Panorama Taiga Analysis’: A Case for Semi-Rod Steel, Hardtail Flipboard,Sight Seeing, Bike Packing.
Panorama Cycles of Canada unveiled its first hardtail mountain bike, the Taiga, last summer. With the clearance, sliding dropouts and plenty of mounting options for the Reynolds 725 steel frame, 29 x 2.8 “tires, we’re interested to see how it stands up against other types of steel hardtails. Miles shares his full overview here…
There is no shortage of mountain bike options these days. Over the past few years, we have been inundated with various takes on the venerable steel hardtail and we are now at a time when the number of options is almost overwhelming. Brands like Surly, Marin, Jamis and Niner have been at the forefront of this movement, but we’re now seeing new bike makers and those who don’t usually work with steel come into the mix.
There are ultra-slack hardtails to show off the roughtails and near-vertical trails designed for travel on rough roads. The bikes of this latest breed fall somewhere in between and I like to call semi-rad hardtails (for Brendan Leonard). They can get past the average people like me. As geometry, standards and frame design evolve, these options mark a lot of boxes from a bikepacking perspective. The search for the perfect hardtail is more complicated.
Panorama Cycles, although less familiar to the outside world, has established itself in Canada, and has been busy rebranding itself as a bold bike company for the past few years. The Quebec-based bike brand has diversified its offering in 2019 with several gravel bikes, most recently with their first hardtail mountain bike and the new all-road touring bike. Although there are a couple of carbon frames in their lineup, Panorama has a thing for affordable steel bikes — most of them are exclusive and equipped for bikepacking and other adventures.
The Panorama Taiga
One of their new offerings, Panorama Taiga, is no different. Announced last summer, the Taïga is the brand’s first hardtail mountain bike. It belongs to a growing category of semi-rad 29 steel hardtail mountain bikes located somewhere between a dedicated trail bike and a backcountry bikepacking rig.
Angles: 67 ° headtube, 75 ° seattube
Chainstay: 420-440 mm
Bottom Bracket: 73MM Thread
Hub Specs: 15 X 110MM (front); 12 X 148MM (Rear)
SEATPOST diameter: 31.6MM
Max tire size: 29X2.8″/27.5X3.0″
Price: $ 3,099 CAD (~ $ 2,450 USD)
A few months after its release, Panorama launched the Taïga EXP – a drop-bar-specific version of the flat bar Taïga with equally impressive features. The EXP interpretation comes with a carbon chopstick with plenitude of mounts, 29×2.25″tires (with concurrence for 29×2.6″), room for loads for a large frame
. bag, and split seat stay for various drivetrain setups. It has internal dropper post routing, dynamo routing on the fork, sliding dropouts and all the different mounting options we like to see. On paper, both the Taïga and Taïga EXP look pretty impressive, so amateur bicyclists are eager to see how the flat-bar version works like a versatile trail bike.
Panorama describes the Taïga as having “multifunctional trail geometry” that combines the trailbike’s playfulness and performance with additional capabilities for long-distance off-road adventures. It is centered around the choice between ED-refined Reynolds 725 steel frame, sliding rear dropouts, externally routed cables, dropper post routing and rigid carbon or a 120mm suspension fork. Like their other bikes, the Taiga is offered in a single-build build kit that includes a 12-speed drivetrain, dropper post, hydraulic brakes and tubeless-ready wheels. Especially when it comes with chunky 29 x 2.6 ”tires, the frame cleans 29 x 2.8” or 27.5 x 3.0 ”tires.
Taiga with a Fox 34 fork
In the first half of the test I tested the Taïga with a 120mm Travel Fox 34 fork. Paired with equipped 29 x 2.6 ”WTB Trail Bass tires, this setup is reminiscent of the Escher Jaffe. In fact, the Taiga-spec thicker 2.6 “tires are preferred over the faster 2.8” tires in the jiffy. On sidewalk and smooth gravel roads, Taïga is not the fastest or most effective rig, and it is the slowest of the long, steep climbs, but you can bet that you will feel stable and confident in any kind of terrain.
Panorama let me know that early testers preferred to run the Fox fork with higher pressure than normal, with the standard 25% instead of 15%. I was naturally doing the same. But fox fork can be useful for long journeys on rough and dirt roads,
Navigating low-speed technical trails, especially tight corners and awkward movements, is not the place where the Taiga shines. Whether it’s rock gardens, root-infected trails or a root-out doubletrack, I find that it’s best to plow straight through rough terrain. Where the Taïga points go, it goes. The same characteristics hold true in mounts. Long-ish wheelbase and grippy rubber made for easy mounting,
According to Panorama, there was a lot of interest in the rigid setup and I’m not surprised. Of great interest, in fact, is that they plan to offer a harder frameset version in the next production run. Taïga’s modern geometry and 29 x 2.6 “tire clearance plays well with a lightweight carbon fork, creating a wide range of riding styles and a unique platform suitable for terrain.
