Being a college student and an outdoor enthusiast at the same time is sort of like being being addicted to gambling while broke. It’s really hard to finance your obsession. For that reason, I chose the 456, a hardtail all-mountain frame, for my current trailbike. The On-One 456 is a steel hardtail frame designed to work in tandem with a 4-6 inch fork–hence the name 456 (catchy, right?). A bigger fork affords more capability when engaging bigger, nastier terrain, while the stiff rear captures vital pedaling efficiency and climbing prowess.
While I originally picked the 456 out of financial necessity, I can’t say I would go back to a full-suspension trail bike, even if money was no object. The 456 has an aggressive, nimble feel, while having the obvious climbing efficiency attributed to all hardtails. With an eclectic trail diet spanning open singletrack, technical descents, and dirt jumps, the 456 can straight up devour almost anything in the hands of a capable rider. Heck, there are guys racing 4X on the 456 Summer Season edition–an astounding fact considering there are also guys taking the 456 on epic cross-country rides.
General ImpressionsNow I know that every bike company claims to have the best “do-it-all” bike, but the 456 truly stands out above the crowd. For the past 18 months, I’ve ridden my 456 on everything from epic trails in Arkansas, to flat, rocky Texas singletrack, to dirt jumps. Those experiences have indemnified my confidence that the 456 can handle the vast majority of trails out there.
Even on paper, the 456 is a solid frame option. In today’s flooded all-mountain frame market, the 456 distinguishes itself by being cheap and light, a rare combination. The catch is, it’s a hardtail. Admittedly, true all-mountain riding on a hardtail is no doubt a demanding discipline. On a trip to the Ouachita National Forest, I took my 456 on a 3 mile descent on an abandoned hiking trail down a 2.5K feet hill (or miniature mountain if your from Texas), which absolutely shot my legs.
I’ll never forget that ride–it was a beating that made me temporarily wonder if I had made the right frame decision. Fast forward a year, and I can guarantee that riding the 456 has made me a much better rider. It’s capabilities have given me a higher degree of confidence on a wide range of terrain, while its hardtail qualities have forced me to improve my flow and line-picking abilities. While choosing good lines is important no matter what you are riding, picking a bad line can have much deeper consequences when you don’t have 6 inches of squish below. Thus, the 456 is not for everyone. As you can probably guess, the 456 is not a point-and-shoot bike or a bike that easily forgives out-of-shape quads. If you aren’t used to riding a hardtail on rough terrain and you’re planning on using the 456 as intended, purchasing a 456 is a commitment to a steep learning curve. That being said, I personally believe it’s totally worth the trouble.
Since it’s clear that I’m biased towards hardtails, let me explain why I chose the 456 over other all-mountain hardtail frames. What it boils down to is value, geometry, and weight. You can pick up a 456 in the US for less than $300 at Unreal Cycles. Meanwhile, the Transition TransAM, a very similar frame, is almost twice the cost and a pound heavier. Secondly, the 456 is about 1 degree steeper at the head angle, which is an important distinction.
Another distinction is the visual appearance of the frame. First, you can get the frame in pink. Second, any frame with a slack head angle and a low standover looks awesome. Third, you’ve never seen anything like the seat stays on the 456.
BuildSince I originally purchased the frame, I’ve setup my 456 with a 1×9 drivetrain and a 140-150mm fork. I highly recommending running a 1×9 or singlespeed setup with the 456, as the entire personality of the frame is all about simplicity. I originally ran a Marzocchi AM3 fork with a Sun Rhyno-Lite front wheel and a Sette Loco rear wheel, but later switched to a Rockshox Revelation with the Sun Charger Pro wheelset setup with Stans Tubeless system. Running Stans No Tubes system really complemented the 456, allowing me to run a lower tire pressure, taking a bit of the edge off the bumps in rocky terrain.
Ride QualityHowever, the 456 is, like most other long travel hardtails, a steel frame. Steel is a tad heavier, but it’s very strong and has a bit of flex. When rattling over rocky terrain, the flex really helps alleviate the bumps, while the strength of the steel still maintains confidence. The flex simply absorbs–it doesn’t make you feel like your frame is about to snap. Speaking as a guy who will never run anything but thru-axle front hubs, I love stiffness, but I gratuitously make an exception when it comes to hardtail frames.
