Panorama Taïga Review: Backcountry Brilliance
Say hi to the multifunctional Taïga from Quebec-based Panorama Cycles. The Taïga has been purposely designed for both trail riding and multi-day adventures. For the past months, Tom has been riding the Taïga through Vancouver’s trails. Hold on for this deep dive into this well-thought backcountry machine.
Taiga, generally referred to in North America as a boreal forest or snow forest, is a biome characterized by... record scratch. Oh! Not that kind of Taiga? Panorama Cycles, an adventure-focused, independent Canadian bike company, has a whole herd of backcountry steeds. Amongst them is a bike called the Taïga. Road, gravel, XC, enduro, fat, touring, downcountry, yada yada. The number of bike types these days seems to grow larger by the week, and if you owned one of each you'd need a six car garage. Fortunately, there are options that promise to satisfy more than one need, and the Panorama Taïga is one such bike. Essentially a trail MTB at heart, the Taïga features a number of refinements that should make it equally well suited to getting lost in the woods for a week. In today's review we'll dive into all the deets and other thoughts I've compiled from my tests with the bike.
Keep it Real, Keep it Steel
The Taïga's build kit is packed with delights, but it all starts with the frameset. Panorama has selected some of the finest steel available to bike builders today; The heat-treated Reynolds 725 tubeset is stronger and lighter than cheaper alternatives, and promises a compliant ride quality that has long been known and loved of steel bikes. The inside of the frame is allegedly treated by electrodeposition for corrosion resistance, but we'll have to take Panorama's word for it as I did not dissect the frame to find out. Unlike the Taïgas direct competitors, the steel frame is paired with a 100% carbon fork, bringing a significant weight advantage over steel alternatives. Carbon is also stiffer than steel, but it's almost negligible on a bike with plush 29+ tires. If you'll use the Taïga primarily as a trail bike or are just keen for even more cush, then Panorama also offers some suspension fork options for a marginal increase in price.
In the interest of being a do-it-all adventure bike, the Taïga is adorned with mounting points galore. Flanking the frame's downtube are two optimally positioned sets of triple mounts. When strapping a girthy 2L Klean Kanteen to a King Cage on the underside, there is ample clearance for the chainring. I have had to add spacers and bend a cage to achieve the same clearance on other bikes with even smaller chainrings! Rear rack mounts are another welcome addition, though the mounts near the dropouts are higher than some other bikes. I'm using the Tumbleweed T-Rack with 380mm legs, which leaves heaps of space between the top of the tire and rack top. The shorter 355mm option would be a better choice for this bike, helping lower the pannier's center of gravity, and allowing more clearance for top-mounted cargo when the dropper post is slammed. If you're big on top tube bags like I am, you'll be pleased to find mounts for those too. Triple mounts on each fork blade are fairly standard on bikepacking bikes these days, and the Taïga keeps up with the pattern. They are oriented facing slightly astern, which has a nice effect on handling by keeping your cages and cargo closer to the steering axis, but it means you cannot use those mounts for a front rack or bag support. Basket packers beware. Fortunately, there is enough room for a giant handlebar bag like the Fabios Chest to be self-supported against the headtube, easily clearing the tire with no rack or support needed. A handlebar mounted rack or cradle would suit the smaller bike sizes well.
Sliding dropouts allow you to tune the chainstay length to your liking, a feature we will find to be quite valuable. It also means you can ditch the derailleur altogether and go single speed, with no tensioner. If you buy the Taïga as a frameset only, you can even get it bundled with a Rohloff, saving you months of headache it otherwise takes to get a Rohloff specced for a thru-axle bike.
The Taïga's frameset is far more than a bunch of steel pipes TIG welded together. It's a superb set of tubing assembled into a bike with enough features to make it versatile, without going over the top. Well suited to a day of ripping the local trails, or roaming the desert with all your treasured bikepacking gear bolted on.
A Seductive Spec Sheet
With a solid base to build upon, let's see what components Panorama have chosen to round out the Taïga with. We'll start with the valve caps as one critical component of any bicycle. Aerospace grade ABS plastic, the valve caps… okay, okay. At 2.5" wide, the Teravail Ehline tires are on the cusp of being considered a true plus tire, but that doesn't mean they lack any qualities of their plumper counterparts. Their semi-aggressive tread pattern has plenty of bite in the dirt, while not feeling like a total slug on asphalt. The frame will clear a 2.8" and the fork a full 3", but 2.5" serves as a happy medium for the Taïga's intended use. The bike comes with tubes, which makes logistical sense, but I wholly recommend treating yourself with a trip to supple wonderland and set this thing up tubeless the moment it's out of the box. Plus tires are undoubtedly best at the lower pressures tubeless allows for, and the light and supple casing of the Ehlines will really shine without being hindered by a tube. At 20psi, the lowest advised pressure for these tires with tubes, the ride still feels somewhat harsher than I've experienced on narrower tubeless tires with more pressure. Go tubeless, or walk the plank.
