Privateer’s longer travel 161 drew a lot of attention when it was launched, and now its sibling, the 141, is enjoying time in the limelight.
The aluminium frame gives 141mm of travel, and Privateer says it’ll cope with your local enduro race as well as being a little more friendly on your average trail where longer travel isn’t as necessary. The alloy frame is built up with a nice selection of parts, and offers good value for money too.
Privateer is a small-ish UK brand, and the 141 is its second bike. The brand is also part of The Rider Firm, who have a number of brands, including Hunt wheels.
Privateer 141 SLX XT frame
The 141mm of travel is doled out by a 4-bar linkage, with the main pivot nestled behind the chainring, and the vertical shock being pushed by the one-piece rocker link into its junction above the bottom bracket. The main pivot runs on three bearings, with two on the driveside, to distribute forces better between them.
The suspension has a high anti-squat figure around sag – roughly 140-150%, while the leverage ratio varies from just over 2.6 near the start of its travel to just under 2.2 at the end.
The top tube slopes to a point well below the top of the seat tube, meaning there’s ample standover height – ideal if you get hung-up on steep terrain.
Privateer mixes up internal and external cable routing, with the gear cable running internally through the frame, and the hydraulic hose for the rear brake running externally. Cable routing and cable management are excellent – while I appreciate the ease of external cable routing, if both routing and management are dialled, I’m more than happy with internal routing.
Both the chainstay and the bottom of the down tube receive protection from chainslaps and rock strikes respectively. ISCG05 mounts hold a chainguide.
Aesthetically, I like the straight tube between the lower and upper main pivots, which seem to dissect the seat tube running down to the bottom bracket – small details, but they all count!
Geometry wise, Privateer has definitely gone full-contemporary. A P3 frame (equivalent to a Large) has a long reach of 485mm, along with a slack 64.5-degree head-angle and steep-but-short seat tube – 78.7 degrees and 450mm are the key figures there.
The Privateer 141 SLX XT has 446mm chainstays – these change with the size of the bike too, so the smaller bikes have shorter chainstays, while the larger bikes get longer ones. This means the ratio of front-to-rear length is relatively consistent between sizes, certainly compared to bikes where only the front-centre measurement changes.
Privateer 141 SLX XT kit
The 141mm travel at the back is met with a 150mm Fox 36 Performance Elite fork at the front. As the model name suggests, the drivetrain has a mix of Shimano SLX and XT. Privateer has specced an XT shifter – this gets the dual release on the up-shift, which is a feature I frequently use out on the trail.
Magura provides the brakes, in the form of its 4-pot MT5 system. They have plenty of power, though their feel through the lever is somewhat Marmite – it’s a little wooden, with neither the bite of a Shimano brake, nor the soft, progressive feel of a SRAM brake.
As you’d expect from a company heavily linked to a wheel brand, the 141 rolls on Hunt’s Trail Wide wheels, which have a 30mm internal width, supporting a pair of 29×2.35 Schwalbe tyres – a Magic Mary at the front and a Hans Dampf at the back, both in the Addix Soft compound and Super Trail carcass.
The wheels have a quick hub pick-up that buzzes nicely on the trail and feels good when short bursts of effort are needed in between trail features.
Finishing kit is a mixed bag, including a Deity cockpit (though a RaceFace one is listed on its site) and a OneUp dropper post. I didn’t particularly like the Deity grips, which feel oddly soft at the ends and make the bars feel less accurate.
Privateer 141 SLX XT ride experience
The geometry of the 141 will jump out at a certain segment of riders – those looking for longer wheelbases through a long reach and slack head angle. The reach is well above average at 485mm, and the slack 64.5-degree head-angle and roomy 446mm chainstays ensure the Privateer’s wheelbase is very long at 1263mm.
This is paired with a steep seat-angle. While on the flat this might feel odd, it makes a lot more sense when riding up a steep hill. Your hips are centred over the cranks nicely, and with the rear suspension’s sag (increased by the incline-induced rearward weight shift) stealing a few degrees from the headline figure, you’re still comfortable.
