Carbon Wasp are a tiny but top level carbon fiber fabricator from Leeds in Yorkshire in the UK, but their new Truffle frame is right up there with the best XC/trail mountain bikes in the world. I went over to see their setup, talk about carbon construction in general and get a first ride on their brand new, lightweight 120mm full-suspension bike. I came away seriously impressed with how stiff, sorted, feature-loaded and aggressively shaped the bike was too.
Design and geometry
Carbon Wasp are Adrian and Chris who’ve been building bikes and components from carbon fiber for over 15 years. First as a hobby making suck it and see ‘wet laid’ frames and parts for themselves, then through repairs of other bikes, contracted components and finally to their first frames for Olsen bicycles and others. The Truffle is the first Carbon Wasp branded production bike though and represents the peak of their experience and manufacturing process.
That involves using various types of top quality UK sourced pre impregnated carbon fiber sheet hand laid into CNC machined tooling block female molds with high pressure bladders to compress the composite lay-up while it’s baked into shape. In other words, pretty much exactly the same as most other manufacturers, but with each one made to order and then painted exactly how you want (single custom color is included in the price, full custom finishes are priced individually).
While the prototype I rode had some rough finished parts such as blunt edged lower shock mounts and a storage hatch latch that rubbed paint off the hatch itself, the rest of the finish is really neat. That includes smoothly blended tubes and flat to round and/or oval tube faces throughout. The rear end uses a flex-stay type design You also get ISCG mounts, premium quality bearings, SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger, belly and chain stay armor, as well as the previously mentioned internal storage which is relatively shallow but with plenty of length for tools, tubes, food etc. The bike rear end has space for a 2.4in 29er tire, runs a 190 x 50mm Cane Creek Inline custom tuned shock as standard (frame without shock is £2400 rather than £2800) screw in BB, tubed internal routing, 30.9mm seat post and standard Boost 148 x 12mm rear end so there’s no weirdness to worry about when you’re building up your bike. Carbon Wasp give a claimed frame weight without shock of 2100g but they had no bare frames available to confirm that with. Given that the large I rode came in at 12.6kg with a top end spec that may be a slightly generous claim, as a Scott Spark I’m currently riding with comparable spec and a slightly lighter frame comes in significantly lighter overall.
The classic rocker link on seat tube, shock mounted vertically in line with the seat tube layout also leaves room for a conventional cage and full size bottle above the storage hatch. The rear dropout is replaceable too, but there’s no geometry switch tricks until Carbon Wasp release the different lower shock mount options they were talking about when I visited.
Presuming you like your numbers super progressive for 120mm, there’s no real need for geometry tweaking anyway. The head angle is 65.5 degrees, seat angle 76 degrees with a 480mm reach, 33mm BB drop and 440mm chainstay on our large sample. Carbon Wasp also make a 5mm shorter rear end for M and S sizes which is impressive detailing considering the size of the operation and how few big brands feature proportional geometry.
While Carbon Wasp only supply frames they’d built the sample up very close to how we would to get the best from the bike. That included a RockShox SID Ultimate fork, SRAM GX AXS gearing and a SRAM XX1 crank. Brakes were XT while the short forged stem and carbon bars and rims were unlabeled. Hubs were Novatec though and the tires were Schwalbe’s super light Rocket Ron Addix Speed Grip Super Grounds in a 29 x 2.25in size. A classic Selle Italia slimline saddle sat on top of the long extension RockShox Reverb dropper post.
Card on the table, I've suffered some shocking rides on bikes from small start ups so I was apprehensive as we rolled through a railway arch and straight onto the local Leeds singletrack. It was clear immediately that the Truffle has been put together impressively though. Hitting the first climb it lit up superbly and not just because of the overall low weight and minimum rotating mass of the featherweight tires either. There’s a real sense of solidity through cranks and chain stays when you're surging power through from the saddle and every gear change and hub engagement felt sharp and precise. Even more impressively it still feels rock solid when you stand up and get the bars involved rather than gearing down, At this point a lot of long, lightweight bikes can really start to twist and flex to the point where you have to back off the watts to stop it wandering off line. No such worries with the Truffle which handles serious torque without deflecting wherever it comes from making it a proper 'pop the throttle at every opportunity' bike.
