Tonic Fall Guy v3

Review date: Dec 2011

 

Duration of test: July 2010 - present

Cost: €625 (£520 in December 2011) Inc BB bearings and seat clamp (€35 postage to UK)

Options: Black, white or clear coat with white or black graphics

Dealer: Chillrider for Europe (www.chillrider.fr)

Frame photos by Chillrider



Overview


Pro

- Geometry

- Weight

- Strength


Fail

- Cost

- Tyre clearance



Spec:

- Steel (secret grade)

- 4.3lb (1.950 kg)

- 24” wheels only

- MID bottom bracket
- 110mm x 14mm rear wheel spacing

Geometry:

Head tube angle: 71°

Seat tube angle: 72°

Top tube: 22’

Seat tube: 9’

Head tube: 112mm

Chain stays: 13.75’

BB height: neutral with 80mm suspension fork

So who is this frame for? Well if you are a die hard 24” rigid fork street rider then I would suggest a frame with a steeper head angle and higher bottom bracket. On the other hand, if you are an all round park and trails rider who runs a 60-80mm suspension fork who wants their MTB to feel as close as possible to a BMX, then you will reap the full benefits of this frame. If this sounds like you then I cannot recommend this frame highly enough.


Recent video of the Fall Guy being ridden in an indoor skatepark:

Tonic Fabrications is a relatively unknown company from across the Atlantic in Portland, Oregon. The two man team design and produce a small range of hand made trails, park, 4x, road and custom frames. There are no overseas contractors or factories involved in the process; everything is churned out of their workshop. Tonic Fab has a small team of riders and no obvious marketing strategy. Their focus is producing exceptionally engineered products for a specific purpose. A lack of major publicity and comparatively high prices dwarf the company amongst the shadows of their large competitors. Tonic Fab are almost totally reliant on word-of-mouth and the work of their dealers to promote the brand.


The Fall Guy set a trend; It was the first MTB frame to accommodate 24” wheels and BMX hubs and cranks when it was conceptualised in 2004 and introduced to the market in 2006. It took years for other companies to cotton on to this successful formula. The Fall Guy V2 was released in 2008 alongside the 26” specific Howie with tighter geometry and an internal head tube, and V3 followed in 2010 with further design tweaks.

First Impressions

It’s impossible as an avid rider not to feel like a kid unwrapping a huge present at Christmas when opening a box containing a bicycle frame. When I took the package from the post man the weight and size of the box suggested that I had been conned. I breathed a sigh of relieve when I saw a frame peaking from the realm of cardboard. This was the smallest and lightest MTB frame I had ever held; It looked like a BMX frame! The Tonic has clean lines and a distinct head tube and dropouts.


I stripped the parts off the broken Dobermann and built the Tonic in a mad excitable rush. Due to the internal headset and BB bearings pre-pressed into the frame everything slotted in perfectly. With my bike ready to go I wasted no time in getting to the trails.


I was struck by the bikes agility and stability. I went through the trails on my first run. Everything felt right and I didn’t experience the cautious feeling I always felt when riding a new frame. On the pedal back to the run in, to my surprise, I did a clean hop 360. A friend commented that I was boosting higher than before. Of course I had just spent lots of money on this frame, but even so I didn’t expect to be this impressed.


The geometry is a culmination of park and trails. It has super short chain stays and a steep head angle (park), and a neutral bottom bracket height (trails). While the top tube measures 22”, front wheel and foot clearance is identical to a Dobermann with a 21.5” top tube (the steeper head angle and lower bottom bracket have an effect). The wheel clears my foot with a 1.85” tyre but not with a 2.1” unless I drastically tilt my lead pedal. The Tonic continued to please at the skatepark, and it became apparent that it felt at home where ever it was ridden.

After the Honeymoon

The incredibly low weight did not inspire confidence, and I was dubious about the frames long term durability. However I needn't have worried as despite being lighter than most BMX frames, it is still in one piece after 18 months of cases, flat landings, sideways landings and general abuse dished out on a regular basis thanks to my inconsistent approach. It has outlasted frames that weighed more despite experiencing a much tougher life. Light weight frames are known to dent easily, but the only mark on the Tonic is a tiny dent from when it was flung into the coping of a ledge after I looped out on the landing of a large quarter pipe wall ride. The original bottom bracket bearings are even still faultless!

Overall

The Fall Guy is predictable, dependable and responsive. No other steel 24” frame on the market weighs less or has shorter chain stays.


My only real criticisms is the poor tyre clearance (a 2.1” fits but only just, I run 1.85” so my wheel has room when bent). The chain stays could also be 2cm shorter, although at 13.75’ slammed I’m clearly trying to populate the negatives box. If a Fall Guy V4 was on the cards I would tweak the chain stays to accommodate a wider tyre, design an internal seat clamp and possibly steepen the head angle by a degree. Nothing else needs changing.

 
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