13 bikes is Halfords' new in-house bike brand, with the Intuition Beta Carbon sitting one rung below the top of the range. With claims of a sub-1kg frame weight and wind-tunnel optimised shaping, the Intuition Beta Carbon looks like great value at £1400, seeing as it comes with a full 105 drivetrain.
The whole Intuition range is based on the idea of bringing aero road bikes down to a more realistic price point. This has involved developing both the frame and wheels using computer simulations, before validation at the R. J. Mitchell wind tunnel in Southampton. The result is a frame that includes many of features seen on other aero road bikes: deep downtube, level top tube, dropped seat stays, internal cable routing and hidden brakes.
Speaking to head designer Justin Stevenson, it turns out that the reason for the brake placement is not so much about directly reducing drag by hiding the callipers, but more that allows increased freedom in the design of the frame itself. The seat stays can be made thinner and placed lower, while the top tube can be slimmed down as it no longer needs to house an exit port for the brake cable.
The callipers themselves are sourced from TRP, with a side-pull up front and a centre-pull used under the bottom bracket. Though they certainly look the part, the actual braking performance was poor, very poor. Power was okay at the upper end, but it took took a great deal of effort to be able to make use of it. Modulation and feel was non-existent giving me little confidence to brake late and let the bike run. Dave Arthur had similar problems with TRP brakes on the Colnago VR-1 he tested last year /content/review/135609-colnago-v1-r-frameset; a change to Colnago's own brakes made all the difference in that case. Whether it's the brakes themselves or the combination of brake and the amount of cable pull the cable routing allows is up for debate.
Hidden brakes using the direct mount style aren't inherently poor, and may even be an improvement if Shimano's latest offerings are anything to go by, so I can only assume that fault lies between the TRP callipers and the cable routing. Whatever the cause, in my opinion the braking feel requires urgent attention to improve it in future models.
One disadvantage that is due solely to the brake position is that they are perfectly positioned to trap grit, mud and whatever else the road throws up. The front brake in particular proved particularly keen to get jammed up with leaves, which wasn't ideal given the autumn test period.
Anyway, moving on from the brakes.
Up front, 13 chose to slim the head tube by using a 1 1/4in lower headset bearing diameter instead of the more typical 1 1/2 in. In addition to the aero benefits, 13 were concerned that the ride might be overly harsh in this area and the slimmer tube would help to counter that.
After riding the bike, I can't help but feel that this was a mistake. The front end stands out as having poor torsional stiffness, I could feel it flex even while just track-standing. Go out of your way to throw it about in a full-on sprint and it really does feel flexy. Judging by the popping noises coming from the headset when performing the highly scientific clamp-the-wheel-between-the-legs-and-twist-the-handlebar test, it looks to me like it's the fork steerer tube which is doing the flexing.
The result is handling which is vague and imprecise, making it hard to really attack tight corners and twisty downhills. Combine the with the poor braking performance and it means the Intuition is not at all at ease on technical stretches of road, and you end up tiptoeing about until the road opens up again.
When it does open up, the Intuition Beta is undoubtedly a fast bike. The stock deep section wheels start singing once you get over 25mph and the bike as a whole starts to come alive. The low front end and flattened handlebar tops mean that you can really get down in a faux time trial position and challenge yourself to see how long you can hold on to 30mph. In contrast to the front end, stiffness around the bottom bracket and chain stays is what you'd expect from a bike with racing ambitions, and there's no hint of wasted power when seated.
Though the aero touches steal the limelight, the use of a 27.2mm post and the skinny seat stays indicate that comfort hasn't been forgotten in the quest for reduced drag. Comfort isn't something that particularly stands out when you swing a leg over the Intuition, but then maybe that's a compliment seeing as how aero road bikes have a reputation for being harsh. An immediate improvement in comfort can be had by swapping the stock 23mm Vittoria Rubinos for something wider and more supple (there are no clearance issues for 25mm tyres). These are solid, dependable training tyres but slow and very 'dead' feeling.
If the Intuition Beta's wind cheating intentions weren't clear from the tube shaping, then the inclusion of deep section wheels as part of the stock package puts to rest any doubt. As is the current trend, the rims are on the wide side to offer better stability and more predictable handling across a wider range of wind angles. This seems to have worked, as I found them both fast and easy to handle in some gusty crosswind conditions.
The braking surface is aluminium and they come with their own special brake pads. That said, using standard aluminium brake blocks wouldn't cause any issue so replacements can be easily sourced. The hubs are in-house items too and I didn't encounter any issues surrounding those during the month long test period.
Although they are obviously well designed from an aero point of view, the wheels, like the frame, are let down by their stiffness, or lack of it. Each out of the saddle effort is rewarded by brake rub despite the callipers being centred and the pads set quite far out from the rim. Accelerating out of corners, there just wasn't that jump and playfulness that the best bikes and wheel combos exhibit.
At the £1400 price point, the inclusion of a complete Shimano 105 11-speed drivetrain (except for FSA Gossamer compact chainset) is a definite tick in the 'good' column. Functionally, it's difficult to tell apart from Ultegra or even range-topping Dura Ace. Ergonomically it's exactly the same too and the new 11-speed hood shape seems to really agree with my hands. It's not showy, it just works, consistently, and that's all you really need from your gears.
It's nice to see that 13 have a spec'd a genuine Fizik Aliante saddle too instead of something cheaper. Though saddles are very personal, the Aliante is a popular choice in the aftermarket and the gently curved profile is one that a lot of people get on with.
