Bowman Cycles, a newly launched bicycle company based in Kent, popped into the office this week to give us a close look at their brand new Palace frame. The Palace is their first production offering but they have more in the pipeline, including this disc-equipped Pilgrims that we had a first look at, but which won’t be available until early next year.
Bowman Cycles come to the market with plenty of experience in the cycle trade and a desire to offer frames that are well designed with a keen focus on ride handling and, because they’re currently using aluminium as their frame choice, very competitive prices.
The first model out of their range is the Palace, named after the Crystal Palace criterium that is a regular fixture for London-based cyclists throughout the summer. “Are you racing Palace tonight?” would be a common question bounced around friends and club mates in the days leading up to the Tuesday evening fixture. They're only offering frames but they brought this built example for us to photograph.
For a frame named after a popular race series, the Palace has been designed with racing and hard riding in mind. The frame is constructed from from custom shaped 6069 triple butted aluminium tubes with an anodised finish producing a claimed frame weight, for a size 56cm, of 1,200g. That’s impressive and stacks up well against similar aluminium offerings from Kinesis, Specialized and Cannondale.
Aluminium is a good choice for a racing frame as it can survive the odd tumble and for many is preferable to racing a £2,500 frame around a crit race, where crashes are a frequent and unavoidable occurrence. Modern aluminium frames, and there have been many developments in the material in recent years, provide a really good balance of stiffness, weight and compliance, and Bowman have tuned the Palace frame through various iterations to provide the right blend of these attributes.
“An oversized front triangle and tapered steerer setup make for a bike that rails the tightest of turns yet thin walls and our custom tubing profiles make for a bike that belies any filling-rattling memories of old aluminium frames,” says Bowman.
Other details include the 27.2mm seatpost to provide as much available deflection from the seatpost to help smooth out the roads. The frame is supplied with a full carbon fibre fork with a tapered steerer tube. There’s a PressFit86 bottom bracket, external cable routing - so the bike is easy to service and maintain by the home mechanic - and even clearance for 28mm tyres.
The frameset, that’s the frame, fork and headset, costs £650. It's available in five sizes, 50 to 58cm. A 56cm has a 560mm top tube, 165mm head tube, 73 degree seat and head angles, 405mm chainstays and a 70mm bottom bracket drop.
Not quite available yet is the Pilgrims, a bike they describe as “All Road Adventure” and inspired by the new desire for road bike with much more capability and versatility than regular road race bikes. Gravel bikes. Adventure bikes. Call them what you what, they're road bikes with less restraints, you can fit bigger tyres, head off-road if you want, and disc brakes provide better braking performance in all conditions, and the geometry is focused on stability and long ride comfort.
Again the Pilgrim is made from aluminium and has been designed specifically with disc brakes. There's a new carbon fibre fork with internal hose routing, and there is massive tyre clearance for up to 30mm tyres. You could fit a wide slick or a slightly treaded tyre for taking on bridleways or gravel tracks.
The geometry features a bit more length in the wheelbase with slightly longer chainstays to provide a bit more stability. It’s the sort of bike for doing the big epic rides on and mixing up the tarmac with a bit of delving through the woods and forests, or over the plains and moors.
Of the Pilgrims Bowman says: “More sprightly than a cross bike, it's at home on serious road rides but you’ll never have to ask yourself “where does that go?” Simply turn off the road most travelled and find out.” Sounds like a bit of fun to us. We’ll have a closer look at this model when it is available in production form.
In the meantime, we’re going to build up a Palace frame in the next few weeks so we can find out how it performs. To be honest, we can’t wait to see how it rides, we’ve got a real soft spot for aluminium frames. Impressive advancements have been made with the weight of a good aluminium frame now very close to a carbon frame, and the ride quality of a well-designed aluminium frame often trumps that of a cheap carbon frame. You’re also able to get a much better specced bike if you choose an aluminium frame.
Bowman Cycles only plan to offer framesets and you can take a closer look if you head over to their website http://bowman-cycles.com for more about the brand.
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