Traditional thought might suggest the long front-end and slack head-angle would make it a handful on climbs too. On the tightest uphill switchbacks, a shorter, steeper bike may fare better, but on steep, technical climbs, the extra room afforded over the front end, and the ability to better manage front-end accuracy with rear-end traction makes for a great platform from which to winch.
And this is aided by the rear suspension. It’s incredibly stable, barely noticing pedalling inputs, unless you thrash at the pedals. The rear wheel doesn’t hook up and lurch over steps either, and while some bikes have a magic-carpet-like ride over trail minutiae, the 141 doesn’t feel like it’s going to scrabble for traction.
In short, the 141 is one of the best climbing bikes I’ve ridden for a while.
As you might expect from a bike with such figures, and a 150mm Fox 36 at the front, the 141 doesn’t hold much back over the chunkiest of straight lines. With the front wheel firmly held between chunky stanchions, way ahead of your centre of mass, the 141 accelerates at the merest hint of a descent, and with Magura’s 4-pot MT5 brakes hauling on their rotors, I was often happy to let it go.
It is a long bike, though, which impacts a little on its agility. The 446mm chainstays, paired with the long front-centre measurement, meant that getting the front-end up takes more of a body-weight shift than a ‘smaller’ bike might. This can easily be adjusted for within a couple of rides, but when you’re tired, this extra effort becomes noticeable.
I also found that on flatter, more twisty tracks the 141 benefited from slamming the stem to make sure I could get my weight properly planted over the front wheel, engaging it as I wanted in the dirt to initiate and hold turns.
The suspension that was so beneficial on the climbs works well on the descents too. It’s not as plush and planted as bikes such as the Lapierre Zesty or Propain Hugene, with a little more feedback through the pedals to pay back for its stability on the climbs. However, it’s far from an uncomfortable ride. It also provides ample mid-stroke support, allowing you to force the bike through undulations to generate yet more speed, or pedal hard between corners without feeling like you’re wasting your watts.
On slow-speed steep tech, the shape of the bike and its suspension helped further. Rarely did I feel I was at risk of being projected over the front of the bike, and the support from the back end meant I never felt the bike flounder as it compressed into catch berms.
If there’s one thing I would have changed during the winter testing schedule, it would be the Schwalbe Hans Dampf at the rear. It’s more rounded than a Magic Mary or a Maxxis Minion, and I occasionally found it losing grip just at the wrong point of a corner.
On the face of it, the 141 is an excellent trail bike. It climbs well, picks up speed easily and copes with steep tech admirably. However, it misses out on the top spots. This is because I found, in some circumstances, the bike’s handling caught me out.
Specifically, heavy braking into rough corners. Here, I struggled to hold lines, with the bike wanting to stand up and remain on its original trajectory. While the ‘best’ technique is to brake before a corner, it’s inevitable that one has to brake during a corner at times, and as speeds increased, the harder I found it to hit lines I knew well with the 141. It almost felt like the front and rear wheel wanted to go to different places.
It is, perhaps, testament to how good trail bikes have become in recent years that a niggle like this prevents a bike from reaching the top steps of a test. However, this aspect of the bike’s handling was noticed by others and was highlighted by BikeRadar’s back-to-back testing of the bikes over the winter, on well-known tracks.
Privateer 141 SLX XT geometry
A massive thank-you to BikePark Wales for granting us access to its trails despite the bike park being closed to the public.
And not forgetting Muc-Off, for its help keeping the bikes washed and lubed throughout testing.
Bike of the Year 2021 contenders
A decent trail bike should also be fast and capable on the descents, but with less weight and travel (130–150mm) than enduro bikes, they’re nimbler on flatter trails, less of a drag on longer rides and better on the climbs.
The following bikes were shortlisted for our Trail Bike of the Year award, with a price range of £2,999.99 to £4,695.
- Bird Aether 9 (winner)
- Canyon Spectral 29 CF 7
- Intense Primer 29 Expert
- Lapierre Zesty AM CF 6.9
- Privateer 141 SLX/XT
- Propain Hugene
- Saracen Ariel 30 Pro
- YT Jeffsy Blaze 29