Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Pace Cycles RC529 steel hardtail review

Posted by Tony | December 29, 2020 | 18 comments so far

Pace Cycles 529 with purple accents
Lockdown has proven to be an expensive time for my cycling…

Despite too much time WHF looking at cycling YouTube video’s, browsing eBay and considering new cycling purchases I have, contrary to my Moles knickname – 20bikesTony – cut down on the bike ownership with the help of my personal eBay guru, adviser and seller, DaveC. Thanks Dave!

Of course, moving on some bikes has left space for some others, so as not to break my better half’s ‘no N+1 bike’ rule. One retro MTB bike has been refurbed and another retro MTB is on the way to being completed, all with too much lockdown time spent watching eBay for parts.

Also gone is my very lightweight XC Pronghorn hardtail. It was super-fast but a little steep in the steering for the technical riding which I seem to be doing more and more of on the profusion of steep twisty trails across the North Downs ridge. With lockdown winter looming I figured that I’d be riding MTBs more than other years and a LLS (that’s Long, Low and Slack) hardtail replacement seemed to be just right.

Matt has a Bird AM Zero hardtail 27.5 which he alternates between raving about and telling us he’s going to be swapping. It does seem to be a great bike but I really wanted a 29er (I do like the big wheels) and a steel bike.

Pace Cycles by numbers - 853 on the 529

Why Steel?

Not sure really, I just like it as a hardtail MTB frame material in terms of the ride feel. So the Bird being Alu was out and I’m not a fan of titanium (seen too many broken Ti frames) so that was out too.

Fortunately there are a whole slew of new LLS steel hardtails to choose from, even if availability is another issue. Production Privee Shan, Ribble 725 (which looks great value and can be nicely blinged with anno parts), the new Stif Squatch, Stantons, Cotics and many others that I’ve missed out here.

Lockdown and the general issues of 2020 meant (#firstworldproblem alert) there were no test rides and actually my original plan of buying a frame and building up with parts of my own choosing went of out the window too, mainly due to the limited availability of groupsets. After watching lots of YouTube videos and reading as many LLS hardtail reviews as I could, I was drawn to the Pace Cycles RC529 in 853.

Head tube badge on the Pace Cycles 529

Why the Pace Cycles RC529?

Well it’s certainly not the best value (I could have bought a reasonable full-sus for the same price), but the ride reviews were excellent and having ridden – but not owned – Paces back in the early days of MTB’ing I had a bit of nostalgia for Pace. Also it looks very nicely made and painted!

The decisions of which colour – Primer Grey – and which groupset – Shimano 12 speed – were fairly straight forward, not being a fan of SRAM brakes.

So, I paid my money and this being 2020, waited. After 5 weeks, being kept informed by the helpful Sophie at Pace, a very large box turned up and inside it was my Primer RC529 XT Ultimate.

Pace RC529 geometry

Sizes L
Effective Toptube Size L645 mm
Reach Size L484 mm
Stack Size L646 mm
Head Angle Size L65°
Seat Angle Size L76°
Seattube Size L450 mm
Chainstay (adjustable + 6.5 mm Size L430 mm
BB Drop Size L65 mm
BB Height Size L305 mm
Headtube Size L105 mm
Wheelbase Size L1226 mm

The RC529 is definitely LLS with a 65° head angle on 150mm Pike Ultimates and a 76° seat angle. It has a looooong effective top tube at 645mm and reach at 484mm, but is paired with a titchy 32mm stem which keeps things within the bounds of reason. 1226mm for the wheelbase means this is a Big Bike!

Spec includes a Shimano XT 1×12 full groupset (32T chainring, 11-51 cassette) and frankly huge 203/180mm rotors, 800mm Burgtec bars, a cable operated Bike Yoke dropper, Hunt Trail Wide wheels Boosted on both ends, Maxxis Dissector tyres and a Burgtec Cloud saddle.

