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Verdict: 
Absolutely awesome frame that is a showcase for aluminium; one of the best high-speed handling frames out there
Weight: 
1,817g
Bowman Palace frame and fork
9 10

Neil from Bowman Cycles said: "Handling is the start point of every frame we design," after I'd taken to Twitter singing the praises of the Palace's high speed controllability and feedback. A brief spell in the turbulent slipstreaming air of a 50+mph artic summed up everything about the London brand's first frameset: balanced, stable and hugely responsive to the slightest touch. Above all, though, masses and masses of fun.

Ride

The Palace gets its name from the Crystal Palace criterium meets so it's no surprise that it is designed with that style of hard riding and racing in mind. The stiffness of the 6069 grade aluminium frame lets you get the power down and the acceleration is brisk especially form a rolling start where a few surges on the pedals gets you on the back of a group or going for the gap in traffic.

It's the corners where the adrenaline kicks in as you try and see just how fast and hard you can push the Palace into a bend. The short head tube is tapered providing loads of stiffness and that's noticeable in the twisty stuff. The front end feels solid and tracks absolutely spot on, feeling better and better the harder you push it.

The handling is quick without being overly skittish, though you've got to treat it with respect. If you need to change your line at speed the slightest input will do it. Over compensate, though, and you've got a tussle on your hands.

That's in no way a criticism at all; it's how a race bike should handle, bike and rider as one with a smooth change of direction from you changing the bike's position, with pin-point accuracy. Get it right on a fast twisty descent and it's a lovely feeling as the Palace banks from one direction to the next. It becomes addictive.

Don't think it's all power, power, power though as the Bowman will happily cruise along at a more sedate pace with very good manners. It is a stiff frame but not harsh like the alloy bikes of ten or so years ago. Nonetheless if you want to go for big miles it might pay to go bigger with the tyres and drop the pressure a bit. The Palace can take up to 28mm tyres for this very reason, a sensible design choice that shows Bowman see this as more than just a race bike.

With a claimed frame weight of just 1200g for a 56cm the Palace is no slouch in the hills either. The BB86 shell and oversized tubes running through it help lay the power down if you're attacking the climb or it's just at home being spun up there from the saddle.

Frame & Fork

Aluminium tube manufacture has seen massive progress in recent years in alloy composition and the processes used to form various shapes from the metal. It's given manufacturers more customisation which was only previously available with carbon to get the feel of the frame just right.

The frame is designed here in the UK by Bowman Cycles themselves and after plenty of in-house testing this iteration you see here had the button pushed on production out in Taiwan.

The Palace uses a custom triple butted 6069 tube set focussing on power transfer and handling stiffness in the front triangle as you can see by the oversized down tube, tapered head tube and the tapered profile of the top tube.

For comfort Bowman have opted for a 27.2mm diameter seatpost which should allow for a bit more in the way of flex than a 31.6mm version.

The seatstays are a pretty small diameter as well to bring a bit of shock absorption before it travels up to the rider.

The welding looks more noticeable than it normally would because the anodising leaves the welds a slightly lighter shade than the rest of the frame. I like the manufactured look of the frame and structurally it's doing its job; Bowman haven't had to put a rider weight limit on the Palace.

It's available in a 50cm frame up to a 58cm in 2cm increments with that size representing the top tube length.

Finishing Kit

Bowman supply the Palace as a frameset: frame, fork, headset and seat collar for £650.00. We normally get framesets to test ready built up by the supplier but we were given full rein to put what we wanted on this one.

With the whole crit racing theme in mind we went for a build that can take a few knocks and won't break the bank. At the heart is the 11 speed 105 groupset we recently tested. It's an absolutely cracking groupset for the money and including a 53/39T chainset and 11/28T cassette gives all the gears you're going to need for racing.

The dual pivot brakes now also accommodate up to 28mm tyres so work well with the clearances of the Palace frame.

The Shimano Press-Fit cups for the bottom bracket fitted smoothly and snugly into the frame as well.

The cockpit is an all Deda affair from their entry level alloy range. It all looks good and offers plenty of stiffness and comfort without costing the earth, about seventy quid online for the handlebars, stem and seatpost.

We went for narrow 42cm bars to emphasise the already quick handling of the Palace and it paid off.

