The Propain Hugene, which enters our 2022 trail bike group test with countless configuration options and very fair price, was designed to deliver a solid performance on any type of trail. Our test bike comes equipped with many alloy parts and brand-new RockShox’s suspension components. But how does Propain’s petrol-blue carbon rig perform on the trail?
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike of 2022 – 14 models in review
With their comprehensive online configurator, Propain allow you to customize the spec and look of your new bike by choosing from a wide selection of components and a handful of colours and decals – and the Hugene is no exception. If that’s too much choice for you, the German manufacturer also offers three pre-configured builds at three different price levels. Our 13.6 kg test bike in size L combines 150 mm travel at the front and 140 mm at the rear and is the only bike in the entire test field to feature a brand-new RockShox suspension. In this configuration, the Hugene goes over the counter at € 5,429.
The spec of the Propain Hugene
The frame of the Propain Hugene features a tool mount on the top tube and small bolted down tube protector. The cables aren’t clamped at the ports, and on our test bike, the rubber inserts that secure the cables inside the ports were missing, causing the cables to rattle loudly against the frame and rub off the paint around the ports. On the swingarm, a generously sized seat stay and chainstay protector prevents chainslap and paint chips.
Fork RockShox Lyrik Ultimate Charger 3 150 mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate RC2T 140 mm
Seatpost BikeYoke REVIVE 150 mm
Brakes Formula Cura 4 200/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01/GX Eagle 1x12
Stem SIXPACK MILLENIUM 50 mm
Handlebar Sixpack Millenium Alu 780 mm
Wheelset NEWMEN EVOLUTION SL A30 29"
Tires MAXXIS DISSECTOR, 3C, MaxxTerra, EXO+/MAXXIS DISSECTOR, 3C, MaxxTerra, EXO+ 2.4/2.4
Size S M L XL
Weight 13.6 kg
Tuning Tip: secure the cables with electric tape | choose a long-travel dropper post and grippier tires from the online configurator
For the suspension, Propain rely on a brand-new RockShox setup, pairing a 2023 Lyrik fork and matching 2023 Super Deluxe shock. The fork features RockShox’s new revised Charger 3 damper as well as their proprietary ButterCups rubber elastomers, which are attached to the end of both the Charger damper and air spring and designed to absorb high-frequency vibrations and small impacts even before the air spring starts working. The new 2023 Super Deluxe shock offers external low- and high-speed adjustments as well as rebound damping and a hydraulic bottom-out bumper, which allows the rear suspension to ramp up at the very end of the stroke, preventing it from blowing through its travel with big impacts.
German component brand SIXPACK supplies the 780 mm alloy cockpit. Formula Cura 4 brakes with 200 mm rotors front and rear do stopping duties, leaving the entire test team positively impressed with powerful and reliable deceleration. The drivetrain consists of a SRAM X01 rear derailleur with a matching shifter and cheaper SRAM GX cassette, which delivers the same excellent shifting performance as its high-end counterpart but is also slightly heavier. The 150 mm BikeYoke REVIVE is the shortest dropper in the entire test field and unsuitable for a bike in size L, heavily restricting freedom of movement on descents. We recommend picking the long-travel 185 mm BikeYoke REVIVE post from the online configurator, which costs exactly the same but offers more travel and can be inserted all the way into the frame, ensuring more freedom of movement and thus inspiring more confidence. The NEWMEN EVOLUTION SL A 30 wheelset is an excellent choice, but we’d swap the stock MAXXIS DISSECTOR tires with hard MaxxTerra rubber compound and thin EXO+ casing for the Schwalbe Magic Mary/Big Betty combo.
The geometry of the Propain Hugene
With four available sizes, S to XL, there should be a suitable Hugene for everyone between 158 cm and 202 cm tall. However, the detailed size chart on Propain’s webpage helps you find the right size based on whether you want a composed, balanced or playful bike. Unfortunately, at 450 mm, the seat tube is very long in proportion to the 476 mm reach, which, once again, restricts freedom of movement and choice of sizes.
|Seat tube||400 mm||425 mm||450 mm||480 mm|
|Top tube||578 mm||605 mm||632 mm||660 mm|
|Head tube||100 mm||110 mm||120 mm||130 mm|
|Chainstays||445 mm||445 mm||445 mm||445 mm|
|BB Drop||30 mm||30 mm||30 mm||30 mm|
|Wheelbase||1.188 mm||1.217 mm||1.246 mm||1.275 mm|
|Reach||426 mm||451 mm||476 mm||501 mm|
|Stack||616 mm||625 mm||634 mm||644 mm|
The Propain Hugene on the trail
On level ground, the Propain Hugene positions you far back over the rear wheel, ensuring a stretched yet comfortable pedalling position. Going uphill, the rear suspension is pedal-neutral and firm, even with the climb switch in Open mode. While this ensures a very direct and lively ride feel, it forces you to actively shift your weight forward to keep the front wheel tracking on steep climbs.
