Singular Cycles Swift MK5 Review: 29+ Ain’t Dead

Initially released in the mid-aughts, the Singular Cycles Swift was one of the first bikes to embrace 29-inch wheels, which, as we now know, became a highly popular size during the proceeding decades. Still, nearly twenty years later, the Swift endures. The frameset has undergone multiple updates over the years, with the most recent incarnation featuring elements true to its roots, like thin steel frame tubing, eccentric bottom bracket, thicc tire clearance, and reasonable pricing. Yet the MK5 version, launched in late 2023, finally gets internal dropper routing, tapered headtube, boost spacing, and thru axles. 

When Josh swung through Portland, Oregon, earlier this year, he picked up a Swift test frameset from US distributor Biciclista and outfitted it with choice parts from generous partners like Ingrid, Chris King, and Paul. A longtime fan of plus tire bikes, Josh reviews the Swift after a few months of riding on his home trails in southern Arizona. Is this 29+ suspension-corrected rigid bike still relevant in 2024? Read on to find out…

Singular Cycles Swift MK5 Quick Hits

  • Rigid fork with 483mm axle-to-crown length
  • 29 x 3.0″ tire clearance
  • Loads of mounting points
  • Suspension corrected for 100 – 120 mm forks
  • Triple-butted 4130 Chromoly tubing
  • Threaded bottom bracket shell with eccentric insert

Full Circle

I’ve had a soft spot for plus-tire bikes for about as long as they’ve been around. They’ve seemed like an honest and modern expression of mountain biking’s original ethos: simple yet capable machines designed to take unencumbered riders off-road and onto dirt surfaces.

In North America, we look back fondly to the folks who, back in the 1970s, found utility in modifying “balloon tire” newsboy bikes into klunkers by adding road bike gears and motorcycle brakes. These early trailblazers, who ended up starting a completely new cycling industry, originally just wanted to escape into the mountains away from the competitiveness of road cycling (in addition to the confines of urban society).

Sam racing Swifts in drop bar mode long before releasing the Gryphon drop bar MTB

As a kid growing up in Australia, Singular Cycles founder Sam Alison developed a taste for escaping into the wilderness on BMX bikes. BMX was super popular down under during the ’70s and ’80s, and thus, the bikes were abundant. In search of exploration, Sam and his friends would set out into the woods, zig-zagging singletrack and bombing fire roads on their BMX rigs, before production mountain bikes made such activities more accessible.

Sam got his first real 26″ wheeled MTB around 1990. He was instantly hooked, and the days of pushing his BMX uphill to turn around and fly down were over. Later, in the mid-90s, while at university in Canberra, he dove into the XC mountain biking scene, prompting his career experimenting with various concepts and bike designs. While Singular Cycles has always been what Sam calls a “micro brand,” he’s pushed many boundaries while making simple machines for offroad exploration. Look no further than John’s reviews of the Gryphon drop bar MTB or Peregrine 650b gravel bike for more examples of what I mean.

Decades of the Swift

While we take 29″ wheels and tires for granted these days, the early-2000s were a strange time in cycling where a lot was in flux. The popularity of the fairly commercially nascent big wheel size wavered, and it took interest from niche brands (take Surly at the time) and singlespeed weirdos to keep it alive. The first Swift prototypes appeared in 2006, with production in 2007.

Undoubtedly, taking cues from the Karate Monkey that arrived a few years prior, the Swift MK1 featured thin double-butted tubing, an attractive stance, and contemporarily popular steep and snappy geometry. It could clear chonky tires for the time (29 x 2.4″-ish!) and came in a singlespeed-centric version with zero braze-ons for derailleur cable management and eccentric bottom bracket for chain tension. Some folks ran drops with short stems, while the more common configuration was a ~90 mm stem and flat handlebar. A quirky bike, but such changemakers usually are.

More early Swifts from Singular’s archive. And, yeah, that’s Jacquie Phelan!

