Futuristic manufacturing process meets old-school style: The new Atherton AM.170 is made of straight carbon tubes bonded with 3D printed titanium lugs. Combining a whopping 180/170 mm travel (f/r), it should be able to master the toughest of trails without batting an eyelid. We tested the new Atherton AM.170 to find out what it’s capable of!
The Athertons – Rachel, Gee and Dan – are best known for their long-term presence in the DH World Cup as well as for Gee’s breath-taking videos. The siblings have often climbed to the top of the podium over the years: together, they’ve secured a total of 7 world championship titles and countless individual World Cup victories. Aside from training hard for racing, the Athertons have worked on another dream, founding their namesake bike brand. Initially, the bikes were only used by the DH Factory team to tame the wildest trails in the world, but since the beginning of 2022, they’ve been available for purchase. Until now, you could choose from a DH model, the AM.130 trail bike and the AM.150 all mountain variant, which has already secured “Best in Test” in our big trail bike comparison test, where it came out on top of a test field of 14 bikes. In summer 2023, Atherton finally launched the AM.170 enduro rig, which we were very excited to get our hands on to see how it fares against its smaller sibling on the trail. The AM.170 combines 180/170 mm of travel and rolls on a mixed wheel setup, just like its downhill-specific counterpart. The spec was chosen uncompromisingly for trail performance – in other words, to get rowdy on your way back down into the valley. The AM.170M.1 flagship model we tested retails at € 7,721.66, but you’ll have to add your local VAT to that! However, the Atherton is exempt from customs duties as it is produced in Wales and can therefore claim preferential origin.
This is how the AM.170 is made – Atherton’s special manufacturing process
Going mainstream is too easy! The special feature of Atherton bikes is the manufacturing process, which involves bonding straight carbon tubes with 3D printed titanium lugs, rather than welding alloy or steel tubes. It’s basically like a model kit, only a little more expensive and probably loads more fun. While this manufacturing process might be unusual in the bike industry, it’s nothing new. For example, it’s used on a regular basis to build prototypes for Formula 1 and aviation, and we’ve also seen a few bike manufacturers using this kind of technique in the past. One of the pioneers of this method was the small Welsh company Robot Bikes Co., which began developing frames this way many years ago. Although Robot officially ceased operations at the end of 2018, they haven’t disappeared entirely from the scene, merging with Atherton instead. This allowed Robot’s experienced production team to work in close collaboration with three of the most experienced World Cup racers out there. While they were at it, they adopted the basic idea of the DW6 rear linkage, which Dave Weagle developed for Robot Bikes Co. at the time. It’s a mixture of a DW link (as you’ll find on Pivot Bikes, for example) and a classic Horst link.
But let’s get back to the actual production of the bikes for a moment. The double-walled titanium lugs are produced using an additive manufacturing process. Through a process called selective laser melting, a layer of titanium powder is applied to a base plate, which is then melted and fused by a laser beam until it achieves the desired hardness and mass – basically a very expensive form of 3D printer. The machine applies about 3,500 layers over 16 hours. When the lugs are finished and separated from their base plate, they’re bonded with correspondingly sized carbon tubes using an extremely strong industrial adhesive. This results in the bike’s straight lines and fully customisable sizes and geometry.
The 2024 Atherton AM.170M.1 in detail
With all their bikes, including the AM.170, Atherton don’t rely on your typical curved carbon frame design or any particularly unusual shapes. However, it’s precisely the simple, unusual look of the carbon tubes and titanium lugs that makes their bikes look so unique. In Germany, you’re more likely to cross paths with a bear in the woods than with an Atherton bike, so you’re sure to turn heads on the trail if you turn up astride an AM.170.
Right from the first glance, the Atherton AM.170M.1 stands out with its minimalist design language, forgoing sophisticated details like a storage compartment and relying on the bare essentials. To be frank, it would be nice to have at least a tool mount, which has become standard on most modern enduro bikes. A chain guide prevents the chain from falling off, while a bash guard protects the chainring from nasty impacts. The plastic down tube protector is quite minimalistic too, but it effectively shields the frame from stray rocks. The chainstay protector is as thin as a fine slice of Parma ham but does its job rather well, preventing paint chips and chain slap. The cables are routed internally and disappear into the frame through the head tube. However, the cables aren’t clamped in place, leading to a faint rattling noise in the shock area on our test bike.
