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Verdict: 
Latest Bowman aluminium frameset impresses with versatility and affordability
Weight: 
1,563g
Bowman Cycles Pilgrims Disc frameset
8 10

The Pilgrims, an aluminium, disc brake-equipped road bike from British brand Bowman Cycles, offers a fast and characterful ride on the road but, provided you make use of the wide tyre clearance available, isn't restricted to the smooth stuff and will accommodate any desire to go exploring bridleways and countryside trails.

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Bowman Pilgrims 34

Bowman Pilgrims 34

Ride

The aluminium frame, with its tapered head tube and enlarged profile main tubes, offers a crisp and alert ride. It's also very responsive, reacting instantly when you demand an increase in speed. It displays a noticeable get-up-and-go when you spin up the cranks, with definitely no lack of willing from the frameset.

Bowman Pilgrims 14

Bowman Pilgrims 14

The geometry, longer in the wheelbase and slacker angled than the company's Palace crit race bike, works a treat. It's great on the road, where it simply feels like a very good road bike, of a similar mould to the Cannondale Synapse or Giant Defy, but with space for wider tyres than either of those two bikes.

Take it away from the road and into the woods, and it pops and boosts along the trail. The quick steering and hydraulic disc brakes allow plenty of fine control, and the front end has plenty of stiffness for being aggressive behind the handlebar. You can ride it like a cyclo-cross bike, but it's noticeably more stable over rougher ground and deals with obstacles better. The Pilgrims crosses ground, whether road or dirt, with no shortage of speed or pace.

Bowman Pilgrims - riding 2.jpg

Bowman Pilgrims - riding 2.jpg

Wider tyres give the Pilgrims the grip and traction to push further into the unknown, away from the confines of the road network. Sizing up from 23 to 30mm tyres makes a considerable, and very noticeable, difference to the Pilgrims' capability in exploring the many bridleways around where I live. Running the 27mm tyres at about 60psi provides a bit of necessary cushioning, to overcome the occasional tendency for the stiffness of the frame to become annoying on chattering surfaces. It simply doesn't have the refinement of a carbon fibre bike.

Bowman Pilgrims 15

Bowman Pilgrims 15

Best of all, because the Pilgrims' speed and performance isn't compromised on the road, I can link up these bridleways with my regular roads and inject a bit of variety to my rides without dragging a slow bike along the road.

Disc brakes make perfect sense on a bike like this. I've seen first hand just how good bikes like the Synapse and Defy have become with the addition of disc brakes. Discs allow generous tyre clearance (up to 35mm on the Pilgrims, wider than both the Synapse and Defy) but the geometry hasn't been compromised as a result. The discs provide the benefits of extra control, confidence and durability. Wider tyres and disc brakes, it's a great combination for British riding.

Bowman Pilgrims 16

Bowman Pilgrims 16

Frame details

The Pilgrims frame follows the Palace, the company's debut model, in that it's also made from aluminium. This one gets a triple-butted 7005 frame, with stylish custom shaped tubes. The T-shaped top tube, curved and tapered head tube, profiled down tube and wide, flattened seatstays give the Pilgrims a muscular appearance.

Bowman Pilgrims 26

Bowman Pilgrims 26

Cable routing is internal on the main frame, with modular ports that will accept any current groupset configuration, including hydraulic disc brakes. The cables to the rear mech and rear brake pop out at the bottom of the down tube and route along the underside of the BB86 press-fit bottom bracket and along the chainstays. Here Bowman has invested great effort to ensure the cable/hoses are carefully pegged in place with a very neat cable routing device. Simple and does the job.

Bowman Pilgrims 9

Bowman Pilgrims 9

The rear dropouts are most generously described as looking very purposeful. The rear brake calliper is mounted on the chainstay, the now default location for disc brakes on road frames. The frame will take mudguards and Bowman has developed its own 3D printed mudguard attachments (we've just taken delivery of a set and will do a feature of these in a future article) which means the frame and fork can be fitted with traditional full-length mudguards. The frame takes 32mm tyres with mudguards fitted.

Bowman has developed its own carbon fibre fork, with a regular quick release and external cable/hose routing. The Genesis Datum I tested earlier this year had a very tall cyclo-cross-inspired fork, with generous tyre/mudguard clearance but creating a very high handlebar position. Bowman has gone for a shorter fork and less tyre clearance (but still takes a 35mm), but it does mean the position and fit is more akin to a road bike. The Datum benefited from thru-axles, and that's something I'd like to see Bowman look at for a future update.

