Spin Spitfire Mk III Supermarine  £4827.00

8/10

High-quality titanium bike with exceptional production values; a smooth-riding eye catcher

Weight 7120g   Contact  www.spinmyride.com www.velotechservices.co.uk

by Mat Brett   August 18, 2011  

Spin is a UK brand that's been around for just a year producing titanium frames and a whole range of components. The Spitfire Mk III is their full-on road race model and it's anything but standard...

When a new bike brand contacts us, one of the first questions we always ask is, 'Who's making the frames for you?' There really aren't all that many frame-building facilities out there, and most people go to an existing bike manufacturer to get their product made. With Spin it's different.

Spin was founded by a chap by the name of Drew Gill. He has been riding titanium frames for years and thought he could do better than any of the existing options out there, so he decided to give it a go.

Rather than taking a generic frame design and getting it rebadged, or even drawing up a bunch of designs and sending them off to a frame specialist to put together, Drew decided to get his frames produced in a family factory in China that mostly makes aerospace parts.

And it's not just frames that Drew has designed. He's also producing forks, seatposts, stems, quick release skewers, cassettes, headsets, hubs... all sorts. None of this is simply off-the-shelf stuff with the Spin logo stuck on. It's all designed from scratch and manufactured specifically for Spin. This is very, very unusual.

Frame and fork

There are two road frames in the Spin range: the Spitfire Mk II sportive machine and this one, the Spitfire Mk III. They're both titanium (the 3Al 2.5V variety), which Spin reckon is the best frame material there is.

The Mk III Supermarine, to give it its full name, is a race bike built to a classic geometry. Our XL size has parallel 73 frame angles, a 56cm seat tube and a 16cm head tube. That's the largest size that Spin make, by the way, so very tall riders are going to be out of luck. I'm nearly 6ft 3in and I was just about okay -but it'll depend on your individual dimensions, obviously.

Spin produce their own custom drawn tubeset; you might have guessed that. The head tube is CNC machined internally and it's externally triple butted to lower the weight while keeping material where it's needed for strength. It takes a 1 1/8in external headset with steel bearings - in this case Spin's own titanium Hendrix option.

The top tube is 'triaxial dimorphic' according to Spin. Eh? In plain English, it has a shield-shaped profile up front before ovalising as it dips gently downwards. The double-butted seat tube is round with a consistent 34.9mm outer diameter from top to bottom, and there's no alloy inner collar tucked inside the top.

The down tube, in contrast, is ovalised - standing upright to maximize contact with the head tube at the top end before shifting its axis so it lies on its side by the time it reaches the bottom bracket. It's 48mm across down here which is wide but nothing like as wide as some of the carbon-fibre monsters you see these days. The BB shell is 68mm, made for a BSA (English, ISO... whatever you want to call it) external bottom bracket. The chainstays kink out three-quarters of the way back towards the neat titanium dropouts while the seatstays are dead straight.

Lots of little details set the Spin frameset apart from the crowd. All the welds are beautifully done and you get really neat CNCed logos machined into the head tube, the brake bridge and the titanium seat collar, for example. There's a little pip on the seatstay for hanging your chain on when you take the rear wheel out while the cable stops and bottle cage bosses are welded in place rather than riveted. There are no eyelets for mudguards or a rack, by the way; this is a race bike.

The full-carbon fork - called Fork In Hell - is Spin's own. It comes with a 45mm rake and a 3K finish and weighs 380g with a 300mm uncut steerer.

The frame comes with a lifetime warranty covering manufacturing and material defects.

Components

Buy the Mk III Supermarine as a frameset (£2,350) and you get the frame and fork plus the titanium Hendrix headset, the seat clamp, the stem, handlebar and the seatpost.

The stem and seatpost are both titanium and they're made in the same factory as the frame so they match it perfectly. The stem is a meaty affair with a solid, extremely wide (46mm) front plate. They're not taking any chances when it comes to the clamping.

The T-Zero post comes with an in-line clamp (there's no layback from the centre of the tube) that's really easy to adjust, and it's super-long - 400mm here and a 470mm version is available. Who needs a 470mm seat post? No one, apart from Brompton riders. Weight weenies can save a few grams by cutting it down to something a little less... extensive.

If you'd rather go for a complete bike, you can choose from various different builds. Our Spitfire MkIII came with SRAM's top-end Red groupset along with Rotor Agilis cranks - drilled out billet aluminium - and ovalized Q-Rings, designed to minimise the dead spots in your pedal stroke and so increase your power output.

Interestingly, the cassette is Spin's own milled out of a solid billet of 7075-T6 aluminium and it's a beautiful piece of work. Our 12-23 model (it's also available in 12-25 and 12-27) weighs a superlight 101g.

The full carbon bars are Spin's own too and so are the wheels. The slimline hubs run on sealed bearings and the freewheel comes with six pawls. The rims are full carbon, laced up with 20 spokes at the front and 24 at the rear. We won't go into too much detail on the wheels, though, because ours were a prototype version.

