The Cyfac Spirit is a very high quality steel bike that's handmade in France and superbly smooth to ride.
We tested another Cyfac recently – the lovely Gothica CS carbon sportive bike. The Spirit, which comes as a frame and fork package, is a different beast although it shares some of the DNA. It comes with the same high-quality workmanship, stylish looks and an excellent ride quality.
Unusually for a high-end road bike these days, the Spirit is made from steel: Columbus Niobium Spirit steel to be precise, hence the model name.
This is strong stuff so it can be made with very thin tube walls – as little as 0.2mm thick, according to Cyfac. That's, you know, reeeally thin. The walls aren't that thin throughout, though; the tubes are triple butted – meaning that the wall thickness at one end of the tube is different from the other end, and it's different again in the centre section. The idea is to keep all the strength where it's needed most while trimming off unnecessary weight.
The tubes are slender compared to those you'll see on most aluminium and carbon bikes – slim and elegant, we're saying – and the profiles are various different shapes that differ slightly according to the frame size.
The tubes are filet brazed together – 'Fait a la main a La Fuye, France' (Handmade in La Fuye, France), as it proclaims on the top tube. The filet brazing means you get a very strong joint but it's a skilled, time-consuming process and it doesn't come cheap. Once painted, those joints are as smooth as if it the frame had come out of a mould; they're absolutely flawless. That's the workmanship you're paying for here.
The threaded cable stops sit on the sides of the head tube are neatly done and you get a little chain hanger on the inside of the right-hand seatstay to... well, to hang the chain on when you drop the rear wheel out. It's the little things that make all the difference.
Like the steel tubes, the fork comes from Columbus. It's a new Carve made from high modulus carbon fibre throughout and it spins on an integrated headset. You can have the Spirit built to whatever geometry you like; it's full custom so you can get the perfect fit. That allows you to dictate the character of the bike too.
If you want a low, stretched, racy position, you just ask for it. And if you're a sportive rider who wants some extra height at the front for a ride position that's going to be comfortable all day long, Cyfac will build that for you. It's all the same price.
If that sounds too complicated and you'd rather go for an off-the-shelf setup, you can choose one from Cyfac's existing frame geometries. They have standard road and sportive designs that they use for other bikes in the range – you can simply opt for one of those.
Our review bike came in a 58cm standard road geometry with 73/72° frame angles. If I'd had the option, I'd have probably tweaked things a touch and made the top tube just a little shorter. Why not? If you're paying for the privilege, you might as well be fussy and get everything absolutely spot on.
You can choose a couple of other key features too. Our review bike came with an external BSA bottom bracket but you can opt for an oversized BB30 if you prefer.
Likewise, our test bike had a 27.2mm-diameter seatpost but you can go for a 31.6mm instead. All other things being equal, a narrower seatpost is going to flex a little more to provide more comfort over rough roads, and our review bike was certainly a really smooth ride... but it's entirely up to you.
Cyfac are big on finishes. If you pay lots for a high-end frameset, you want it to look special... and every Cyfac we've ever seen has looked stylish.
With the Spirit, you can choose from various different design styles, then you get to pick the main colours, the accents, and the colour of the logo. You can even colour match the frame to a particular component, your team kit... I guess to your hair or eyes if you like.
Cyfac have a neat function on their website that allows you to see exactly what you're going to get. You just select the colours you want to use and check that they work together. You can end up with some cool combinations... and some hideous ones if you're not careful. You can go for a completely custom paint job if you like although that'll cost you extra, the exact figure depending on the complexity of the design.
The painting is done by hand, using stencils, and you can go for either a matt or a brilliant finish... or a mix of the two if you like. The quality of the paintwork on our test bike was excellent throughout, and little Cyfac logos on the headset spacers and front mech band provide a high-class finishing touch.
Looking good is all fine and dandy but what really counts is the ride and the Spirit delivers there too...
