3D printed, titanium lugs and carbon tubes. Over 22 different frame sizes and feedback from countless downhill World Cup and World Champion titles. Atherton Bikes promise all this and more. Now, the wait is finally over as the first bikes have made it to the market, and we put the 2022 Atherton AM.150 to the test.
The Athertons – Rachel, Gee and Dan – should be familiar names to most of you reading this. Not least because, together, the siblings have won 7 downhill World Championship titles and overalls. At the beginning of 2019, the trio fulfilled another dream of theirs by founding their own bike brand together, backed by a small crew. For a long time, the frames produced by Atherton Bikes were exclusively available to their factory team, but since the beginning of 2022, mere mortals like us have been able to purchase one of the super rare bikes. We were lucky enough to put the 2022 Atherton AM.150 to the test for you. The key figures are nothing out of the ordinary: 160 mm travel up front, paired with 150 mm at the rear. 29″ wheels, gravity-oriented components – specially tailored to our requirements – and a price of € 7.699. But what’s so special about these bikes is how they’re built.
How it’s made: Atherton Bikes – Lasered, sawed and glued
The manufacturing process, in which 3D printed titanium lugs are bonded with carbon tubes, is something special in the bike industry, but it isn’t new. For example, it’s used for prototyping in Formula 1 or aviation, and there have already been the odd custom bike projects here and there. Long-time readers may have heard of Robot Bikes Co. The small company from Wales started producing custom frames with this process some years ago. At the end of 2018, it officially closed its doors, though it didn’t disappear from the scene, merging with the Athertons to form a new brand instead. As such, Atherton Bikes don’t just have a very experienced production team – which actually has its roots in the Formula 1 and aviation industry – but also decades of racing experience.
While they were at it, they adopted the basic idea of the DW6 rear linkage, which Dave Weagle developed for Robot Bikes Co. at the time. It’s a mixture of a DW link, as you’ll find on Pivot Bikes, for example, and a classic Horst link.
But let’s get back to the actual production of the bikes for a moment. The double-walled titanium lugs are produced using an additive manufacturing process. Through so-called selective laser melting, an automatic process applies a layer of titanium powder to a base plate which then gets melted and fused by a laser beam until it’s achieved the desired hardness and mass. The machine applies about 3,500 layers in 16 hours. When the lugs are finished and separated from their base plate, they’re bonded with correspondingly sized carbon tubes using an extremely strong industrial adhesive. This results in the bike’s straight lines and fully customisable sizes and geometry.
The 2022 Atherton AM.150 in detail
The 2022 Atherton AM.150 is a no-frills bike without any special features or storage compartments like you’ll find on a Specialized or Trek, focusing entirely on the necessary things. This includes a chainstay protector, which is very thin but does the job well – namely to dampen the chain and keep the bike running quietly. The frame also includes a bottle cage and a minimalistic down tube protector, which our test bike didn’t have yet. All the cables are routed internally and they remained quiet inside the frame of our test bike despite the fact that they’re not clamped down at the ports.
Prices and builds of the 2022 Atherton AM.150
If you choose an Atherton Bike, you can buy just the frame including a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock for € 3,899, or one of the two pre-configured complete builds. Prices vary between € 6,532 and € 7,556. Alternatively – as in our case – the build can be specced according to the customers’ requirements. Regarding the frame colour, you have a choice between black and raw.
The custom spec of our 2022 Atherton AM.150 test bike
For our test, the 2022 Atherton AM.150 was specced with FOX suspension. The FOX 36 Factory fork features the highly adjustable GRIP2 damper and was paired with an X2 Factory air shock. For the brakes, we chose SRAM’s CODE RSC four-piston models and had the levers mounted to an 800 mm wide Renthal carbon handlebar. The brakes allow you to adjust both the bite point lever reach without tools and the integrated SwingLink offers quicker engagement and improved modulation, which helps avoid arm pump on long descents. They were combined with 200 mm rotors at the front and rear
Shifting was taken care of by SRAM’s X01 12-speed groupset, though our cassette only had a 10–50 t range. A bash guard and chain guide ensured that everything stayed put and nothing got damaged. The seat post was a 175 mm FOX Transfer dropper, controlled by the matching remote. It does an impeccable job, but we couldn’t insert it all the way into the frame. The Stan’s NoTubes Flow MK4 rims were fitted with Continental’s latest tires, relying on the SuperSoft rubber compound and a downhill casing: a Krypotal FR up front and RE at the rear. These are the all-round option in the new Continental line-up.
