This post will provide a brief review of my GF’s RSD Middle Child V1. It’s not my bike and I haven’t ridden it other than around the block when I’ve been wrenching on it and needed to check that I fixed a problem. It’s too small for me to get a good feel for its performance by riding it. So my comments will be general in nature and I’ll be passing on feedback from my GF. She’s the kind of rider that does not spend a lot of time thinking/talking about bikes, but she rides a lot and loves to challenge herself so if a bike is fragile or doesn’t perform she’ll figure that out pretty fast. I also have two friends that bought RSD MC’s based on my GF enjoy hers. One got a V1 and the other got the current V2. Although there are differences between the two versions they are not dramatic and I think the comments in this review would hold for the newer V2 version.
Why did we buy a RSD MC?
My GF started riding mountain bikes in ~2009 with a 6″ travel Santa Cruz Nomad. By 2019 she had become a fairly dedicated shredder, but had always been on longer travel FS bikes. She was keen on trying a hardtail as a sloppy winter conditions ride and for gravel/bikepacking rides. Since she had never ridden a hardtail we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on one, but we didn’t want to buy junk either. We settled on the RSD MC because:
- Price was reasonable [it was on sale ~$500 extra at the time].
- Geo was useful for techy shredding and not so aggressive it didn’t make sense for cruising on non-tech terrain.
- Build kit was high quality [no junk parts].
- She liked the colour!
- If she didn’t love it we figured we could sell it for minimal loss.
Unlike some DTC brands the MC didn’t come out of the box fully assembled less turning the bars and installing the front wheel. I don’t recall exactly how much work I put into building it, but I do recall my GF would not have been able complete the bike on her own. So if you don’t enjoy wrenching you may need to call on a friend or your LBS to make that happen. As I was building it I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the parts were. Each one was a solid value based choice. It’s pretty rare on a lower cost complete build that I would be happy with what was spec’d, but I would have ridden that bike as is out of the box.
The quality of the frame was nice as well. The MC is a burly frame and looking at the beefy tubing you don’t get the impression this is one of those flexy/supple “Steel is Real” frames. The welds looked good and the sliding dropouts are a nice touch. The only cosmetic issue we had was a spot of poor powder coat coverage on one dropout. It’s hard to see and hasn’t caused any issues to date.
I won’t bore you a detailed parts list. Everything will be different if you are buying new these days.
On The Trails
In addition to being my GF’s first hardtail this was also her first 27+ bike. The MC came with 27.5 x 2.8″ Maxxis DHF/DHR tires. The trails she rode during most of the test period were mostly slower steep tech. She made the switch to hardtailing really well. Not only did she ride most of the same stuff she rode on her 150mm/145mm FS bike, but she had a lot of fun on it. The MC also got used for a lot of her non-technical XC and gravel/bikepath riding. We did switch her over to some 27.5 x 2.8″ Rekons for dry weather use both to save the knobbier tires and to increase her rolling speed.
Early on she had a pinch flat/ring ding due to riding a rocky descent like it was a FS bike and not paying attention to tire pressure. She got an accurate pressure gauge and has been riding a bit lighter. That was the only flat she’s had in 3 years. Not bad. She’s also not had any on trail parts failures [we’ll chat about the dropper below]. We’ve swapped in some high rise Diety bars for a more upright riding position and some pink grips because pink!
The sliding dropouts allow for shorter CS which is nice. The high BB works well in 27+ mode and isn’t terrible if you want to run 29er wheels in chunky terrain where pedal strikes are a concern more than smashing berms. So far she’s only run the MC as a 27+ bike, but she has expressed some interest in trying a 29 x 2.6″ setup.
All in all the MC has turned out to be a very fun and capable ride. When conditions are very sloppy in winter it’s nice to pull it out and not savage a shock and suspension hardware. The main downside to this frame is that it’s fairly stiff…especially for a lighter rider like my GF. It’s not horrible, but in a perfect world she’d be on a very supple steel frame. We’ve discussed the idea of buying a more flexible frame and moving the MC parts across, but so far she hasn’t cared enough to bother.
Buying the MC with a dropper was optional. I wish I hadn’t done that. The provided KS Lev dropper failed [head came loose and just spun 360 deg] on my GF. When it worked it was fine, but the provided remote was poor so we replaced it with a PNW remote. Given the cost and the underwhelming performance/durability I would have bought the MC without a dropper and picked up a One Up or PNW dropper aftermarket if I had a do over.
The steel RSD Middle Child is a fine mountain bike. The value proposition is solid and the performance is excellent. The only downside really is the stiff frame that will be a bit harsh for lighter riders. If you want a performance hardtail at a reasonable price the MC is worth a look. There are aluminum and titanium versions of the MC as well. I have no experience with them.