If big miles are your thing then Simplon's Pavo Granfondo Disc is a machine you want to take a good long look at, especially if you want to cover those miles at near race pace. The Simplon devours climbs, descents and those long tedious straights with what feels like the minimum of effort from the rider.
You may not have heard of Simplon, even though the company has been registered in Austria since 1961. Its bikes have mostly been sold in and around the German speaking nations for years but it has now branched out and entered the UK market.
The Pavo Granfondo, as you can probably guess by its name, is a bike designed for those epic rides in the mountains or day-long blasts across a region or a county or two. Granfondo loosely translates from Italian as 'big ride', and this is exactly where the Pavo excels.
If you're going to spend a big day in the saddle then comfort is going to be pretty high on your list of must-haves, and the Simplon certainly delivers for what is, by all intents and purposes, a very stiff frame.
Big bumps and really poor road surfaces are noticeable, but the carbon layup and tube shapes manage to take out that low-level road buzz – the sort that always seems to bring the most fatigue to your hands.
You could also tweak the pressure in the 28mm tyres and change saddles if you don't get on (I didn't) with the rather firm Selle Italia SLR to dial in the comfort balance you require.
Combining this comfort with such a stiff frame does make for a high performance bike, more so than of a lot of bikes of this style – endurance machines, that is, rather than a full-on racing steed. The Pavo is a very fast bike relatively speaking, it still comes down to the legs of the rider after all, but boy does this thing just cruise for mile after mile, which'll have you staring at your computer just going, 'Wow! Have I really ridden that far?'
My first ride on it was 100km around the Wiltshire lanes on terrain that is pretty flat with the odd lumpy section, although nothing majorly steep. It's a loop I ride pretty often and the Simplon covered it at a very impressive speed – nearly 32km/h, which is as quick as I've done it on some race bikes.
It also covered laps at Castle Combe race circuit marginally quicker than the Tifosi SS26 Aero on the same evening, something that really surprised me as that SS26 is no slouch. These were both steady paced rides, mind, where you could get the bike up to speed and just keep tapping out the effort.
At times I'd literally ride the Simplon for miles and miles in just one gear, constantly adjusting my cadence to keep the effort the same, and it turned out to be a hugely efficient way to ride it.
At just 7.3kg (16.1lb) this 55cm sized Pavo Disc is very light, which does help acceleration – especially from a standing start – but changes in pace while moving aren't as snappy as a race bike and you don't seem to get much benefit by riding this bike aggressively.
The same goes for climbing, as the Simplon is one of those bikes that seems to suit a steady paced effort on hills. Mind you, the stiffness in the bottom bracket area certainly means you don't get any flex if you do need to get out of the saddle and really put the effort in on the steep bits.
When it comes to descending the Simplon is expertly weighted and balanced, really suiting those flowing, smooth corners, with the tighter, more technical ones requiring just a little more work.
The Pavo has a steeper head angle than the recently tested Ribble Gran Fondo, a very similar bike, which means that the Pavo turns in sharper, but it still just lacks the pinpoint accuracy of a race bike like, say, Bowman's Palace:R. That's to be expected – it's not a criticism, I'm merely trying to get across where the steering of the Simplon sits in relation to others.
The Pavo does stick to its line beautifully and responds superbly to rider input and position. You get a massive confidence boost from the levels of feedback you are getting from everything, from the tyres up. Speaking of which – our test model came with Schwalbe's excellent One tyres, whose grip levels are truly amazing.
Simplon really has designed a great all-rounder when it comes to handling, comfort and speed.
Frame & fork
The Simplon's frame follows a tried and tested method: a tapered head tube plus oversized down tube and chainstays for stiffness, whether for power transfer or steering/braking forces, with the polar opposite of slender seatstays and top tube for comfort via a bit of material flex.
The way that the top tube flows into the seatstays is a cool look and also allows for plenty of room for the D-shape seatpost. It's a neat, clean-looking design and I especially like the detailing of the sandpaper style effect on the flat section. No need to overtighten anything here as the seatpost will grip just fine, plus it'll always be perfectly straight.
