Party time – What makes a fun bike

“Business in the front – party in the back.” is a phrase that refers to having a bike with a playful, possibly shorter travel rear, mixed with a capable and high-performance front. It could also refer to a bike that has long spacious front triangle and a slack headtube angle but comes with a shorter swingarm. Or, it could also refer to a bike with mixed wheel sizes – a mullet.

If you are considering having a bike that is more party than business, you should read this article.

Difference between business and play

Our team rider Joseph Nation is one of the few who has tested Stamina 160 and Stamina 180 head to head. We asked what thought on 29er Stamina 160 compared to Stamina 180 and this is what he said: “I felt a lot more feedback which gave me the impression I was going faster but the clock said otherwise. It sat up in its travel a lot more, purely because the sag is shorter, and it didn’t compress as much into high-speed berms which actually felt really cool/fun.”

Shorter sag gives the rider a faster response from the bike making a shorter travel feel more playful.
Closer you get to bottom out the rear suspension, the more you feel the feedback. This is how the progressive suspension design on Pole bikes feel like.

Suspension curve of Pole bikes is progressive. Having progressive suspension is not a new thing on the market but ours differ from many. Our suspension has more progression on the top than on the bottom of the stroke. In other words: our suspension feels softer on the top, has nice support on sag area and nice and firm end stroke. Closer you get to that bottom, the more you feel the feedback. This is exactly why Joe felt the Stamina 160 cool and fun, as he was riding between that firm and supportive area.

It’s when you squish that rear with your weight and feel the pressure on your feet when the bike is ready to pop. A shorter travel bike feels more playful because less suspension travel and therefore shorter sag gives the rider a faster response from the bike. The bike feels more lively and feels easier to handle but in the expense of grip and stability.

What made Joe be actually slower on a bike that he felt faster on, was that he was riding closer to the limits of it. Having a party bike rarely helps to chase those precious seconds on an enduro race, even when you are a pro-level rider.

Playfulness means riding closer to the limits of a bike. If you aim for a maximal party on trails, get a shorter travel bike and push it to the limit.

Longer suspension adds traction and speed

All of us mountain bikers know how it feels totally different riding 20km/h on a smooth and wide trail than on a tight and rocky one. A Smooth trail makes it easy to just cruise around as where the tight and rocky one forces the rider to truly focus more. It’s about the perspective of how we feel the speed. The same applies to why you might have felt faster on a hardtail than on a full-suspension bike on a technical trail: You felt faster simply because your bike was skipping and bouncing from the roots and rocks all the time. On a full-suspension bike, the technical stuff was smoothened away by the suspension, so there were fewer variables to focus on.

Skipping, bouncing, slipping… that’s lack of traction. The more you have well-designed suspension, the more you have traction and faster you can go. With Stamina 180, our conception of traction went trough the roof.

With Stamina 180, our conception of traction went trough the roof. Leigh Johnson at EWS Zermatt 2019.

Swingarm length and weight balance

Manuals! The very basis of party riding. Manuals are fun as is and also a base for a proper bunny hop. Concept of a manual is super simple: Just move your weight behind the rear wheel and keep your arms on the bars so that the front wheel lifts off the ground. Easy!

Skillful rider knows how to pull off a manual despite the bike. Things like shorter swingarm and shorter suspension help to lift the front wheel off the ground but have negative effect on speed and stability.
Matti Lehikoinen enjoying the active nature of Stamina 140. Stamina 140 is easier to pop off a small features than Stamina 180, but it is not meant for big impacts.

One big factor limiting weight movement over the rear wheel is the swingarm length. You may have seen videos of hill-climbing motocross bikes or high-tuned street motorcycles that both have long rear to keep the front wheel on the ground. It’s easy to understand why long swingarm resists manuals – the further the rear wheel is from your butt, the wider movement you must do to shift the weight over it.

While short swingarm makes the bike playful, it also reduces its stability. As the front wheel lifts off the ground easier, it means that the rider needs to be more active moving the weight from back to forth. As you are forced to stay active, it’s easier to ride on party mode. Having a stable bike gives you more laps and speed. However, if you prioritize your riding on playing around, consider the swingarm length. On Stamina 160, we use the same front triangle that Stamina 180 has, combined with a shorter Stamina 140 swingarm.

Did you know, that Pole Tomu, our dirt jump bike, has one of the shortest swingarms of dirt jump bike genre? If you search for ultimate playfulness, Tomu would be a good choice for you as a dirt bike. Also, fun on pump tracks!

Size it down

We are serious about enduro performance. After many years of development, it has become clear that a long bike with long-travel goes faster.