As far as pedaling efficiency, the concept behind a long-travel hardtail makes a lot of sense because rear suspension travel eats up far more power than equivalent travel in the front. Also, my legs can take a much bigger beating than my wrists, which implicates more travel in the front than in the rear. Initially, it feels weird to go through 5 inches of travel in the front and 0 inches in the back. If you’re used to a full suspension frame, you feel like you’re being pitched forward. Thankfully, these feelings quickly abscond with a bit of time in the saddle.
For a better feel of what it’s like to ride a 456, checkout this short GoPro video.
GeometryWhile slack angles and long travel forks are nothing new for the all-mountain market, they are a little less usual when implemented on a hardtail. Forks beyond 5 inches and slack angles are good for descending, but most gravity-conscious frames are full-suspension. In this respect, the 456′s geometry is fairly unique. While there are a handfull of other slack, long travel fork hardtail frames on the market, none of them are from a major bike company, as far as I’m aware. That being said, after riding a 456, I don’t think I’d ever want to ride anything with a head angle steeper than 69 degree. With a 120mm fork, the 456 has a head angle of 67.5 degrees (no sag), which is pretty comparable to running 150mm or 160mm fork with proper sag. As far as I’m concerned, that head angle is dialed for major singletrack fun. It makes the front a bit harder to control on technical climbs, but it’s a drawback that’s perfectly manageable and completely forgotten when the climbing turns into descending.
While some can argue till they’re blue in the face over the idea head angle, everyone loves a frame with a low standover height. On a 16″ 456, the standover is just over 28 inches, which is really, really nice. When you drop the seat, you more or less have a dirt jumper, minus the short chainstays. Which brings me to the only thing I don’t like about the 456′s geometry. If I could change on thing about the 456, I’d shorten the chainstays by about 3/4 of an inch, from 16.75 to 16 inches. When I pop up on my back wheel, I want all my bikes to feel like my dirt jumper.
Even though geometry is a somewhat personal thing, I can guarantee you’ll like the 456 if you have a freeride background. The 456 is about as close as you can get to a freeride feel on a hardtail without totally compromising as a legitimate trail bike.
DownsidesBeing an excellent frame, there are very few drawbacks to the 456 that are unrelated to personal preference and riding style. However, I was disappointed with a few things, mainly the lack of ISCG mounts and a second water bottle holder mount. These days, it’s inevitable that riders are going to want to run chainguides on any and every all-mountain frame. At least they’re standard on the Titanium 456 model. Secondly, the 456 is a perfect weapon for epic rides in almost every way, with the exception of the fact that there is only one water bottle cage mount. This is especially irritating for riders that try to avoid hydration packs. With two 24 oz. bottles, I can ride fully hydrated for about 2 hours. Drop that number down to one bottle, and you have either a significantly shorter ride, or cramps and dark urine. Either way, not cool.
On a more petty note, the color selection for the steel version of the 456 is far from ideal. While I personally don’t fall into this category, not too many guys have the confidence in their manhood to sport a pink bike. The other color options? Poop brown and boring blue. Try again, On-One.
The Bottom LineDespite the lack of frame color choices, On-One did a bang-up job on their flagship all-mountain frame. The 456 is for perfect for riders that like to rip trails uphill as well as downhill, but for the fun of it. As a recreational cyclist, I put a high value on good, plain fun. I don’t race often, so I often judge rides by how fast I feel on the fun sections, not by how fast I complete an entire lap. If you want a dedicated race bike, the 456 is not for you. While a 5lb frame is light for an all-mountain steel frame, it’s a good full pound overweight if you’re going for a hardtail race frame. That, and the slack head angle is fun and easy going, but not totally down to business when you hit the climbs.
On the flipside, the 456 is also not for all-mountain riders that like to sit back on 6 inches of travel and let a coil spring do the dirty work. But for those of us who enjoy spending time out of the saddle, want an outrageously fun and nimble bike, and value frames that can shred on a wide spectrum of trail, the 456 is cash money.
- Excellent geometry
- Gentle, yet responsive steel feel
- No ISCG mounts
- Only one water bottle holder mount
- Poor color selection