Deviate Highlander Review

If you don’t know who Deviate is, well your about to find out. Deviate started out in 2017 with the 27.5, 160mm, Gearboxed enduro bike called the Guide. Now in 2020, they have branched out into the high pivot trail bike market with a 140mm bike called the Highlander, and this is the Deviate Highlander Review.

If you have been watching the Downhill world cups in recent years you may have seen Commencal using a high pivot suspension design on there downhill bikes and we’ve seen how much of a rocket ship they are. Now we are seeing the high pivot trickle down into the trail bike market with the likes of the Forbidden Druid and now the Deviate Highlander. 

With 140 mm of rear-wheel travel, the 29er Deviate Highlander sits right in between short travel trail bikes and the longer travel trail bikes, the Highlander looking at the geometry should be able to haul its way down any trail you point it down and climb back up with ease. Whereas the Deviate Guide was a bike that was very boutique and different, the new Deviate Highlander will be a bike that appeals to a much bigger audience given its trail bike placement.


Let’s take a look at the Highlanders geometry. The Highlander is available in three sizes from medium to extra-large, The sizes cater for people from 5`5” all the way up to 6`5” and each have a very generous reach which is very common in modern-day geometry for bikes. The long chainstays of 441mm make this bike a very stable platform with the added reach of the top tube. The balanced nature continues to the aggressive side a little with the 65.5-degree head angle but still keeps it within the realms of a trail bike. The geometry chart looks all very common with most of the top trail bikes on the market so I’m not expecting too much of a difference when it comes to riding the Highlander.

What is a High Pivot and does it make a difference? 

Well, the Deviate highlander features a very progressive leverage ratio, ranging from 2.7:1 to 2:1 which should provide good support and bottom-out control when the going gets rough. The main focus of the Deviate Highlander is certainly that high pivot suspension design with the main pivot located unusually high up on the seat tube. But what is the benefit of using a high pivot over the tried and tested low pivot suspension design? A high main pivot point allows the rear axle and rear wheel to rotate up in an arc but with a rearward axle path, meaning that when the rear wheel makes contact with an obstacle, the rear end goes backwards and upwards instead of the traditional upwards and forwards motion that you get on most low-pivot suspension designs. Put simply, when you’re riding down the trail and you impact an obstacle, generally you want to drive the suspension parallel in the direction of travel, so backwards away from the obstacle and not upwards, this, therefore, exerts more leverage on the rearward axle path resulting in an increase in sensitivity and responsiveness from the rear end of the bike which in turn helps propel you forward. The rear end of the Deviate Highlander moves a whopping 25 mm through the whole of its 140mm travel. 

Is there a bad point to the high pivot design? Yes, when the rear axle moves in the backwards motion the distance between the front chainring and rear axle grows quite a lot and therefore the chain would restrict you and you get what’s called kickback. Kickback is where you can feel the chain pulling at your cranks and can restrict the suspension’s performance and in some cases even cause damage to your drivetrain. However, to combat kickback Deviate added an idler gear very close to the high pivot. What this does, in turn, is equalises the length to the rear pivot as the suspension moves through its travel thus eliminating pedal kickback. The other bonus to having an idler is that it also gives far more control over the anti-squat when turning the cranks up the steepest of climbs.

Rider: Will Brett-Atkin Photographer: Katie Beaven

Riding the Deviate Highlander 

The Highlander we were supplied with was a medium and was built up with a fairly typical light trail setup with a pair of Fox 36 factory forks with the grip 2 damper accompanied with a Cane Creek double barrel outback. Braking was covered by some two pot Shimano Xt’s and a Shimano 11 speed drivetrain. Tyres were the Maxxis Assegai upfront and a High Roller on the back which provided plenty of grip on the chalky surfaces of the south downs. We headed to a trail centre in Hampshire which provided some steep technical descents, as well as some wide open rough goodness too, climbing wise, it was all fire roads with some added steep technical climbs with some tight corners to really test the bike’s length. 

Rider: Will Brett-Atkin Photographer: Katie Beaven

Deviate Highlander Review

My first impressions of the Highlander was of how aesthetically pleasing to the eye it is. The smooth lines, as well as that high pivot, just made the Highlander look the part. Swinging my leg over for the first time I was shocked at how low the stand over was which for someone at the dizzying heights of 5`6” was really nice for myself, however, I was not a fan of the reach. I like a short playful bike given my background of jumping but this didn’t put me off.

I headed off on my first ride and decided to warm up on the Blue climb which provided a nice gentle meander through the woods but with some tight steep corners to really get the heart rate going. I found the bike climbed really well with hardly pedal bob which shows the anti-squat is working well. I did, however, notice how long this bike really is when I got to the tight turns I had to take a wider and longer approach to navigate my way through. Now to the fun part, the descents. I found that the Highlander really handled the steeper descents exceptionally well and gave a fun planted feel and once you let off the anchors the Highlander picks up so much speed that the XT 2 pot brakes had there work cut out to slow it down again. As with the ups and now on the downs I found that the Highlander really did not like the tight and twisty’s with me having to slow and go wide substantially more than I usually would, this gave me the sense of stalling mid corner. When it comes to the rough stuff, Deviate has really made a great bike in the Highlander, it certainly does punch above its weight in the travel category and handles the rough stuff a lot more like a longer travel bike would and with that high pivot design with the rear axle travelling away from the objects you got the sense of acceleration from the bike but also a very stable feel, something you don’t get from a lower pivot bike.

Rider: Will Brett-Atkin Photographer: Katie Beaven

As I mentioned above with my height incompetence I’m on the small side for the medium and after a while, I found that long reach was starting to feel uncomfortable for myself which is a shame because I really enjoyed how the Highlander rode. I feel if they produced a small with a 430mm reach then they would be on to a winner for those riders that love a smaller chuckable bike.  

Overall I found the Highlander a very stable, planted trail bike that would accelerate you down the roughest and steepest of trails with that feeling of do you really need more travel? It climbs extremely well but it just doesn’t like the tight twisty trails that we have here in the south. The high pivot design really does work as intended and gives you a feeling of riding on a cloud on the roughest of trails. I feel this bike is much better suited to the riding found in wales or more to the north of the UK where the Steeper, rougher trails are to be found. 

What do you think of Deviate’s Highlander? Let us know below

If you want to take a closer and look and perhaps purchase a Highlander click here

Deviate Highlander
4.5 / 5 Reviewer
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (1 vote)
Looks fantastic, Well built, High pivot works really well, Punches above its weight for suspension travel, Very fast bike.
Extra maintenance with the extra idler wheel, It's a long bike which hinders it when the going gets tight and twisty.
In summary, the Deviate Highlander is a fantastic bike. The high pivot suspension design works really well and keeps the bike stable and composed even with the biggest of hits. The Highlander really does fly down the trail once you've let go of the brakes and carries that speed even when the going gets rough. It's very light but we did find that with the length on the tighter trails it did suffer compared to some of the shorter trail bikes.
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