Based in the South West of Germany, Propain Bikes is a rider owned, direct-to-consumer sales brand, sporting a range of Aluminium and Carbon bikes. Their lines include models designed for 4 year old shredders to e-bikes; and a range of mountain bikes from a 29er trail rig to a full blown downhill race machine. A team of 40 handles their operation from Vogt in the Alpine foreland, close to the Austrian and Swiss borders.
Propain was imagined in 2006 by Robert Krauss, an Engineer who was working for a helicopter manufacturer at the time whilst racing downhill on the side. He set about on the quest to design the best linkage system for a Downhill bike. He called this Pro10 because it had to fulfill the 10 points he believed would make a perfect system; which included pedaling neutrality, high sensitivity, low center of mass and good weight distribution between the wheels. Ever since, the Pro10 system has been at the heart of Propain and the reason for their unique Frame design. In the inception, Propain was a solely Downhill oriented brand, but six years ago they diversified their portfolio into the Enduro market with the addition of the Tyee, which has seen a few iterations including a very recent update to bring it up to 2020 standards, and is the bike they kindly supplied to test.
Naturally, with their roots firmly in downhill racing, Propain have had a factory World cup team, seeing top riders like Phil Atwill and Joe Smith on the roster over the years. For this season they welcomed established rider George Brannigan on board, which can only be a good thing for any company!
One of the most unique things about Propain is that they don’t have any fully built bikes on the rack. Each bike sold is produced to order, ensuring the customer gets the bike according to their exact preferences and budget. Being fully rider owned, and with most of the staff being mountain bikers, the company is filled with passion for two wheels; ensuring that as they grew, they never took themselves too seriously and were always approachable. They strive to keep this close connection to their customers, with a credo to “build the best bikes for themselves and their friends”, which they understand to be the reason people love Propain.
Propain offers the 160mm travel Tyee in Aluminum and Carbon Fiber varieties, in both 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes; with the 27.5” spanning sizes S-L, and 29” M-XL. This gives riders between 168cm and 192cm the choice of the two wheel sizes depending on their preference. My 189cm stature would have allowed me to ride the Large on either bike, but I opted for the XL 29er CF model since it sported my familiar 490mm reach figure.
The 29er shares a 64.5° head angle, 77.1° effective seat angle (73.5° actual), 445mm chainstay and 26mm bb drop across all sizes. Reach figures are modern but not extreme; at 451mm, 471mm and 491mm; for medium, large and extra-large respectively; but accompanied by the big 630mm, 639mm and 648mm stack figures the riding position is quite roomy when out of the saddle. Average length 440mm, 460mm and 480mm seat tubes don’t give riders the potential to easily size-up, though most riders should be able to fit a reasonably long dropper on their most appropriate size. The relatively long rear end and slack head angle do add up to create a fairly sprawled-out bike; but the relatively steep seat angle creates a nicely centered climbing position for getting up the hills.
Propain have been evolving their “Pro10” system since their inception, and their most recent iteration sees the shock moved inside the front triangle, removing the concerns that many had voiced previously regarding the potential for shock damage and wear. They’ve managed to package their dual counter-rotating link; full floating shock, linkage design in such a compact way that there’s room for a large water bottle in the front triangle, whilst still offering clearance for large air and coil shocks. This system features a healthy amount of anti-squat (over 100% in all cogs at all points in the travel), which should help to keep the 160mm rear end from feeling too sluggish when on the gas, and there’s a great deal of progression to support hard-charging with both coil and large-volume air shocks. The Tyee is designed to be a true all-round mountain bike, so Propain has focused on providing great pedaling characteristics and healthy amounts of pop.
The “Blend” Carbon construction that Propain use on the Tyee CF contains a blend (hence the name) of different types of pre-preg fabrics (carbon layers that are pre-impregnated with the resin matrix prior to laying up and curing the frame), to obtain the desired properties in each area of the frame. The industrial designers at Propain have done a great job with the lines on the frame, with its looks gathering many positive comments over the testing period. Internal routing is made simple due to the internal channeling, and there’s nicely shaped downtube and chainstay protection fitted from factory to fend off the most likely damage and wear. Propain fitted “dirt shield” hardware on the linkage (an extra set of seals to keep water and mud out), which should keep the rear end running smoothly for many miles.
