As a keen cyclist (of the road variety) I think I know most bikes when I spot them. So when I was offered the chance by the guys and girls at Cycle Centre to test a Forme Cyclo Cross bike, my first thought was…. Who are Forme? And why do I need a Cyclo Cross Bike?
Turns out Forme are a British Bike manufacturer, and have only been established for two years. Now I must admit, I was a little sceptical about a new British Cyclo Cross bike, especially when the big boys, Trek and Giant have some excellent bikes in this category.
I picked up the bike on a dry, crisp, Spring day, and I must say, I was impressed immediately. I was expecting this bike to be heavy, cluncky, and poorly built. Turns out I was wrong. Its not much heavier than an entry level road bike, far lighter than most mountain bikes, and looking further, has a very good spec. At 6’ 3” the 58cm frame also fit me very well, and gave me a sporty, yet relaxed feel.
My first ride was one I’ve done hundreds of times before, my commute home, usually done on a road bike, the 6 miles on the road usually takes me around 20-25 minutes. Again, I wasn’t expecting any fast times. The thicker, grippier tyres and heavier frame I was sure were going to slow me down. Here’s the science bit… Using Strava to track the ride via GPS, I was actually only 40 seconds off my personal best, set on my racey road bike! So once again, I was proven wrong.
In fact, the only time I felt as though I was going slower than normal was on the uphill stretch, when the thicker, 32mm tyres really did seem to slow me down. On the flat, and downhill, this thing handles like a road bike. The aluminium frame, and carbon fork were stiff, and sharp in the corners.
I’ve ridden plenty of mountain bikes before, but I’ve always preferred road bikes, faster, lighter, and more fun to ride. To me, mountain bikes are heavy, slow, and clucky. However I do occasionally fancy a spot of off roading. And with the Forme, you can. My second ride took me through a nature reserve, with gravel tracks, muddy fields, grassy patches, and bumpy hills, areas I would never dream of going with my roadie! But the Forme shone out here on the dirt. Again, it didn’t feel like a mountain bike, more like a road bike. With no suspension on this bike, I was also expecting to feel every lump and bump, on my hands and on the saddle. But the carbon forks and big tyres soaked up most of the bumps, giving me a nice, fast, but relaxed ride.
The Forme uses the excellent Shimano Tiagra compact group set, and I used all 20 gears. The granny gear was used when the ground got soft, I’d forgotten how tiring it was peddling over mud! I was glad the compact was there with its 28T cog on the 34T chainset, giving me the escape I needed. But back on the road, I had the gears to keep up with the roadies.
This bike also uses Disc Brakes, more commonly seen on mountain bikes, and I was glad they were there. As most roadies know, cartridge pads are useless in the wet, and when the weather did turn, these brakes gave me instant stopping power.
My ride around the tracks gave me something that my road bike can’t, the feeling of exploring. Lost in the woods, It was like I was the only person for miles, when in actual fact, I could be home in 20 minutes, by jumping back on the road for a quick sprint home.
So who would buy this bike? At £1049.99 RRP its not exactly cheap. But what it is, is fun, versatile, fast, and exciting. With its relaxed frame, its not as racey as a road bike, but it’s a hell of a lot faster than a mountain bike. This bike isn’t just a middle ground between a mountain bike and a road bike. Its in a class of its own, a bike you can take on 75+ mile on-road sportives, or take it off road and tear through the tracks.
I think this bike would suit someone who wants both the fast road riding, and the offroad ability to get into the woods and explore. The versatility makes it an ideal bike for commuting, as it will cope with anything you need it to do, snow, rain, or school run traffic. Unless you want to get into the real wilds, this will give you all the grip you need offroad, and most of the speed you want on road.
All in all, the bike looks great, handles superbly, delivers the power when you want it, is the most versatile of all bike categories, and is so simple to ride. I bet I wouldn’t even get any funny looks from the roadies in the weekend club run. With the Cyclo Cross bike, you can also change your tyres to fit your riding style. Add slicks to go faster, add spikes to ride in the snow. Its your choice.
From now on, if anyone tells me they’re going to buy a hybrid… I’ll be sure to tell them to buy this instead. It’s a great bike, I might just get one myself.