Fork FOX 36 Factory GRIP2 160 mm
Rear Shock FOX X2 Factory 150 mm
Seatpost FOX Transfer 175 mm
Brakes SRAM Code RSC 200/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01 Eagle 1x12
Stem Renthal Apex 60 mm
Handlebar Renthal FatBar Carbon 800 mm
Wheelset Stans Flow MK4 29"
Tires Continental Kryptotal FR Supersoft DH Casing/Continental Kryptotal RE Supersoft DH Casing 2.4/2.4
Size 1 - 22
The geometry of the 2022 Atherton AM.150
The 2022 Atherton AM.150 is available in a whopping 22 different sizes. The sizes are ordered according to the reach, which goes from 410 mm (size 1) to 530 mm (size 22) in steps of 10 mm. Our size 12 test bike had a reach of 480 mm. While the seat tubes are short across the board (415 mm on the size 12 on test), they don’t always have enough insertion depth for long dropper posts, unnecessarily limiting your freedom of movement and the frame sizes (reach length) you can choose from.
Those who are unsure what frame size they need can get themselves measured on site and thus find the right size. If you want to take it even further, you can choose to have the geometry customised for an additional charge of approximately € 800. That said, the chainstay lengths are already dynamic, adapted to each standard frame size and the Atherton Bikes team is constantly improving and developing the bikes, with super quick implementation thanks to the production process.
The geometry range of the 2022 Atherton AM.150
|Seat tube||395 mm||415 mm||475 mm|
|Head tube||100 mm||110 mm||125 mm|
|BB Drop||30 mm||30 mm||30 mm|
|Chainstay||433 mm||438 mm||443 mm|
|Wheelbase||1167 mm||1246 mm||1308 mm|
|Reach||410 mm||480 mm||530 mm|
|Stack||619 mm||628 mm||641 mm|
The 2022 Atherton AM.150 on the trail – How fast would you like to go?
The AM.150 excels on the flats and the uphills, offering a comfortable riding position and allowing you to fly up every climb thanks to the ultra-efficient rear suspension. Feel like putting in a short sprint? No problem. Quick detour along an uphill trail? Gladly. Even on steep and technical climbs, the front wheel stays planted without much effort on your part, remaining easy to control. The only drawback here are the soft compound and downhill casing of the tires, robbing the Atherton of some of its liveliness.
Therefore, however, you’ll be grinning all the more when the incline changes and gravity takes hold. Aboard the Atherton, we drew an imaginary line from the trailhead straight to the bottom of the valley and followed it all the way down. Once the AM.150 gets rolling, there’s no stopping it and the bike blasts downhill as if it’s on rails. It doesn’t take much work either: the balanced weight distribution and intuitive handling will quickly let you forget how gnarly that rock garden was that you just ploughed through. The excellent suspension also does its job, simply absorbing all hits, drops and the nastiest roots. If you want to get airborne, it offers enough support to preload and pop the bike off any lips and jumps, generating a lot of airtime while offering enough reserves in case you overshoot the landing.
Get on and hold tight. The 2022 Atherton AM.150 rides as if on rails, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the ride with its intuitive and confidence-inspiring handling.
If you do have to change direction – trails rarely follow a straight – the Atherton feels agile and playful, letting you shoot from one berm to the next at warp speed, the supportive suspension allowing you to pump the bike to go faster still. As such, the AM.150 doesn’t care whether you prefer charging over roots and rocks or railing berms and boosting jumps on flow trails. It does exactly what you want it to.
Our conclusion on the 2022 Atherton AM.150
The 2022 Atherton AM.150 is very unique. It’s unlikely that you will see two of them on the trails, and it’s sure to draw envious attention. However, it seems somewhat dated with regard to frame details and practical solutions. That said, the AM.150’s performance on the trail easily overshadows this minor complaint, both up- and downhill. Moreover, it’s versatile enough for everything from flowing bike parks to alpine switchbacks and the roughest rocks and roots.
- excellent up- and downhill performance
- comfortable enough for long days in the saddle
- very rare and unique bike
- minimalist frame details
- 175 mm dropper can’t be fully inserted
For more information, visit the Atherton Bikes website
Words: Peter Walker Photos: Mike Hunger, Peter Walker