Early Swift geometry was also notable for Singular’s take on a 29er frame. At the time, designers were still figuring out how to make the new big wheels move efficiently. With the Swift, Sam went with a steep head tube, slack seat tube, and relatively long top tube that handled well, got up to speed quickly, and didn’t cause much toe overlap. Then there was the tall rigid fork, which the bike was designed around, enabling plug-and-play capabilities with 100mm suspension forks.

Reenvisioned in 2015, the Swift got even more tire clearance (up to 27.5 x 3.0+) and slightly more relaxed geo, yet retained a 27.2 mm seat post, straight headtube, and 135 mm rear hub spacing. Like a few other bikes of its time, it had one wheel planted in the past, with the other traveling toward advancing trends and standards.

Plus Tire Bikes

Before I finally discuss the 2024 Swift, I’ll briefly introduce my ten-year (and counting) entanglement with 29+ bikes.  In my view, rigid and some hardtail plus tire mountain bikes offer the essence of what many pioneering riders and bike builders were originally after, just in a more modern form factor. There was a time when I thought a 29+ suspension-corrected MTB was all I needed. One bike to rule them all. And it actually worked out that way… for about a year.

One of my favorite bikes ever was a Niner ROS 9+, which I originally owned alongside a full-suspension trail bike, XC-oriented hardtail, and ‘cross bike I used for gravel. Pressed for cash and finding myself riding the ROS 9+ 90% of the time, I sold off the other bikes and focused on living with a single-bike quiver.

Launched around the same time as the 2015 Swift mentioned above, the ROS 9+ had a pretty rowdy suspension-corrected geo but somehow miraculously fit 29 x 3.0 tires without being boost-spaced thanks to a creative chainstay yoke and adjustable eccentric bottom bracket. To replace the heavy stock rigid fork with a 120 mm suspension alternative, I had to build up a new boost front wheel because non-boost suspension forks that could squeeze large tires were never a thing. I also added a couple sets of bottle mount rivnuts and a long dropper post. Yep, it had internal dropper routing but wasn’t boost!

I loved that bike for its versatility and planted playfulness; I ran it geared for tours and singlespeed for events and local rides. The plump tires smooth out a lot of trail chatter and medium-sized hits, while the added overall diameter enjoyably carries momentum once up to speed. Though I did have a few hangups with it, mainly the overall fit, and sold it just two years ago to purchase my custom Bender. But the Niner’s legacy lives on for me, as many of my favorite aspects inspired the Bender, including 29+ tire clearance.

Singular Swift MK5

As a result of being a small (er, micro) UK-based brand, Singular’s bike availability beyond Europe was rather limited until recently. Last year, Sam partnered with Biciclista for Portland, OR-based distribution, making access to framesets and some custom builds more accessible in North America.

When I saw the bespoke Swift at last year’s MADE show–painted by local artist Chet Malinow and decked out like a “rock crawler” with swept-back bars and a thumb shifter–I was taken aback and surprised. While it might have been commonplace ten years ago, seeing a rigid production bike with an eccentric bottom bracket designed around a middling geometry and meaty rubber seemed bold.

As we’ve thoroughly documented in recent years, many 29er hardtails have gone in the long and slack direction with “normal” tire clearance and hefty suspension correction. Even the famed Karate Monkey that paved the way for so many hardtail 29ers now sports a 67.5° head tube angle and 140mm fork.

Geometry and Ride

Geometrically speaking, the Swift has a lot in common with my Bender. Will and I designed that bike to be a capable tourer that would carry weight well but also be fun to ride unloaded. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, that bike has been one of my favorites for spirited XC riding, as its high-volume tires plow through chundery trails, and the rigid Oddity Squidfork soaks up small chatter while feeling secure in tight corners. The Swift has many of the same characteristics, and you can buy it off the shelf for a reasonable price.

