tyres to add grip, stability, and comfort. The extra small and small bike sizes use 27.5 x 3.0” tyres, whereas the medium, large and extra large bikes are fitted with bigger 29 x 3.0” tyres. There are two models available in the range with the Sphere 1 pitched as more performance driven bike of the two, with shorter chainstays and high end aluminium tubing, while the Sphere 2 has a slightly more stable geometry for increased traction and balance for entry level riders.

 

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The Frame


The Sphere 1 frame is made from 6061 Alloy with custom butted tubing that is hydroformed to increase stiffness and strength while keeping weight down. Workmanship and attention to detail is high on the frame and extends to the build kit with colour matching rim decals and saddle. Cable routing is external for ease of maintenance and there is space for two large water bottles inside the front triangle.

 

Although I am a fan of tubes with some hydroforming and a bend or two, the straight, oval main tubes look good and somehow add to the menacing look of the bike. This also results in a greater weld area and less stress risers, both of which should make the frame more durable.

 

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A 31.6mm seatpost makes the frame dropper post friendly, but a lack of dedicated guides or internal routing means you will have to route your dropper externally and cable tie the hose to the rear brake hose running down the bottom of the top tube.

 

The Sphere makes use of the wider Boost axle spacing for stronger, stiffer wheels. As mentioned, Silverback have decided to run 27.5+ wheels on sizes Extra Small and Small and 29+ on Medium, Large and Extra Large.

 

As with all other Silverbacks that I've tested over the previous two years, the paint job stands out for me. I know it is very subjective, but the colour combinations chosen for each bike and model range always look great, suiting the style of each bike.

 


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Components


Silverback use their Advanced Riding Dynamics (ARD) system when speccing their bicycles. They have identified the frame, fork, and wheels as key elements to enhance the ride quality of a bicycle. They will ensure that for the given price and intended use, any bike in their line-up will sport the best wheels, frame, and fork possible.

 

The only change in spec that I would like to see on the Sphere 1 is a dropper post as a standard item. The bike's manners and ability certainly warrant it.

 

Fork

 

This was our first time on Manitou's Magnum Comp, a dedicated plus fork with 34mm stanchions and 110mm Boost spacing. The wider spacing results in wider hub flanges and improves spoke bracing angles for a stronger and stiffer front wheel. The added room also increases tyre clearance allowing for a 3.4″ tyre in both a dedicated 27.5 and 29″ chassis.

 


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The fork's on trail performance was good, needing minimal tinkering to get it into an optimal performance setting. The fork uses Manitou's unique front quick release system that required a trip to YouTube to figure out how to release and fix the axle in place. When you know how it works, it is quite simple to use but I feel that it's a proprietary design just for the sake of it.

 

Drivetrain

 

A Race Face Turbine Cinch crankset drives a 11 speed SRAM GX drivetrain. Shifting was everything you would expect from SRAM and the 32T chainring provided a good spread of gears for most of our trails.

 


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Wheels

 

The Sphere 1 rolls on SUNringlé Mulefut SL rims laced to SRAM hubs. With an outer rim width of 50mm and inner rim width of 45mm the rims are properly wide and come with SUNringlé's black rim tape. The SRAM hubs are not the fastest engaging hubs when applying the pressure but once up to speed they roll smoothly with no signs of drag.

 

Tyres

 

Silverback selected the 3.0" Maxxis Chronicle tyres using EXO with a Kevlar Bead casing. The Chronicle is a good plus sized tyre suiting the Sphere 1 well. An evil of plus size tyres is that they become quite spongy if the tread blocks are too big. These offer good grip and traction with none of the "riding on marbles" feel.

 

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The Ride


With tyre pressure as low as 10 - 15psi, the Sphere 1 rolls noticeably more smoothly than my steel Mercer Hungry Monkey hardtail with a level of "suspension" built into the wide, fat tyres which allows for extra momentum going through or over rough terrain. Throw in the extra grip going around corners and you have yourself a fast, fun-machine. On flowing single track it is easy enough to sit back, relax (as a matter of speaking) and just let the bike go with the flow. What is unique is the "give" through trail clutter while having the direct drive feel of a hardtail when stepping on the pedals.

 


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The only element of riding one has to get used to on a plus bike is the sensation of the bike pulling sideways when riding off camber terrain. To better explain: when riding in a gutter that drops from right to left the bike feels like it is pulling right due to the extra traction on that side. It is by no means unique to this bike and doesn't impact on your riding, but it is something to get used to.

 

There is some extra drag from the tyres when pedalling up a long climb, but I'd like to see how it compares to non-plus sized tyres that offer the same levels of grip and traction, as I reckon it will be no worse.

 

General handling is good and on par with what one would expect of a trail, borderline all mountain, hardtail. This highlights the lack of a dropper seatpost, but surprisingly enough the fork's 100mm travel does not seem to hold the bike back too much

 

Verdict


The Silverback Sphere 1 is a great all round trail hardtail offering the feel and handling of a 4" dual suspension bike. With the added drag offset by the ample grip and traction, the Sphere 1 delivers a fun and rewarding ride for those looking to explore beyond their usual trails.