Wheel wise we went for a couple of options, the Miche Full Carbon SWR's and the alloy Alturs from the same company. The carbon wheels did smooth out the ride a touch and made the Palace a touch lighter, but I found the Alturs' better stopping rim surface worked better with the Bowman's style of hard, late braking into the bends.

This little lot brought the Palace in around the 18lb mark; not superlight but competitive for the price and certainly gave the whole bike a solid, robust feel.

Competition

The obvious competition is Kinesis' well received Aithien, they're both the same price and similar weights and when it comes down to time in the saddle there is very little to separate them. I'd say the Palace has slightly tighter handling and feels much more aggressive than the Kinesis but the Aithien has the edge on comfort though you can go for the bigger tyre option on the Palace. Overall though it really is splitting hairs and it's a nod to the Palace that it matches the performance of a road.cc favourite such as the Aithien.

The CAAD10 from Cannondale is often regarded as one of the best alloy frames out there though it is left floundering a little when up against the Palace. The Bowman does everything just a little bit better, better handling, gets the power that little bit smoother and although they both feel as stiff as each other the CAAD10 is harsher.

Price wise, you're looking at about an extra fifty quid for the Cannondale frameset, if you can find one that is.

Conclusion

Well, what a frame. The Palace sums up to me everything that a proper race bike should be. That raw, uncluttered feeling of some metal tubes and sorted geometry creating a bike that just feels right.

At cruising speed it's mild mannered and very easy to ride and you can cover a lot of miles with very little distraction.

Push it right to its limit and it's a little bit like having a tiger cub in your hands, playful, friendly and under control with a firm grip but stop concentrating and the tables will soon be turned.

I love it. It makes you stay focused and when you just nail that line through a bend the feeling is one of perfection and elation.

As far as cost and weight goes its bang on where it needs to be to take on the opposition and the lack of a rider weight limit is a massive bonus compared to the Aithien.

If this is the future of alloy frames we're all in for a treat.

Verdict

Absolutely awesome frame that is a showcase for aluminium; one of the best high-speed handling frames out there

road.cc test report

Make and model: Bowman Palace frame and fork

Size tested: 54

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

-The Palace is available as a frameset only-

* Triple butted, Custom shaped, 6069-T6 Aluminium frame

* Tough anodised finish.

* Full carbon-monocoque, 1:1/8th-1.5' steerer, fork

* CNC finished, Tapered, headtube

* clearance for 28c tyres

* PF86 bottom bracket

* Oval, Tapered chainstays

* 27.2 seatpost for improved comfort

* Full external cable routing for ease of maintenance

* FSA,

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

It's a racer's bike intended for crit racing and fast blasts on the road, and boy does it deliver. It's tight, stiff and a really precise machine that compliments a smooth rider.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The mixture of tube sizes and shapes blends well to create a pretty traditional looking frame and the overall quality looks very good too. The anodized finish is tough and should take plenty of scuffs and knocks.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

The frame is made from a custom tubeset with triple butted walls. The grade is 6069 which is a heat treatable alloy with good welding and forming characteristics. Also impressive yield strength figures.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Geometry

50 52 54 56 58

top tube 505 520 540 560 585

head tube 120 130 145 165 185

head angle 71.5 72 72.5 73 73.5

seat angle 74.5 74 73.5 73 72.5

seat tube c-c 495 515 525 540 560

chainstays 400 405 405 405 410

bb drop 70 70 70 70 70

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

The head tube on our 54cm sample was just 145mm so a nice low front end can be achieved for racing duties. The 540mm top tube length was bang on to create a compact, nimble feeling frame.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

It was about on the upper level of stiffness I'd want from a bike I would be riding day in day out although it wasn't overly harsh. Quite a bit of road buzz was absorbed. The option of running 28mm tyres is a plus.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Yes stiffness is high and really allowed you to get the power down.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Excellently; it surges forward under hard acceleration without any feeling of wasted energy.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

Yes there was a small amount but not really an issue.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The handling is simply brilliant: calm and controllable at cruising speed but really comes alive once the speed increases. Minimal input is needed though so there is a period of adjustment.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

Going for a 27.2mm diameter seatpost is a good move, using a carbon one rather than the alloy we did would bring even more benefit.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

Oversizing the downtube and head tube has created a very stiff platform without going overboard.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

The wide shell used for the PF86 BB cups allows large tube junctions to be possible which really lets you get the power down.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
10/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
10/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
10/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
9/10

The drivetrain

Wheels and tyres

Controls

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
9/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

The Bowman Palace is a phenomenal frameset that really harnesses everything a race bike needs to be: exciting, thrilling to ride and above all fun. The cost is it's main key though as to get this level of performance from another material you are often looking at way more money. On the whole there is very little fault to find with the Palace other than maybe the stiffness can become a little tiring over longer rides.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 36  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: Kinesis T2  My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

 

Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.