The bike was good to go after fitting tubeless valves (included in the box) and a quick squirt of Stans fluid. I left the Burgtec adjustable rear dropouts in their most ‘short chainstay’ setting which meant the tyre was fairly close to the seat tube. If you wanted to single speed or hub gear the bike this looks like a great feature.

Pace is Ace!

Initial impressions

Out of the box the bike looked great, in my view at least. Being in the wooded hills of Surrey meant the bars got chopped to 780mm. I added a bell, my favourite way of warning walkers and fork pressures were fettled to get my favourite compliant plush fork feel. Then the rides began.

The first thing to go was the Burgtec Cloud saddle which was soon knicknamed the Burgtec Impaler™. I know saddles are a personal thing and generally I’m not too saddle fussy, but the Bergtec Cloud was dreadful for me. Also the oddly short 165mm cranks had to go. I’ve ridden 165mm on track bikes before but it seemed to be just too short for me to pedal comfortably, so 170mm replacements were found.

The change of saddle also prompted a little bit of bling, added as a nod to those early days of MTB’ing when purple anodised parts were the coolest thing ever. Besides, purple looks good with the Grey Primer. So additions included a purple ano Hope seatclamp, Hope headset spacers, Burgtec top cap, purple highlighted SDG Bel Air 3 saddle, purple Hope floating rotors and a few extra purple ano bolts.

The first few rides with the Burgtec Impaler and 165mm cranks weren’t perfect but the change to the new saddle and cranks made the whole riding experience far, far, better. Small things eh?

Burgtec stem cap in purple for Pace Cycles

Hope floating disc rotors in purple

Riding some more

Once dialled in the Pace Cycles RC529 has been great.

For such a large bike with 29er wheels and slack head angle the bike climbs far better than it has any right to. There is so much traction, you can just sit down and spin up most climbs. Even climbs that I’ve struggled with on the full sus, like at the Windmill at Peaslake or the Haut Categorie C1 High Ashurst climb out the back of little Switzerland, have been ridden up on the RC529. The 2.4 Maxxis Dissectors must have helped too, at 22-23psi there is very good grip.

Going downhill? Well drop the 185mm of the seatpost right down, point and go.

Pace Cycles 529 on White Down in the Surrey Hills

It’s never going to be as capable as my 150mm Specialized Stumpjumper full sus but it’s pretty damn close. It rolls beautifully and for such a big bike, due to the short chainstays(?), it corners really sharply. The modern wide bars, short stem, Boosted hubs and chunky tyres mean you can really lean it into the corners.

The winter has been terrible here for mud over the last month (to be fair we had a superb summer of dusty trails in the Surrey Hills) and the RC529 has been up to its axles in deep mud, but its never clogged up. Sadly (from the aesthetic perspective) a Crud Fender XL and Mud Hugger XL have had to be added to keep me a semblance of mud-free, at least above mid thigh. In the mud, where full sus is largely pointless, it’s kept me going out in the worst of weathers so far.

I really wasn’t sure about this LLS hardtail thing combined with such a steep seat tube, but I’m convinced on the Pace RC529. It’s been a blast so far!

Filed under Bikes, Reviews in December 2020


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  1. Mark says:

    Great review, I’ve got one and never regretted it, I have a selection of bikes to choose from and the 529 is the one I go for now!

    • Tony says:

      Thanks Mark. I was concerned whether the Pace would be too stiff and harsh but I’ve got to say that it’s (well with the new saddle!) a really comfy big ride bike, surprisingly so. At the moment it’s definitely the first choice before the FS

  2. Matt says:

    When Tony says I alternate between raving about my Bird AM Zero hardtail and threatening to sell it he’s right. It’s numbers are almost identical to the Pace – I have an ETT that’s 15mm shorter than the Pace and a Reach that’s 12mm shorter but just run a 50mm stem rather than Tony’s 32mm one. So not much to choose there.

    The reason I am considering selling something that I love is the frame material; I’d quite like a steel hardtail too with a springier ride! Geometry-wise these things are a hoot.