Panorama Taga Build Kit
Panorama Cycles is proud to offer the same build-kit option for entire bikes. He describes his unit selection as “the best balance between reliability and weight,” which is hard to argue. It is based on the full SRAM NX-Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, SRAM-level hydraulic brakes with 180mm rotors, KS dropper post and chunky 29 x 2.6 “WTB trail bass tires. Complete with the updated 3 ° Engagement Rear Hub, as mentioned earlier, you also have the Panorama Rigid Carbon Fork with 120mm Travel Fox 34 fork of your choice or triple pack mounts.
Overall, there were no issues with the build kit during the testing period. It is well equipped and works as expected. Although the WTB Trail Boss tires are not the fastest tread, they provide plenty of bite, which is necessary during wet winters on the coast. I’m a big fan of extra grippy tires on heavy steel bikes because they allow me to push the boundaries in the rougher terrain. The updated hunt wheels have also proved reliable, shaking off several rim strikes and pushing through the wet coastal winter filled with sediment and dust. The 3 ° engagement is fast enough that it helps avoid pedal strikes while navigating technical trails and has proven to be reliable for the rest of the bike.
Frame Reynolds 725 Steel, ED plated
Fork Fox 34 Float, 120mm or Panorama Carbon Rigid
Crankset SRAM NX Eagle Dub, 32T
Shifter SRAM NX Eagle
Derailleur SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed
Chain SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB BSA, 73mm Thread
RIMS Hunt Trial Wide MTB
Front Hub Novatek 110x15mm
Rear Hub Novatek 3 ° Rapid Engage, 148x12mm
TIRES WTB Trial Boss 29 x 2.6 ″ TCS Slash Guard
Brake SRAM level, hydraulic
Brake rotors SRAM centerline 180mm
Handlebar Richie MTN Comp 10D Riser
STEM Richie MTB Trial
SEATPOST KS E20I DROPPER POST, 125MM
Saddle WTB Pure
Headset FSA No. 57 E
The rest of the Taiga VS
Although the number of steel mountain bikes is at an all-time high, Taiga manages to add itself to the growing category of semi-rad hardtails. Tire clearance aside, it is more progressive and trail-capable than most reserved options, including the Surly Karate Monkey, Surly Krampus, and Niner SIR 9 — all of which are usually smaller in front and have steep headtube angles. On the other end of the spectrum, next-gen super-rad hardtails are designed to challenge the ability of hardtail, which is generally better suited to steep, enduro-style descents. Some bikes that fall into this category include the Norco Torrent, Kona Honzo ESD, Chromag Surface Voyager and Nordest Bardino. They are all long, loose and in most cases less suitable for normal bikepacking duties.
Semi-rod hardtails are not hardcore intersections or more relaxed touring rigs. They have fallen in line with current geometric trends, including longer range and wheelbase and more slack front end, but they do so without sacrificing climbing prowess or overall usefulness. In short, the bikes in this category tend to look downhill but have a balanced ride quality that is equally good for large backcountry terrain and load riding.
Review of Escar Jaffe
Esker Japhy and Panorama are more comparable and exciting in the Taïga group. The Taïga has a few features, including rear rack mounts, non-crimped chainstays, the option of buying with a carbon fork, tapered and top-tapped, and two with adjustable dropouts to tweak the chainstay length and adjust the drivetrain and clearance for 29 x 2.8 “tires. Both bikes have lower upper tubes to leave room for longer dropper posts, which give the frame bag less space, but the Jafi only has bottle mounts in the seat tube. The Taïga’s Reynolds 725 Cromoly Steel Frame has a softer touch than the Jaffe’s 4130 Chromoly Steel Tube. ,,, But still sturdy, with limited flex.
Fit, Function and Observations
The bikes in this new breed of hardtail do everything for bikepacking and trail riding — everything checks a lot of boxes for a bike, which are not perfect. Taïga, like others in this category, has a lower standover and smaller seat tube that gives less space to the frame bag, which is my biggest complaint with modern hardtails, as more people are heading in this direction to accommodate more dropper posts. But, at the same time, most people are not speculating large frame sizes with appropriate posts. It is not uncommon to see multiple frame sizes with the same post length, which does not cut it. Esker Japhy I reviewed last year uses a 150mm travel post on medium, large and extra-large builds, while Taïga specs a 125mm dropper post on both medium and large. Posts can help with compatible travel, but only if the post is long enough to start. The long post made some steep trails and rock rolls less scary.
You will notice that Taïga and Japhy have smaller stock numbers compared to others. The Taiga Raiser Bar is a solid candidate for a slightly more direct riding position, especially for those six feet or taller. Some of the most popular options can be found in our Comfort MTB Handlebar Index. As such, Taïga is still comfortable to ride all day but is sporty enough to have fun.