PRIVATEER 141 REVIEW – PUTTING A VALUE ON PERFORMANCE
In just three years of operation, Privateer has developed quite a following, at least for those who are into the enduro scene. The UK-based company’s focus doesn’t stray far from its catchy, race-inspired name, as the two aluminum frame models focus on EWS-type geometry and durability while keeping costs to a minimum. From subtle grey, black and green paint options that flirt with primer tones to the simply named 141 and 161 models, even the marketing philosophy is frill-free.
The 141 bike we reviewed is said to be designed for aggressive riders who hit the bike parks a couple of times a season but otherwise don’t need the geometry or long travel of a proper enduro bike for their local trails. From Privateer’s perspective, a little less travel and a little more relaxed geometry equates to 141mm of 29-inch rear-wheel travel (27.5-inch wheels on their smallest P1 size frame), a 64.5-degree head-tube angle, and a notably steep 78.7-degree effective seat tube angle.
Each of the four sizes features a dedicated chainstay length, which spans from the P1’s 434mm/17.1-inch length into the limo-like P4’s 452mm/17.8-inch length. A somewhat new and controversial trend, lengthening chainstays on larger bikes keeps riders more centered between the two wheels as front-center measurements extend forward. This added length provides extra stability in the form of a longer wheelbase but arguably at the expense of maneuverability on slower, tighter trails.
Privateer’s stout, alloy frame with a Horst-Link suspension platform strongly suggests prioritizing durability over light weight. Three sealed bearings are used in the main pivot with two on the drive side to combat the typical stresses on an offset linkage. A one-piece rocker link holds a trunnion-style shock and is claimed to improve bearing life while increasing stiffness. Cable housing routing leaves a bit to be desired but is external by design for ease of maintenance, except for the internal dropper routing. A single water-bottle cage on all frame sizes sits rather high on the downtube, which makes it very accessible, unlike some cage locations down below shocks and linkages.
In an effort to find a balance between performance and value, Privateer’s 141 featured an interesting array of components. Fox Performance Elite provides the same internals and accompanying adjustments as the Factory versions but without Kashima coating. The 150mm-travel Fox 36 fork worked flawlessly during the review, as did the DPX2 rear shock.
Somewhat contrary to typical spec, Privateer opts for pairing a higher-end Shimano XT shifter with a less expensive SLX derailleur and crankset. The idea is that the aggressive riders they market to will likely smash a derailleur at some point and can replace it as they see fit. In our case, the Shimano combo worked seamlessly enough that replacing it with a more expensive derailleur wasn’t necessary.
OneUp’s V2 dropper with 200mm of drop worked without issue, and the Race Face Turbine bars matched with an Aeffect stem are a safe combo for ergonomics and durability. The 2.35-inch-wide Schwalbe Hans Dampf/Magic Mary combo worked well on generally dry and loose terrain and would likely offer a bit more performance in less dusty conditions.
Stopping power was assigned to a set of Magura MT5 brakes with HC 1 Finger levers matched with Magura Storm 203mm/180mm rotors on the front and rear, respectively. Once properly bled after an initial on-trail failure, they worked consistently for the remaining test period (though the feel of the levers explains why some tech-savvy riders opt for Shimano levers with Magura calipers). Even the preferred HC 1 Fingers have a slightly budget-friendly, basic feel.
The Hunt wheels (Hunt is an affiliate of Privateer) were the weakest link in the build. On ride three, the rear wheel essentially de-tensioned and was never really the same after that. A rather standard, “That never really happens,” was the answer to our inquiry, so we limped through the review, re-tensioning it after almost every ride. That said, the rear wheel was taking more abuse than usual due to a stock shock tune that wasn’t offering the support needed on bumpy trails. (We’ll elaborate on this below.)
While Privateer goes so far as to provide a different chainstay length for each size 141, each size comes with the exact same shock tune. Because of this, and our policy of reviewing bikes as they’re sent in, our 141 was initially a dud. It bottomed out on the regular setting, and rode low in the travel, even while running a scant 20-percent sag. The list of negatives was long, so we decided to try a larger volume spacer in the shock—a very common, inexpensive, five-minute fix that can be done by anyone who can set up a tubeless tire. With that simple adjustment, our 141 snapped out of its haze and turned into more of the bike we expected it to be. It gobbled up rough stuff with ease and returned to its neutral ride height without issue. Rebound tuning provided discernible changes, allowing on-the-fly adjustments to varying trails, and harsh bottom-outs were drastically reduced.
Kinematically, adding length to the chainstay simply adds more leverage from the rear axle to rear shock, which equates to theoretically needing a shock to be tuned accordingly, regardless of rider weight. Factor in that the typical rider of the largest frame will likely weigh more, and it’s surprising that Privateer didn’t adjust the P4’s shock tune; however, the four-man company seemed very keen to make an update, so chances are the bigger frames will either come with extra volume spacers as an option or (hopefully) just come with a larger volume spacer already installed.
There’s no getting around the 141’s hefty weight. Pile on a long wheelbase and raked-out front end, and Privateer’s more trail-friendly offering is still a bear to climb singletrack on. It was better suited for casual spins up access roads than attacking tight, twisty trails, and that caused some head-scratching over the steep, 78.7-degree effective seat tube. That geometry is used to put riders in a better climbing position when the going gets grunty, but the 141 always begged to take the longer, more casual way to the top. The result was a slightly cramped-feeling cockpit on a very long bike while spinning up the path of least resistance.
Outside of steep, tight ascending, the 141 made it to the top without much more to complain about other than the weight. Power transfer from rider to rear wheel didn’t cause excessive bob or squat, though we rarely climbed anything without the compression set to firm. If anything, every little bit of pedal clearance was greatly appreciated on such a low and long chassis.
Here’s where the 141 shines, but how brightly it shines is up for debate. It undoubtedly does best when pointed downhill, but does it stand out over other bikes with similar travel? For riders who want the most stability available in a package of this ilk, the answer could be yes; however, for riders who appreciate a playful and lively bike, the 141 probably isn’t the best choice. This Privateer is all about maintaining traction and does so quite nicely in high-speed corners and the like. It provides a stable and predictable ride when pointed straight through rough stuff and doesn’t get squirmy in any situation.
Once the trail gets tight, picky and tricky, however, the 141 drags itself over a line in the sand and begins fighting against its rider’s every nuanced bit of body English. Both its weight and length were a burden in chunky, twisty and steep rock chutes that required multiple moves to make it through. Sometimes extra hops or entirely different lines were required to get the 141 down familiar trails, which equated to slower times on trickier segments; however, on less technical trails where the weight and length were positives, the 141 wasn’t too far off our top times. Manualing into trail sections for speed, or fun, was muted by a very planted front wheel, and general playfulness was noticeably subdued.
MODS AND UPGRADES
If switching to a larger volume spacer counts as a mod, then that would be paramount for riders on the P4 (and likely P3). The next thing to get swapped out would be the wheels. There’s likely some correlation between an initially too-soft shock and the de-tensioned rear wheel, but they can still be exchanged with something more familiar and established. Otherwise, the SLX/XT kit didn’t leave much to be desired.
Companies like Privateer that push design outside the norm are favorites of ours, especially if it’s in the name of racing. But, sometimes there’s a reason the rest of the industry averages out, which makes it difficult to find a wide audience for outlier designs like the 141. If the Kamikaze ever makes a comeback, the 141 would be a perfect weapon. And from that end of the spectrum, riders looking for more stability may fall in love with the 141.
CATEGORY: Trail bike
WHEEL SIZE: 29″ (21″ for size P1)
SUSPENSION: 150mm (front), 141mm (rear)