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Verdict: 
Upright, fast and comfortable – a very good flat-bar option, if you have the cash
Weight: 
1,350g
First ride review: Snowdon Paradox
8 10

The name of the first model released by Bristol's Snowdon Bikes is apt – the Paradox. It doesn't look it, but it'll take many a drop-bar carbon whippet to the cleaners. And your lower back will thank you.

Founder Tim Snowdon has partnered with Enigma Bicycle Works in the South Downs to deliver this UK-made titanium beauty. Several friends own Enigmas, and this outsourced frame is every inch up to the company's usual standards. What Snowdon brings to the party is insight into the customer's mind, and in my view he's nailed it.

> Buy this online here

Not everyone wants or needs drop bars. For some it's health reasons – maybe arm, shoulder or back issues prevent placing a lot of weight forward. Perhaps they want a more upright stance for dealing with traffic, or neck issues come to the fore with more bent-over positions. Maybe they just want to enjoy the view, or prefer thumb/grip shifters...

Snowdon Paradox.jpg

Snowdon Paradox.jpg

Because drop bars protrude much further forward, typically 60-70mm over a flat bar, a bike designed for them has to have a commensurately shorter top tube-stem length to maintain the same forward lean and to not handle like it's afloat. Fundamentally, you can't just bung a flat bar on a bike designed for drops and vice versa, and expect sensible results. You need something fit for purpose.

The Paradox answers all these needs, but with absolutely no compromise to the rarified air of the high-end titanium custom road bike build. Sublime weld quality aside, the smaller triangles and use of a large and subtly-bi-ovalised down tube and hourglass chainstays mean this is a bloody fast bike, period.

Own it

To get hold of a Paradox (frame only) you start by signing up to £1,850 of spend and then wait two to three months, as each is made to order. You can have pretty much any spec, from Shimano Di2 to SRAM 1X (tested) and everything in between, including triple chainsets.

Snowdon Paradox - crank.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - crank.jpg

For an extra £290 you can specify your own geometry, and for another £40 you can ask for rack/mudguard mounts in the place of your choosing. At the same time you can negotiate disc mounts (£undefined), but that will add weight. Likewise, you can go for matt or gloss logos instead of decals, but that will hit you a further £140.

Snowdon Paradox - frame detail.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - frame detail.jpg

So to fully load a Paradox frame you're looking at £2,320 (or more for discs).

But the important question is, how does it ride?

Snowdon Paradox - riding 2.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - riding 2.jpg

On the medium frame I tested the svelte 27.2mm carbon seatpost sat a whopping 25cm clear of the collar once set up right, meaning there was a ton of comfort on offer to soak up Hampshire Highway's worst. Technically I should have just been on a large, but that only adds 2cm to the seat tube, so there would still have been 230mm of carbon post sticking out to filter the road noise.

Snowdon Paradox - saddle and post.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - saddle and post.jpg

Snowdon recommends 28mm tyres as your limit, or 25mm if you want to fit full mudguards. The supplied 28mm Schwalbe Pro Ones (set up tubeless for this test) actually measure 30mm on the tested Prolite rims, with 2.5mm clearance either side at the chainstays, so you have about 35mm to play with. No, you'll not get a full mudguard installed if running a tyre that fat – I used the excellent SKS Raceblade Pro during the test to stay clean and dry. With 30mm of tubeless tyre underneath grip was never an issue, nor was there any trace of flex or inefficiency anywhere betwixt road and pedals/bar. Put bluntly, this is one of the snappiest bikes off the line I've ever ridden. Stomp>GO!

Snowdon Paradox - stays.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - stays.jpg

Flat-out fast

This is the first flat-bar bike I've reviewed through the prism of someone addicted to going fast in an aero position on drops. I must confess I thought I'd be concluding it would be nice for a nippy commute or for those with chronic back issues. After the first hour I realised I was being schooled in how not to underestimate based on cockpit arrangement – if you pull up to the lights or the start of a descent alongside a Paradox, more fool you if you think it's going to be an easy win.

Snowdon Paradox - bars.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - bars.jpg

Fundamentally it rides like what it is – a high-end titanium frame designed to offer relief from harsh road surfaces with its ample seatpost (think Giant TCR geometry), yet is stiff where it counts around the bottom bracket and chainstays to give the feeling of effortless acceleration.

