So the other week new British brand Bowman Cycles popped into the office to show us their new bikes, and they left us a Palace frame to test, which was very nice of them. We’ve sent the frame to regular bike tester Stu to build it up with the new Shimano 105 11-speed groupset for the purposes of passing verdict on the frame.
Bowman Cycles are based in Kent and the Palace is the first frame from their range, with more models in the pipeline. The Palace has been named after the popular weekly crit race held at Crystal Palace in South London, and so it has designed for racing or at the very least, riding hard and fast. Bowman Cycles are fans of aluminium as a frame material because it produces a bike with competitive weight (even compared to carbon), and desirable stiffness and comfort - yes, really - and all at a decent price.
The frame features a 6069 triple butted aluminium tubeset with custom shaped tubes, a short head tube, slightly sloping top tube, external cable routing and geometry aimed at providing a pretty aggressive position. A 56cm has a 560mm top tube, 165mm head tube, 73 degree seat and head angles, 405mm chainstays and a 70mm bottom bracket drop.
There's a PressFit86 bottom bracket and a 27.2mm seatpost, to provide a bit more comfort, and if you want even more comfort then you'll be pleased to know the frame will accommodate 28mm tyres. The frameset, that’s the frame, carbon fibre fork and headset, costs £650. It's available in five sizes, 50 to 58cm - this 56cm frame weighs 1,200g, which we think you’ll agree is very impressive, and compares favourably with the Cannondale CAAD10 and Kinesis Aethein frames.
Stu has built up the frame with the Shimano 105 11-speed groupset that he reviewed recently, with a race-ready 53/39 chainset and hill-friendly 11-28 cassette. He’s currently rolling on Miche SWR Carbon wheels, but will be trying other wheelsets in the frame during the test period. Mounted to the rims are Michelin Pro4 23mm tyres (Stu is stubbornly refusing to embrace the trend for wider tyres, but we’re working on that).
He’s gone with a full Deda finishing kit, comprising an alloy Zero 2 stem, RHM 02 handlebars in 42cm width, and an RSx02 seatpost. Solidly dependable and stiff parts, perfect for crit racing. The saddle is an oldie, a Flite with titanium rails.
Want to have a guess at the weight? Wrong! It’s 18lb (8.16kg) on the nose, and that’s including the Shimano 105 SPD-SL pedals too.
Stu has so far only logged a few installation miles. Here are his initial impressions:
“I've just got back after taking it for a short bedding in blast, its really tight when you push it hard with quick handling, it feels like a proper crit bike,” say Stu. “Stiff but not overly harsh to, can't wait to give it a really good long blast.”
“Oh yeah,” he adds, “the geometry is really good as well, the short head tube lets you get really low which is great for descending. You feel as if you are sat right over the bike and you can change your line with just a small shift of body weight.”
That all sounds very encouraging. We’ll give Stu a couple of weeks to ride it and get plenty of miles under the wheels and then we’ll get his review online, which we reckon a lot of people will be interested in. There’s certainly a lot of interest in aluminium frames at present, with the recent advances in aluminium pushing the material into a place where it’s a credible alternative to carbon. Will the Palace be a CAAD10 slayer? We'll soon find out.
More about Bowman Cycles at http://bowman-cycles.com
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.