If you want the performance and stiffness of a carbon fibre race bike but with the subtle hints of a titanium ride quality, the J.Guillem Major definitely needs to be on your shopping list. Its comfort levels might be at odds with the UK road surfaces at times, but boy does this thing shift, and it looks a beauty too.
- Pros: Excellent handling; huge levels of stiffness where needed
- Cons: Firm ride means you can get rattled by rough roads; the graphics won't be for everyone
I like to kick off reviews with a positive, but this time I'm going to get the negatives out of the way first because, to be fair, taking everything into account they are pretty trivial.
First off, the Major (pronounced My-Awe) is very stiff, which is excellent for power transfer and handling but on the rough and often poorly maintained roads of the UK it can be a little testing, especially on that broken top layer, washboard kind of tarmac.
It does depend on how you ride it, though.
My initial couple of journeys on the Major were long and steady. I'd just finished a week of hard training so I was taking it easy, knocking the effort and average speed back a notch, expecting that the delightful plushness titanium is renowned for would stand me in good stead. After those four to five-hour rides I wouldn't say I was exactly uncomfortable, but I knew I'd been out for a fair few miles, with the poorly surfaced back lanes taking their toll on my hands and wrists.
A couple of days later I had to do a quick dash to the office, about 18 miles each way, and with the school pick-up looming I rode the Major like I'd stolen it... What an absolute revelation.
Now, the Major isn't a race bike but it does have more than a nod to performance, so the fact that it is quick shouldn't come as a huge shock, but just how well it did perform blew me away.
Putting a little more pressure on the pedals and removing it from the saddle and, to an extent, my arms and wrists, took the edge off the firmness and the Major felt like a completely different bike.
This doesn't mean you can't spend all day on this bike, either. I did a couple of 100-milers aboard it, but with a focus on pace rather than enjoying the scenery, and I came home feeling fresher than before.
It's worth bearing in mind that the test model I was riding came with 25mm tyres, more suited to the smooth Mallorcan roads where a lot of the development and test riding of the Major took place. It can take larger 28mm tyres with ease, and by tweaking pressures you could easily tame the firmness on our local roads.
Stiffness around the bottom bracket is brilliant, with everything you whack out power-wise going straight to the rear wheel.
The front end, with its tapered head tube and full carbon fork, brings the same to the steering and dealing with the braking loads.
With a short 978mm wheelbase (54cm model) the bike is nimble; paired with a 73-degree head angle the handling is precise and just on that beautiful, fun edge of being neutral without being twitchy.
My favourite test hill, which includes all sorts of bends, some of them off-camber, was an absolute blast. A subtle shift in body weight or dab of the brakes was all it took to coax the J.Guillem through the next apex.
At speed nothing changes either – this bike is as easy to ride and control at 50mph as it is at half of that.
All of that stiffness means it is a decent climber and sprinter, too, not really feeling held back by a 9kg weight for this Shimano 105 model.
For group rides, sportives and quick blasts around the lanes, you really can't fault the Major for its performance. Hell, you could even race on it and not find it wanting.
Frame and fork
Like most manufacturers, J.Guillem uses 3Al/2.5V grade titanium for its tubes, and here they are drawn complete rather than being rolled and welded.
Speaking of welding, the tube junctions are very impressive indeed, with smooth, tidy welds throughout.
J.Guillem has gone for a handbrushed finish which gives a shine to the frame, and it certainly looks good out in the sunshine.
As I mentioned earlier, stiffness is one of the priorities for the Major and that starts at the front with the 1 1/8in to 1 1/ 4in tapered head tube and corresponding fork. I spent a lot of time braking hard from high speed on the Major and the front end was completely unfazed; there was no feeling of twisting at the dropouts from having the brake rotor on one side of the fork, helped by the fact that the Major runs a 12mm thru-axle on both fork and frame.
The large diameter down tube resists the steering forces from the front and those at the bottom bracket shell. The bottom bracket is a press-fit offering, not to everyone's taste, but I had no issues with it throughout testing.
