You don't need much to have fun on the dirt -- and in many cases less is more. Single-speed, rigid mountain bikes like the Civilian Luddite are shining examples of this. You won't find any finicky components, unproven technologies, or frivolous luxuries muddling the Luddite. Just the necessities and a intelligently designed, history-rich frame to connect you to the trail.Unless you've paid close attention to regional hand-built bike shows, or forked over a few grand to Civilian's founder for a custom, hand-crafted piece, you probably haven't heard of this brand. Tyson Hart, the driving force behind Civilian, set out building cleanly designed, progressive frames in 2005 after attending UBI, a respected frame building school in Ashland, Oregon. Relying on a combination of extensive personal experience and close work with clients, Hart crafted everything from utilitarian city, to classic road, to durable mountain bikes.These distinctive rolling sculptures quickly gained a cult following for their seamless balance of fun-to-ride attitude and distinctive style. Hart's passion however is on the dirt, and that's why Civilian's world headquarters has relocated from Portland, OR, to mountainous Park City, UT. On trails like Mid-Mountain and the Crest, Hart applied his knowledge to dial the Luddite's geometry and tube set for climbing prowess, stable descending, and a smooth ride.Hart's work was once reserved for those willing to be on a waiting list and pay a premium for craftsmanship, but now they're packaged for everyone. The Luddite uses a double-butted 4130 Cro-Moly tube set that offers a ride and weight that'd rival frames costing twice as much. What gives the Luddite its distinctive ride quality is the shaped chainstays that offer explosive acceleration and kinked seat stays that dampen choppy trails. This keeps you fresh for the final sprint back to camp or the trailhead. The shapely stays are joined with Tange Design sliding drop outs.
Strengths: This bike has an excellent frame and fork for the price. The brakes are also pretty slick.
Weaknesses: The wheelset/tires are miserably heavy. The paint chips/peels around the rear wheel tension adjustments, which allows it to slip (this is a temporary problem - once the paint slips away, it holds solid).
I actually only paid $629 for this bike. I was impressed enough that I bought another one for my wife as her first mountain bike. It's my first single-speed, my first 29er and my first fully rigid bike. I'm loving it. Despite the clunky tires (I will get around to upgrading them and running tubeless eventually), it climbs well. The fork is very light and seems fine, although honestly I wish it was stiffer. Not sure if a chro-mo for would be better suited to the bike.