Propain bikes can be purchased directly from their website in Europe and North America. Propain explained their current situation in the North American market: “We just started selling bikes in the US in February. Since the North American market is huge and for a quite small company like us it’s a mammoth task so we wanted to start low key. Custom bikes are super complex when it comes to purchasing all the different parts from various manufactures and building them up. We decided to start slowly so everything can evolve and grow. So we can keep our word when it comes to quality, delivery time and service. Currently we only have pre-configured bikes available for North America. Soon we will offer a “light” version of the configurator for the Tyee, which includes the frame color, decals and the suspension.”
For European customers, there’s a full customization service on offer. They offer three different spec levels as a recommendation, but Propain say the majority of their bikes see the custom configuration treatment. The alloy version starts at €2.399 with the base spec, with the carbon fiber frame bumping the base price up to €2.999. The Tyee CF on test was a custom build coming in at €5.254, leaving very little to be desired with its top spec Fox Factory suspension; full SRAM XO1 groupset with Code RSC brakes; and a host of German components top it off in the form of the Newmen Evolution SL A.30 wheels; the excellent BikeYoke Revive dropper; a good quality cockpit and saddle from Sixpack Racing; and some Schwalbe Magic Mary rubber.
Propain supplied this Tyee for an extended test period, during which time the world was facing the wrath of the covid-19 pandemic. This made for a lot of local testing on the tight and technical trails of the midlands of England, combined with some simulated bike park and downhill testing on the shorter local runs. Although there were no serious bike park trips that the Tyee was calling for, the testing period allowed for the full spectrum of the capabilities of the bike to be assessed.
With a wheelbase longer than some downhill bikes, and 160mm travel combined with 29” wheels, it may not come as a surprise that the Tyee is not the most agile bike. However, it would be unfair to say that it was hard going on the way up. The 77.1 degree effective seat angle produces a climbing position that was still well centered, even for my long legs. With the wheels spaced so far either side of the saddle, there’s enough stability to remove any need to think about weighting your tyres on all but the steepest, granny-ring demanding ascents. On the steeper climbs, the slack front end does begin to wander as you battle to get your weight over the bars, but it’s not as bad as it would have been a few years ago when seat angles were more relaxed, and can be managed with a little attention. The overall length of the bike becomes a nuisance when the climbs get tight and technical, combining with the relatively low bottom bracket to make life a little trickier on some of the janky local climbs – the Tyee certainly didn’t cover up my lackluster technical climbing ability. However the Pro10 linkage offers enough anti-squat to counteract the pedaling input when seated climbing, even with a coil shock fitted, which makes it a pleasure to grind out the miles. It’s only when hammering on the pedals out of the saddle that you’re made aware that this is a long travel bike, but it’s by no means an energy-sapping sofa. The weight of the Tyee CF in this configuration, at a reasonable 14.1kg given its intentions, isn’t a great hindrance on the way up, however the Magic Mary tyres fitted front and rear certainly weren’t the most pedal friendly on the flatter stints of pedaling effort – the noise these tires emit alone is enough to sap the energy out of your legs.
With the way up the hill being surprisingly pleasant, I was eager to find out how this translated to the business end – the way down. Beginning testing with the air sprung Fox Float X2, I was slightly underwhelmed by the sensitivity of the Pro10 rear end, struggling to find a good compromise of support and compliance. The air provided a good amount of “pep” on the more mellow trails, and added further progression to the rear end to ensure the bottom out bumper was left to rest for all but the biggest hucks, but didn’t offer the bump-eating ability that i’d expected from a bike produced by a company with such a rich history in downhill biking. Some further playing with settings could no doubt improve this, but I felt there was more capability to be had out of the Tyee than in this guise. Luckily, Propain also supplied the Fox DHX2 coil shock to test, and this really brought the Tyee to life, freeing the rear end to gobble up the chunky rocks and roots; and find grip where the air shock didn’t. This turned the Tyee into an aggressive rocket ship, with downhill bike levels of control and momentum carrying. The kinematics still provided adequate pedaling support and progression to work harmoniously with the coil unit, with the only drawback being a reduction in the playfulness and pop of the bike. In essence, the Tyee can almost be two bikes in one, with the choice of rear shock and the accompanying characteristics allowing the user to decide if they favor playfulness or…plowfulness.