40 comments

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russwparkin [45 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

this looks fantastic!!

wow, caad, aithium, bowman, and canyon alx all getting light and alloy.

i previously rode a caad before my volare and have to say the caad was the best race bike ever.

uuuurgh i want a bowman now, the finish looks superb

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andymatthews [17 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Looks great.

105 Black groupset and 28mm tyres and it'd be perfect.

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mylesrants [373 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

looks mighty. Alloy suits most of us in reality. Not sure about the welding colour at the BB or is that just the flash?

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Scoob_84 [388 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

 38 38 38 38 38

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belgravedave [272 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

As good as a CAAD10?

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Bobbinogs [249 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
andymatthews wrote:

Looks great.

105 Black groupset and 28mm tyres and it'd be perfect.

Yepp, that silver chainring just looks wrong!

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captain_slog [385 posts] 2 years ago
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By coincidence I've just seen a Bowman at the splendid Giro cafe in Esher. It was very nice; wish I'd had a closer look now.

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joemmo [1164 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
mylesrants wrote:

looks mighty. Alloy suits most of us in reality. Not sure about the welding colour at the BB or is that just the flash?

read the review again..  1

I basically want this but with disc brakes. (tin hat on)

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stuke [335 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
belgravedave wrote:

As good as a CAAD10?

Better, in every way!

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Neil @ Bowman [29 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Bobbinogs,

That belongs to Josh, he is one of the ride leaders at G!ro, so it should be there often.

And to everyone else, thanks for the great comments.

Neil

Avatar
joemmo [1164 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
joemmo wrote:
mylesrants wrote:

looks mighty. Alloy suits most of us in reality. Not sure about the welding colour at the BB or is that just the flash?

read the review again..  1

I basically want this but with disc brakes. (tin hat on)

Sort of like this in fact

http://bowman-cycles.com/a-pilgrims-progress/

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Charles_Hunter [149 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

sounds very good, looks very much like a canyon ultimate Al, flattened / ovalised top tube meeting the head tube, chunky down tube and thin seat stays. None compact geometry and all topped off with a thin line running along the top tube. Looks good.

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Neil @ Bowman [29 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Here at Bowman, we like to celebrate good news, and share to love.

To that end, we're offering 9 codes with 9% off a Palace frameset. To salute this 9/10 review if you like.

Simply copy and paste 'RoadccTest9' into the coupon box at checkout to get your discount.

Thanks

Neil

Avatar
BikeBud [255 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Sounds like a well designed real-world frameset. Very appealing indeed!

Out of interest, where are they manufactured?

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notfastenough [3719 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Not keen on the welds, but lovely otherwise. That discount takes it under £600 too.

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Neil @ Bowman [29 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

They are welded by hand in a factory in Daija County, Taichung.

the welds are a different material to the tubing, so the anodising colour is very, slightly different, In daylight it is barely noticeable, but yes, the smoothed welds will are a tone lighter.

Thanks.

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fukawitribe [1923 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
joemmo wrote:
joemmo wrote:
mylesrants wrote:

looks mighty. Alloy suits most of us in reality. Not sure about the welding colour at the BB or is that just the flash?

read the review again..  1

I basically want this but with disc brakes. (tin hat on)

Sort of like this in fact

http://bowman-cycles.com/a-pilgrims-progress/

I love the look of the Palace, but not the 'lapse of concentration, bites you back' tag-line but that sounds and looks gorgeous to me and with sensible tyre clearance to boot... mmmmmm

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Neil @ Bowman [29 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Hi Fukawitribe,

We have the option to overspray the welds to colour match, but decided against it, to make sure the potential for paint scratches, etc, is as low as possible.
Some aluminium welding rods are made of very similar material to the tube sets, so this is less of an issue, but we wanted to use the 6069 tubeset, and the manufacturer we have chosen to work with's experience has proven the chosen rods are the best material for weld longevity.
Canyon don't obviously state what exact aluminium alloy the Ultimate AL SLX is made from, so we cant say how they have achieved their colour match, nor can we give an un biased comparison. The Canyon's in general though are great bikes, so there is no reason to think this wouldn't be up there too.
A customer with an Inflite AL 8.0 is doing a test ride later this week, so may pop on here after to give you an update, or mail us on info [at] bowman-cycles.com and i would be happy to put you in touch.
Thanks.