The spec of the 2024 Atherton AM.170M.1
For this test, we rode the Atherton AM.170M.1 flagship model. It tips the scales at 16.24 kg in size 11, and comes equipped with FOX Factory suspension, which compliments the sleek look of the frame with its fancy Kashima coating. The 180 mm 38 fork features FOX’s superior GRIP2 damper, which allows fine control over the rebound and compression circuits with both high- and low-speed adjustment, allowing you to fine-tune your fork to suit your preferences and riding style. At the rear, our test bike has a FOX DHX2 coil shock, but you can also pick a FOX X2 air shock when configuring your bike on the Atherton website. That said, both shocks offer excellent adjustability and deliver a tremendous performance on the trail.
To match the fancy Kashima coated suspension, Atherton rely on FOX’s top-tier Transfer Factory dropper post, which offers 200 mm of travel, and can be inserted all the way into the frame. Shifting is taken care of by a cable-operated SRAM X01 drivetrain, while Hayes Dominion A4 four-piston brakes ensure powerful, reliable deceleration in combination with the 200 mm brake rotors. The brakes are just as rare as the bike itself, and offer a defined bite point and excellent modulation, even on long and steep descents. In terms of braking performance, they have nothing to hide from the SRAM Code RSC or Shimano XT brakes and can be quickly and easily adapted to different riders thanks to the tool-free lever reach adjustment.
The brake levers are attached to 800 mm FSA Gradient carbon handlebars, which are paired with a 35 mm long FSA Gradient stem. The Atherton AM.170M.1 rolls on a Stan’s Flow EX3 alloy wheelset and Continental tires, with a Kryptotal FR at the front and Kryptotal RE at the rear, both in the enduro casing and soft rubber compound. With Continental’s tires, the rubber compound always depends on the casing, meaning that the enduro casing is only available in the soft compound. Only the DH casing is available in both the Soft and Super Soft compounds.
Atherton AM.170M.1 2024
Fork FOX 38 Factory GRIP2 180 mm
Rear Shock FOX DHX2 Factory 170 mm
Seatpost FOX Transfer Factory 200 mm
Brakes Hayes Dominion A4 200/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01 1x12
Stem FSA Gradient 35 mm
Handlebar FSA Gradient Carbon 800 mm
Wheelset Stans Flow EX3 29"/27,5"
Tires Continental Kryptotal FR, Enduro, Soft/Continental Kryptotal RE, Enduro, Soft 2,4"
Size 1 - 22
Prices and specs of the 2024 Atherton AM.170M.1
Alongside the AM.170M.1 flagship model, Atherton offer two more pre-configured models, which only differ in the suspension and wheels. The entry level AM.170M.3 retails for € 6,544 and comes equipped with RockShox Ultimate suspension, a GX groupset and a Stans Flow S2 alloy wheelset, while the mid-range AM.170M.2, costs € 7,439 and employs Öhlins suspension, a GX groupset and the same Stans Flow EX3 alloy wheels as the flagship model. The spec can also be customised, as everything is produced in small quantities. As far as colour choice goes, you can choose between raw carbon and black.
The geometry of the 2024 Atherton AM.170
The Atherton AM.170 is available in 22 (!) different sizes. The sizes are arranged according to the reach, which grows from 410 mm (size 1) to 530 mm (size 22) in 10 mm increments. But, that’s only 12 sizes, what about the other 10!? The bigger frames with longer reach values (from 450 mm upwards) are available in two different versions, with different seat tube lengths. Our test bike in size 11 combines 480 mm reach and a short 420 mm seat tube, which still allows you to fully insert a long-travel dropper post all the way into the frame, ensuring excellent freedom of movement. At 440 mm, even the “long” seat tube in size 12 with the same reach values is still short. Chainstay length grows with the frame size, measuring 430 mm up to size 4 (reach 440 mm), and increasing by 5 mm to 435 mm between 4 and 12 (up to 480 mm reach). All other sizes above have 440 mm chainstays. As mentioned above, Atherton also offer custom geometries for an extra charge.
