Home
Verdict: 
One of the best racers out there just got better and more refined – and it's a bargain too
Weight: 
1,500g
Bowman Palace:R frame, fork & headset 2017
10 10

Delivering astounding levels of performance and excellent handling, the Bowman Palace:R is an exceptional race machine just perfect for pushing you up the points table in your local race league or smashing that pb on your favourite loop.

Bowman has taken our Frameset of the Year 2014, the original Palace, and made it better in pretty much every single way.

> Find your nearest dealer here

> Buy this online here

Bowman Palace R - riding 3.jpg

Bowman Palace R - riding 3.jpg

Refined, Revised, Reborn

That's what Bowman says about the Palace:R on its website, having made small tweaks throughout the frame and fork to make the whole setup a little more refined, chucking another 'r' word in there.

Thankfully one thing that hasn't been touched is the geometry. "Handling is the start point of every frame we design," said Neil Webb, Bowman's head honcho and the man behind the design, when I discussed the original Palace with him.

Bowman Palace R.jpg

Bowman Palace R.jpg

Heading off from the office on the Palace:R, it took a mile or two to get acquainted with the handling – not exactly helped by the Bath traffic – but I was soon back in the groove, with the Bowman feeling settled and under control.

I'd just delivered the Merlin Nitro SL back to road.cc HQ, a bike that rode very well and was no slouch in the handling department, but it was amazing just how much more direct and quick the steering felt on the Bowman.

Bowman Palace R - bars.jpg

Bowman Palace R - bars.jpg

With the first technical descent appearing, I just pointed the Palace:R at the first apex and unleashed it. The downhill probably lasts a couple of minutes, though its rough surface, tight bends and heavy traffic make it a real challenge to nail every line just right. The Bowman was in its absolute element.

Hunkered in the drops, I flew into each of the bends, scrubbing a little speed on the way in if needed before kissing either the kerb or the central white line, before blasting out the other side to do it all over again at the next corner.

Bowman Palace R - headtube.jpg

Bowman Palace R - headtube.jpg

Even when unsettled by a ripple in the road surface or avoiding a pothole appearing mid-bend, the Bowman just deals with it by you applying a little bit of weight onto the handlebar to tweak its line.

The Palace:R also feels just that little bit more settled on the road than the previous Palace, bringing a slightly more planted feel over rough road surfaces and, with that, even more confidence to push things right to the edge.

With a frame weight of 1,145g and a 355g fork, the Bowman is responsive, especially when it's wearing a pair of lightweight carbon fibre wheels. The Boyd deep-sections you can see in the pictures are very fast indeed, and the Palace:R's stiffness levels made full use of them when it came to massive acceleration and sprinting.

Bowman Palace R - tyre and rim.jpg

Bowman Palace R - tyre and rim.jpg

In the interest of keeping the playing field as level as possible, I spent quite a lot of time using the same set of Miche Altur wheels I used on the original Palace for general riding. You lose a little bit of the aerodynamic gain, but the Palace:R was still massively responsive and became even more stable in crosswinds.

The way the Bowman responds to your effort is phenomenal and something you never tire of as you sprint to the next group or just drop the hammer for that village sign sprint.

This translates to a decent climbing machine too. Whether you're out of the saddle or seated, the Palace:R stands firm, that new profiled seat tube obviously doing its job at the bottom bracket junction.

Bowman Palace R - riding 2.jpg

Bowman Palace R - riding 2.jpg

Another thing that has been refined is the comfort levels. Don't get me wrong, the Palace:R is still a firm machine and probably won't be your first choice for long jaunts out into the country, but I did a few three and four-hour rides on it and never once found it uncomfortable. The new triple-butted tubeset could possibly be just absorbing that little bit of extra road buzz. You'll be rattling through those miles at speed, too, so if you are going out for a set time you'll be covering a bit more distance than normal.

Bowman Palace R - chain stay.jpg

Bowman Palace R - chain stay.jpg

My average speed on the Bowman was always higher than normal, irrespective of the type of route.

Frame and fork

Neil discussed all of the updates to the new Palace:R in a video with us a few weeks back, but I'll give you a little recap here too.

The Palace used the same grade of alloy, but for the Palace:R the 6069 triple-butted tubes have been tweaked to create profiles with thinner tube walls but maintaining the same levels of stiffness.

Bowman Palace R - rear brake.jpg

Bowman Palace R - rear brake.jpg

The key thing here is obviously weight loss, as all of these small changes have seen the frame lose around 150g. Stripped down, this 54cm test model weighed a very impressive 1,145g. Well up there with the best in the business.