With 72° seat angle, 69° head tube angle, and 746 mm front center, the Swift is still rooted in its stable riding with nimble steering. With a bit more of a kicked-out front end, my Bender feels stable when pointed straight but isn’t quite as snappy in tight turns as the Swift. I prefer the steeper seat angle on the Bender for sustained climbs, but feeling more weight over the rear end of the Swift is better suited for flowy terrain. Additionally, the extra chainstay length of the Swift would help distribute weight when carrying a loaded rear rack or seat-mounted pack.

In addition to spending lots of big days out at Hawes and meandering along the braided urban singletrack systems we have in the Phoenix metro, I took the Swift out to our local short track races a handful of times. These races are my litmus test for a lot of bikes because I know the terrain so well, and it becomes clear very quickly how a bike will handle it. Because the Swift was fully rigid, I was particular and intentional about my line choices, but it was a pleasantly surprising fast descender and efficient climber. Rigid bikes with big tires have a predictable quality about them that shines in punchy, varied terrain, and the Swift is no different.

On paper, the Swift looks like a short bike. The size XL that I tested sported a short 468 mm reach, far less than many modern hardtails. While it’s suspension-corrected for 20 mm more than the Swift, the Revel Tirade that John recently reviewed has a 492 mm reach in XL, which is more congruent with full suspensions than hardtails of yore. But don’t let the numbers fool you. With a slacker seat angle and steeper head tube than we’re used to seeing these days, however, the Swift doesn’t feel short when pedaling.

And it has a nice tall stack, too. My Oddmone riser bars were probably a bit much with 70 mm rise, but I’m addicted to their 15° back sweep and flexy titanium ends, so I had to run ’em. Unless you’re super tall and need all the stack you can get, a more traditional rise handlebar would be plenty.

Speaking of fit, the Swift comes in three sizes: medium, large, and XL. The medium should fit riders down to about 5’5″ and the XL about 6’5″. Sam told me there are a couple of reasons he hasn’t really included smaller Swifts: even when he offers a preorder, very few people step up to buy them (i.e., real demand seems low), and bikes for shorter folks often benefit from being built around smaller wheel/tire sizes for optimal geometry, toe overlap avoidance, etc.

Eccentric Chain Tension

The Swift has always been a bike for singlespeeders and gearheads (I just made that word up) alike and utilizes an eccentric bottom bracket rather than sliding or rocker dropouts for chain tension when not running a derailleur.

Singular sources bottom bracket inserts from an Asian manufacturing partner specced to fit into the frame’s oversized shell. These precision-machined parts have a hole milled off-center that accepts a 73 mm BSA threaded bottom bracket. Because the BB is not centered in the insert, rotating it will either increase or decrease tension on the chain.

I know, I know, eccentric bottom brackets get a bad rep. Personally, I’ve never had one slip when installed correctly and, as Singlular’s website points out: “Singulars have used them in over 1500 frames [probably more now] and rarely have any issues been encountered. Where they have they are easily solved with correct assembly and/or a bit of cleaning and greasing. Like any metal on metal part, grease can become displaced over time, and creaks can develop.”

This bottom bracket style makes sense in the Swift for two important reasons. First, it keeps the bike’s center of gravity feeling low and balanced. Second, the insert can rotate and position the bottom bracket and cranks in the location of a rider’s choosing. For example, a rider running 27.5″ wheels could raise the bb to avoid pedal striking rocks that could come with using smaller wheels. And, as a bonus, this BB system allows for elegant standard rear dropouts rather than bulky and often cumbersome alternatives.

Other Frame Detailing

Sam has kept the double-butted 4130 steel frame fairly light over the years to achieve a spirited ride quality. The tubes have, however, getting more and more mounting points over the years; now with 3-pack fork mounts, 3-pack on the downtube (with another set on its underside), two on the seat tube, two more on the top tube, and rear rack, and fender mounts. Short of full zit pack for a custom bolt-on frame bag, all mounting bases are covered.

One major change for the MK5 was enlarging the seat tube diameter in order to accept a 30.9-diameter dropper post. Kudos to Sam for keeping the seat tube fairly straight to fit a 200mm post and mounts for a bottle cage. This seems to be a challenging combination for designers/builders, but Singular did it, and it has not gone unnoticed!

