Sage | Flow Motion
You could say that the Sage Flow Motion has aggressive geometry for a hardtail. When compared to the classics, that would certainly be true, but it's all a matter of perspective. Not long ago, every single hardtail was a bike you could race. It really wasn't that long ago, actually, that there were no categories whatsoever. A mountain bike was a mountain bike, pure and simple. You'd ride it casually, you'd race cross-country on it, and you might even enter a slalom or downhill race—all on the same sketchy bike.
These days there are categories-a-plenty, but if someone says that they're shopping for a "mountain bike", most of us would picture what we now refer to as a 'trail bike'. If we use that meaty chunk of the bell curve, the one most of us tend to ride in, then the Flow Motion starts to fit right in. It might still look a lot like those canti-wearing, long-stem-having, schizophrenic things we used to ride, but rest assured, this classic Ti hardtail is modern in all the right ways.
The Flow Motion is made in Portland, Oregon, where the aesthetics of bikes and bike culture are as finely curated as the coffee. In fact, the Flow Motion is the most finely curated frame Sage makes. Not only are these frames produced in particularly small batches, but the Flow Motion is a step above the road and gravel bikes in the rest of Sage’s catalog. But that’s not to say it’s all flashy about it. The tubes are round, like the ones our founding fathers used. And for the most part, they go in a straight line from point A to point B, the fastest way. There are no curved, swoopy tubes added in purely for flair—the bend in the seat tube is there for tire clearance. There's beauty in the Flow Motion's simplicity and rawness. It's utilitarian. And naked. As titanium is meant to be. It's the bike Frank Lloyd Wright would have.
Though, I'm guessing Mr. Wright's bike wouldn't have such superfluous things as a 150-millimeter-travel Fox 36 fork or a dropper post—or gears, for that matter. All of which make the Flow Motion not suck. It's not just the parts bolted to the Flow Motion that make this hardtail a less tortuous device than its ancestors. The long reach, short chainstays, low-slung bottom bracket, and slack head angle make it a downright blast to ride.
My favorite thing about the Flow Motion's handling is its snappy cornering. If there's enough traction, you can pull some serious g-forces on this bike. It's a stiff, solid-feeling chassis that can be pushed hard into corners without twisting or splaying. Titanium is known for its lively, springy feel, and the Flow Motion definitely does have some of that, but it's on the stiffer side of the spectrum. It's great for powerful, aggressive riders because it offers more support. If you have the ability to really load it up into corner, it'll reward you with that satisfying spring back out that only titanium can deliver. Lighter weight or less aggressive riders, on the other hand, might not get as much of that.
The geometry numbers are based around 27.5-inch wheels and 150 millimeters of fork travel, though that can easily be pushed to 160 millimeters if desired. It'll slacken things up by about a half degree, and result in slightly better high-angle descending and slightly worse high-angle climbing, as expected. As an all-round trail bike, it's best suited with the recommended fork travel, because the 10-mil bump makes you have to work harder to keep the front wheel on the ground while climbing. There is a noticeable improvement in descending stability, though, without much loss in steering responsiveness on flat terrain.
Sage also didn't really design the Flow Motion around 29-inch hoops, and you can't build one out on Sage's site with them, but it'll accept them. I didn't ride it with big wheels, but I did throw one in the frame. One with a 30-millimeter internal width and a 2.5-inch tire mounted to it—and there was plenty of clearance. To have the geometry work out, you'd probably want to go with 140-mil-travel fork. Of course, you'd be raising the bottom bracket by a few millimeters, but in case anyone's curious, a 29er Flow Motion can be done.
As for frame details, I love the Syntace-style dropouts, but would prefer a post disc brake mount instead of IS, which requires the use of an adaptor for any current caliper. The cables are routed on the underside of the downtube and held in place by a few nice bolted aluminum clips. It's cleaner placement than running them along the toptube, but it's not nearly as cool as the internal routing on the Why Cycles S7—a Ti frame that's more forgiving on the trail… and the wallet.
Personally, I dig the stark, defined lines of the Sage Flow Motion to the delicate, gentle swoops of the Why S7. It's a nicer-looking frame that appears more like something made to be ridden, instead of hung in a gallery. You'd think, then, that the Flow Motion would be less expensive, but it's not. Not by a long shot. For the cost of a Flow Motion frame, you could get an S7 and you'd have nearly enough left over to get a MacBook Pro. Keep in mind, there is a range of build options available through Sage’s website, including one for $7,860 that still includes a Fox Factory 36, Industry 9 wheelset and XT drivetrain. And Sage takes requests if you want to come up with a spec that’s more within reach. But the bike you're looking at, with its Reynolds wheels, Race Face Next SL cranks and Chris King goodies, is over $9,000.
That’s because there’s a lot that separates the Flow Motion from the Why S7. In fact, a lot separates the Flow Motion from most Ti bikes. To use Why Cycles for comparison one last time, the S7 is made in China. Not only is the Flow Motion frame made in the US, it’s constructed from tubing that itself is made in the US, which is rare when there’s always plenty of cheap material out there on the international market. But Sage didn’t want to make the Flow Motion with cheap material. They went with straight-gage annealed tubing. That burly, non-butted structure and advanced heat-treating process were chosen to match the Flow Motion’s intended use as a no-limits enduro hardtail. All those ingredients are mixed in a facility whose frames do appear like they’re made to be hung in a gallery. The Flow Motion just happens to be made to be ridden.
Nine grand is a ton of money to spend on any bike, but especially a non-custom hardtail. That said, I can't deny that I've had a great time riding it, and there aren't many classically styled Ti bikes with the modern bike geometry that this bike has to be had right now. So, if this is the kind of thing you've been waiting for, perhaps money is no object.