The All-City Mr Pink, with its wide tyre clearance, is a versatile road and gravel-lite bike, but the brakes are a disappointment and the wheels don't allow the frameset to truly shine.
Frame and details
All-City is a US brand and the frame is handmade from Columbus Zona tubing... in Taiwan. Nevertheless, the quality of the build is exceptionally good, with smooth welds and a deep and vivid paint job that is evocative of an old Eddy Merckx.
The retro theme continues with the skinny size of the main frame tubes, all double butted (the tubing is thinner in the middle, thicker at the ends where more strength is needed) to trim a bit of weight and improve the ride quality. No oversized tubes, press fit bottom brackets and tapered head tubes here, it's classic steel road bike tube dimensions, a non-tapered head tube and externally threaded bottom bracket.
When it first launched, the Mr Pink also featured a steel fork, but in pursuit of a bit of weight loss, the company has now fitted a carbon model. It saves 650g over the steel one. It's made by Whisky and is one of the rare number of full carbon forks with a non-tapered steerer tube, which allows All-City to keep the regular head tube that befits a skinny tubed steel road bike like this.
There are some nice details: All-City signature dropouts, brazed seat clamp, custom head badge, internal top tube cable routing for the rear brake, reinforced bottle bosses and a pump peg – when's the last time you saw someone using a frame pump?
Ride and performance
Billed as the company's 'flagship road racer', its road bike pedigree shines through. The handling is fast and nippy, with lively steering that definitely takes a few miles to tune into, but once there you'll be swinging the Mr Pink through turns with rapid pace.
It displays the classic steel road bike feel, but it's not as refined as other steel frames I've tested over the years. As an experiment, I swapped the Halo wheels for a more expensive wheelset and the smoothness level increased, so it's clear an investment in the wheels would pay off well to really untap the true potential of the steel frame.
It isn't the quietest ride ever, either, with an annoying rattle from the front brake that removes some of the shine from the ride experience.
Many people are drawn to steel instead of carbon, aluminium or titanium because of the material's balance of properties, able to provide a smooth ride by dissipating the majority of impacts and vibrations. You won't be disappointed with the Mr Pink's road handling manners but it's not quite as good as it could be, especially given the excellent competition the price tag puts this bike up against.
There's no lack of stiffness if you like to ride in a spirited manner. Granted it's not as direct as a state-of-the-art carbon fibre race bike but it gets up to speed convincingly. The addition of the carbon fork gives the front end a lovely direct and crisp feeling; it's nimble and easily manoeuvrable at lower speeds, when negotiating traffic, say, but at higher speeds it relaxes into an easy canter.
Race bike-inspired geometry encourages fast riding. The 999.9mm wheelbase aids the responsiveness, while the 560mm top tube on the 55cm test bike provides a comfortable reach for extended periods on the hoods or in the drops.
Despite the race bike geometry, it's a reasonably comfortable bike for daily riding, whether that's regular training or riding to work. There are a generous number of headset spacers if the 165mm head tube on the 55cm bike tested is a little on the short side. Deflate the 28mm tyre pressure to 60-70psi and there's plenty of cushioning and grip if you take to the dirt.
At nearly 9kg it's never going to be a lightning-quick hill climber, but it makes surprisingly good work of scaling all but the steepest ascents. It's on the way back down that the steel frame and carbon fork gain back any time lost – not just because the woeful brakes mean it's near-impossible to stop or slow with any authority, but because it's stable at high speed and nicely balanced.
There are mudguard mounts so you can easily transform it into a daily workhorse for commuting, but the lack of rack mounts does mean you'll need to invest in bikepacking bags if you wanted to carry any luggage for an overnighter.
It's easy to think that a disc brake-equipped road bike is the only choice if you want a road bike with wide tyres. If you don't want disc brakes, and there are valid reasons for sticking with conventional rim brakes, then tyre width can be limited, but the Mr Pink accepts up to 32mm wide tyres. Judging by the generous clearance, you might even be able to go a little wider.
That means there's plenty of clearance with the 28mm tyres fitted and space for mudguards too, but there's nothing to stop you fitting a treaded tyre if you want a bike setup capable of tackling more than just smooth tarmac. There are some good 32mm gravel and adventure tyres that would open up the terrain the Mr Pink is able to tackle.
This is, after all, a bike that won the 2013 Gravel World Championships, so it juggles that road bike pedigree with off-road capability. The gravel bike market might have rapidly matured with 40mm tyres now becoming standard, but if you want a road bike with the ability to tackle off-road adventuring, the Mr Pink is an appealing choice.
You can buy the frameset for £999, or Ison, the UK distributor, sells the complete bike we have here for £1,899.99 (contact Ison for where to buy).
Shimano's 105 mechanical drivetrain provides the backbone of the build. It offers smooth and quiet shifting, as we've become used to from the Japanese company's solid mid-range offering.
Genetic-branded finishing kit also works well and includes the nicely shaped aluminium handlebar, stem, seatpost and saddle, which has a nicely padded shape.
The Halo Evaura wheels are cheap but a decent weight (1,573g), but while strong they're not as compliant as more expensive wheels. I swapped to some higher-spec wheels just out of curiosity and the ride quality improved noticeably.
