Bespoke frame-building has been enjoying a resurgence of interest in the UK over the past few years, with loads of new frame-builders popping up all the time. There’s even a dedicated show, Bespoked, that showcases the very finest examples of British bicycle building. London-based Saffron has been a regular at this show, where it has turned heads and won awards.
Every bike Saffron founder Matthew Sowter creates is bespoke, tailored to the exact requirements of each customer. That’s the beauty and appeal of shunning the mainstream options and going down the custom frame route, you get a fully personalised bike not only built to your exact measurements, but finished just the way you want it. It's certainly not for everyone. It's not the cheapest way to buy a road bike, but if you want to invest in a distinctive and customised bike, it might just be for you.
The bike pictured here is actually Matthew’s own bike, his latest creation. It has been designed as a winter bike and a showcase of the latest technologies that are becoming increasingly common on road bikes. Fortunately, Matthew and I are about the same height and his bike just so happens to be the right size (lucky me), and he kindly let me borrow it for a few weeks to see how it performs. You can read my review soon, but before that, here’s an overview of the bike.
“Cyclists living in the UK tend to get most of their miles in wet weather and low light on road surfaces that are not always perfect,” says Matthew. “For this reason I wanted to construct myself a “winter” bike which would also showcase some new technologies that have recently found their way into road cycling from other disciplines. This bike will also see regular mileage on my new commute, as I’m moving further away from the workshop.”
Matthew only works with steel. The frame is constructed from Columbus Zona tubing and it has been designed for disc brakes and full-length mudguards, with clearance for 28mm tyres with them fitted, or up to 30mm without the mudguards. Though the bike is intended as a winter bike, Matthew has sought to create a bike that can be used year-round, with the mudguards removed for summer use and the hidden eyelets maintaining the clean lines of the bike.
It's been built up with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset with hydraulic disc brakes, with the rear brake hose and Di2 wiring internally routed. The frame uses Shimano’s modern Flat Mount disc fittings on the industrial looking dropouts, and a carbon fibre Kinesis Tracer fork up front. The fork has a regular quick release axle while the rear wheel uses a 142x12mm thru-axle.
The 28mm Schwable One Pro tubeless tyres are fitted to Kinesis Racelight Disc wheels, with 140mm Shimano disc rotors mounted to each hub using the CentreLock standard. There’s a 27.2mm seat post with a carbon fibre Fizik seat post and Brooks C13 Cambium saddle. Fizik also supplies the handlebar and stem, and there’s a Chris King headset and bottom bracket.
A smart demonstration of the attention to detail offered by Saffron is the neat integration of the Supernova Airstream 2 light and matching Tail Light 2. The front light is fixed to a small bracket mounted to the fork, and houses the battery that powers both lights, with the cable to the rear light routed inside the frame. The front light projects 205 lumens with a run time between 2.5 and 7-hours, with three brightness modes available.
The whole bike weighs 9.71kg (21.40lb).
It’s a beautiful bike, both in its appearance - the colour matched mudguards are a lovely thing - and the attention to detail. Almost too nice to ride in the rain and mud covered roads.
It’s a bike clearly built to provide comfort, whether it’s the daily commute or long training ride on a Sunday club run. The tyres provide comfort and grip, the mudguards keep road spray at bay, the lights are integrated into the bike so you never misplace them, and the disc brakes provide control for any weather you’re likely to encounter.
There is no price for this build, but looking at the parts you can take a stab at what it’s going to cost. A Saffron frame set costs from £1,320 and the prices increase depending on the tube set you choose. Everything from Reynolds 632 to Columbus XCR is on offer. There are many options available as well and a host of finishes available, allowing you to personalise the bike to your tastes and requirements.
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.