Bowman Pilgrims 3

Bowman Pilgrims 3

The Pilgrims is offered in a painted or anodised finish. The frame tested here is a 56cm black anodised. On the scales the frame is 1,563g and the fork (uncut steerer tube) is 412g. The complete bike as pictured weighs 8.2kg (18.08lb). That's with a SRAM Rival 1 hydraulic disc drivetrain, new 3T Discuss wheels with 27mm Challenge Paris-Roubaix tyres and inner tubes, 140mm Shimano rotors, a 3T carbon handlebar and seatpost, USE stem and Fabric saddle. (I also ran it with Stan’s NoTubes wheels and Schwalbe tyres, as photographed.) It's reasonably spendy but not extravagant, and I reckon you could probably go sub-8kg if you made some careful component choices.

Bowman Pilgrims 6

Bowman Pilgrims 6

Conclusion

Bowman may be a small company but with the Pilgrims it outguns more expensive rivals from established bicycle companies pushing into the rapidly growing disc brake-equipped 'roadplus' market. It pushes the highly regarded Defy and Synapse very close, and bests them with wider tyre clearance. And at £750 for the frameset, it's one of the least expensive options, though it does mean you have to assemble the bike yourself, or pay for a bike shop to do it for you. That aside, the Pilgrims is a splendid example of the new breed of disc brake road bikes that really suit UK cyclists looking for an affordable, versatile and durable option.

Verdict

Latest Bowman aluminium frameset impresses with versatility and affordability

road.cc test report

Make and model: Bowman Cycles Pilgrims

Size tested: 56cm

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

Bowman says: "Open your riding up to new adventure. Passing roadside paths and trails we query, 'Where does that go?' Quash the curiosity with extra tyre clearance and RoadPlus geometry that allow you to make your own tracks. On the black stuff the same geometric tweaks makes for rock solid descending and year round, mile crunching dependability."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Triple Butted, Custom shaped, 7005 – T6 Aluminium frame

Tough anodised or painted finish

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

CNC finished, Tapered, headtube

Clearance for 33-35c tyres

Full mudguard compatibility with removable – 3D printed -Guard Bridge and Fork

PF86 bottom bracket shell

Modular Cable Routing – full mechanical and Di2 / EPS compatibility

FlatStay compliant seat stays

27.2 seatpost for improved comfort

FSA, #42 ACB headset (included)

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Triple butted custom shaped 7005 aluminium frame with oversized main tubes and flattened seatstays, and a carbon fibre fork with a tapered steerer tube.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Very fast and fun bike with big tyre clearance and all the benefits of disc brakes.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

I've been pounding over my regular roads and lots of bridleways and woodland tracks and it's taken all the punishment.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
7/10

Just over 1,500g is on the money for this sort of aluminium frame and you can build an 8kg bike with some decent kit.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
7/10

The Pilgrims needs bigger volume tyres at a lower pressure to help cushion the ride, because it is sometimes overly stiff on really rough roads.

Rate the product for value:
 
9/10

Any quibbles about comfort or weight fade away when you look at the price – it's competitive.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

British designed, it's no wonder the Pilgrims works so well on British roads, with a decent turn of speed and the capability for tackling epic distance rides over a multitude of terrain.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Space for wide tyres and a lot of performance for the money.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The ride can be spoilt occasionally by the high level of stiffness in the frame.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

If you want a thoroughly modern disc brake-ready road bike designed in Britain for British roads and riding, but don't want to spend big, the Pilgrims gets a thumbs up.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

14 comments

Avatar
Shamblesuk [167 posts] 2 years ago
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Bowman's are beautiful looking machines and seem good value. Thought they might put thru-axles on this so the use of QRs is slightly surprising. Just wondering what the welding between the two chainstays, just behind the seatstay, is for. Perhaps a chainstay brakeset redundant on the disc model?

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carytb [120 posts] 2 years ago
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How does this compare ride wise with the Mason Definition?

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othello [396 posts] 2 years ago
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A frind has one of these with Di2 which he built up. He says its 'all the bike he will ever need' (and he has a Colnago too). 

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othello [396 posts] 2 years ago
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A question for Dave Arthur... would/could you race CX on it? Not to fast senior level, but if you wanted to do the odd CX race near the back of the field for giggles, could you run some CX rubber and race it?

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TypeVertigo [421 posts] 2 years ago
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Shamblesuk wrote:

Bowman's are beautiful looking machines and seem good value. Thought they might put thru-axles on this so the use of QRs is slightly surprising. Just wondering what the welding between the two chainstays, just behind the seatstay, is for. Perhaps a chainstay brakeset redundant on the disc model?