That makes the long, slack geometry much more useable and together with my favorite short travel fork I could properly attack the hard baked, sight unseen singletrack. There’s no obvious flex outward to prompt a high side in a high speed, high G corner or tuck under when you’re braking and turning into a turn you’ve spotted too late. That meant even with sub 700g, relatively hard compound tires I was rallying the Carbon Wasp hard after only a couple of minutes learning it’s stripes.
Suspension took a little longer to work out, but that was just a case of tweaking the separate low and high speed rebound and compression dampers on the Cane Creek shock which had been set up a bit constipated to start with. The baseline kinematic is really good though. Carbon Wasp quote shock progression as 38 percent across the whole stroke and 27 percent from sag to full compression. Anti-squat is listed as 115 percent at sag point in a 32 x 39 gear. To be honest we didn’t get chance to hammer the bike hard down extended rocky descents or any trails we had a benchmark vibe off. From the roots, rocks and boulder drops we deliberately hit though there certainly didn’t seem like any choking, over travel or excess squat going on. Plus while the Inline shock is always a bit stiff off the top compared to Fox and RockShox air shocks that suits the tight, precise overall feel of the bike. We certainly never had to reach for the compression and rebound stiffening ‘Climb’ lever but we never struggled for sensitive traction on looser or lumpier power climbs either. The steep seat angle helps with attack climbing poise and stops the distant front end wandering or lifting and the overwhelming character of the Truffle is of a bike that’s really sorted for attacking technical trails super hard up, down or along, flattering your skill and fitness in the process.
Reviewing a prototype bike from a tiny outfit always comes with some concerns about how long they’re going to be around to support the product etc. There’s a very big difference between a company with 15 years experience, who’ve won Olympic Gold medals with their triathlon bars and who’s track bars sell for €800 with Italian branding on and a one man band selling steel frames after a weekend welding course. Everything I saw at Carbon Wasp filled me with confidence too, although there were definitely some details on the prototype that had an engineering aesthetic not an elegant one. On the other hand you’ve got to remember that even the largest companies started somewhere, and there’s something really awesome about getting behind a brand at the very beginning of the journey. Especially when it means you can get the bike made for you within a couple of weeks in whatever you color you want.
How you feel about that is all on you anyway. What really matters is that in terms of performance this bike is genuinely competitive with the best big brand options. In fact it’s mix of efficient, aggression enabling stiffness, properly progressive slack, long reach geometry, light weight and sorted suspension together with features like internal storage and ISCG mount actually make it pretty unique before you even start choosing custom paint. Or to put it another way this hand-made local hero from Yorkshire is a reet proper pinner for flat out XC/trail work up, down or on the roller coaster trails in between.
Tech specs: Carbon Wasp Truffle
- Discipline: XC/Trail
- Price: Frame and shock £2800 (frame without shock £2400)
- Head angle: 65.5 degrees
- Frame material: Carbon fibre
- Size: Large
- Weight: 12.6kg (27.78lbs)
- Wheel size: 29x2.in
- Suspension (front/rear): RockShox SID Ultimate 120mm travel, 44mm offset/ Cane Creek DB Inline 190 x 50mm stroke, 120mm travel
- Components: SRAM GX Eagle AXS 10-50T 12 speed mech, shifter, chain and cassette. SRAM XX1 32T chainset. Shimano XT brakes with 180mm rotors. Schwalbe Rocket Ron Addix Speed Grip Super Ground 29 x 2.25in front and rear tires on unbranded carbon rims with Novatec hubs. 780mm carbon bar and anonymous forged 50mm stem, RocShox Reverb 150mm dropper post, Selle Italia Flite saddle