NS Eccentric Cromo Hardtail Review – Is it good to be eccentric?
We put the NS Eccentric Cromo through a thorough examination in order to find out.
NS Bikes are well known for their jump bikes and their Snabb enduro range. The Eccentric Cromo falls somewhere between the two, offering enduro geometry with dirt bike heritage to offer the rider a versatile ‘hardcore’ hardtail. NS has been evolving the Eccentric range for a few years now, for 2018 they have ditched the multi-wheel size compatibility and sensibly focused on producing a dedicated 29er.
The Eccentric name refers to the Tange 4130 Chromoly Eccentric tubes that make up its frame. The Japanese tubing specialist developed Eccentric specifically for aggressive applications: the double butted tubing is a special blend of chromium and molybdenum that results in a light, at 2.4 kg, frame that can still take all you can throw at it.
The ENDURO team were split on the aesthetics but love it or loathe it, the Eccentric certainly has a presence. The NS Eccentric Cromo matches retro looks to the frame’s ‘function over form’ design gives it a hardcore feel that matches its intended use. The neatly welded slim steel tubing looks great in these days of hydroformed frames but the angular rear end, curving down and seat tube and reinforcing braces mean the Eccentric loses the tubings clean flow that’s possible when building steel hardtails. We are fans of external cable routing for the rear brake but the welded on zip-tie ports under the top tube feels like an afterthought rather than the best solution to an old problem and the semi-internal dropper cable just looks untidy tacked on top of the down tube. It’s evident that the frame and fork are where the bulk of the budget goes on the Eccentric Cromo, the majority of the Eccentric’s specification is all generic in-house stuff and the groupset is a functional pic-n-mix combination.
Geometry of the NS Eccentric Cromo
|Seat tube||407 mm||445 mm||495 mm|
|Top tube||595 mm||617 mm||645 mm|
|Chainstay||420 mm||420 mm||420 mm|
|BB Height||-55 mm||-55 mm||-55 mm|
|Wheelbase||1154 mm||1179 mm||1208 mm|
|Reach||415 mm||435 mm||460 mm|
|Stack||627 mm||636 mm||645 mm|
The 1 x 11 SRAM NX shifter and mech handle the drivetrain duties with consistent clunks rather than smooth clicks but it never let us down. Sunrace provides the cassette; 11-42t gives a limited range of gears by today’s standards but in conjunction with the direct mount 30t chainring, the gearing is low enough to get a 29er hardtail up pretty much anything. The SR Suntour 175 mm Zeron cranks may be cheap but they are neither light nor strong and we bent the drive side crank arm on our first trip out.
NS branded 29 mm internal width rims are laced using plain gauge spokes to NS Rotary Boost hubs and ran smooth and true throughout the test duration. For those of you that stress about having dirty hubs, NS have answered your prayers and hub cleaner bands come as standard. We’re not saying that this is unnecessary gimmickry but it does make the Eccentric look like its been to a few festivals this summer. The WTB Trail Boss 2.4 tyres were ideal for super dry hardpack conditions found at the trail centres over the test period but the close-spaced tread, rounded profile and higher pressures needed on a hardtail, struggled with the loose conditions we found on the hand-cut trails, especially after a shower. Clearance was okay with the 2.4 tyres but the frame would struggle with fitting anything wider, especially in muddy conditions. As expected, the KS dropper did the job without fuss but 125 mm drop feels short these days, especially when specced on a low slung frame.
Riding the NS Eccentric Cromo
With no XL size available, we tested a size large. Although on paper, a size too small for our tester, we found the scaled-down geometry made the long wheelbase and slack head angle of the Eccentric more playful. Yes, it manuals and jumps well but, despite the weight, the short chainstays and long wheelbase make for a bike that climbs well too.
The instant acceleration from the 420 mm stays was noticeable when powering over a section or negotiating tight switchbacks and it didn’t suffer the vague steering on steeper uphill sections we expected from the relatively lazy seat angle and short stays. The bike loves smooth flow trails; pump it hard through each compression and it finds speed quickly, setting it up for any side-hits or senders in its path. On the slower and steeper off-piste trails, the long overall wheelbase and slack head angle keep it planted, yet it remains nimble through tight turns, rooty sections and drops. The steel frame and 29er wheels shield the rider from some of the smaller trail chatter but when the speeds increase, line choice is critical to avoid buckaroos as you can forget that your rear end isn’t sprung. The frame is matched well to the RockShox Recon RL forks. With a Solo Air spring, Motion Control damper and aluminium steerer tube the Recon RL is a fantastic fork for the money but with 140 mm travel and 32 mm stanchions, the front end can get a bit twangy when pushed hard. SRAM also supply the brakes. On the trail, the Lever’s modulation felt great with 180 mm rotors front and rear but they lacked the final bite needed to brake late when hammering into corners or to handle the steep stuff at speed.
The NS Eccentric is quirky for sure but it isn’t as unconventional as the name may suggest. Its geometry and spec make the Eccentric a tough all-rounder, rather than a radical enduro hardtail, which is no bad thing as it makes the bike more appealing to trail riders wanting hardtail fun and simplicity for everyday riding.
For more information on the NS Eccentric, check out the NS website.