 

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Pros

  • Pure, unadulterated fun on the trails
  • Good grip and traction
  • Great finish
  • Good spec choice
Cons
  • Needs a dropper seatpost to maximise the fun factor

 

Specification


[spec_list][spec_list_row=Frame]29”+/27,5"+ Butted 6061 Aluminium, Tapered 1-1/8”-1.5”Headtube, XS/S: 27.5”+;M/L/XL: 29”+, 148 x12mm dropouts[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Fork]Manitou Magnum Comp 27.5+/29"+, 100mm, Tapered Alloy Steerer, XS/S: 27.5”+; M/L/XL: 29”+, Crown lockout, 15x110mm Dropout, Post Mount Disc[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Rims]Hayes/Sun Ringle Mulefut SL 50mm 27.5”+/29”+, Alloy, 32H, 29”+ for M/L/XL, 27.5”+ for XS/S sizes, Sun Ringle Nylon Rim tape, Black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Rear hub"]SRAM 746, 6-Bolt Disc Mount, Sealed cartridge bearings, XD Driver body, 12x 148mm Axle Black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Front hub"]SRAM 716, 6-Bolt Disc Mount, Sealed cartridge bearings, 150 x 15mm Thru Axle, Black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Tyres]Maxxis Chronicle 27.5”+/29”+ x 3.0, TR and EXO, Kevlar Bead[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Stem]Sector Box, 6061 Alloy, S/M: 60mm; L/XL: 75mm, 6° x ∮31.8mm, Black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Handlebar]Sector Plane, W: 720mm; Back Sweep: 9° x ∮31.8mm; 6061 Double Butted Oversized[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Seatpost]Sector Level, 6061 Alloy, ∮31.6mm, XS/S: 350mm; M/L/XL: 400mm, Black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Saddle]Sector, Cr-Mo Rails[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Brake set"]Shimano SLX BL/BR-M675, Open Hydraulic System, Metal Pads, Rotors Front: 180mm; Rear: 160mm[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Shifters]SRAM GX X-ACTUATION Trigger Shifter, 11 Speed, Black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Rear derailleur"]SRAM GX X-Horizon w/ Rolling Bearing Clutch and Cage Lock, Black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Cassette]SRAM XG-1150 11 Speed, 10-42T, Black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Crankset]Race Face Turbine Cinch, 32T, XS/S: 170mm; 175mm All other sizes, Black[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Bottom bracket"]Race Face, BB-92[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Claimed weight"]13.87 kg[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row="Recommended retail price"]R25,999[/spec_list_row][/spec_list]




12 Comments

Odinson, Aug 15 2016 08:11

I'm not sold on the use of 29+ for the larger sizes. There is more development going into 27.5+ rubber than for the fat miner. Therefore, you'll have less rubber options to choose from.

Slick looking bike though.

Flippa, Aug 15 2016 09:13

Surly Knard

Surly Dirt Wizard

Panaracer Fat B Nimble

Vittoria Bomboloni

WTB Ranger

Bontrager Chupacabra

Vee Trax Fatty

Maxxis Chronicle

 

All available in 29" x 3.0"

jaunpierre, Aug 15 2016 10:33

How would you rate this bike on the beach compared to a fat bike?  I'm strongly considering getting a fat bike however would like something I can do the odd trail with as well.  Regards,

jughead_dave, Aug 15 2016 01:53

I love these bikes, just wish they were lighter!!

DJuice, Aug 15 2016 08:56

Ivan will the Sphere 2 make a good single speed bike?

Iwan Kemp, Aug 16 2016 07:51

Ivan will the Sphere 2 make a good single speed bike?

 

I reckon so and with the the added cush of the plus tires it would make riding a rigid bike more forgiving and rewarding.

Iwan Kemp, Aug 16 2016 07:55

How would you rate this bike on the beach compared to a fat bike?  I'm strongly considering getting a fat bike however would like something I can do the odd trail with as well.  Regards,

 

If you will be riding trails more often than on the beach then this is the one to get. The extra width of fat tyres does help in thick, dry sand, but at very low pressures the plus pedals along just fine.

 

On trails plus is much better than a fat bike as its easier to pedal and is more agile.

Sarel See Monster, Aug 16 2016 06:47

I own one of these and I can honestly say one need not have another bike - One bike to rule them all! 

 

> XC

> Long distance races

> Enduro / AM

> Techy Rock Gardens

> Loose gravel

> Loam

> Mud

> Sand

> DH / Helderberg Mexican Border

> Hiking Trails

> The Other Woman

> DJ

> The list continues... 

 

I equipped mine with a dropper and a wider riser bar and it was good to go. And sure, if you are a weight weenie and enjoy riding your carbon 29 x 2.0 mountain bike on the road then this bike is not for you. 

 

Choose fun over efficiency.

 

Choose PLUS.  

lechatnoir, Aug 17 2016 07:59

I have no reason to want (or need) a new MTB, but I WANT WANT WANT!!

Janek Kosior, Feb 13 2018 01:50

Hi, is this bike good for some long distance bikepacking 30% tarmac / 30 % trail / 40 % gravel ?

What do you think  ?

capediver, Feb 13 2018 02:11

Hi, is this bike good for some long distance bikepacking 30% tarmac / 30 % trail / 40 % gravel ?

What do you think  ?

I got the Sphere Pro 27.5 for commuting.....if you have never ridden 3.0" tyres...be warned...the rolling resistance is FIERCE especially on tar! To counter that, you need to pump those babies so kinda negates any "suspension" you would imagine you'd get from plus sized tyres.....otherwise a great bike for the price.....and you could always "downgrade" the tyres to something easier to pedal.

Talk Wrench, Feb 13 2018 02:34

Hi, is this bike good for some long distance bikepacking 30% tarmac / 30 % trail / 40 % gravel ?

What do you think  ?

 

I know of somebody that bought it for precisely that kind of reason. He is pretty much over the moon with his choice. What size do you need?