A key feature of the new frame is the FlareSquare seat tube. It's wide and squared in profile at the bottom bracket, the idea being to resist the twisting forces during hard accelerations. It's something we've seen on what is probably the Palace:R's main rival, the Kinesis Aithein.

Bowman Palace R - frame detail.jpg

Bowman Palace R - frame detail.jpg

Beefing up this area has also allowed Bowman to go for a narrower bottom bracket shell and external threaded bearing setup rather than the original model that used a Press Fit bottom bracket, without sacrificing stiffness. If anything, I'd say the Palace:R feels even stiffer.

Up at the top, the seat tube accepts a 27.2mm-diameter seatpost, which will allow the smallest amount of flex for comfort compared with a 31.6mm.

Bowman Palace R - top tube detail 2.jpg

Bowman Palace R - top tube detail 2.jpg

The Palace:R still uses external cable runs for mechanical groupsets but the guides are removable and replaceable should you want to go internally for Di2 or other electronic gearing.

The head tube is tapered, and inserted into it is a new full carbon fork which weighs 355g, impressive for a fork this stiff. It doesn't suffer from chatter or flex at all under heavy braking or hard cornering.

Bowman Palace R - fork.jpg

Bowman Palace R - fork.jpg

The frames are available in six sizes from 50-60cm and come in either the black/jade you see here or green on green.

Value and competition

The Palace:R's direct competition is going to be the aforementioned Kinesis Athein and Cannondale's CAAD12. Both are top flight alloy race bikes that deliver in exactly the same places as the Bowman.

Handling and stiffness from these two are pretty exceptional, so the Palace:R really needs to shine to take the crown – which it does by a decent margin.

> Buyer's Guide: Aluminium road bikes

I own an Aithein, have done for about three years now, and I love it. I don't ride it as much as I'd like, but when I do I get that little grin spread across my face, especially in the twisty bits.

Back when I reviewed the original Palace I had that and the Kinesis on a pretty equal footing, with the Aithein taking it on comfort. This new, refined Palace:R has the edge everywhere – the handling feels sharper, it's more responsive, and as far as comfort goes you can't separate them. The Bowman is 20 quid more expensive at £695, but it's worth the extra purple note.

Bowman Palace R - head tube badge.jpg

Bowman Palace R - head tube badge.jpg

With regard to the Cannondale, the Palace was marginally better than the CAAD10 when I tested it, especially in terms of harshness, and although the CAAD12 is a more refined beast, the Palace:R in my opinion still takes the trophy. Prices for the CAAD12 frameset online range from £799.99 to £850. I'm a big fan of Cannondale's alloy bikes, but I know which I'd go for.

Conclusion

If you want an alloy bike to race or just... No, scrap that. If you want a bike to race or just get out there and blast around on, then the Bowman Palace:R needs to be right up there at the top of your wishlist.

It's sensibly priced and you are going to struggle to find anything near it that offers such a punchy, thrilling and grin-inducing ride.

I love it. Any bike that can give you goosebumps when you're just planning a ride on it is a winner in my book!

Verdict

One of the best racers out there just got better and more refined – and it's a bargain too

road.cc test report

Make and model: Bowman Palace:R frame, fork & headset 2017

Size tested: 54cm

Frameset

Tell us what the frameset 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?

Bowman says: "Learning from what made the first Palace great, we've refined small details, totally revised the whole tube-set and the Palace is reborn – we give you: The Palace:R."

"A bike as at home on the hairpins of the Col De Soller as it is on dead man's turn at the race circuit from which its name derives, the Palace R is everything you could need from a speed focused road machine."

The Palace:R is a much more refined version of the original Palace.

State the frame and fork material and method of construction

*6069-T6 triple butted frame

*Toray HM, full carbon, tapered steerer fork

*Di2 compatible, removable cable guides

*Forged 1-1/8 to 1.5in tapered head-tube

*Asymmetric chainstays

*FlareSquare seat tube

Overall rating for frameset
 
9/10

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

A well built and finished frameset and it's great to see provision for internal electronic gearing wires too.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

50 52 54 56 58 60

top tube (effective) 505 520 535 560 585 600

head tube 120 130 140 160 180 200

head angle 71.5 72 72.5 73 73.5 73.5

seat angle 74.5 74 73.5 73 72.5 72

seat tube c-t 495 515 525 540 560 580

chainstays 400 405 405 405 410 410

bb drop 70 70 70 70 70 70

stack 519 530 542 562 583 602

reach 361 368 375 388 401 404

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

Our 54cm model has a stack of 542mm and reach of 375mm, which makes it very slightly taller and shorter than my equivalent Kinesis Aithien frame.