As you may expect, the long wheelbase and relatively low BB produces a very stable ride that comes to life the harder you push it. The combination of this BB height, long rear end and long front-center mean that initiating a manual requires a bit of body english and hanging far off the back, but it’s not unmanageable. The spread out wheels require careful attention when the trails get tight, as the wide turning radius necessitates high lines on the approach to tight corners, but this won’t matter to many riders. High stack and a low center of gravity are a great combination for me when it comes to fast corners, and the Tyee makes excellent use of this to go around open turns as good as any. The stiffness of the rear end is on the higher side, but plentiful compliance was provided by the relatively flexible Newmen wheelset featuring 28 double butted spokes – a combination that works very well in natural terrain, but can be a touch unnerving at times in a hardpack bike park setting. Hard on the brakes, there was no funny business with the Tyee, giving a very neutral response.
Overall, the components package on the Tyee CF tested worked a treat, as you would expect from its fairly high price tag (for a direct-sales brand). Srams’ XO1 gearing and Code RSC brakes are proven, reliable and high quality offerings. The Fox suspension package offers incredible control and tuneability, and matched the hard charging nature of the bike well. The Bikeyoke dropper was dependable, with a quick rise and smooth drop every time.
The Newmen wheels are a good weight for an alloy wheelset, with snappy acceleration and good engagement on the rear hub. However, the flex was a little excessive at times, and at the end of the test two of the spokes broke at the nipple end – It’s safe to say I’m a wheel punisher though, and I believe few other riders would suffer the same issue.
The Tyee had a couple of relatively minor niggles that are worth noting. Whilst the molded carbon cable tunnels no doubt make maintenance a stress-free affair, there was still a hint of rattling in the downtube. The cables route under the BB, closely around the rear tire before entering the chainstays, which isn’t an ideal solution – they often shifted and rubbed on the tire, and are very susceptible to damage and catching stray sticks on the trail. The shock area is very tight, and meant that in the factory position the lockout lever isn’t able to turn quite enough to engage the circuit – something that could perhaps be remedied by rotating the lever, and isn’t a large problem due to the Tyees’ pleasant pedaling characteristic. Removing and fitting the shock also requires a great deal of patience and dexterity. The Carbon SRAM XO1 cranks developed a creak early on, but this is likely an isolated component issue.
The Wolf’s Last Word
A high quality, extremely capable bike that can be playful or a plowing machine depending on the rear shock setup; and with killer looks, it’s safe to say the Tyee will appeal to a whole host of riders. With the coil shock on the back, it produces a formidable machine that’ll take on all but the gnarliest of downhill trails; but provides a pleasant platform to spin back up on. It won’t suit those who spend their time on the tightest, jankiest trails, but for anyone else it’s a well rounded machine that can take nearly anything in its stride.
Frame: Blend Carbon; 160mm
Fork: Fox 36 Float, Factory Kashima, Fit Grip 2, Boost, 170mm
Shock: Fox Float X2 / Fox DHX2, Factory Kashima, 210×55
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC, 200F/200R Centreline rotors
Handlebar: Sixpack Millenium, 35 x 805 mm, 35mm rise
Headset: Acros, ZS49/ZS56
Saddle: Sixpack Kamikaze
Seatpost: Bikeyoke Revive, 31.6 x 160mm
Shifter: SRAM X01 Eagle; 12s
Stem: Sixpack Millenium, 35 x 35mm
Wheelset: Newman Evolution SL A 30, 30mm, 110/148
Front tire: Schwalbe Magic Mary, Addix-Soft, TLE, Kevlar, 29″ x 2.35″
Rear tire: Schwalbe Magic Mary, Addix-Soft, TLE, Kevlar, 29″ x 2.35″
Bottom Bracket: SRAM Dub GXP Threaded
Cassette: SRAM XG 1295; 10-50T
Cranks: SRAM X01 Eagle, Boost, DUB, 32T, 170mm
Derailleur: SRAM X01 Eagle; 12s
Playful ride with the air shock
Plow machine with the coil
Customisable as standard
Cable routing niggles
Tight terrain maneuverability
Rear wheel flexibility (at times)
Reduced sensitivity with air shock
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