Snowdon Paradox - bottom bracket.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - bottom bracket.jpg

The front end feels perfectly planted carving through fast corners, once you adjust to the feel of the flat bar and a stem probably a few inches shorter than what I'd usually run. Flat bars offer very limited hand positions, and on the test bike this wasn't helped by carbon-bling bar ends that were so slick as to be borderline risky on all but the smoothest of surfaces. But after a few hours and around 800m of fast descending I knew the handlebar arrangement wasn't holding me back.

Snowdon Paradox - stem.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - stem.jpg

Out in the North Hampshire Downs I equalled a five-year-standing personal best time on my go-to twisty singletrack road descent – 59 seconds at 54kph, besting times I've set on £5k disc-braked drop-bar carbon rocketsleds fitted with semi-compact chainsets. This matters because I'd pretty much run out of gears on the SRAM Force 1X 42T system and was in a tuck skimming the freshly-trimmed hedgerows.

Snowdon Paradox - riding 3.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - riding 3.jpg

The massively cowled rear dropouts mated to dead-straight seatstays provide a ton of rear-end stiffness, allowing you to fine-tune the feel of the bike by altering tyre pressure or model.

Snowdon Paradox - rear dropout.jpg

Snowdon Paradox - rear dropout.jpg

Comparing segments headed up, down or on the flat, the Paradox often had me close to or maybe only 5-10% behind my personal bests – most of which will have been set during Strava Sniping sessions, maybe while at the peak of training plans (which I am currently nowhere near), usually riding in optimal weather conditions or while drafting others.

> 12 of the loveliest titanium framed bikes

As any fule kno, Strava is utterly pointless except as a vanity mirror cum bike parts wear log, but for this purpose it represents a validation of what my heart was telling me: that the Snowdon Paradox is simply a bloody fast, light bike that will take a good thrashing while leaving you feeling refreshed.

Verdict

Upright, fast and comfortable – a very good flat-bar option, if you have the cash

road.cc test report

Make and model: Snowdon Paradox

Size tested: 56cm

About the bike

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

The Paradox uses Grade 9 3AL 2.5V Seamless Double Butted Titanium.

It is designed and hand built in England to the very highest standards and comes with a lifetime warranty (see terms and conditions).

The 42mm diameter down tube is bi-ovalised to 40x44mm where it meets the bottom bracket and head tube.

The dropouts are cowled to provide a large welding contact surface and increase lateral rigidity.

The large diameter chain stays are hourglass shaped for increased lateral rigidity.

Machined integrated 11/8 head tube.

English thread bottom bracket.

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 bike for people wanting a more upright, flat-bar position, but not wanting to compromise on weight, speed or, frankly, beauty.

Snowdon says:

The Paradox uses the marginal gains concept not just for speed, but also for comfort. Why is comfort important? Obviously you want to feel comfortable when riding, but smoothness also affects performance. Vertical vibrations rob you of momentum and reduce control, they also reduce your body's ability to deliver power efficiently. Remember you are the engine on a bike, if you are not working efficiently, then neither is your bike.

The need for speed

The frame can take up to 28mm tyres. Paradoxically, larger tyres (within reason) roll faster without adding significant extra weight. The smoother ride they offer preserves momentum by reducing vibration. Research shows that the 28mm Continental Grand Prix 4000S II rolls faster than either of its smaller siblings.

Large diameter chain stays that are 'hourglass shaped' increase lateral rigidity giving the bike superb climbing ability and acceleration.

Cowled dropouts further help create a laterally stiff rear triangle by providing a large weld and mitre area.

The finest Grade 9 3AL 2.5V Seamless Double Butted Titanium is renowned for lightness, and durability. Our frame weighs just 1350 grams but will last as long as you do.

Precisely mitred joints. Our tubes are precisely cut, allowing the welder to create a joint that is not only stronger but neater as well. This gives the frame that added snap when accelerating and a great ability to climb.

Subtle tube shaping of the main tube increases lateral stiffness. We do not overdo this.

560/600mm straight handlebars (particularly when used with bar ends) open up the rider's chest and enable them to breath deeper and thus take on more oxygen. This is particularly noticeable on the climbs. And every racer will tell you that races are won and lost on the climbs!

Titanium does not lose its performance over time, so your bike stays as fast as the day you bought it.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
10/10

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

Cannot fault the frame finish. Exemplary.

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

Grade 9 3AL 2.5V Seamless Double Butted Titanium

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

It's designed for flat bars – meaning it's a longer reach than a drop-bar bike, by a long way.

Snowdon says:

The standard frame can only be used with flat handlebars. We can make you a drop bar version, which is identical apart from having a shorter reach to allow for the extra length of these bars.