Cyfac's UK distributor, VeloBrands, doesn't do the builds, although, for the record, our review bike came with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and wheels, Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tyres, Deda aluminium cockpit components and a Fizik Aliante saddle. It's all very good, well-proven kit.
That complete build would cost you £3,699.99 and our 58cm bike weighed in at 8.18kg (18.0lb). Cyfac reckon you're looking at 1,500g for the frame.
That's not mega-light next to a carbon-fibre World Tour machine, of course, but that's hardly a fair comparison. 18lb is still light for a steel bike, particularly one that's not decked out in trick carbon parts, and the Spirit accelerates and climbs well. It's not quite as responsive as some of the ultralight race machines we get around these parts, but it's still impressively agile.
The dominant impression you get from this bike, though, is that it's a very smooth ride. Whether you're out for an hour-long blast or an all-day adventure, it feels comfortable without any of the tooth-rattling vibration you can get from some bikes over bumpy roads. It just rounds up all that shaking and sends it back where it came from; on your way, there's nothing to worry about here. It's certainly a comfy chassis.
Adding to that comfort is the fact that the Spirit is going to fit you perfectly because it'll be built to your personal sizing. A bike that fits – really fits, not nearly fits – goes a long way to keeping you happy in the saddle. You'll get the position you find most comfortable, the handling you're after, the right balance... If you get the chance, you really should have a custom-made bike once in your life – it's one of those things that just has to be done if you have the cash.
I wouldn't say the Spirit is the stiffest bike I've ever ridden but it's no slouch on that score either. I have ridden metal bikes where the manufacturer has tried so hard to compete with the weights you can get with carbon that the rigidity has suffered. Badly. Cyfac haven't done that.
This frame is light in steel terms, but it retains solidity. It's comfortable, but not mushy – not even close – and the two ends stay well connected so you can fling yourself into turns knowing that the bike will track properly through and out the other side without incident.
All in all, this is one classy frameset that's beautifully put together and super-smooth. If you're after a custom steel road bike, you should give it some serious consideration.
Custom steel frameset that's beautifully built and super smooth.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cyfac Spirit frame and fork
Size tested: 58cm (weight applies to complete bike)
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The frame is filet brazed Columbus Niobium Spirit steel
The new Columbus Curve fork is high-modulus carbon fibre
It comes as a frameset although our test bike was built up with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and wheels and Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tyres, Deda aluminium bar, stem and seatpost and a Fizik Aliante saddle.
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 performance-orientated steel road bike. You can choose your own geometry so can have it as a race bike or with more of a relaxed sportive-style setup.
Cyfac say: "Cyfac takes Columbus' Niobium Spirit steel and does some of the most beautiful weld work in the industry to filet-braze a true masterpiece. Enjoy the finest craftsmanship, a custom geometry and an unparalleled fit that harkens back to cycling's golden age while infusing some high-tech alloy into the mix. Niobium steel is uses an ultra-thin, triple butted tube profile that is articulated and shaped to be stiff and strong where it counts and light where excess material can be shaved off. Light, comfortable, classy and...sublime. You decide the finish, we'll do the rest."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The build quality is superb.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is filet-brazed Columbus Niobium Spirit steel.
The fork is high modulus carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's custom so you can have whatever you like. You can go for a standard build if you prefer but that's the same price.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's a mega-smooth bike - that's its overriding characteristic.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yeah, it felt stiff. It's not as stiff as some carbon and aluminium bikes I've ridden, but that's not really a fair comparison. It's a high level of stiffness for a steel bike of this kind.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
As above, it felt efficient, yes.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
None on our review bike although, as I've said, it's a custom geometry so that won't always be the case, especially on smaller sizes.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? About normal.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, certainly.
Would you consider buying the bike? If I was after custom-built steel, definitely.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yup.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
It's not cheap, certainly, but it's filet brazed Columbus Niobium Spirit steel in a custom build and the finish is excellent.
About the tester
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
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, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.