Way back at the Eurobike 2009 trade show we spotted the Tout Terrain Grande Route, a disc equipped fast tourer in a similar mould to the Kona Sutra or Salsa Fargo. Well, we've finally got one in and I am the lucky chap giving it a good thrashing. It's a handsome beast but it's not just an expensive custom steel tourer, oh no. It's positively loaded with expensive bits, interesting design solutions and downright quirky touches, courtesy of designer Florian Weismann.
Chris King headset? Check. Chris King rear hub? Check. Built in USB charger port? Oh yes. Front SON hub dynamo? Yup. Brooks Swift saddle? Gotcha. Front Tubus rack? Right there. Middleburn crankset? Hell, yeah. Custom steel frame with integrated rear rack? Why yes. Customised routing for lighting? Well, seeing as you asked… Oh, and one of those head tube snagging things to stop your bars spinning into the frame in a crash, just in case. To be honest, any one of these features would be worth a review in its own right.
Tout Terrain sell the Grande Route in two flavours: Silver (with a Shimano 105 spec) and Gold (Ultegra), with optional extras on top. We have the Gold version here. The Plug charger, Brooks saddle and Chris King rear hub are all extras, bumping the price up to somewhere just south of £3,000. Are we scared of dropping it? Oh yes...
The built-in rack is sturdy but it may well be a limiting factor seeing as you can't remove it without a hacksaw. Another slightly odd choice is the tyres which are Schwalbe Ultremos in their 28c version. Mat tested the slimmer ones in October last year and said that they were a very fast, very light but rather fragile racing tyre. To us that makes them a slightly odd choice for a bike that looks set for touring and long day rides.
Observant readers may well spot that the saddle in the pics is in fact a Brooks Colt, not a Swift. That's because the Colt is also on test so we're doubling up – two products tested for the same mileage.
The most intriguing feature is perhaps the Plug, which is an after-market USB charger that drops into the front fork and powers devices from a hub dynamo. It's neatly done, but is it a solution in search of a problem? And how practical is it? We shall see.
We're hoping to put a good few hundred miles into this bike, including at least one audax and a bit of fully loaded shopping, before the distributors prise it out of our hands. We’ll give you our full report once we've finished playing.