It’s been three years since Ribble first introduced a gravel bike to the market to satisfy the ever growing demand for ‘adventure’ bikes. Due to the popularity of the first model, Ribble decided to work on a new range of gravel bikes that were introduced to the market in autumn last year. They can be categorised into four main classes; carbon, aluminium and steel and titanium. I opted for the aluminium as my weapon of choice.
Okay, so it's been a little while since I last wrote a blog; unfortunately work has kept me pretty busy and i've been making the most of my spare time out on the bike. As some of you will already know I commute to work everyday with a few other guys that live nearby, and one of them, John, has been quietly working a way on a bike project for the last couple of months with another local chap and owner of Aurelius Cycles, Marek. Their project - to build a steel bike made to measure for John. So inevitably when John unveiled his bike build plans during the commute and invited me to go assist in the bike build I was pretty keen to get involved; there is always N+1 and this could be some bike inspiration!
The bike frame itself is pretty inspiring. John has chosen a "Columbus Spirit" steel frame which is one of three grades of frame that Marek offers at Aurelius. The frame has been chosen in size to fit John as perfectly as possible and has been sprayed in great detail to match the club colours. Naturally whilst John was admiring his finely finished paintwork I was busy eyeing up the "KVA" steel frame - a fantastic mix of polished silver steel with perfect gold weld; I think my wallet might hate me one day.
Inspection complete and it was time to build the bike, although only following a cup of coffee and a slice of the bike tribute cake John had made. Mighty fine cake! During this coffee break we were able to have a look at John's amazing postcards and sure enough back in May were the first thoughts and sketches of the Alba Bike that John wanted to build - a little bit of proof that you can buy a your dream bike after all.
All fuelled up and an inspection of bike parts complete Marek turned his focus to the build of the bike and throughout the entire process took the time to explain each individual detail from why we were building parts in a certain order to the tools we would need to have a go ourselves.
When someone with many years of experience builds a bike it's over in a flash and only took a couple of hours to go from a pile of boxes to a fully built bike. However it's not over yet - once the bike it build it's the important fine tuning that matters most of all. You can build the best bike in the world but if the gears don't shift properly you'll struggle to ride it. Of course to Marek this is a mere few twists here and turns there and we're finely tuned. If only it was that easy at home!
With everything complete it was easy to see John was itching to take the postcard bike of dreams for a spin... So we made him wait a little longer and grabbed a couple of photos before unleashing the newly named "Acciaio Rosa' upon the world! The name - a tribute to the local cycling club AlbaRosa from which the design of the bike frame was born intermingled with the Italian heritage of the frame.
It seems Marek had definitely hit the mark because getting John back inside the workshop was pretty difficult and the bike was already being earmarked for future rides, including a maiden 80 miles the following day. Even if we had managed to keep John off the bike we might have struggled to keep others away as a steady stream of club-members had visited throughout the day to see the frame that now held the clubs name so highly.
Marek has worked in the bike industry for a great many years and originally worked with the now owners of Orbit Tandems. He was kind enough to invite us into his workshop in Leeds for the day to see just how a bike mechanic builds a bike from scratch and really took us through the detail. The shop, Aurelius Cycles always has a supply of frames and I'm certainly looking forward to choosing mine one day and hopefully building a bike with Marek himself.
John has now cycled into the distance on his new bike and is yet to be brought to a halt, racking up mile after mile on his new bike.
Me? I'm just jealous... I want a steel bike now.
Most of my riding isn't short distance by any means and sometimes isn't even on the road anymore as I venture into cyclo-cross ever more so when it comes to choosing my kit I choose very carefully because there is nothing worse than being unhappy with how I feel on the bike when I'm in the saddle for so much time trying to enjoy myself.
Chapeau very kindly sent me a pair of their entry level Classic Bib-shorts to test and so I set about putting them through some of the toughest possible tests: two rides in excess of 150 miles in length and a day's cyclo-cross riding. I even took them on the commute to work.
So what did I think to the shorts?
The Chapeau Classic Bib-shorts come with a 'Fiandre Pad' which at first glance looks like a very slim pad to have in a pair of shorts but once I put them on and took them out for a test ride decided actually felt like a very thick and relaxing pad to have in a pair of shorts.
I took the Chapeau shorts on some seriously long rides which included the 150 mile Coast to Coast and the slightly longer 250 mile ride to and from the Dunwich Dynamo. It's fair to say that over these sort of distances that if your shorts aren't comfy you're certainly going to know about it very soon. On both occasions the shorts exceeded my expectation and I felt comfortable throughout the entire ride despite my refusal to ever wear chamois cream. Shorts comfortable enough to survive that far without some form of comfort cream have to be good.
The Chapeau Classic Bib-shorts are online for £69.99 which makes these shorts Chapeau's entry level shorts and overall an upper end entry level short in the overall market, however, this should by no means put anyone off buying them. Despite being labelled entry level bibs, these are far from entry level in performance and compared to another higher end brand of clothing I wear, felt comfier and will now be my short of choice for my upcoming endurance events of the year. In short, £69.99 is a bargain and Chapeau are underselling these... But don't tell them that!
Quality And Design
The shorts coming in the standard black design with a single, unobtrusive strip of white or blue down the right hand leg to add a splash of colour to distinguish the shorts. There is no in your face branding from Chapeau either with the small logo embedded in the rear of the short. As an entry level short they might not quite look or 'feel' like a pair of £200 bibs but they fit and perform just as well.
I don't have the smallest quads in the world so sometimes cycling shorts can be a little bit too tight around the gripper in the leg but the Chapeau shorts were grippy yet not so grippy I thought I was going to lose a leg. Furthermore, the short leg is also a little bit longer than some other shorts so you don't feel like you've put on a pair of hot pants.
Overall these are a fantastic pair of short for the price and a fantastic pair of 'Entry' level shorts from an end of the market I would never normally have considered. Chapeau have done a great job of making a very comfortable short for a very reasonable price. As an all round comfortable and practical short the classic bib has everything covered. They won't be the most fashionable but they will be the most fun especially when you feel comfortable for your entire ride.
Rating out of 10: 8.5 /10