Bike Test: RSD MiddleChild Hardtail

RSD, otherwise known as Rubber Side Down, is a small company based in Toronto, Canada. The company, although relatively new (with roots only dating back to 2012), is passionate about building mountain bikes that stand out in a crowd. The bulk of RSD’s offerings are hardtails, with the exception of one full-suspension rig, known as the Wildcat. The MiddleChild is the newest member of RSD’s family, and just one look at this bike screams “rebellious teen.” It’s a plus-sized hardtail built around an aggressive, new-school geometry and offers a quality component package that’s designed to get rowdy. While many middle children tend to get ignored, RSD’s MiddleChild was designed to stand out. For that reason, we decided to shine some light on this plus-sized hardtail and see for ourselves what new- school geometry is all about.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

Hardtails are often designed for mountain bike purists who live for the feeling of being connected to the trails. The MiddleChild offers that feeling with just a bit more compliance, thanks to its steel frame and wide 2.8-inch tires. This RSD takes hardtail riding a step further, with a head tube angle that’s slacker than that of most modern enduro bikes. The MiddleChild is made for hardtail enthusiasts who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing spandex at a local cross-country race; it’s designed to shred flow trails or take on steep and gnarly descents.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The MiddleChild features a chromoly steel frame and pairs it with a 140mm-travel fork. The bike has Boost sliding dropouts that allow riders to adjust the chainstay length between 415mm and 430mm. The head tube angle is super slack at 64.5 degrees, and the bike was designed with a 74-degree seat tube angle to aid in climbing. RSD gave this bike a long reach to balance out the short chainstays and to provide stability at higher speeds. The MiddleChild has a low bottom bracket height and tons of standover clearance to help increase confidence.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

The comment spec on this RSD reminds riders that the MiddleChild was designed for serious mountain biking. Featuring a 140mm-travel RockShox Pike, a KS Lev Integra dropper post and a wide and short Race Face cockpit, the MiddleChild tends to resemble a trail bike more than a traditional hardtail. If that’s not enough, RSD added a pair of four-piston Shimano XT brakes, along with an XT drivetrain and a burly set of Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II tries wrapped around wide Sun Ringle Duroc wheels.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setting sag: One of the best qualities of a hardtail is its ease of setup and maintenance. The MiddleChild requires little attention. We set the sag on our Pike to 20 percent and dialed the rebound knob out 13 clicks. Some riders may want to run a few clicks of compression to aid in out-of-the-saddle climbing, but that will be a personal preference based on riding style and setup.

Moving out: The MiddleChild offers a comfortable fit with a low-slung top tube and a long reach. The wide 780mm handle- bars and short 50mm stem make it fun and easy to toss this bike around, especially when paired with super-short chainstays. We pushed our dropout sliders all the way forward, giving our bike crazy-short 415mm (16.3-inch) chainstays. Even with the tall, 2.8- inch, plus-sized tires, our frame still offered ample clearance.

Climbing: Although the MiddleChild is a hardtail, gravity tends to work against this steed. While power is transferred to the ground well, the weight of its steel frame and the plus-sized tires will likely slow you down. Now, don’t get us wrong; we’d much rather take on a long climb aboard the MiddleChild than aboard a squishy enduro bike, but with an almost identical weight to some full-suspension bikes, the added pedaling performance that comes from its lack of suspension is barely noticed. That said, the MiddleChild is a comfortable climber that manages to keep the front end planted, even with its short chainstays and slack head angle.

Cornering: This RSD excels the faster it goes. This is mostly due to its super-slack head tube angle that provides great stability at higher speeds. Slower turns and switchbacks require a little more finesse; however, its short chainstays allow riders to whip the rear end around with ease. Additionally, the burly 2.8- inch Maxxis tires add an unmatched level of traction that helps keep this bike rubber side down.

Descending: Once the trails point down, it’s go time for the MiddleChild. RSD designed this bike to cruise up climbs and slay descents. Due to the bike’s aggressive nature, our testers often forgot they were riding a hardtail up until the point where they got a harsh reminder. This is by no means a knock to the MiddleChild. It’s a hardtail that descends flowy singletrack like a trail bike, but as soon as the trails get rough, the lack of rear suspension quickly reminds you to keep it under control. Thanks to four-piston brakes, that’s an easy task to do. Steep descents are comfortably conquered, and hitting jumps can be quite fun too. Nasty rock gardens, on the other hand, are not so enjoyable.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

RSD offers the MiddleChild in a few different configurations, ranging from a frame-only option for $650 to the bike you see here for $2800. The MiddleChild can also be had for $2600 without a dropper, but let’s be real; who wants to give that up? Our test bike came with a solid build kit for the price that left little, if anything, to be desired. We loved the brakes. Our fork soaked up the trails well, and our tires hugged the ground tight. RSD claims a 29×2.6-inch wheel and tire combo will fit in this frame, which could help this bike tackle rougher trails and could give it an even more nimble feel.

BUYING ADVICE

If your trails don’t warrant the use of a full-suspension rig, or you like to prove how tough you are, a hardtail is a great option for you. The MiddleChild, however, is not your average hardtail. In fact, it almost sits in a category of its own. If we had to put our finger on it, we’d call this bike an enduro hardtail. Its new-school geometry allows this bike to shred harder than a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo. This middle child won’t go quietly; it’s got a ton of attitude and a rebellious personality. www.rsdbikes.com


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