The combination of a long seat tube and short dropper post restricts freedom of movement, robbing you of confidence downhill.
When you turn its nose downhill, the Hugene strikes with lively handling and requires an active riding style but at the same time forgives the odd riding mistake, conveying huge amounts of confidence. Compared to the version that competed in last year’s mountain bike test, this year’s contestant features more alloy components, ensuring more compliance and feeling less harsh. The rear suspension offers tons of support and bags of pop, encouraging you to play with the trail features and making it easy to pop off small ledges or spontaneously switch to the high line. The lively rear suspension and playful handling of the Hugene harmonise extremely well together, making it an agile and fun bike to ride. However, the Propain somehow lacks grip, partly due to the stiff rear suspension and hard DISSECTOR front tire.
Combining a lively rear suspension and agile handling, the Propain Hugene turns every trail into a playground.
The Propain Hugene can be individually customised with a wide selection of components in Propain’s online configurator. The spec of our test bike is excellent and would be perfect with a few upgrades, especially with regards to the tires and dropper post. The Hugene is a strong climber and also knows how to impress downhill, offering an excellent overall package at a very interesting price. The firm rear suspension and playful handling make it a great choice for riders who like to play with the trail.
- comprehensive online configurator
- excellent climbing performance
- playful and agile downhill
- stiff rear suspension costs traction
- long seat tube with short dropper post
You can find out more about at propain-bikes.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike of 2022 – 14 models in review
All bikes in test: Atherton AM.150 (Click for review) | Bold Linkin 135 Ultimate (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9 (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral CFR (Click for review) | FOCUS JAM 8.9 (Click for review) | Mondraker Raze RR SL (Click for review) | Propain Hugene (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 (Click for review) | ROSE BONERO 3 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS (Click for review) | SCOR 4060 ST GX (Click for review) | Specialized Stumpjumper EVO S-Works (Click for review) | Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Elite Alloy (Click for review) | YT JEFFSY UNCAGED 6 (Click for review)
This scale indicates how efficiently the bike climbs. It refers to both simple and technical climbs. Along with the suspension, the riding position and the weight of the bike all play a crucial role.↩
How does the bike ride and descend? How spritely is the bike, how agile is it through corners, how much fun is it in tight sections and how quickly can it change direction?↩
Is the bike stable at high speeds? Is it easy to stay in control in demanding terrain? How composed is it on rough trails? Stability is a combination of balanced geometry, good suspension and the right spec.↩
This is all about how balanced the bike is and particularly about how well it corners. Balanced bikes require little physical effort from the rider and are very predictable. If a bike is unbalanced, the rider has to work hard to weight the front wheel to generate enough grip. However, experienced riders can have a lot of fun even with unbalanced bikes.↩
How sensitive is the suspension over small bumps? Can it absorb hard impacts and does it soak up repeated hits? Plush suspension not only provides comfort and makes a bike more capable, but it also generates traction. The rating includes the fork and the rear suspension.↩
This aspect mainly comes down to the suspension. How much pop does it have, does it suck up the rider’s input or is it supportive, and how agile and direct is the bike?↩
We don’t calculate value for money in an excel spreadsheet or based on how high-end a bike is specced. We are more concerned with how a bike performs on the trail and how the bike benefits the rider. What good are the best components if the bike doesn’t perform well on the trail? Expensive bikes with a lower-end spec can offer very good value for money – provided they excel where it matters. Just as supposedly cheap bikes with good components can get a bad rating if they don’t deliver on the trail.↩
No, it’s not about racing, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along flowy singletrack and gravel roads need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret XC more like the Americans do: big back-country rides instead of a marathon or XC World Cup with the ultimate in lightweight construction! Uphill-downhill ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
...also known as mountain biking. Classic singletrack with roots, rocks and ledges – sometimes flowy, sometimes rough. For this, you need a bike with good all-round qualities, whether climbing or descending. Uphill-downhill ratio: 50:50↩
Even more extreme and challenging compared to Trail riding, riddled with every kind of obstacle: jumps, gaps, nasty rock gardens, ruts and roots. For this, you need (race)proven equipment that forgives mistakes and wouldn’t look out of place on a stage of the Enduro World Series. Climbing is just a means to an end. Uphill-downhill ratio: 30:70↩
Strictly speaking, a 200 mm travel downhill bike is the best choice for merciless tracks with big jumps, drops and the roughest terrain. Those would be the black or double-black-diamond tracks in a bike park. But as some of the EWS pros (including Sam Hill) have proven, it’s the riding skills and not the bike that define what you can ride with it. Climbing? On foot or with a shuttle, please! Uphill-downhill ratio: 10:90↩
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Words: Simon Kohler Photos: Peter Walker, Mike Hunger