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New British bike company Fairlight Cycles launches with two steel road bikes, we take a closer look

Fairlight Cycles is a new British bicycle company that has just launched with two disc-equipped steel models called the Strael and Faran. The company is spearheaded by Dom Thomas, formerly of Genesis Bikes and Wold Cycles, and he has put his considerable expertise with steel frames and a close relationship with Reynolds, formed whilst working on the groundbreaking Volare race steel bike, into a new brand that offers “functional and versatile bikes with an innovative approach to tubing design and rider fit.”

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Strael - all-season road bike

Let’s start with the Strael. It’s a bike pegged as an “all-season road” model and provides 32mm tyre clearance (30mm with mudguards) and eyelets for full-length mudguards and a rack. The frame is made from Reynolds 853 with custom formed and shape tube profiles, with a bi-ovalised down tube. Cables are externally routed and it’s Di2 compatible. 

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The frame is disc-only and uses the latest flat mount standard, with an investment cast dropout which is claimed to negate the need for a thru-axle, and a regular quick release axle is used.  Pressfit bottom bracket haters rejoice, the Strael has a tried-and-tested 68mm threaded bottom bracket. Frame weight is sub-2kg. 

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Not finding a suitable fork on the market, Dom has designed his own carbon fork to meet his exact requirements for the Strael. Called the Anraed, it has a 381mm axle-to-crown length, weighs 365g and has clearance for up to 33mm tyres, or 33mm tyres, or 30mm with a mudguard fitted. There’s internal brake hose routing and a mount for a dynamo light. 

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The Strael is offered in four builds, from Shimano 105 (£1,849) right up to a Dura-Ace (£2,999) build with Hunt 4 Season wheels, Fabric saddle, Conti 28mm tyres and FSA finishing kit.  

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“The Strael is a road bike, it's designed to be a fast 'point to point' charger. It has race bike angles and has 'as short a wheelbase as we could justify' while still being able to accommodate mudguards and a rack for light touring duties,” adds Dom Thomas.

Faran - adventure touring bike

If you want bigger tyre clearance and a more ruggedly capable bike, the Faran has been designed as an adventure touring bike and provides clearance for up to 42mm tyres on 700c wheels, or up to 50mm on 650b wheels.42mm tyres on 700c wheels, or up to 50mm on 650b wheels.

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The frame combines a Reynolds 631 front triangle, with the same tube shapes and profiles as the Strael, and a 4130 rear triangle. The geometry differs, as well, with a longer wheelbase and slacker angles, as it’s designed to be an all-purpose bike suitable for everything from the commute to multi-day touring.

Unlike the Strael’s carbon fork, the Faran uses a matching steel fork with tapered legs and forward facing dropouts. There’s the full complement of rack and mudguard mounts. The Faran frame is also made in Europe. 

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You can buy the Faran as a frameset for £599 or choose from three complete bikes, from the Faran Tiagra (£1,399) up to the Faran Ultegra Hydro (£1,899) which DT Swiss rims on Shimano hubs and a Fabric and FSA finishing kit. Shimano hubs and a Fabric and FSA finishing kit. 

Both frames are manufactured in Europe, but not Italy, says Fairlight’s Dom Thomas. “We prototyped frames in Taiwan using existing relationships I had and quality as always was great but simultaneously we were pushing hard to find partners we could work with in Europe. 

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“Europe was desirable because shipping times are drastically reduced (three days versus six weeks) and this gives us much more flexibility with our production, especially given the fact we have 10 sizes of each model. It also massively reduces product development time as we can develop tubing in the UK with Reynolds and then ship it in 2-3 days to the factory in Europe."

The Reynolds relationship

Dom Thomas has racked up a fair amount of experience with steel tubing, working first with steel on the highly lauded Genesis Volare, a bike that single-handedly put steel back into the professional peloton and proved the material can still cut it in a market dominated by carbon.

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In developing the Fairlight brand, Dom has continued to work with steel but doesn’t just use off-the-shelf tubing. “Quite a lot of the tubing is designed specifically for us,” says Dom. “Using things like the oval top tube and bi-ovalised down tube, non taper seat stays, all of which are more easily achieved by sourcing from Reynolds in the UK.”

“The Strael is a full Reynolds frames, every tube has been considered based on the forces acting upon it and the best tube available tube for the job specced. The frame weight is class-leading within the production 'steel disc road' category. All of the hard work done on Strael we were able to replicate on Faran because 631 is just a non heat treated version of 853 so we could use the same designs (for the front triangle).”

Proportional Geometry

Each frame is available in a wide range of sizes, but Fairlight recognises that everybody is different and has developed an approach that is “designed to account for difference in body proportions not just overall height.” Here's a video explaining how it works. 

Each frame comes with a choice of a regular or tall geometry. Regular is lower and longer  for people with shorter legs and a longer back, and tall features a higher and shorter geometry for people with longer legs and shorter back, or those that just want a more upright riding position. 

It has developed a Fit Calculator to allow potential customers to input their numbers, whether from a Retul bike fit, position details from an existing bike or a measurement guide, to find the right geometry. It’s a smart idea, offering an element of a custom geometry without going down the full custom route, and is something that a fe bigger bike brands, like Trek, offer on select models.

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Dom Thomas describes it as a way of separating bike fit from the way the bike rides. “The way a bike fits is defined by its stack and reach,” says Dom. “The way the bike handles is defined by its angles and wheelbase. Most bikes currently only offer a low fit position with racy handling (a race bike) or an upright fit position with slower handling (a sportive bike). 

“The problem with this is if your body shape dictates that you have to have a higher front end to the bike then effectively you're forced into riding a slow handling sportive bike. This isn't the case if you separate fitment from handling. Obviously this isn't really a new idea. Bikes have been custom built for many years and Trek use different fitment systems already. We just think this is the right way to go for the rider. They are the engine after all.”

More at http://fairlightcycles.com/

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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.