Sizing for a compact frame is less critical than a flat top tube frame but it is still important to get it right. The following sizes are available:

Approximate rider heights

XS 5'0' to 5' 4' 1.52m to 1.62m

S 5' 4' to 5' 7' 1.62m to 1.70m

M 5' 7' to 5' 10' 1.70m to 1.77m

L 5' 10' to 6' 1' 1.77m to 1.85m

XL 6' 1' to 6' 5' 1.85m to 1.95m

Custom frame geometry is available at an extra cost of £300. Please contact us to discuss a custom design.

Detailed geometry in millimetres

Size Effective Frame Seat Tube Top Tube Effective TT Chain Stays Head Tube Reach Seat Angle Head Angle Fork Offset

XS 52 419.0 533.2 553.3 412.0 135.0 399.3 74.5 71.0 45

S 54 439.0 549.6 573.0 412.0 154.4 408.2 73.5 71.5 45

M 56 459.0 568.9 593.0 412.0 175.0 422.7 73.5 71.5 45

L 58 479.0 585.6 613.0 412.0 194.4 432.0 73.0 71.5 45

XL 60 499.0 604.8 633.0 412.0 215.0 440.1 72.5 72.0 45

Medium frame weight is 1350g

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

For me, it felt right once the seat was set back a bit further (50mm) than I'd use on a drop-bar bike. The geometry overall is 'compact' – there's lots of seatpost on show to aid comfort.

Riding the bike

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

Fast, while comfortable. Stiff in the right directions, forgiving in others. Just right.

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

As above, just right.

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

Yes, as borne out by my Strava times.

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

No, not an issue even with my flippers.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? With the short stem, it was definitely 'lively' – I could have probably gone for another 20mm or so.

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

Overall I was impressed, engaging to ride – particularly downhill.

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

The stiff carbon seatpost kept weight down, while having enough on show and being thin enough to aid comfort.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10

Felt instant.

Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
9/10

Up there with the best – stomp>go.

Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10

Curving into turns was a bunch of fun.

Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10

No issues here.

Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
7/10

A longer stem would help here.

Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10

No issues.

Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
9/10

A lot of fun.

Rate the bike for climbing:
 
9/10

The weight and power transfer, plus open chest thanks to the wide flat bar make for great climbing.

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:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Use this box to explain your score

At not far shy of two grand for the frame alone, this isn't a cheap bike. That said, it's a bike for a specific need, and it should last you a lifetime. What price a life of comfort, speed and zero maintenance (frame-wise, anyway)?

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 183cm  Weight: 72kg

I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling

13 comments

Avatar
Kadinkski [682 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

£1 per gram! 

Avatar
Yemble [51 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

Very cool. SRAM 1x is a good match.

28mm max tire size is a real downer though - what a strange spec. A bike like this in 2017 should absolutely take 35 at least, with disc brakes. My road bike was built before road discs became common and I dearly wish it could take larger tires. I would never buy a bike limited to 28 now.

For the modest cost difference they should just put a different fork on it and make discs standard.

Avatar
cyclisto [223 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

While I really like upright geometries and uncut steerer tubes that offer better visibility and less pressure at ...intimate parts, I find straight bars uncomfortable at hands and too wide for urban traffic. Nice design though.

Avatar
Markopic [25 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

I think that this is a beautiful frame, but significantly limited with small tire clearance and no disc brakes. After several "incidents" which caused me to spent few months off the bike, I tend not to ride my road bikes in any kind of poor weather. Flat bar bikes are, in my opinion, much safer due to more upraight riding position and brakes that are faster/easier to reach.

For me, this would be a killer bike if it could fit at least 35mm tires and if it had mid/high end MTB disc brakes (for flatbar). 

Avatar
KiwiMike [1297 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

The as-tested Schwalbe Ones measure 30mm on the Prolite rims. There's 2.5mm clearance either side at the chainstays, so no hassles going for larger tyres. 

Avatar
richcc [64 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Looks like a very posh version of my Cotic Roadrat which I used to use for a mixed 25 mile round trip commute. Used to run it Singlespeed and even in that guise it made a very decent and quick commuter - the Roadrat had much better tyre clearance though

Avatar
HalfWheeler [620 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Neither fish nor fowl. But it will suit someone...

Avatar
TypeVertigo [358 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
cyclisto wrote:

While I really like upright geometries and uncut steerer tubes that offer better visibility and less pressure at ...intimate parts, I find straight bars uncomfortable at hands and too wide for urban traffic. Nice design though.