Where the component choice comes unstuck is in the brake department. To provide the necessary tyre clearance, longer reach brake callipers are necessary. Dia-Compe's BRS 101 cold forged alloy dual pivot brakes offer a 43-57mm drop, but are the biggest disappointment of the package. The one-piece brake blocks find very little purchase on the aluminium rims, and have a very wooden feel that doesn't give great reassurance when descending at high speed. Upgrading to better quality brake blocks might remedy the issue.
With a few upgrades – the brakes for definite and possibly the wheels – the Mr Pink becomes a more compelling package, but it doesn't really come together as well as it could and lacks that lustre that many good steel road bikes typically offer.
Steel is an expensive choice because very few companies work with it these days, so if value for money is top of your list then mainstream aluminium is a smarter choice. If you want steel then your choices are largely limited to smaller brands, some of which, at this price, give the All-City Mr Pink some tough competition.
Though built around disc brakes, the new Fairlight Cycles Strael comes with a Shimano 105 build and Mavic Aksium wheels for £1,849, a bike that in a higher spec for £2,439 got a top review from Stu.
Sticking with the disc brake choice, the Genesis Equilibrium Disc 30 costs £1,999 and gets you a full Shimano Ultegra groupset with hydro disc brakes and 28mm Clement Strada tyres on Fulcrum Racing Sport wheels. The Equilibrium is a popular and well-proven frameset, with enhanced versatility over the Mr Pink, and there's no getting away from the fact that Ultegra trumps 105 in the specification game.
If you're in the market for a steel road bike without disc brakes and want a British-built frame, the Enigma Elite HSS is an excellent choice. It's one of the best steel frames I've ridden, but admittedly it's a lot more money – the frameset is nearly the same price as the complete Mr Pink bike.
The Mr Pink is a really nice riding bike, but the frame and fork could certainly benefit from a few equipment changes to bring out the best.
Its versatility is a wonderful appeal; you could use it just on the road or mix up the terrain with a change of tyre, and fit mudguards for winter or year-round riding. The lack of rack mounts will be missed by some, but the proliferation of bikepacking bags offers an easy solution for luggage concerns.
Nice riding steel road bike, but lacks smoothness and the brakes need upgrading
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road.cc test report
Make and model: All-City Cycles Mr Pink
Size tested: 55cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Columbus Zona Tubing - ED coated throughout
Fork Whisky No7 Road Plus full carbon
Handlebar Genetic Creed
Stem Genetic SLR
Bar Tape Genetic Cork
Saddle Genetic STV
Seatpost Genetic Syngenic
Front Derailleur Shimano 105 5800
Rear Deraillieur Shimano 105 5800
STI Levers Shimano 105 5800
Crankset Shimano 105 5800 50/34
Cassette Shimano 105 5800 11-28
Bottom Bracket Shimano 105 5800
Brakes Dia Compe Dual Pivot
Wheels Halo Evaura
Tyres Schwalbe Durano
Colour Aqua/ White/ Red
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?
All-City says: "Our flagship road racer was designed to carry you as quickly and efficiently as possible over any road surface. From pot-hole-filled city streets, to smooth country roads, and gravel centuries, this bike does it all with the style and smoothness that can only come from high-end steel.
"Geometry-wise, it's a classic racer, but we've made tweaks to the equation that remove the limitations associated with your average road bike. It has clearance for 32c tires (28's w/fenders) for mixed-terrain riding, hidden fender mounts for foul-weather days and an ED coating for rust prevention and longevity. The perennial favorite Columbus Zona tubeset is light weight and provides a stiff, yet remarkably comfortable ride.
"New this year is the addition of an excellent Whisky No. 7 Road Plus carbon fork made to our exact specifications, which is a remarkable 1.45lbs lighter than our previous steel version, , and still allows for the use of mid-reach brakes and 32c tires.
"The Mr. Pink sports all of our classic steel touches: a custom head badge, All-City signature dropouts, signature brazed-on seat collar, internal top tube cable routing for the rear brake, a pump peg and reinforcement stars on the bottle bosses. These are the signifiers of quality that inform, at a glance, that this is a high-end, hand-crafted machine.
"The complete bike is decked out with SRAM's excellent Rival 22 group, a Zipp cockpit, tubeless ready rims built to our new Super Champ SL hubs, and Clement tires.
"This is the frame that won the 2013 Gravel World Championships and has been campaigned in all manner of crits, road races, fondos and gravel events. Standout in a world of alloy and carbon, ride one for yourself and feel just how amazing a steel roadbike can be."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It's a very nicely made and finished frame, with some good details and a sweet paint finish.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Columbus Zona with double butted main tubes and a carbon fibre fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Classic race bike fare with a short head tube and long top tube.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Fitted very well with an extended reach that is good for riding fast and getting aero.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It was mostly a comfortable ride with some of the smoothness you associate with steel bikes.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Not the stiffest, but sufficiently stiff for powerful riding.
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?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Very lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The lively steering takes a while to get used to. It's nimble at low speed and stable at higher speeds.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The brakes are disappointing and the wheels let the package down.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I'd change the wheels to improve the ride quality.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The brakes need better brake blocks.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Mostly
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your score
A nice riding steel frame, but it isn't as smooth or refined as other steel road bikes and there are better value options.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
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.