Every year when you're trawling round Eurobike you'll come across an imposing stand the size of Chatsworth House entirely dedicated to a brand you've never set eyes on before. There's so many big european brands that we just don't see over here. Sensa is one of them. Well, it was.
Sensa is a Dutch cycle company that's been established for over 20 years and it's big news in Holland and also Scandinavia. They've got a bit of race heritage and sponsor a couple of teams in the lower echelons of the european scene, and the sportier bikes in the range (they do the compulsory massive range of sensible town bikes too) are now coming in to the UK via Merlin Cycles. "After the success of our own brand MTBs we were looking around for someone to partner with to do the same for the road," Merlin told us. "But after looking round a lot of brands we came across the Sensa bikes and were really impressed. They're the right bikes at the right price," they said, and the upshot is that Merlin have forgone their own brand in favour of an exclusive UK deal with Sensa.
As you might expect from a sizeable bike manufacturer there's plenty of bikes in the range; Merlin brought eight over for us to have a look at, of which we've shot five for this story; We'd have done them all, but hey, it was raining. Starting with Aluminium-framed roadsters they go all the way up to Dura-Ace and Di2-equipped carbon race frames; There's cross bikes too. If there's one defining feature of all of the range it's that it looks like excellent value for money.
Take for example the Giulia Di2 Special bike they brought in to show us, pictured above. The frame is a carbon monocoque designed to be fully Di2 compatible, although it's simple to convert it to cables too. You get an asymmetric head tube and press fit bottom bracket and a full carbon fork. Fitted to that is a full Ultegra Di2 groupset - no downgrades to chainset or brakes, the full works - and Sensa's own Supra finishing kit. The wheels are supra again, a semi-deep 58mm carbon/alloy rim. All that little lot will set you back just £2,500, which is exceptional value; normally you'd be expecting 'upgradeable' wheels and a few non-series components at that kind of price. Merlin also showed us the Giulia frame decked out in new Dura Ace 11-speed (top). Admittedly that did have ready-for-upgrade wheels on, but the price was still very keen at £2,650. If you want to get yourself a Di2-ready frame but you want to upgrade to electronic shifting at a later point, then a 105-build of the Guilia costs lest than £1,400.
It's not only the top-end bikes that are offering plenty of bang per buck. The Fermo cyclocross bike that Merlin had in the van looked like a good but at £1,099 for an Ultegra-eqipped race-oriented 'crosser but the 105 version (with a different wheelset) comes in at just £850, making it look like an excellent option for 'cross racers on a budget. The Umbria CX bike comes in a Tiagra build for just £599. The good value continues in the alloy road bikes; they start at just £419 and the Umbria Tiagra looks a steal at £564.95 with a full Tiagra 3x10 groupset.
The range of Sensa bikes that Merlin are bringing in can be seen on their website. Each of the bikes is customisable up to a point; there's a number of groupset, wheel and finishing kit options on many of the frames. Custom specced bikes take a bit longer to turn around (about 3 weeks, Merlin tell us) but it's handy if, for example, you're looking for a new carbon frame but you already have a nice wheelset. Just choose the cheapest wheels and save yourself a bit of cash.
We'll be getting some of the Sensa bikes in for testing very soon; the Giulia Di2 is top of the list. Stay tuned.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.