In-house finishing kit completes the package, which isn't unexpected at this price. The bars have a nice flattened shape on the tops, ideal for resting those forearms on to get properly aero, but the ergo bend of the drops and the large reach won't suit everyone. The two bolt aluminium seatpost isn't particularly inspiring, but it's easy to adjust. Not sure about the head/seatpost badge though...
There are a lot of things to like about the Intuition Beta as it's clear that the design effort that has gone into making it as aero as possible has paid off – it is a genuinely 'fast' bike in a straight line. The combination of a 105 drivetrain and a full carbon frame makes it stand out at this price point and it scores well for value in that regard.
However, the poor brakes and lack of front end stiffness are really hard to see past when assessing the bike as a whole. It's not a bike on which you can attack corners with abandon and sprint out of on the other side. If your only concern is getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, then the Intuition Beta suits your needs, but it you want something that will put a smile on your face in the process, it falls short of the mark.
We put our criticisms of the Intuition Beta, namely the brakes and technical handling, to Halfords in order to give them a chance to respond. Following our discussions, they sent us a test bike of the next model up in the range - the Intuition Gamma - to determine if the issues might have been caused by a defective original test bike. Both the frame and brakes are identical between the two models, the only difference being that the Gamma has a Shimano Ultegra groupset.
Emphasis when testing the Gamma was placed on riding tight and twisty lanes, terrain in which I felt the original Beta to underperform. Although the feel of the front brake was slightly improved, possibly due to a better quality cable installation, overall the brakes were still poor and very difficult to modulate. Due to the reduced friction of the front brake, there was quite a difference in feel between the front and rear brakes, which made it very difficult to brake with any confidence.
As with the Beta, the front end felt vague when really attacking corners and the bike just didn't feel comfortable handling sudden mid-corner corrections. Though our negative comments from the original review still stand, so do the positives. In a straight line, the Intuition Gamma is fast and the bike as a whole comes alive at speeds over 25mph. If you want a bike on which to smash around on technically undemanding roads, then the Intuition range is a good choice for the money.
Good value aero road bike, but let down by poor brakes and front end stiffness
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Make and model: 13Bikes Intuition Beta Road Bike
Size tested: 56
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Aero optimised carbon fibre
Fork: Carbon fibre, 1 1/8" to 1 1/4" tapered steerer tube
Headset: FSA Orbit CF
Stem: 13 RS, 100mm(S) 110mm(M) 120mm(L) 130mm(XL)
Handlebars: 13 RS Aero, 400mm(S) 420mm(M/L) 440mm(XL)
Seatpost: 13 RS Alloy 27.2mm with 350mm offset
Saddle: Fizik Aliante Delta MG - Manganese Rails
Front brake: TRP T822 Side Pull
Rear brake: TRP T820 Centre Pull
Shifters: Shimano 105 5800
Rear Mech: Shimano 105 5800
Front Mech: Shimano 105 5800
Cassette: Shimano 105 5800 11-28
Chain: Shimano 105 5800
Chainset: FSA Gossamer Compact 50/34t, 170mm(S) 172.5(M) 175mm(L/XL)
Bottom Bracket: FSA PF6000 PF30
Rims: 13 RS Aero Deep Section Carbon Fairing
Hubs: 13 RS 18/24 hole
Tyres: Vittoria Rubino Pro III 700x23c
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?
The Intuition range of bikes are centered around the idea of bringing aero road bikes down to a more realistic price point. According to 13 bikes, they are in a "class of their own, when it comes to giving savvy riders a real performance and excitement edge"
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Both the frame and fork seem well finished.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Carbon fibre used for both.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Parallel 73 degree head and seat tube angles on the size 56cm model tested. The numbers are all fairly standard for a road racing bike. See website for full geometry for each size.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The bike has a slightly longer reach than is perhaps more usual, with the 56 tested having an effective top tube of 565mm. The 160mm head tube length is about standard for a road racing bike.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bike was comfortable enough to complete long rides on typical UK roads, even if this wasn't a characteristic that particularly stood out.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The bike was stiff through the bottom bracket, but lacked front end stiffness. This made the handling a little vague and not particularly confidence inspiring.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It was efficient so long as you stayed in the saddle and kept the upper body relaxed.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
A small amount, but not a problem.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Quick handling, but not the most precise.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The bike was fast and stable when up to speed, but didn't inspire confidence in more technical situations.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The thin seat stays had the biggest impact of comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The fork and frame just weren't stiff enough which impacted on the handling and the cornering ability.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels were stable in all wind directions and were notably fast.
Good in the saddle, bad when out of the saddle.
Despite the reasonable weight, it just didn't feel responsive.
Lack of front end stiffness hurt sprinting abilities.
The bike felt great above 25mph.
Not confidence inspiring at all.
Excellent 105 drivetrain.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
You can't go wrong with 105, especially at this price point
Fast wheels, but again, lacking in stiffness. Tyres are cheap, but decent enough for training.
No issues during the test period.
For stock deep section wheels, they weren't the usual anchors.
Rubino's aren't the most supple tyre.
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?
The wheels perform well from an aero point of view and a great value considering the overall bike price. However, they do suffer from a lack of stiffness which leads to brake rub when out of the saddle.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The long reach, ergo drop handlebars won't suit everyone, but the Fizik Aliante is a nice touch.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The brakes were very bad and significantly affected the whole experience of riding the bike.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? It was fast, but not an especially.
Would you consider buying the bike? No.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Depends on their intended use.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
A bike with a lot of promise if the front end stiffness is addressed and the brakes swapped for some that work.
Age: 22 Height: 190cm Weight: 69kg
I usually ride: Canondale EVO Red My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Semi pro
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, mtb,
For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.