Looks like a chainstay bridge to me. That, along with what I think is a 3D-printed pseudo-seatstay bridge from Bowman, would greatly improve fitment of a full-length rear fender/mudguard.

Officially speaking, my Giant TCX SLR 2 can mount full-length fenders, but the frame lacks the seatstay and chainstay bridges required to solidly mount the rear one. To run SKS Longboards on it, I bodged the seatstay bridge with a dismantled rear reflector mount, but resorted to zip ties for the forward edge of the rear fender - which would normally be bolted onto the chainstay bridge.

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mtbtomo [249 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

You can ride it like a cyclo-cross bike

Not sure what the obsession with thru axles is. Disc brake alignment is just no big deal, even with qr's.

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blinddrew [45 posts] 2 years ago
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mtbtomo wrote:
Quote:

You can ride it like a cyclo-cross bike

Not sure what the obsession with thru axles is. Disc brake alignment is just no big deal, even with qr's.

 

It's not just disc alignment (though that is noticeably better/easier), it's about improved front end stiffness and better tracking. Definitely worthwhile off-road, not sure how much difference it would make on road (never ridden a disc road bike with a through axle), but on something that is kind of marketed as an all-road bike it would seem a good option.

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mtbtomo [249 posts] 2 years ago
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Yeah, I know its about stiffness too, but come on......on a mountain bike on rocky trails, yes, but on a rigid bike with relatively narrow tyres.....its going to be horridly uncomfortably on anything knarly enough to need a thru axle.  Surely??? 

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blinddrew [45 posts] 2 years ago
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mtbtomo wrote:

Yeah, I know its about stiffness too, but come on......on a mountain bike on rocky trails, yes, but on a rigid bike with relatively narrow tyres.....its going to be horridly uncomfortably on anything knarly enough to need a thru axle.  Surely??? 

I guess if it's gnarly enough to need a thru-axle then you're going to standing and doing the comfort work with your limbs. I suppose it's all down to trying to find the sweet spot between control and comfort, but I wouldn't have thought that you'd be relying on wheel-in-drop-out twist for shock absorbtion, the axis is wrong. Would have to try it and see I guess.

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mtbtomo [249 posts] 2 years ago
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Not suggesting any flex or lack of will contribute to suspension or not......just that riding a rigid bike with narrow tyres on rocky trails (that are challenging enough to warrant a thru axle) won't be a particularly pleasant affair whether you have a thru axle or not. Jarring even with one's best text book mountain biking technique....YMMV...

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willmars [7 posts] 1 year ago
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Can anyone help me out here? There seems to be a bit of cross information.  On this review it says you can fit 32mm tyres with guards, but on the Bowman website it says 28mm with guards.  When I checked with Bowmans they seemed unsure you can even fit 28mm and suggested going with 25mm to be safe.

I would like to run 28mm Schwalbe Pro-1 Tubeless with guards - has anyone tried this combo?

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NickP [1 post] 1 year ago
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I ran 28mm Conti GP 2's/Kinesis Crosslight on my Pilgrims during the summer and got some scoring from grit on the underside of the fork crown. I think Conti GP2's do run large though, more like 30/32mm (?), but with that combination there was no way I could fit guards.

For winter I managed to fit full guards with 25mm Conti Gatorskins, still tight.

 

Avatar
willmars [7 posts] 1 year ago
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NickP wrote:

I ran 28mm Conti GP 2's/Kinesis Crosslight on my Pilgrims during the summer and got some scoring from grit on the underside of the fork crown. I think Conti GP2's do run large though, more like 30/32mm (?), but with that combination there was no way I could fit guards.

For winter I managed to fit full guards with 25mm Conti Gatorskins, still tight.

 

Thanks Nick - I may need to bite the bullet and get the Kinesis GF Ti Disc then!

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welshcyclistguy [21 posts] 1 year ago
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willmars wrote:

Can anyone help me out here? There seems to be a bit of cross information.  On this review it says you can fit 32mm tyres with guards, but on the Bowman website it says 28mm with guards.  When I checked with Bowmans they seemed unsure you can even fit 28mm and suggested going with 25mm to be safe.

I would like to run 28mm Schwalbe Pro-1 Tubeless with guards - has anyone tried this combo?

 

28mm gatorskins with mudgaurds works fine on my pilgrims i think but im convicned 32mm with mudgaurds wont work..