Thanks to some tubing changes and other tweaks, Bowman's latest edition of its Pilgrims Disc offers an even smoother ride than the original while still maintaining all of the versatility that makes for a great endurance steed, winter trainer and byway basher, amongst other things.
- Pros: Fun and direct steering, comfortable rear end, decent tyre clearances
- Cons: You'll be disappointed if you want rack mounts
When David first tested the original Pilgrims Disc back in 2015, he was very impressed all round with the way it rode and handled. The only criticism he did bring up was the fact that the frame's stiffness could lead to a bit of harshness, especially on rough road surfaces.
For 2019, though, the Pilgrims Disc is a much more refined machine, and not just in the comfort stakes either. The whole thing has a more polished, smoother look to it.
As you may know, I'm a big fan of Bowman's original crit-based race bike, the Palace and its replacement, the Palace:R, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Pilgrims Disc shares many of their traits.
The endurance-based geometry of the Pilgrims sees slacker angles than the Palace:R and a longer wheelbase, to bring a little more stability to the handling for the type of riding it is designed for. It still has a setup that promotes direct and snappy handling, though, especially on high-speed bends.
There is a positivity to it that gives you the confidence to stay off the brakes a little longer, to carry that extra little bit of speed through the apex and out the other side.
It's not razor-sharp like the Palace:R but it is very close, and that extra feeling of surefootedness means you can continue to push it hard through the corners when the surface is far from ideal or even in the wet.
The relatively short 145mm head tube on this 54cm allows you to get a good low position, dropping your centre of gravity for extra stability.
Bowman's own full carbon fork offers plenty of stiffness and works well with the front end of the bike to keep you on whichever line you desire. It's a firm ride at the bar, but the fork does a good job of muting the really high-frequency road buzz without detracting much from the overall feel of what the front tyre is doing on the surface below.
The Pilgrims isn't just limited to the tarmac, though, because some pretty decent tyre clearances mean you can get some voluminous rubber in there for a road bike, or 'road plus' as Bowman likes to call it.
The surefooted handling works just as well on the local hardpacked byways or canal tracks as it does on the road, allowing you to feel comfortable with the bike drifting about a little on loose gravel. It's not as great off the beaten track as a gravel/adventure bike, but it does give you the option to take that track you've always wondered about without too much risk.
When it comes to climbing or tapping out a hard effort on the flat, the stiffness of the frame again works. Bowman has changed the press-fit bottom bracket of the original to a standard BSA threaded option, and there is plenty of tightness around the shell, down tube and chainstay junctions for out-of-the-saddle efforts. The bottom part of the seat tube is flared out into a square profile, giving plenty of surface area for welding to the BB junction too.
The rear end of the frame has quite a marked contrast to the front when it comes to comfort. As I said up above, you'll certainly notice the firmness through your hands when riding over broken roads; it's not uncomfortable, though – to be honest I quite like it, it's one of the main reasons why I'm such a fan of aluminium alloy frames. All that road feel and information coming through. You can tweak it with tyre pressures and bar tape if you want to minimise it.
The slender seatstays allow some flex under load and it is really noticeable. I even had to swap the saddle over a few times to limit that from the equation, but it really does come down to the frame's tubing.
On tracks or stretches of broken tarmac the Pilgrims really takes the sting out of the rear end, which over the course of a four or five-hour ride really makes a difference to comfort and fatigue.
It's a very impressive blend of stiffness and comfort that Bowman has achieved.
Frame and fork
The biggest change to the Pilgrims Disc is that the tubing material has changed from 7005 series aluminium alloy to a 6069 grade hardened to T6. Using 6069-T6 allows the frame to be lighter than the 7005 model because you can achieve the same stiffness levels but with thinner-wall tubing, so less material overall.
It's the same as that found on the Palace:R, another bike that manages to balance stiffness and comfort surprisingly well for what it is designed to do, so Bowman obviously knows what it's doing.
As you'd expect for a modern road bike, the Pilgrims comes with a tapered head tube and matching carbon fork steerer for small improvements in stiffness to benefit steering and braking loads. There are 12mm thru-axles front and rear, too.
The Bowman uses flat mounts for the calliper mounts and it's set up for 140mm diameter rotors out of the box, though you do get adaptors should you want to run 160s instead.