|Seat tube||395 mm||440mm||480mm|
|Top tube||554 mm||619 mm||665 mm|
|Head tube||90mm||110 mm||135 mm|
|Chainstay||430 mm||435 mm||440 mm|
|BB Drop||15 mm||15 mm||15 mm|
|Wheelbase||1.176 mm||1.260 mm||1.326 mm|
|Reach||410 mm||480 mm||530 mm|
|Stack||622 mm||640 mm||662 mm|
The 2024 Atherton AM.170 on the trail
As soon as you swing your leg over the saddle, the Atherton AM.170M.1 places you in a comfortable pedalling position, with the high front end putting minimal pressure on your hands. This makes it an excellent trail companion that allows you to tackle long days in the saddle without having to book yourself in with your chiropractor afterwards. On steeper climbs, there’s still enough pressure on the front wheel to keep it tracking, which allows you to negotiate tight, technical ascents with great precision. The rear suspension generates plenty of traction, while still providing good support, making the climb switch superfluous on long climbs. That said, the Atherthon isn’t going to be your weapon of choice for second-shaving uphill KOMs – it’s more of a leisurely climber. However, if you’re considering a bike like this, climbing is not your priority anyway.
When gravity takes over, the first thing that you’ll notice is the high front end, which integrates you deep into the frame and conveys huge amounts of confidence from the get go – the Atherton shreds its way down into the valley with no reservations. The AM.170M.1 encourages you to keep your fingers off the brakes for a few more seconds, forgiving small riding mistakes with its predictable handling and striking an excellent balance between composure and agility, which makes it almost unstoppable through nasty rock gardens. At the same time, it’s precise to manoeuvre, making it easy to carve berms at Mach 10 and thread your way between the trees on tight, twisting forest trails.
The suspension is pleasantly plush and generates tons of tractions, even in tricky, slippery off-camber sections. At the same time, it provides decent amounts of pop, making it easy to take off on small kickers and flick the rear end from one corner into the next. The Atherton also deals well with bigger hits, providing sufficient reserves to absorb bigger landings and drops without batting an eyelid. When pumping through corners and rollers, the Atherton AM.170 generates lots of speed despite its generous 170 mm rear travel, and doesn’t sink down into its travel with an aggressive riding style, converting your input into more speed. This makes it not only a great choice for tough enduro trails but also for tight, technical Alpine terrain as well as fast flow and jump lines.
Who should take a closer look at the 2024 Atherton AM.170M.1?
The Atherton AM.170 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a truly unique bike that performs well on the trails. The special manufacturing method and unique look really stand out from the crowd of modern enduro bikes, ensuring plenty of curious looks on the trails. The countless sizing options should ensure a perfect fit, and if you’re really picky, you can even get Atherton to tailor the geometry to your own requirements. The Atherton AM.170 covers a wide range of applications and will take on anything you throw at it, from fast flow to enduro trails and rough bike park lines, but it really comes into its own on steep, technical terrain.
Our conclusions about the 2024 Atherton AM.170M.1
Despite its understated look, the Atherton AM.170M.1 is truly unique. With its top-tier spec, it’s trimmed uncompromisingly for downhill performance, although the frame is missing some of the typical features of modern enduro bikes, like a storage compartment or even a tool mount. Instead, the Atherton impresses with a top riding performance over a wide range of applications. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned trail veteran, the Atherton is a tremendous riding companion in all sorts of situations, from flowing trails to tough enduro stages and even gnarly downhill tracks.
- Excellent performance on a variety of trails
- Strikes an excellent balance between composure and agility
- Unique look
- Lack of modern frame details
For more info, visit athertonbikes.com
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Words: Mike Hunger Photos: Peter Walker