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fukawitribe [1923 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Neil @ Bowman wrote:

Hi Fukawitribe,

We have the option to overspray the welds to colour match, but decided against it, to make sure the potential for paint scratches, etc, is as low as possible.
....
A customer with an Inflite AL 8.0 is doing a test ride later this week, so may pop on here after to give you an update, or mail us on info [at] bowman-cycles.com and i would be happy to put you in touch.
Thanks.

I think this comment might be aimed at someone else (drmattewhardy ?) - I was just drooling over the Pilgrim...

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SuperG [118 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Great looking bike, nice to see a shorter head tube....love the finish

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Scoob_84 [388 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I really don't mind the different coloured welds.

I'm currently working out ways to justify offloading my perfectly good supersix for one of these.

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Jimmy Ray Will [653 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I have to admit, when I read about the brisk handling, I was expecting to see some ludicrous 'crit' angles, but no, the geometry looks absolutely sensible.

Best handling bike I've had was a Cinella Strad and that had 73 degree parallel angles and a 56cm top tube as well... I'm very tempted by this frame.

What is it about crit frames anyway? From personal experience, the last thing I want to be thinking about when giving it beans in a crit is handling a bucking bronco.

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QPR 100 [1 post] 2 years ago
0 likes

How does this frame compare to carbon ones? Does it stand up against the carbon ones that will be encountered on the start line of a crit? I always assumed my next bike would be a carbon one, but this frame looks great, I'd love it...

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Nick T [1050 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

No one lost a crit because of their frame material.

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surly_by_name [520 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

How do you flounder a little?

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matthewn5 [1006 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

How does it compare to the Canyon Ultimate AL SLX?

BTW canyon seem to have solved the different-colour-anodising-on-the-welds problem.

Looks very nice this, and lighter than the Canyon.

I'm a bit confused though by the reference to sharp steering - at 72º head angle (54) that's fairly slack? The Canyon eg is 73.25º, though the Bowman has a much lower stack in a comparable size.

Thanks Neil, it does look a lovely bike... and I don't mind the welds TBH, shows how it's made. Have a Canyon Ultimate AL, very sharp steering, this Palace might well be my next bike if it is as sharp!

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joemmo [1164 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
fukawitribe wrote:

I love the look of the Palace, but not the 'lapse of concentration, bites you back' tag-line but that sounds and looks gorgeous to me and with sensible tyre clearance to boot... mmmmmm

Agreed. 2 thoughts though: 1) £775 is quite a lot, I wonder if they could get it closer to the palace price. 2) I'm interested to see what Dom Mason comes up with as I suspect the mason aluminium frame could be along similar lines.

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mtbtomo [225 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

The black anodised Kinesis Aithein similarly has a slightly different shade of weld to the main anodising. I quite like it.

I'm not even an average crit racer by any means, but I'd prefer to race my alu TCR SL and Aithein bikes on crits rather than my carbon KTM. They just feel more direct and snappy. The KTM feels a little soft.

But it probably would make no difference which bike I used.

Having seen a carbon frame snapped in two on a crit, I wonder if alu frames are any more robust or whether they would just bend irreparably.

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Jimmy Ray Will [653 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I think the difference between materials is what they cost to replace... I'd imagine they'd both tolerate the same amount of abuse before failure.

£650 won't deliver much in the way of carbon niceness.

A good alloy frame is a pretty handy performer... I'd like to try a modern performance orientated number.

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velorules [15 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

With so many references to the Kinesis Aithein, is there any chance of getting a weight on the Bowman so comparison can be made?

The Aithein is 1041g in 47cm; 1095g in 50cm; 1138g in 53cm; 1193g in 56cm and 1243g in 59cm

And is it only available in (Ford) Black?

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