One of the great things about using discs is that it offers you the chance to run much wider tyres than a rim brake allows. This test model is fitted with 30mm Schwalbe Ones, and that's with full mudguards, which is pretty good going. That said, it is bloody tight and probably not a setup I'd ride around on full time as I had plenty of instances where small stones and twigs got jammed between tyre and guard.
The wide section carbon wheels do tend to make the tyres measure up bigger than their carcass size states by about a couple of millimetres. Bowman doesn't give an exact maximum tyre size to be used without guards in place, but you could definitely go up a good few millimetres I'd guess. Since wheel manufacturers have started increasing their rim widths it's hard to give a definitive answer to what size a specific tyre/wheel combo is going to give you, anyway.
I've mentioned that the Pilgrims has mudguard mounts but you won't find any rack mounts, purely because having to beef up some of the tubing would have had an effect on the overall ride, according to Bowman.
With the number of frame bags and saddle packs on the market these days, I wouldn't find the lack of mounts too much of an issue.
Keeping the look of the frame neat and tidy, the Pilgrims runs any cables, hoses and wires internally through the tubing – for the front end at least. They do exit to run along the chainstays but they remain subtle.
Bowman offers the Pilgrims in a range of sizes from 50cm through to 60cm in 2cm increments, which is quite impressive for what is in effect still quite a small brand, and if you aren't a fan of the black on black colourway you can go for a teal option.
The Pilgrims Disc is available as a frameset only and costs £795, for which you get the frame, fork, headset, seat clamp, thru-axles (both hex key and quick release options), flat mount adaptors, cable guides and frame protector patches.
Taking into account the ride quality, handling and the overall finish, I'd say it is well priced. The quality is impressive; it's neatly welded and the paint finish has stood up to plenty of abuse through the wet and windy test period.
Our bike came in as a full build and weighs 8.9kg (19.10lb) with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset and some rather flash Noble wheels. That's not a bad weight at all, matching that of the similarly styled Fairlight Strael and Bowman gives a frame weight of around 1,500g depending on size.
Kinesis' Tripster AT is a similar do-it-all kind of bike with an alloy frame and carbon fork. It is a little more gravel/adventure based but it'll set you back £699.99 for the frameset, so there is some competition out there.
I really rate the Pilgrims Disc for the way it rides, and it has just enough versatility that it'll be a bike you can ride a lot, whether it is winter or summer. Even though it is capable away from the tarmac, I love the way that it still manages to be an excellent machine on the road.
A quick, direct-handling, all-season road bike with the versatility to take you off the beaten track
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bowman Pilgrims Disc frameset
Size tested: 54cm
Tell us what the frameset 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?
Bowman says, "The Pilgrims Disc is the Future of road bikes. It could be city streets, narrow lanes, country lanes or wayward trails and paths that pique your interest. This all rounder is ready for all of it - Thats #RoadPlus."
It is certainly a versatile machine covering everything from commuting, winter training and sportives, to light gravel etc
State the frame and fork material and method of construction
The frame uses 6069-T6 aluminium alloy tubing while the fork is a full carbon fibre design.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Nicely finished with tidy welding and the paint job certainly seems hardwearing.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It has slightly more relaxed geometry than a full-on race bike but is still more aggressive than many endurance bikes, with quite a shorter head tube than most.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This 54cm model has a stack of 565mm and a reach of 365mm, exactly the kind of numbers I'd expect to see here.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes it's comfortable to ride. There is still that slightly firm ride from the front end but the rear has a surprising amount of shock absorbance to take road buzz out.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Plenty of stiffness throughout the frame and fork to deal with power output and braking forces.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, it responded well to everything I asked of it.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
Yes, a small amount with the mudguard. It wasn't a major issue, though.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Just sitting on the fun side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
For a bike that isn't race orientated the Pilgrims has very direct and relatively quick handling without ever feeling twitchy.
How did the build components work with the frame? Was there anything you would have changed?
The build kit complemented the frame well, although it was quite a high-spec build, especially with the carbon fibre wheels. The Pilgrims will work with a large range of kit from, say, Shimano's Tiagra groupset or 105 and a decent set of alloy wheels. For riding on the gravel tracks I used a pair of Miche disc wheels and they didn't hamper the performance.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's not the cheapest, but it is very much in the ball park against the opposition. Kinesis' Tripster AT frameset is £699.99.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The original Pilgrims was a very good frameset, and this new version takes the refinement and finish to a new level, whatever you use it for.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!