The Hunt Trailwide V2 rims have an inner width of 30mm. This makes an ideal match for the 2.5" tires, but it is a bit on the narrow side if you wanted to switch them out for a 2.8" or 3.0". In that case you'll need to raise the pressure slightly to keep those sidewalls supported and not feeling too squirmy. The 32 hole, boost-spaced Hunt hubs spin smoothly, and seem like they should continue doing so for a long time. The freehub engagement is snappy and consistent, and produces a pleasant buzz that won't alert the whole neighborhood when you leave for a trail session. It's not 0.00125° or anything extreme, so no flexing on your friends with that. Good thing that makes practically no difference to the type of riding you'll want to do on this bike.
The Taïga's all geared up with a Shimano SLX 1x12 drivetrain. A 32t Raceface AEffect Crankset up front pairs up with a gargantuan 10-51t cassette in the back. That equates to a sizable range of 18.5 to 94.5 gear inches, absolutely perfect for this type of bike. You'll be able to keep cranking up to ~30kph (19mph) without spinning out, while also being able to haul that 8 pack of Lucky Lagers up to the mountain tops without completely obliterating your quadriceps. The cranks are nice and stiff without being overbuilt. At 170mm in length, they are an excellent choice to help mitigate pedal strikes.
What's an adventure bike without a reliable set of stoppers? The Hydraulic SRAM Level T brakes are set up and bled for you, no fuss! With a short bed-in period for the pads and 180mm rotors, they work mint. Light action, excellent modulation and more power than a 100kmh headwind will have you so stoked Panorama didn't spec the Taïga with some clunky mechanical brakes.
How about the cockpit? Contact points are important, right? The Ritchey bars come in at a cool 800mm width, with 10° of backsweep. This width suits the slack and stable geometry of the bike well, offering enough leverage to help steer sharply around that surprise bear poo or Western Rattler on the trail. Ten degrees of sweep is totally sweet on the trails, but for a backpacking expedition I would personally swap these out for something closer to 30° without hesitation. The bars have a unique shape for a mountain bar, with some added reach in the form of a forward bend next to the clamp area. They're clamped by a 45mm Ritchey stem, which is short enough that it doesn't leave much room for a wide velcro strap securing some feed bags. A thinner Voilé strap is a practical alternative here, but better yet would be a slightly longer stem and a more traditional "straight" MTB bar with a single bend, yielding the same effective reach and a bit more stem space to attach accessories. The grips are… well, they're straight up my least favourite part of this bike. They are extremely grippy, but they aren't winning any awards for comfort. I'd personally replace them even sooner than I took the tubes out of the tires, but of course it's quite subjective. The WTB Pure saddle makes quite a nice place to sit, though this is just as subjective as grips. It is perched upon a KS dropper post, and comes pre-installed, not requiring any tweaks to angle, fore or aft. A dropper is invaluable for trail riding and remote bikepacking alike, and the Taïga is one of few bikes in its class to come with one. Actuation is snappy, travel is plentiful (ranging from 100mm up to 150mm depending on frame size), and it's internally routed. Win win win. Let's not forget about our beloved feet — The Taïga comes with the lightest pedals physically possible (of the known elements). That is really to say that no pedals are included, which is standard with complete bikes.
Panorama really didn't skimp on any components with the Taïga. You get a very well specced, functional, reliable bike out of the box that won't require anything other than grips of your preference, and a switch to tubeless.
Geometry & Handling
The Taïga is getting top marks on paper so far, but it hasn't passed the final exam. A nice frameset and impressive component list are great, but they don't matter much if it handles like a Walmart shopping cart. Let's bust out the protractor and measuring stick and see if the bike has what it takes to keep Pythagoras from rolling over in his grave.
The Taïga mostly stands out amongst its peers for being slacker than that stoner in your highschool math class. The headtube angle of 67 degrees is akin to a warm summer's evening, if we're speaking Fahrenheit, but I'm pretty sure we aren't. As an angle, 67° is the slackest of any comparable 29+ rigid bike. Factor in a fork rake of 51mm, and the trail measurement comes in at a whopping triple-digit 103.6mm. The seat tube angle sits at a relatively steep 75°. I'll say outright that I've always fancied a much steeper HT and slack ST, so this bike would prove to be an interesting test at the other end of the spectrum.
Now that we have a bunch of meaningless numbers, let's give them some context and see how they make the bike feel. That super high trail translates to stability. It inspires confidence when descending at speed over rough terrain, because the wheel has a tendency to track straighter, and it has an easier time rolling over bumps. Combine that with the diameter and volume of the 29+ tires, and you will be surprised how you can glide over pretty well anything other than boulders. You also feel less susceptible to getting bucked over the bars because the front wheel is much further in front of you, away from your center of gravity. The bike tracks a straight line so wonderfully that you can eat some snacks and shoot a TikTok simultaneously. It's a really useful trait for a bikepacking bike to feel stable with one or more hands off the bars. So are there some trade offs to a long and slack front end? Indeed there are, most notably being a loss of liveliness compared to a bike with a steeper front end. Steering is somewhat less responsive to input, making climbing twisty technical trails at slow speeds a bit more challenging. The difference is marginal, but not unnoticeable. Of course there is more to the equation here, when we consider the rear end of the bike.