The chainstays are notably chunkier around the bottom bracket and slim down towards the 3D designed dropouts.
While many brands slim down and curve their seatstays for comfort, the Major's haven't been played around with too much, to guarantee that performance ride.
J.Guillem has given the fork and the front half of the frame internal routing for the brake hoses, but the gear cables run externally. I don't have an issue with that; in fact I quite like the engineered, functional look against the raw metal frame.
When it comes to geometry, the Major is aimed at the performance end of the spectrum. This 54cm model has a 55cm top tube, a shortish 155mm head tube and a seat angle of 73.5 degrees, which gives you quite an aggressive position for tapping the power out.
Stack and reach come in at 558mm and 384mm respectively. There's a geometry table on the J.Guillem website for all the other sizes.
For full details on both of those, read our reviews, but safe to say this configuration is one of the best hydraulic groupsets on the market in terms of performance and value. Not only that, the black finish works perfectly with the titanium frame and carbon fork.
We have a 50/34T chainset paired to an 11-30T cassette which, for me at least, was plenty of gears for the style of riding I like to do and the Major is intended to do. In fact I'd probably go for a 52/36T to give a little bit more top end.
You can tweak components on the J.Guillem website at the time of ordering, if you desire.
The gear shifting is absolutely spot on, having just a slightly heavier and less defined click to that of Ultegra but that's something you're only really going to notice if you're riding the two side by side.
It's durable too. I've been riding this setup on many bikes including gravel ones that have taken a real beating in the wet mud and grit of winter.
The biggest benefit to this latest hydraulic offering of 105 though is the braking performance and the shape of the new levers. Before, 105 used a non-series lever and I was never a fan of its looks, shape, gear change or braking power; it was well below par for the rest of the groupset.
The new levers mimic that of the Ultegra groupset; the gear shifts are much improved and the brakes are absolutely fantastic, with loads of modulation and plenty of power that you can really exploit in the wet and dry.
Wheels and tyres
Moving on to the wheels, it is great to see that J.Guillem has specced a set of DT Swiss P1800 32 Discs. They aren't the lightest out there but they are solid, roll well and defy their weight in the real world.
During testing I also fitted the 1,449g Scribe Aero Wide 50 D wheelset which scrubbed a fair bit of weight and really showed how much you could upgrade the Major's frameset. Straight out of the box, though, the DT Swiss hoops do a great job.
The Vredstein Fortezza Senso All-Weather tyres are also very good. They're pretty supple and offer plenty of grip in the wet and dry. Throughout testing I had no issues with punctures or durability.
The rest of the components are J.Guillem branded and it's all decent enough kit.
The aluminium handlebar and stem are both plenty stiff enough, plus the bar has quite a compact shape so you don't need to be super-flexible to get into the drops for a bit of speed work.
The seatpost is aluminium rather than the carbon fibre you might expect at this price point, but it does the job. Swapping to carbon wouldn't make a massive difference to comfort, but you could change it for a shim and a 27.2mm diameter carbon post for more flex.
I liked the shape of the saddle as well. Its padding is quite firm and it took a few rides to adjust to, but I definitely got on with its slender profile, especially when crouched down low and smashing the pedals around.
You can get the Major as a frame only for €1,499 (£1,331 at current conversion rate) if you want to go down your own build route, or as a frameset for €1,933 – £1,719 isn't bad for a frameset of this quality.
Compare that to others we've tested like the JLaverack R Jack Disc, which costs £2,380 for the frameset. David was very impressed with its ride quality, though.
Another performance speed machine is the Reilly T640, which uses the tougher to create 6Al/4V grade titanium tubing. It costs £2,399 for the frameset.
Overall, the Major is a fun and exciting bike to ride, and the performance is brilliant. It is one of the most enjoyable bikes I've ridden this year, if not since I started to write for road.cc, and while it can be a little testing on British roads at times, I can forgive it purely for the amount of high-speed, smooth cornering shenanigans I've managed to squeeze into a ride.