I did, however, learn the hard way to verify dropper fitment before placing an order for a new post. There were some incorrect numbers on Singular’s website indicating a 31.6 dropper for the Swift, when in fact it actually takes a 30.9. After a quick swap with OneUp, I was on my way; but in the future, I’ll use their handy calculator before ordering any brand of dropper.

Note: Sam has assured me that there must have been something funky with the frame I received because Swifts do, in fact, take a 31.6 diameter post and his entire stock measures as such.

Another benefit of having an uncluttered rear end with traditional dropouts is clean brake caliper positioning. I’ve seen a lot of bikes with IS tabs or even post mounts on the exterior of the rear triangle because they need to dodge rocker dropouts, which makes installing some larger calipers challenging, if not impossible. Not the Swift! Its post mount is right on the chainstay, making for clean and easy brake routing, even for chunky Klampers and tall rotor adapters.

Build Kit

Since most Swifts are sold as framesets, each complete build is different. And the one I ended up with truly spoiled me. Since Stefano of Biciclista (Singular’s US distributor) is located in Portland, OR, he was able to source a beautiful suite of Chris King components, including headset, bottom bracket, and MTN 30 wheelset. I hadn’t ridden a new set of CK hubs in a while, and let me tell ya, they are incredible – engagement is snappy, and they spin super smooth.

Initially, Stefano had 2.6 Vittoria Mazza tires installed on the MTN 30 wheels. Their thick lugs filled out the frame well, but didn’t offer much in terms of traction on loose decomposed granite trail surfaces. I later switched to Maxxis Recon 2.8, which performed much better but didn’t plump as much as I hoped on the 30mm rims. For long-term options, I think something like the Industry Nine BC 360, Velocity Dually, or We Are One Union would be great rims for the Swift.

Additionally, Stefano represents Ingrid Components in the US, so supplied their derailleur and cranks, along with the fairly recently released 52T cassette. Paired with a 30T chainring, this was a proper setup for our steep trails. Ingrid’s upcoming flat bar shifter was the only thing missing from this setup, but I hope to see one soon!

And lastly, the Paul Component Klampers were the icing on this light blue cake. I love how these brakes perform on steel bikes and was again impressed with their no-fuss power on the Swift. Stefano had sourced some Nissen cable housing, making this my first time not using compressionless with Klampers. There is certainly a noticeable difference in power and modulation between the two types, but this was enough for what I rode with the rigid Swift. On a bigger bike (one with suspension, for sure), I would recommend compressionless housing for Klampers.

To see more in-depth discussions of these parts, visit our archives for Chris King, MTN 30, Ingrid Drivetrain (here and here), and Paul Klampers.

Wrap Up

I thought this would be a short review, but it turns out I had a lot to say about this type of platform, so if you made it this far, thank you for following along. The Swift MK5 is a relatively simple bike best suited for the pursuit of getting out of town and staying there. It’s comfortable and capable. The current iteration features thoughtful updates due to Sam’s twenty years of experience and lots of rider feedback. It might not be an uber-modern super shreddy hardtail, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun, super versatile, and can be a quiver-killer for many people looking to backcountry tour and/or generally have a good time on varied trails.

And now, hopefully, Swifts will be easier to find in North America, just as this sort of bike is seemingly fading away from many brands’ catalogs. Sure, you could buy a Krampus frameset for a couple of hundred dollars less. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great bike. But I’d argue this updated Swift has enough features and detailing to compensate for the price difference. Plus, by supporting a “micro brand” like Singular, you’re directly contributing to someone’s passion project that’s been getting people out and having fun for decades.


  • Eccentric bottom bracket
  • More thoughtful features than other bikes in its class
  • Reasonable price point
  • Some North American distribution
  • Loads of tire clearance
  • Long dropper and suspension fork compatible


  • Eccentric bottom bracket
  • Availability could still be sparse in North America
  • Medium is smallest frame size
  • Slightly more expensive than comparable framesets

See more at Singular.