Riding the bike

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

Yes. The ride quality is more refined than the original Palace, so better on long rides.

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

The level of stiffness is near perfect.

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

Brilliantly efficient.

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

A tiny bit.

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 Palace:R's handling is its defining characteristic; the steering feels razor sharp and so communicative.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
10/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
10/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
10/10
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

How did the build components work with the frame? Was there anything you would have changed?

The build here is quite high-end with its carbon fibre bar/stem setup and deep-section wheels, but the frame isn't overshadowed. The wheels were very fast but also very twitchy in the wind.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Absolutely!

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

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

Use this box to explain your score

If you're after a 'point and shoot' bike for racing then the Palace:R is quite literally one of the best available. All of that performance and stiffness doesn't cost a fortune either.

Overall rating: 10/10

About the tester

Age: 38  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  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.

48 comments

Avatar
David_S [8 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Seems like the perfect crit bike - fast, cheap to build up and won't cost an arm and a leg to sort when you inevitably come off at some point.

Avatar
daccordimark [54 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

Regarding frame stiffness and the improvements things like FlareSquare are supposed to bring, does any manufacturer ever produce data to back that up? I would have thought they must test these things before going into production but we never seem to see the data. I have seen some old test data that Trek released which compared three different frames but I can't remember whether that was real world physical frame testing or theoretical FEA . One interesting finding IIRC was that top tubes suffer hardly any sideways deflection which casts some doubt on the supposed benefits of non-round tubes in that area. They suffer twisting forces and the best shape to resist twisting is a round tube. I'm not suggesting this is relevant to the Bowman frame but just an example of where theory might not be backed up by fact.

 

Avatar
Kadinkski [662 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

Cool shoes.

Avatar
Rapha Nadal [490 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Good to see that they've changed the BB as the old Palace frames used to make a horrendous noise!

Avatar
s_lim [208 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Good review, Stu. Fellow Aethein owner, and the Palace is the only frame I could consider changing it for.

Avatar
AndyL [1 post] 1 month ago
0 likes

May I know what handlebars are those? Sick!

Edit: Found it!: Pro Stealth Evo Road Stem-Bar

Avatar
userfriendly [610 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I'm kind of glad this frame takes a 27.2mm seatpost and not 31.6mm like the nice Tune post I've got spare, or I would be so tempted to build up yet another bike just to use some of my growing spares bin contents. Kind of.

Avatar
Vejnemojnen [239 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes

can someone explain me the point of these ultra light alloy frames?

 

entry level carbon fibre is around the same price, or even cheaper, weighs a bit more, but more durable and less prone to fatigue-failure. and more comfortable as well, without harshness.

 

I see no point of premium alloy frames.. 

Avatar
DeeJayJay [38 posts] 1 month ago
4 likes
Vejnemojnen wrote:

can someone explain me the point of these ultra light alloy frames?

 

entry level carbon fibre is around the same price, or even cheaper, weighs a bit more, but more durable and less prone to fatigue-failure. and more comfortable as well, without harshness.

 

I see no point of premium alloy frames.. 

 

 

Ride one. You'll soon see the point.

Avatar
Rapha Nadal [490 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes

Vejnemojnen wrote:

can someone explain me the point of these ultra light alloy frames?

 

entry level carbon fibre is around the same price, or even cheaper, weighs a bit more, but more durable and less prone to fatigue-failure. and more comfortable as well, without harshness.

 

I see no point of premium alloy frames.. 

Ah, the naivety of the new breed of cyclist.

As already mentioned: try one, you'll soon see why.

Entry level carbon is more durable. LOL.

Avatar
matthewn5 [1005 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Quote:

The Palace:R's direct competition is going to be the aforementioned Kinesis Athein and Cannondale's CAAD12. Both are top flight alloy race bikes that deliver in exactly the same places as the Bowman.

Handling and stiffness from these two are pretty exceptional, so the Palace:R really needs to shine to take the crown – which it does by a decent margin.

How does it compare with the Canyon Ultimate AL?

Avatar
mike the bike [898 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
Vejnemojnen wrote:

 can someone explain me the point of these ultra light alloy frames?

entry level carbon fibre is around the same price, or even cheaper, weighs a bit more, but more durable and less prone to fatigue-failure. and more comfortable as well, without harshness.