A firm ride but that's cancelled out by the excellent performance and handling
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road.cc test report
Make and model: J.Guillem Major 105
Size tested: 54cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: J.Guillem 3AL/2.5V Titanium Road Frame, Major
Crankset: Shimano FC-R7000 105 Crankset, 50-34T
Bottom Bracket: J.Guillem Pressfit 24 Bottom Bracket
Chain: KMC X11-93 Chain with Missing Link
Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105 SS Rear Derailleur
Front Derailleur: Shimano 105 Front Derailleur
STI Shifters: Shimano 105 STI Shift Levers with Hydraulic Brake Calipers
Cables: J.Guillem Brake/Derailleur Cables and Housing
Cassette: Shimano CS-R7000 105 Cassette, 11-30T
Wheel Set: DT Swiss P1800 Spline 32 Disc Wheel Set
Front Tire: Vredestein Fortezza Senso All Weather Mallorca Tire, 700x25c
Rear Tire: Vredestein Fortezza Senso All Weather Mallorca Tire, 700x25c
Tubes: Vredestein Butyl Tube, Presta Valve
Headset: J.Guillem Integrated Headset, for 11/8 - 11/4"
Headset Spacers: J.Guillem Alloy Headset Spacer Black
Stem: J.Guillem Alloy Sand blasted Anodized Stem, 83gr
Handlebar: J.Guillem Alloy Sand blasted Anodized Butted Handlebar
Handlebar Tape: J.Guillem Microfiber Shockproof Handlebar Tape
Seat Post: J.Guillem Alloy Seat Post, 320mm x 15mm Setback
Seat Collar: J.Guillem Alloy Seat Collar, 34.9mm Black
Saddle: J.Guillem Saddle, Titanium Rails
Fork: J.Guillem 11/8-11/4" Tapered UD Carbon Road fork
Thru Axle: J.Guillem Rear Thru Axle 12 x 142mm
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?
J.Guillem says, "For the road-riding enthusiast that loves the sensation of riding fast, the Major – pronounced 'My-awe' – is an awesome steed on the straight, in the narrow and around bends. Its stiff, light and durable frame suits an aggressive riding style so it's ideal for the step-up to club racing or solo flights chasing the clock."
It delivers on the promise of being performance orientated.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
You can spec the Major in a range of builds on the J.Guillem website by configuring different components to suit your budget.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Excellent build quality and finish, especially the welding.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame uses drawn 3Al/2.5V (3% aluminium/2.5% vanadium) tubing and the fork is full carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's race orientated with quite a short head tube and wheelbase to give an aggressive position and a fast handling machine.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This 54cm has a stack of 558mm and a reach of 384mm. That is quite racy with a ratio of 1.45 and exactly what I'd expect to see on this type of bike.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It does have a firm ride, which can be a little at odds with UK roads.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
For a titanium bike it offers huge amounts of stiffness.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well indeed. The rear end is very responsive to your input.
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? The lively side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling is very good, especially the way it cuts through the corners at speed.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I liked the saddle once it had bedded in a little bit.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels are plenty stiff for hard efforts out of the saddle.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The tyres offer loads of grip in all weathers, allowing you to keep the speed up in the corners.
As per usual, the Shimano 105 hydraulic groupset worked faultlessly throughout the test period.
Wheels and tyres
Solid, dependable wheels that are quick rolling and work well with the bike.
Good all-round tyres that are supple enough for speed in the dry and durable in the wet.
Own-brand alloy components look good and do the job that they are required to.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Titanium frame prices can cover a huge range, as shown by the two mentioned in the review, and even though others on the market from the likes of Planet X can compete on price, the J.Guillem is an absolute beauty to ride.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Major hasn't got the smoothest titanium ride, but the balance of speed and handling makes for an all-round excellent experience. The price is pretty good too.
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!