All the cables and hydraulic tubes are routed internally, which gives a clean look to the frame, and with blanking plates covering up the entry points should you go electronic, the frame never looks like anything has been bodged or compromised.
Neat additions such as the aluminium plate near the bottom bracket to resist damage from chain suck show good attention to detail, stopping the risk of an expensive frame being wrecked by a small mishap.
While we're hanging around the BB area it's worth mentioning the press-fit bottom bracket, something that has been falling out of favour because of tolerance issues between component and frame manufacturers. Creaking issues can often show up after wet weather riding when water and debris gets trapped between the mating faces, but there was no such problem here – though it was pretty dry during testing in May and June.
Both the frame and fork come with 12mm thru-axles to resist the twisting forces of the disc brakes being on one side of the bike – something I've found can be an issue with a standard quick release on really fast descents, where you are hauling the bike up from near 100km/h to a standstill, at the front end at least.
The rear doesn't necessarily need this treatment, but on a bike that doesn't require quick wheel changes, like in a race, then why not take the belt 'n' braces approach?
The Pavo Granfondo Disc is available in a selection of builds, from Shimano Ultegra mechanical through to Dura-Ace, both cable-operated and electronic versions, plus SRAM's eTap. You can even spec each component through its bike builder, similar to the way Ribble offers its bikes. Admittedly it's only in German at the moment, but the English version should be online very soon.
We've got the Ultegra Di2 build, priced at £4,699. I thought that was a little steep originally, but with a bit of research and looking at its competitors, it isn't that far off the mark.
With a very similar build, Canyon's Endurace CF SLX Disc 8.0 Di2 is a couple of hundred quid cheaper if you ignore the delivery charge, and comes close in weight if you go by the German company's claims of 7.6kg for a medium. You do get carbon Reynolds Assault wheels on the Endurace over the aluminium DT Swiss models on the Pavo, but that's about it.
Canyon's large size pretty much mimics the geometry of the Pavo, apart from the Simplon having a much shorter head tube for a similar top tube length, which gives a slightly more racy, aggressive position, adding to the fun factor.
Ribble's Gran Fondo, which I've already mentioned as a very similar bike in terms of geometry and intended use, would cost £3,599 for a ballpark build which is impressive and really makes you question whether the Pavo is worth an extra £1,100. The Simplon's frame does feel of a premium quality though, and really delivers in terms of comfort versus speed over a long distance ride. The initial investment might smart a little but the Pavo will redeem itself as the miles tick by.
As I've said, you can tweak the exact setup of your Pavo, but to be honest this build will suit the majority of riders for this money. Ultegra Di2 with hydraulic braking is a groupset that just does everything really well. The shifting is precise and light which, as ridiculous as it might sound, makes a big difference on really long, challenging rides. After six or seven hours in the saddle you really do notice less finger fatigue from just pressing buttons rather than swinging levers. First world problems, admittedly.
Being able to brake and change gear at the same time also allows you to set the bike up for exiting corners on unfamiliar descents without having to get bogged down in too high a gear.
The brake lever and rotor combo offers great stopping power and lots of feel to really control the levels of grip that the tyres are offering in various conditions – so, for example, when the tarmac is damp or wet you can totally feel what is going on to avoid locking up, or tweaking things if you do.
This model has a compact 50/34-tooth chainset paired with an 11-28 cassette, which is a pretty standard setup on a lot of bikes these days and gives a good range of gear ratios. If it's not low enough, the Pavo does come with a long cage rear mech so a swap to an 11-32 cassette could be made with minimal outlay.
I tested the DT Swiss R24 Spline wheelset a little while ago and they are solid performers for pretty much any style of riding. They're no lightweights at 1,810g but they behave like a much lighter set of wheels and don't feel like they hamper the Pavo's frameset at all. They'll take a whack too, so make great training wheels throughout the year.
I mentioned earlier that the DT Swiss wheels come wrapped in Schwalbe's One tyres, a truly spectacular set of pneumatics. The grip levels are outstanding and really give you confidence to bank the bike over in the bends and take a risk or two. Puncture resistance is good, too, so the risk of a DNF in an event is minimal.