Oh, one other thing: those skewers are Spin's own too. They're called QuickLight Seriously Quick Release, the axle is titanium and ours weighed just 22g (fr) and 24g (r) which is pretty darn feathery. You can buy a pair separately for £39.99.

I could go on. There's loads to talk about here because so much of the Spitfire Mk III is unique to Spin... but hopefully you have the general idea by now. Cookie cutter, it ain't. Rather than being a frame and a collection of bits selected off the shelf, this is a unique bike - about as far removed from generic as you can get. Let's crack on with the ride report.

The ride

The main thing you notice about the Spin when you get the miles in is its smoothness. This is a really comfortable ride.

Like the rest of the country, we have some road surfaces around this way that the last couple of harsh winters have made interesting, to say the least. The Spin doesn't exactly isolate you from them, but it does make them more bearable. Rather than blurred vision and skipping about, you get a slightly dampened ride. It just smoothes over the bumps a touch.

When the road conditions aren't as bad as all that, you get a ride that stays comfy for hours. I felt fresh at the end of a century ride on the Spin. Well, no, 'fresh' is the wrong word, but as good as you can reasonably expect. Naturally, the saddle comes into play there and the Fizik Arione we had aboard our test bike is a proven winner with a little flex in the shell to prevent any jarring.

The fork and bar are important when it comes to comfort too and both performed well, helping to keep things smooth without turning the front end to mush. My only comment here is that there wasn't enough rearward sweep on the drops for my taste... but that's down to personal preference. The drop, by the way, is 140mm.

Our complete bike hit the road.cc scales at 7.12kg (15.7lb, size XL). To put that in context, that's a touch lighter than the aluminium-framed Principia REX (7.2kg, £3,299) that we tested recently and even a touch lighter than the carbon Comtat Aristo (also 7.2kg and £3,299,), but not quite as light as the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 (£2,619, 6.96kg). All of these bikes are considerably cheaper than the Spin, though. Pay £4,800 on a carbon race bike and you'll probably get something lighter, but not by loads.

The Spin readily picks up speed when you put the power in. That lack of weight means there's not a whole lot of inertia to overcome so climbing is good. And although this bike isn't mega-stiff like the Onix Azzuro, it's certainly not flexy when you get out of the saddle and sprint. Stiff but not over the top, I'd say.

The SRAM Red groupset performs as you'd expect a pro-level groupset to perform. I didn't have to adjust it at all during testing (except for resetting the rear mech stops when I stuck on a set of benchmark wheels for a few rides). It's lightweight and it works reliably. You can go for Force or Rival if you want to save some cash.

I didn't notice any difference between shifting across Spin's own cassette and a standard SRAM model, by the way. In fact, I didn't even know it was Spin's design until the end of the testing period; I hadn't had a close look, admittedly, and just thought they'd stuck their own lockring on the end. And if you don't notice it, that's got to be a good sign; you don't really want to be noticing your cassette.

The only issue I had was with grabby braking on the carbon rims - but that's down to the wheels and/or brake pads rather than the callipers. Rather than providing a consistent performance, the tendency was for the brakes to slow you a bit, then a lot, which is common to a lot of wheels with carbon braking surfaces. Spin say it's something they're looking at. I didn't find the wheels especially stiff and I had a aero spoke snap, but Spin won't be using these on production wheels anyway.

Okay, so who should buy the Spin Spitfire Mk III? Well, for a start, there are those people who feel the lure of titanium. Lots of people go on about the ride quality as the main reason to buy a Ti frame. Personally, I'd be more tempted by its durability. Titanium doesn't corrode, it has good fatigue life and impressive tolerance to crash damage.

Everyone inevitably knocks their bike occasionally - putting it in the back of the car, shifting stuff in the garage or whatever. In my experience, a titanium frame will usually shrug it off. Plus, if a brushed finish like the Spin's gets scratched, you can clean it up in seconds with some wire wool and it's as good as new. If I wanted a bike purely to ride fast, I'd go for carbon fibre, but if I had to choose a bike that I could guarantee I'd still be riding in five years, say, I'd go for titanium.

There are plenty of titanium bikes out there, though; why go for the Spin? For a start, this is a really well-crafted bike with some attractive details. The workmanship is excellent throughout with no corners cut. We suspect that equally important for many people will be the fact that, with a frame and a large proportion of the components designed and make for Spin alone, this bike is pretty much the antithesis of a mass-produced model from one of the big brands.

Verdict

High-quality titanium bike with exceptional production values; a smooth-riding eye catcher

road.cc test report

Make and model: Spin Spitfire Mk III Supermarine

Size tested: XL

About the bike

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

Frame: 3Al 2.5V titanium

Fork: Full carbon Spin Fork In Hell

Seatpost: Spin Monolithic T-Zero titanium

Stem: Spin Monolithic Bi-Axial titanium

Groupset: SRAM Red (Force front mech)

Chainset: Rotor Agilis

Handlebar: Spin QuickLight Compact Ergonomic carbon

Headset: Spin Hendrix titanium

Cassette: Spin monobloc

Wheels: Spin Supersonic

Tyres: Schwalbe Durano tubulars

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?