    There’s not as much choice at 27.5 wheel sizing unfortunately, which is why I go one way then the other. Going 29er means new forks and wheels from my perspective, but I really fancy the Stif Squatch.

    The most obvious 27.5 option is the Ribble HT 725 which again has similar numbers, but I’d really like to try it in comparison to the Bird. There’s not much point changing if Ribble have gone for ultra stiff over a bit of flex as that is what I have with the Bird but some of the frame details hint at beefy to me.

    So, the jury remains out. For now.

    Meanwhile, the Pace looks fantastic, I’m very envious!

  3. Elliot says:

    I like the purple parts! ?

    Been happy with mine so far. Frame looks nicely made and the geometry works well. Not as heavy as it could have been. Although I didn’t remember to weigh the frame until halfway through the build, oops. Might put some faster rolling tyres on if the mud ever dries.

    Bit difficult to judge frame compliance sometimes but the 529 is in the middle of bikes I’ve ridden. Sort of similar to a Solaris, smoother than my old aluminium Treks or the current generation Kona Unit, but some way off matching a Singular Swift. Interestingly despite being hampered by 42mm tyres my Gisburn is smoother, likely down to the long unbridged seatstays that can be bent by hand. Gotta be careful assuming steel will be smooth. But yeah the Pace is reasonably comfortable on longer rides.

  4. James says:

    That’s a lovely looking bike. I’m completely sold on the modern long travel steel hardtail, particularly for Surrey Hills riding at the moment. My weapon of choice is the Stanton Switch9er which is very similar geometry to the Pace and I would highly recommend if you can get hold of one. The contrast to riding a full suspension bike is a refreshing change and really makes you think about line choice rather than just steam rolling through!

    • Tony says:

      Hi James. Thanks for the comment. The Stanton Switch9er was definitely on my list for consideration and looks like a great bike. I’d agree though that a LLS HT and a good fork is a great choice for the Surrey Hills, particularly with our current mudfest conditions!

  5. Nick says:

    Hi Tony. I’m looking at the Pace 529 to replace my Stanton Slackline 16.5 ( a lockdown 27.5 experiment), as I want to go back to 29 wheels & need a longer reach. The geometry looks spot on for the Pace, but how have you found the reach on the size Large?.. I’m about 177cm H, so Medium or Large in theory..but 486mm reach for the Large sounds huge on paper.. I ride mostly XC North Downs & Surrey Hills trails & being a racing snake, I like to climb.
    Thanks for your time. Nick

  6. Tony says:

    Hi Nick. Stanton Slackline was on my list of potential bikes but I’m still happy with the 529. I sounds like I’m a little taller than you but you are on the cusp of M/L whereas I’m pretty happy with the L reach. I’d possibly say that M sounds better for you, since I’m fairly stretched on a large.
    I do like to climb but I’m no race snake any more. The RC529 continues to impress me with how well it climbs. It just seems to find traction!

  7. Paul says:

    Mega read, thanks! I’m weighing up a Cotic SolarisMAX or Pace RC529. I love the look of Stanton Switch9er but I’m 6ft3 and think the frame options are too small.

    Plus being 44yrs and growing up on Dartmoor spitting distance from Newnham Park (Grundig World Cup venue in 1990s) I’ve drooled over and dreamed about owning a Pace bike. Good enough for Mint Sauce….

    Now live in Essex (bummer) and get the odd ride on North Downs,Thetford or local trails.

    Definitely think the Pace is for me.

  8. Tony Gordon says:

    @Paul. Sometimes it’s as much as the emotional pull of a brand as much as the actual product that draws us in. Fortunately the Pace has both for me, that’s why I have the RC529 and actually an original RC100 too.

  9. Tony says:

    Matt will be watching out for this with his new build in planning. Stay tuned for details!

  10. Marcel says:

    Nice Review Tony! Thanks a lot!

    What do you think about the seat tube angle? 76 is static, so sagged it will get like 77,5.

    On your pictures, I noticed, that you pushed your saddle completely back on your seat post. It looks like the seat tube angle could be 2 degree slacker.

    What do you think?

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