After many years of absence from the UK market, Univega have come back with a slew of new offerings. One of these include the Alpina HT-550 and I was lucky enough to be sent one for our Christmas reviews. This particular mountain bike sits somewhere in the middle of the company's range and offers you the opportunity to get hold of something that looks a little bit special for just over £500.
Again, as in my previous MTB review, the HT-550 offers a lot more than those cheap off-the-shelf bikes. With its Shimano component mix, including an XT drivetrain and SLX shifters, when you catch your first glimpse of the bike you will know you have something special. This is a hardtail, so no rear suspension, but up front you get a Rock Shox Tora-SL fork with 100mm of travel. The Rock Shox really does eat up the bumps and is very responsive. The Concept SL saddle, seatpost, stem and handlebar are a nice match and feel very well made. They are not that heavy either, all adding up to a pretty decent weight bike. Avid Juicy 3 hydraulic disc brakes serve up your stopping power and in my rides out on the HT-550 they performed very well. They provide a no fuss solution really and provide more than adequate braking ability. The Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres are nice and chunky, dispersing all the mud and water that is around at the moment. Planting the bike in some really muddy conditions in the woods found it very sure-footed indeed. It installed a lot of confidence in my riding and made me feel like I could really throw the bike hard into sometimes dodgy conditions. Throughout my wet rides, I was very happy with how well the bike performed. I was expecting a budget feel to the HT-550 because of the price, but I am happy to say that it delivered much much more on all fronts.
The Alpina HT-550 really does look awesome. The red and white paintwork on the double butted alloy frame looks very racey, with the forks matching and the Avid 3's coming in a special white edition. This gives a really nice look to the bike. Your £580 buys you a real solid performer, maybe a little weightier than some other offerings, but not by a lot. The specification for the price is what impressed me the most. If you can afford to treat someone (or yourself) this Christmas, Univega have some great introductory prices for the UK which you should jump on very quickly indeed. The regular price of the Alpina HT-550 is £725, so at £580 that is a very big saving... it should really be referred to as an outright BARGAIN!