The Simplon comes with its own-brand finishing kit, which includes a carbon fibre handlebar with a pronounced kick back towards you after it leaves the stem. This offers a very natural hand position in use, and the layup provides a bit of flex for a comfortable ride without being disconcerting if you really get out of the saddle and give it a good hammering.
On the whole the Simplon Pavo Granfondo Disc is an excellent tool for the job. If you want a bike that lets you ride for hours on end without you ever giving a thought to the actual bike, then this is it. You can get on it, pedal, then get off quite a bit later without ever noticing what you've been riding. It's only when you're sat on the sofa having a well earned beer that you glance over at the Pavo and think, 'That's a bloody good bike.'
A pure cruiser, so subtle and comfortable that you might not notice until you stop riding
road.cc test report
Make and model: Simplon Pavo Granfondo Disc
Size tested: 55cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The Simplon uses uni-directional carbon fibre in both its frame and fork construction.
Groupset: Ultegra DI-2
Colour: Galaxy Blue Glossy/ Cosmic Blue Matt
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR FLOW
Seatpost: Simplon Pavo GF Disc
Handlebars: Simplon ERG CARBON 42 cm c/c
Stem: Simplon Zero 100mm x -7°
Chainset: Ultegra 50/34 172,5mm
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra DI2 STI
Front mech: Shimano Ultegra DI2
Rear mech: Shimano Ultegra DI2
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 11-28
Wheels: DT Swiss R24 Spline Disc
Tyres: Schwalbe ONE EVO 700x25c
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?
The Pavo Granfondo Disc is a bike designed for those epic miles in the saddle while still getting a shift on at a fairish old lick.
Simplon says: "Just like the PAVO GF SL the new PAVO GRANFONDO DISC has stiff, flexible chain stays twisted towards the rear for maximum propulsion. The Raptor dropout of the forks, the flattened seat tube and the VIBREX® seat stays guarantee pure marathon power. The best highlight of this all-round talent is not just the speed and comfort but also the braking power: the disc brakes ensure high constant braking power which can be finely applied in any weather conditions. 'Overheating brakes' and rim wear and tear are no longer a problem."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
A well finished, neat and tidy frameset.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The Simplon uses uni-directional carbon fibre in both its frame and fork construction.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
For the style of riding the Pavo is designed for it is actually quite racy in its setup. A lot of endurance bikes of this size will have a slightly shorter top tube and a taller head tube for a less stretched, more upright position. The Simplon has a nice balance between speed and comfort.
Full details of the geometry of the various sizes are here: https://www.simplon.com/en/products/road-bike/race-marathon-aero-cx/pavo...
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Compared with similar sized bikes in this category, such as Canyon's Endurace, the Pavo is a little lower in the head tube, offering a slightly more racy position.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, right on the edge of comfort versus performance though.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, the bottom bracket area delivered plenty of stiffness.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
For the style of bike, yes.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral edging into responsive.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The Pavo doesn't have the sharp, twitchy steering that you'd expect from a race bike but it is no slouch in the bends. Tight technical bends take a little bit more thought to select the perfect line, but for the type of riding the Pavo is designed for I don't see it as a flaw.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I'd have to change the saddle for something more plush.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
It's an all-round good package.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Schwalbe tyres let you keep the speed high through the bends for ultimate efficiency.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Shimano Ultegra Di2 is a great groupset offering crisp shifting in a durable package. Add to that the excellent hydraulic brake/shifter package and there is little to dislike.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so, what for?
The R24s are a very good wheelset for their intended purpose, with a decent weight per cost ratio that puts them above the competition.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so, what for?
Schwalbe's One is an excellent tyre with massive levels of grip and low rolling resistance. They'll add a boost to any bike.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Simplon's own finishing kit comes in at a very high level and the handlebar is a personal favourite.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
For the pure 'miles covered for minimal effort' the Granfondo scores highly – it's one of the most unnoticeable bikes I've ever ridden, in a good way.
About the tester
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.