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Bike we like: Bowman Palace:R

A lively alloy racer from London-based Bowman that’s as fun to ride as it is good to look at

30 Jan 2018

Another new bike brand, are you sure?

As it happens, yes, we are. Bowman Cycles has been in business for a few years now and from its London HQ has quickly grown a range of bikes that are cutting edge both in terms of offering new ways to ride with what they call RoadPlus.

This covers everything from fat-tyred, disc brake-equipped machines like the Pilgrims to the cutting-edge stainless steel Layhams which blew us away on a test ride a few months back, and this, the second generation of the Palace, the :R.

What's with the name?

For cyclists not from the South London area, the Palace name will mean very little but for anyone who is and has harboured any racing ambitions, the Tuesday night Crystal Palace Crits are the weekly world champs, held on a narrow tarmac perimeter loop around Crystal Palace Park.

Fast and furious racing, there is a definite focus on positive handling around the corners and in tight spaces, with crashes an inevitable part of the fun.

The Palace was originally conceived as a budget race machine with the idea that if you can’t afford to replace it when you crash, you probably shouldn’t be racing it, highlighting two of the problems with carbon fibre: it’s both prone to breaking when crashed and expensive to replace.

But isn't aluminium old technology?

While aluminium has been around for decades as a frame material and used with great success by some brands, it’s true to say that it did get superseded by carbon fibre quite quickly, which in turn means that there is still quite a lot of development potential in the material.

At the same time, it’s also substantially cheaper to manufacturer than carbon so a top-flight machine costs a lot less.

Those are some mighty fancy wheels, aren't they?

Aren’t they just! If the frame is the soul of a bike then the wheels have to be the heart and the two need to match to be able to get the most out of each other.

Zipp’s 202s are the shallowest carbon wheels they offer and therefore the lightest, so best suited to rapid changes in pace and direction.

While they are obviously expensive, unlike frames they can be more easily repaired or  have parts replaced if they get damaged.

We opted to try out the NSW model, which includes the Showstopper finish.

This has swipes moulded into the surface of the brake track, as well as silicon carbide particles embedded in the resin, both of which aim to dramatically improve braking performance in the wet or dry, so these are ideal for fast, close riding.

And the groupset...

Shimano’s latest version of Ultegra, known as R8000, is a refinement of the previous version and probably more than enough for any aggressive rider or racer, if truth be told.

It’s a great performer with rapid, accurate shifting, comfortable controls and high-performance brakes.

We just love the updates that bring much cleaner lines to the front mech and the adoption of the Shadow tech from Shimano’s MTB range that tucks the main workings of the rear mech closer to the wheel, keeping it further out of the way of harm.

And the price?

For the frameset in either green-on-green or black/jade colour options, it’s £695, so you could probably build it up to be a race-worthy machine for around £1,500.

Our bike is at the other end of the spectrum but demonstrates that the frame is well capable of keeping pace with high-end components and wheels and comes in at £4,100 for the complete build.




Bowman Palace:R
Frame 6069-T6 triple butted aluminium, Toray HM carbon fork
Groupset Shimano Ultegra R8000
Brakes Shimano Ultegra R8000
Chainset Shimano Ultegra R8000 175, 50/34
Cassette Shimano Ultegra, 11-25
Bars Zipp Service Course SL-70 Ergo alloy
Stem Zipp Service Course SL 7075 aluminium -6 degree
Seatpost Zipp Service Course SL, 20mm
Saddle Astute VT Carb AM
Wheels Zipp 202 NSW Carbon Clincher, Specialized S-Works Turbo Cotton, 25c

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