The short 420mm chainstays help balance out that long front end, keeping the wheelbase from reaching full on cruise ship status. This makes for a responsive feeling when leaning into turns, helping compensate for the stable steering. On the flipside it does make steep technical climbs a bit trickier, requiring you to keep your weight super far forward to avoid tumbling backwards down the trail like Jack & Jill. Adding to this effect is the weight distribution of the unloaded 28lb (12.7kg) bike. I mentioned that carbon fork right? It's light, really light. And that big 'ol steel 51t cassette? Not the lightest. What I'm hinting at is that the front of the bike is markedly lighter than the rear, which is a third factor that has an undesirable effect on climbing performance.
As it comes, I would say the Taïga is optimized for descending. If I didn't get the point across already, it descends wonderfully. No white knuckling, just cruisy, confident stability, roots and rocks be damned. It doesn't impress as much while climbing, but there are a couple simple changes you can make to help balance things out. Sliding dropouts! They slide, miraculous! The bike comes preconfigured with the dropouts slid nearly all the way forward, so there is some leeway to extend the chainstay length. It's great Panorama has opted for such versatility because sliding that rear wheel back a bit will help the bike climb a bit easier than the default setup. Otherwise, if you're loading up for a backcountry tour, you have a lot of flexibility in balancing weight with the gear attached to your bike.
Like Goldilocks porridge, the sloping top tube is juuuusst right. Enough standover room so as to not feel like you're mounting a horse, and you can comfortably straddle the bike on uneven or steep terrain, while still having heaps of space in the front triangle for a frame bag that can hold more than a chocolate bar. Do you ride in clown shoes? Swimming flippers? If not, you have nothing to worry about. Thanks to that long front end, your toes will stay well clear of your tire assuming your pedals aren't made of wax.
I'm generally left with a positive impression of the Taïgas geometry. In the majority of situations the bike feels perfectly balanced, and the adjustable chainstay length is valuable for tuning the handling to what you're riding. The geo is not too aggressive that you can only withstand an hour in the saddle, but it's not a total armchair either. It doesn't handle like you're riding a snail, nor a caffeinated squirrel. It really rides exactly as it should for its intended uses, and it's always a blast.
Sizing & Wrap Up
Before we wrap it all up and tie off the bow, let's talk sizing. While other bikes in this category are offered in four sizes (S/M/L/XL) the Taïga is only available in three (S/M/L). The Kona Unit X sizes closely resemble what we see from Panorama, but they also offer a larger XL. The Taïgas three sizes roughly equate to a Surly Krampus M/L/XL, but the Krampus also comes in a small. If you’re in the average height range one of the three Taïga sizes will certainly work for you. If you’re nearing either extreme of human heights, you may need to look at other options. I am 180cm tall (5'11") with an inseam of 33" (83cm) and a higher than average PBH of 90cm (35.4"), and the large frame fits me flawlessly.
As for colour options? There's only one, that oh-so-succulent pistachio green. I think it suits the bike perfectly, it's not too punchy or exotic, and anyone should get on with it. The tan wall Ehlines and black components coordinate nicely. Bringing it all together are the fantastic earthy graphics designed by Vancouver duo Pellvetica.
The Taïga is a worthy adventure bike through and through. Geometry reminiscent of an 80s ATB, but with a positive modern twist; sloped top tube, 1x12 drivetrain, bigger 29+ wheels and tires, hydraulic disc brakes, and a dropper. With a switch to tubeless and some different grips, it is perfectly set up for some trail shredding straight out of the box. For a multi-week adventure, I'd swap in a sweepier bar, and a Brooks B17 saddle as my preference for those trips where you're in the saddle enough that it's like a 9-5 desk job.
The Taïga is currently priced at $3600 CAD ($2635 USD), which comes in a bit steeper than some of its competitors. What sets it apart? A major one is the higher quality heat treated Reynolds 725 tubeset, opposed to other bikes made of Reynolds 520 or generic 4130 chromoly. Plus a carbon fork, and of course that dropper post which makes all the difference to maintaining your flow on the trails. Not to mention Panorama offsetting their carbon footprint entirely, and they're a member of 1% for the planet.
|Super stable, confident descender|
|Quality steel and reliable components throughout|
|Juicy 29+ tires roll over practically anything|
|All the mounts you need, and none you don't|
|Internally routed dropper post|
|Fully carbon fork keeps weight down|
|Perfect gearing range for both trail riding and loaded bikepacking|
|Geo and unloaded weight balance not quite optimal for steep technical scrambles|
|Limited size options for super short or tall people|
|Stock grips leave something to be desired|