The Forme Longcliffe 1.0 follows a bit of a trend we've seen this year. With so many manufacturers making ill-advised componentry compromises in order to squeeze in a carbon frame close to the £1000 price point, more and more often we're finding the best bikes feature a middle budget aluminium frame that's offering the same sort of performance, comfort, weight and looks advantages as its carbon framed price competitors.
After a few weeks comparing the Derbyshire Peak District designed Longcliffe 1.0 with similarly price carbon framed rivals, we'd honestly be hard pressed to say that any of the carbon framed offerings deliver a superior ride. Any bike is the sum of its component parts, and Forme have obviously put plenty thought into the parts sums here. The fork is still a quality carbon offering, with a 1.5in to 1.125in tapered steerer, the drivetrain mixes Campag' Veloce gears with an FSA Gossamer 34/50 toothed crankset and most of the finishing kit is decent quality Stratos labelled offerings from well regarded Belgian brand 4ZA, which is also sold by Forme distributors Moore Large.
While rider loyalties are certainly split between Shimano and Campagnolo as bike values rise, you'll rarely see the Italian option on an £1100 bike... and it's good to see. Some riders prefer Shimano's twin paddle shifters, others favour the Campag' approach of a paddle lever for shifts to bigger sprockets plus a thumb button on the inside of the hoods for shifts to smaller sprockets. A few of our test riders certainly have a preference for the Campagnolo lever hood shape, especially when fitted to this particular shallow drop bar shape.
The Longcliffe 1.0 is the best of five men's and three women's models in their butted aluminium framed range. This and the 2.0 are said to be triple butted, the other three double butted. The detailing on the frame is very much par for the course on lots of other butted aluminium framed bikes between £600 and £1200. The joining welds on the 7005 Kinesis tubes are tidy, cable routing is conventional and there are two sets of bottle cage bosses.
The tapered head tube and large profiled biaxially ovalised down tube help to create impressive tracking stability at speed, and that probably contributed to a split second rescue twitch after going into a tight corner way too fast on the way down Cheddar Gorge. A medium length head tube has a 25mm washer stack on the steerer for adjusting stem height and the stem fits either way up for extra handlebar height tweaks. The top tube is five degrees off flat, giving the bike a fairly traditional rather than compact-frame look.
There's plenty of room for bigger tyres and mudguards and Forme tell us that all production bikes will have mudguard eyelets on the fork too: this sample only had them on the rear dropouts. Frame geometry varies with sizing: the 56cm bike has a 73 degree head angle, 73.5 degree at the seat, which makes for stable but very nimble steering at both high and low speeds. The horizontal top tube length is the same as seat tube length on the 56cm bike but shorter than the seat tube on the two larger frames, 58 & 60, and longer than the seat tube on the smaller frames, 48, 51 & 53. For us this worked perfectly with stem length in terms of creating an efficient flat backed climbing posture.
The fact that the chain stays, and consequently the wheelbase, are slightly longer than on a more purist race machine also gives a minor boost to both high speed stability and comfort, good news for riders whose abilities are not up to the standards of experienced racers. We've certainly ridden a lot of alu' framed bikes that feel less confident and less comfortable than this. But the Schwalbe Lugano tyres have a higher profile than usual for a 23mm tyre, and this takes the edge off the sort of rough road vibration that's often an issue with stiff alu' frames. They also have puncture protection strips. Attributes like this are very welcome on the mainly unsurfaced Strawberry Line Sustrans link we regularly ride in the middle of big road loops out around the Mendip Hills.
Attracting custom for an aluminium frame on an £1100 bike means offering a better than average componentry set-up. The Italian heritage of Campagnolo, and the fact that plenty riders prefer its aesthetics and function to Shimano or SRAM, will attract some attention, and we're happy to report that Forme have put plenty of thought into the fine detail too. The compact crankset and 12 to 25 sprocket cassette should suit most riders on most terrain: in the 34 chainring we rarely found need for the 25 sprocket on climbs, and the 50 chainring suits most regular riders better than the 52 chosen by most racers. The wheels are well built 24 spoked 4ZA Stratos offerings, with wear lines on the rims so that you know when they're getting too thin for safety. The saddle, seat post, 42cm handlebar and stem are all decent quality Stratos ones too, while braking duties are adequately performed by house branded callipers.
For a brand that's only been around for three years, with an initial launch of just five aluminium framed offerings back in 2010, Forme looks to be making great inroads. The new collection amounts to forty bikes, including nine full carbon framed offerings above the Longcliffe range, all the way up to £5000. If you can't stretch to the Longcliffe 1.0, entry level options include a couple of models at about half the price and the £930 Longcliffe 2.0, which has a canny mix of Shimano 105 with Microshift levers. The women's Longcliffe FE Series bikes are worthy of attention too, with looks, sizing, geometry and parts detail differing in more appropriate ways than on a few other brands we've seen.
The Longcliffe 1.0 is a classy looking machine, finished in currently-in-vogue black, red and white with colour coded bar tape, cables and lever hoods. Its performance emphasises confident comfort more than all-out speed, and its 19.8lb weight is about average for its £1100 price. It's adaptable enough to suit most types of riding, from fast commuting to sportifs and racing.
A sweet-handling sub 20lb all-round speed machine with an aluminium frame that makes price room for Campagnolo Veloce gears.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Forme Longcliffe 1.0
Size tested: 56
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
7005 Triple Butted smooth welded aluminium, Carbon fork with tapered steerer.
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?
Forme says "The Longcliffe series offers race performance and the perfect basis for training, fitness and commuting, with comfort at the forefront..." We'd agree.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very tidy build, good paint finish.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
7005 aluminium frame, decent quality carbon composite fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
73 head angle, 73.5 seat angle, 56cm top tube on 56cm bike.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Comfortably efficient for fast riding with plenty of bar height adjustment potential.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Surprisingly comfy for an aluminium frame... high profile 23mm tyres helped.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Lots of clearance on size 43 shoes.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Confidently neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
No nasty habits. Confidence enhancing at both high and low speeds.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Higher than average profile on the 23mm tyres helped comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Wheelset impressively stiff when sprinting hard. Tapered steerer seemed to help steering tracking.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
No changes recommended.
There are lighter bikes around at this price
Excellent gear ratio combination.
Campag Veloce gears have a good durability reputation.
Unusual to see Campag on a bike at this price
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Really liked the 34/50 ring combo. Hardly ever needed the 25 cassette sprocket on climbs, but it's good to know it's there.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Would usually recommend 25mm tyres on a bike like this but the Schwalbe Luganos have a higher profile than usual for a 23mm, which adds comfort.
Everyone liked the compact handlebar shape.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Forme offer smaller handlebars and shorter cranks on the smaller bike sizes.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Not at present.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
Proof that an aluminium framed bike can offer the same performance and comfort as a carbon framed bike at this price... possibly better because the componentry package boosts both performance and comfort.
About the tester
Age: 58 Height: 181 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Merlin Ti My best bike is: Ibis Silk SL
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,