I run a 580 mm flat handlebar on my 20" folding bike, and it's just about as wide as you'd want riding around in the city. Wide enough for leverage in the cut-and-thrust (mind you, the small wheel size means handling is pretty darty as is), but not so wide as to catch on car doors.

According to the spec sheet on this bike they spec anywhere from 560-600 mm; that sounds just about right. Shame about the slippery bar ends, but nothing a pair of Ergon GP3s or GP4s can't fix.

Avatar
macrophotofly [261 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I run a Boardman Hybrid Pro (alu frame, carbon fork, carbon seat post, disc) which I picked up second hand for cheap money a couple of years back and converted it to a 1x10 (44 front cog from Absolute Black on the existing FSA crank) with some decent wheels bought later (Hunt). Easily fits 35mm tyres and has possibly more (not tried greater than 35 and currently on 4-season 28mms).

It is definately slower going uphill (extra 1kg of frame weight compared to my disc road bike) and my position is notably less aerodynamic on it - but surprising how quick it can be out of the wind - I can easily keep up with the chaingang if sitting in the middle.

Avatar
AndrewDeKerf [12 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Nice article Mike.

The part I can't fugure out with the geometry is - if you make the reach longer to make up for not having drop bars, then how does the bike end up being more upright? Doesn't it end up just the same position as riding on the hoods of a drop bar bike? Perhaps someone can explain?

The bike does look nicely upright, and there will be folks who prefer the simplicity and clean lines of rim brakes I am sure.

 

Avatar
oceandweller [72 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Judging from the photos the cranks are Force but the shifter & derailleur are X1 (an MTB line), not from one of the various SRAM 1x road sets. I've done something similar on a straight bar 'cross bike I've built (Condor Terra-X frame, 105 cranks, GX 1x11 gears & shifter, XT disc brakes) & it works well. However, the gear shifts are slow & noisy by road bike standards & in a perfect world I'd have Rival or Force drive train (unfortunately I need a grip shift for arthritic hands & the only option for straight bars in SRAM's road 1x11 ranges would thumb shifters). I'd say using MTB gears is an odd choice on this bike. Why not Rival/Force 1x11 throughout? Not least coz Rival is way cheaper & lighter than X1...

I can believe the Paradox is a quick ride though. My Condor's dead nippy. With a short frame & upright riding position it handles & accelerates better than a 'proper' road bike. The top speed's nothing much but for stop/start urban riding or CX Sportives it can't be beat.

Incidentally, I found narrow bars (< 600mm) on the Condor compromised the handling badly. I'm now using 660mm carbon riser bars & the bike's nimble enough that I don't have any problems in traffic. Any more than the 750mm bars on my MTB cause problems through the trees.

Avatar
Tim Snowdon [2 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
Markopic wrote:

I think that this is a beautiful frame, but significantly limited with small tire clearance and no disc brakes. After several "incidents" which caused me to spent few months off the bike, I tend not to ride my road bikes in any kind of poor weather. Flat bar bikes are, in my opinion, much safer due to more upraight riding position and brakes that are faster/easier to reach.

For me, this would be a killer bike if it could fit at least 35mm tires and if it had mid/high end MTB disc brakes (for flatbar). 

 

Hi Tim Snowdon hear responding to your post. Just to let you know that the Paradox is now available in disc and caliper versions and with either 28mm or 35mm tyre clearence  1

Avatar
Tim Snowdon [2 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
AndrewDeKerf wrote:

Nice article Mike.

The part I can't fugure out with the geometry is - if you make the reach longer to make up for not having drop bars, then how does the bike end up being more upright? Doesn't it end up just the same position as riding on the hoods of a drop bar bike? Perhaps someone can explain?

The bike does look nicely upright, and there will be folks who prefer the simplicity and clean lines of rim brakes I am sure.

 

 

Hi Andrew. Tim Snowdon here responding to your question (belatedly).

At Bespoked three quarters of the riders I spoke to admitted that they never road on the drops. All these riders are already riding the equivalent of a flat bar road bike anyway. If this is what you riding style needs, why not buy a bike that was designed to work with the way you ride?

One person at Bespoked admitted to sawing off his drops to save weight!!

The Paradox is not a hybrid. It's a flat bar racer that will climb and descend faster than a drop bar, but give a little away to a drop bar when on the flat - IF you use the drops.

You might be wondering why it descends faster than drops, it’s all about improved control and braking. If you don’t believe me see what the reviewer says.