Our bikes also have a remarkable ability to climb, smart features, unique frame material and many other features that attract riders outside the enduro performance scope. These riders that are looking for a top-notch frame design and modern features, but prefer party over the business, should consider downsizing from the recommendations. This is why our sizing has quite a wide scale. When between sizes, pick yours by the perk you aim for; Smaller for agility – Larger for stability and speed.

Tuning your bike to be more playful

Frames are hard to modify but there are some things you can do to adjust the playfulness of your bike.

Going mullet; This tune is on top of many party riders mind today. Mullet bike refers to a mixed wheel size bike, usually built with 27,5″ wheel on the rear and 29″ wheel on the front. We can’t speak fully for others but in our case, mixed wheel size adds playfulness but takes away from speed. Nevertheless, the sacrifice for speed is smaller than going just 27,5″ for both ends. Buying Stamina 160 and building it as a mullet is our ultimate party bike setup. Truly a bike with business in the front and party in the back.

Adjust your suspension; Depending on the type of shock you have, by adjusting it properly, you can make the bike feel totally different. By adjusting rebound to be faster, the shock feels faster and has more pop to it. If your shock has separate adjustments for high- and low-speed rebound, adjust low-speed only. High-speed adjustments are for fast-paced impacts and do not have that same effect on playfulness as the low-speed adjustments do. Adjusting compression damping is not a good way to increase the playfulness of a bike. By firming up the suspension with compression damping, the end result is simply worse, so stick with a rebound.

Cockpit; Consider this statement: The higher and further over axles you are able to move your weight on a bike, the easier it is to jib with. Frame geometry is the largest defining factor on how you can move on the bike. It’s hard to modify geometry but easy to adjust it by modifying your cockpit, aka handlebar and stem. Moving handlebars higher and closer to your body has a significant difference in getting that front wheel up.

Do you have tips to make a bike more playful? Join our riders group on Facebook and share your ideas! Group can be found from here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/polebicycleriders


Now let’s go from short rear suspension to no rear suspension; Hardtails! On a hardtail, there’s no delay on the feedback from the rear wheel to our body. In theory, a hardtail is the snappiest bike type there is. For this reason, BMX, DJ and street bikes don’t have a rear suspension. Hardtails may take away a possibility for big jumps and high speeds over technical terrain, but they sure are rad. When we talk about fun hardtail mountain bikes, we usually talk about hardcore hardtails that share similar geometry (slack headtube angle, long wheelbase, generous reach…) as full suspension trail and enduro bikes. Even better, if the frame material is steel that has a natural flex and on it. Steel might be heavier than aluminium, but the feeling is better, not to mention it’s strength.

Leigh Johnson jumping off a berm with Taival
Leigh Johnson riding his Taival hardtail. With a hardtail, the only suspension you get is your legs.
With its aggressive geometry and steel made frame, Taival is the definition of a hardcore hardtail.

Playful bikes of Pole

Pole Stamina 140

Forget the drops and big jumps and embrace easy trails, berms and small features. With it’s 140mm rear travel and shorter swingarm than Stamina 180 has, Stamina 140 is the trail bike for play riding. Just watch this New Bike Day video by Matti and you get it.

Pole Stamina 140

Pole Stamina 160

Stamina 160 the party machine for those raising their fists over #ionlyridepark mantra. Stamina 160 has enough rear travel to hit jumps and drops but still keeping it snappy. We added more beef to its body for extra durability. Shorter swingarm makes it easy to get that front wheel off the ground. As a bonus, Stamina 160 is a mullet-ready which means you can build it either as a 29er or with mixed wheels.


Pole Taival

There are a bunch of words that usually come up when someone describes Taival. Words like: Compliant, steel, real, speed, hardcore, fast & “wow.” Taival is an enduro-capable hardtail with it’s long and slack geometry. Taival is also made from steel, which makes it compliant and tough as nails. If you already have a full-suspension Pole, we strongly suggest you get a Taival too. Consider getting a size smaller than your full-sus and its a completely new game on your local trails. We have many customers that have bought Taival, as their secondary bike. Many times, these riders use “It is just so much fun.” as their argument for it.


Pole Tomu

Tomu means dirt in Finnish. No surprise there, Tomu is a dirt jump bike. We created Tomu together with Antti Rissanen, who made the first Cashroll and Double Flair -tricks in the world on a mountain bike. Where our bikes might have long geometry, this one has one of the shortest chainstays on its class. Want to learn to manual? Buy Tomu. Want to learn DJ tricks? Buy Tomu. Want to have a cool gift for your kid that you can share with him? Buy Tomu!

Pole Tomu