I see no point of premium alloy frames.. 

 

Have a read of the Cycling Plus group test in this month's issue.  Fifteen bikes, ranging from about £800 up to £1100 and including aluminium and carbon frames, were compared in a fairly rigorous examination.  Only one carbon frame made it through to the final ten, where it was soundly beaten by all the metal bikes.  

Chief tester, Matthew Allen, stated, "....with this sort of budget you are better off buying an aluminium framed bike ........ they are simply superior to their cheap carbon counterparts."

Avatar
drosco [261 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Superior when measuring what?

 

Don't get me wrong, I'd love one of these bikes, but by pretty much every measure, carbon is superior be it weight, stiffness, comfort. If I could only find the bloody link to it, a German mag showed exactly this.

 

Depends who you believe.

Avatar
Stu Kerton [76 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

matthewn5 wrote:

How does it compare with the Canyon Ultimate AL?

 

I've never ridden the Canyon so hence why I haven't mentioned it @matthewn5. I don't think we've ever been sent one to review either, we'll see if we can rectify that as it'd be an interesting comparison. 

Avatar
mike the bike [898 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
drosco wrote:

 Superior when measuring what? 

 

Go on, buy the magazine and read the article, you know it makes sense.  Or, if a fiver is too high a price to answer your own question, continue in ignorance.

Avatar
njmoffat [42 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I will probably get ripped to pieces but I really wouldn't buy a new frame now that uses rim brakes. Discs are the future whether we like it or not (I do by the way). 

Avatar
yupiteru [32 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

The problem is I have never had a problem stopping in the rain with good caliper rim brakes, so don't feel the need for disc brakes especially when in my opinion disc brakes are so god dam ugly.

Avatar
csdnorton [3 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Hi Stu,

After riding a carbon TCR for the past 8 years I have just ordered a Palace:R and am very excited to change over to Alloy.  I have noticed you are 180cm and rode the 54" frame. I am 181cm and ordered the 56". I am a little worried I have ordered the wrong size. What would you suggest from your test? 

Thanks

Charlie

Avatar
drosco [261 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
mike the bike wrote:
drosco wrote:

 Superior when measuring what? 

 

Go on, buy the magazine and read the article, you know it makes sense.  Or, if a fiver is too high a price to answer your own question, continue in ignorance.

 

Geez, what's your problem? It was a simple question. You can find the time to write at length and quote from the article, yet I get an arsey sanctimonious reply.

 

Owning a Cannondale Synapse Aluminum and a Canyon Ultimate CF, I've got a pretty good grasp of the relative merits of both, so I can probably deal save myself a fiver, ta.

Avatar
Stu Kerton [76 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

csdnorton wrote:

Hi Stu,

After riding a carbon TCR for the past 8 years I have just ordered a Palace:R and am very excited to change over to Alloy.  I have noticed you are 180cm and rode the 54" frame. I am 181cm and ordered the 56". I am a little worried I have ordered the wrong size. What would you suggest from your test? 

Thanks

Charlie

Hi Charlie, 

You should be fine. For my height I tend to ride a size smaller than most as I like a really compact position, a lot of seatpost and a slammed front end.

Virtually every bike brand places my height with a larger frame.

Stu

Avatar
mtbtomo [225 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

I had a Giant TCR SLR alloy, Kinesis Aithein and a not exactly budget carbon framed bike.  When I couldn't justify three race bikes, it was the carbon frame that I sold.  It just felt a bit dull, not as sharp or responsive when I stomped on the pedals in a race.  The difference was probably slight but I felt like I could tell a difference.

 

I now still have the Giant and another decent carbon frame and I like both.  Decent alu frames feel good under acceleration, no doubt some cheap carbon frames do too and some will feel softer, but I don't see how anyone can make such blanket statements that carbon is better regardless. 

 

And have you seen the weights for some budget carbon frames?  Well over 1kg and often heavier than these premium alu frames.  IIRC the cheapest Trek Madone (before the aero one came out) was 1350g frame weight!!

Avatar
bigblue [20 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

.

Avatar
Vejnemojnen [239 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
mike the bike wrote:
drosco wrote:

 Superior when measuring what? 

 

Go on, buy the magazine and read the article, you know it makes sense.  Or, if a fiver is too high a price to answer your own question, continue in ignorance.

 

and there is evidence to what I said.