This is the road race bike in the range, whereas the Mk II is designed for sportive riding. It comes in a classic race geometry and it's lightweight.

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 welds are really neat, the cable stops and bottle cage are welded in place, and the finish looks great.

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

The frame is full titanium - 3AL 2.5V - and the fork is full carbon.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

It's a pretty standard road-race geometry. Our XL model has 73 seat and head angles.

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

Our XL model, which is the biggest available, came with a 56cm seat tube (centre to top) which really isn't that big for an XL. The top tube is 57cm. .

Riding the bike

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

Yes, a smooth, buzz-free ride.

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

Yes, stiff but not over the top. It's not as stiff as the Onix Azzuro that we reviewed recently, for example, but it's still stiff.

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

Yeah, efficient. There's no notable flex when you crank up the power.

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

No

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Pretty standard for a race bike.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10

Not quite as feathery as some carbon lightweights, although not far off

Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
8/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
7/10

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
8/10

I broke a spoke, but Spin aren't going to use those spokes going forward

Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
8/10

I broke a spoke, but Spin aren't going to use those spokes going forward

Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
8/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
7/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Very much

Would you consider buying the bike? If I was after a Ti bike, it would be on the shortlist for sure

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

If you tot up the marks, this bike should get an 8 for performance, but I'm over-riding that because it doesn't reflect the exceptional workmanship on offer here, nor the durability of the titanium frame.

A value of 8/10 means it's very good, and I think that's a reasonable assessment compared to the Spin's rivals.

I'm torn between and 8 and a 9 for the overall mark (taking performance and price into account). I'd better go with an 8 but it's a close run thing. Ask me tomorrow and it might be a 9.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 190cm  Weight: 74kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,

11 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

£4? Thinking Bargain, might get myself a couple!

posted by nellybuck@msn.com [156 posts]
18th August 2011 - 12:37

16 Likes

Doh! Just too late, there's been a sudden price rise

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4136 posts]
18th August 2011 - 12:45

17 Likes

I spotted someone riding one of these on this year's Time Megeve Mont Blanc. Looked nice (and went faster than me Nerd )

posted by Old Cranky [276 posts]
18th August 2011 - 20:02

18 Likes

"Drew Gill ~ thought he could do better than any of the existing options out there, so he decided to give it a go."

A very noble sentiment, but something in the back of my head is telling me that this bike isn't going to be anything better than a Van Nicholas or similar.

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
18th August 2011 - 21:04

21 Likes

Agreed. Nice to see some classic understated lines after a 3 year arms race of flowing carbon and assymetric everything but dangerous to believe that you can offer the ultimate in any field. Not keen on the lovely Ti being sullied by vulgar bright decals either. Better to etch your branding in with a metal like Ti. I'm an old fuddy duddy though. I own 4 bikes none of which are carbon and only one of which was built in China. Chinese plastic? All the ride comfort of a supermarket trolly..

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1058 posts]
18th August 2011 - 23:17

15 Likes

Fork In Hell that's expensive.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
19th August 2011 - 8:37

14 Likes

It's very pretty and I like the titanium frame. But my pockets aren't so deep. It doesn't appear to have a Rolls Royce Merlin engine either, which was a key feature of the earlier Supermarine Spitfire models.

Is it available in Battle of Britain colours?

There wasn't a production MKIII Spitfire. There was a MKIII Seafire however, the carrier version used by the RN and this was developed from the MKII Spitfire.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2195 posts]
19th August 2011 - 14:38

15 Likes

Those socks are too long, surely?

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [279 posts]
22nd August 2011 - 0:05

16 Likes

I have to say, fantastic review. This is why I read road.cc.

Is the 3Al/4V titanium correct or is it 6/4? That's very unusual - most frames are 3Al/2.5V with the occasional 3Al/6V head tube.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanium_alloy#Grades

posted by Yemble [23 posts]
23rd August 2011 - 11:11

20 Likes

Yemble wrote:
I have to say, fantastic review. This is why I read road.cc.

Is the 3Al/4V titanium correct or is it 6/4? That's very unusual - most frames are 3Al/2.5V with the occasional 3Al/6V head tube.

Yeah, yeah, sorry, being dim... It's 3/2.5 with 6/4 brake bridge, dropouts, cable stops and all the rest of it. That's the same grade as most other ti manufacturers use for most of their bikes.

Enigma's Excel is 6/4 all the way, if you're interested in such things.

posted by Mat Brett [1867 posts]
25th August 2011 - 20:44

16 Likes

PhilRuss wrote:
Those socks are too long, surely?

I'm experimenting.

posted by Mat Brett [1867 posts]
25th August 2011 - 21:31

15 Likes

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