 

http://www.tour-magazin.de/raeder/rennraeder/rennrad-test-2015-preiswert...

 

minimal difference in price, no difference in weight, but cf is more compliant, and a robust cf frame should outlast a paperthin walled alloy.

 

in my humble opinion.

 

I've ridden premium triple butted alloy frames, but I was not impressed.. just my opinion though. 

Avatar
njmoffat [42 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Well, commuting 52 weeks a year and braking can be a big problem - you get a horrible grimy paste build up on your pads/rims and braking does take considerably longer. Also your wheels are goung to last a lot longer with discs. With the new flat mount I think they look ok and mainly when it comes to my brakes on a bicycle I would like the most effecient system possible!

 

yupiteru wrote:

The problem is I have never had a problem stopping in the rain with good caliper rim brakes, so don't feel the need for disc brakes especially when in my opinion disc brakes are so god dam ugly.

Avatar
flathunt [239 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
njmoffat wrote:

I will probably get ripped to pieces but ... Discs are the future whether we like it or not (I do by the way). 

Sliced, rather than ripped.

Avatar
Scoob_84 [388 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
njmoffat wrote:

I will probably get ripped to pieces but I really wouldn't buy a new frame now that uses rim brakes. Discs are the future whether we like it or not (I do by the way). 

But this is a crit/race bike. If you wanted to race in the UK, your not allowed to use discs. 

Avatar
peted76 [605 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Vejnemojnen wrote:
mike the bike wrote:
drosco wrote:

 Superior when measuring what? 

Go on, buy the magazine and read the article, you know it makes sense.  Or, if a fiver is too high a price to answer your own question, continue in ignorance.

and there is evidence to what I said.

http://www.tour-magazin.de/raeder/rennraeder/rennrad-test-2015-preiswert...

minimal difference in price, no difference in weight, but cf is more compliant, and a robust cf frame should outlast a paperthin walled alloy.

in my humble opinion.

I've ridden premium triple butted alloy frames, but I was not impressed.. just my opinion though. 

That link is just a link to a £1500 bike group test, it says nothing about aluminium frames generally. Anyone can provide ten group test which involve various material frames. Which is nonsense in my humble opinion.

Alloy as a material is relatively easy to build bikes from, light, stiff and strong (not as easy or strong as steel I add). Good quality carbon frames are very difficult, costly and labour intensive to produce. One could argue aganist cheap carbon frames, what's the point of them? Consider why your 'robust' carbon frame is 'robust', the answer is mostly resin, there's a lot more of it in cheap frames, it covers up all the detail and intricate layups that make expensive carbon frames expensive - see this video to learn more - https://youtu.be/-qsLYlVWkbQ 

As for compliance, if you mean 'comfort in the saddle without losing power through the pedals' then you are reading too many magazine reviews. My mate had a knock off and it lost SO MUCH power as it wasn't stiff enough you could see it noodling, I've ridden a well regarded entry level branded carbon bike the frameset retailed at £799 and weighed 1250g it was a good bike, I now ride a top end carbon frame it's 'slightly better' than the cheap one and weighs about 800g. If you want compliance, buy a better set of tyres and upgrade your cockpit.

 

A half decent alloy frame should be stiffer and lighter than a cheap carbon frame, and that ultimatley is the point of them. £695 for the Bowman is about the top end of a decent alloy racing frame, so comparing apple's to apple's you should be looking at about £800 for a branded carbon entry level frame. 

Avatar
surly_by_name [520 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes
yupiteru wrote:

The problem is I have never had a problem stopping in the rain with good caliper rim brakes...

This doesn't sound like a problem.

Avatar
DrJDog [407 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

I had an Aithein and went to an entry level supersix evo and never looked back. Far more comfortable, felt stiffer out of the saddle, and the front end of the Aithein was as twitchy as anything I've ever ridden.

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will [650 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

There are very few £700 carbon framesets that deliver anything like a race level performance available out there. 

However, that money will get you something really good made out of Alloy. 

Yes, it won't be as refined a ride as a top carbon frame, it probably won't last as long as a decent carbon frame, but then it costs a third of the price.

That is the joy, opportunity put forward by these frames.

A few guys in my club are now crit racing on alloy frames, despite owning top end carbon rigs. 

For them, the weight penalty is not as important around the local circuit as it is in a road race, therefore the affordability on the alloy frame is the way forward. i.e. if you stack it on a £600 frame as apposed to a £3k frame, its not the absolute end of the world. 

 

Pages