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Spoon Customs Vars Disc review

1 Feb 2022
Verdict:

This money no object bike leaves nothing to be desired, taking all the best bits from mainstream bikes but adding its own custom finesse

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Smooth • Fast • Stiff • Responsive
Against 
None (if we leave price out of it)

Do you need a custom bike? Maybe. Do you need a Spoon Customs Vars Disc? I certainly do. Because I reckon this is the only road bike you’ll (currently) ever need and, like a 1990s televangelist, I’m here to give you the good word. And like a televangelist, the good word’s gonna cost ya. We trade in souls, although £12,900 should also do just fine, just text the number below…

Design and technology

Yes, brothers and sisters, this bike is £12,900. I would normally be loath to mention money in a review – bike pricing is what it is – but I will say that 13 grand isn’t a million miles north of the £10-12,000 many mainstream brands now charge for top-tier bikes.

And with the Vars there’s more than just a spec sheet where wheels and groupset alone total £6,000.

At a glance it’s all here – the one-piece bars, the lack of cables, the dropped seatstays, the 32mm tyre clearance – but look a little harder, says Spoon Custom’s founder, Andy Carr, and those tube shapes have been CFD-designed and ‘scale tested’ (scale models have been analysed in wind-tunnels), and the whole thing is custom built to order. No small task.

‘Like all our bikes, we wanted to offer to-the-millimetre custom geometry,’ says Carr. ‘To do that in carbon fibre means building tube-to-tube, which is problematic if you have moulded tubes like we do that can’t be just cut to measure.

 

‘We had to do things such as 3D-print the top headset bearing seat [as opposed to this being moulded with the head tube in one piece] so it could be bonded in place after the head tube is cut.’

3D-printing even small parts is a sizeable undertaking but is cheaper than a ‘three grand’ head tube mould, which would only make head tubes of one size. But more interestingly, Carr is alluding to the fabrication of the Vars.

Spoon designed the blueprint but the tubes are moulded in Italian facility A, then shipped on to Italian facility B, where they’re cut, mitred and bonded into a frame using measurements from the customer’s bike fit, which is part of the Vars package. Frames are then custom painted and built up in Spoon’s workshop in Surrey.

None of this is to take anything away from stock bikes made in the Far East, but it certainly puts the Vars into the kind of handmade territory many riders crave.

I’ve spoken to a fair few bike fitters who say custom geometry is really only necessary for outliers in the morphology department (see p24 for an extreme example). But most agree custom is nice if you can get it.

As for me, I’m a pretty bog standard human and happily ride a 56cm, and while this Vars test bike wasn’t made to fit me it nonetheless felt wonderfully familiar in a classic race bike way.

Trail and wheelbase err towards the short for quick handling, while low stack height affords a low-slung position. Add in truncated kamm-tail tubes and deep wheels and you have one incredibly rapid ride.

Smooth as…

But this was only the second thing I noticed, because the first was just how smooth the Vars was. To use that well-worn phrase, it rode like a trombone through Lurpak.

Potholes still thunked and torn surfaces chatted, but for everything else the Vars fizzed along to the satisfying whampf of deep wheels and thiss of tacky rubber on tarmac. It sounded great, it rode even more beautifully, and once again I was left thinking tyres.

The Enve SES Road tyres are 29mm wide and tubeless, and the Enve wheels they’re mounted to measure a huge 25mm internally. This combines to make a lovely, high-volume U-shape profile, which when run at Enve’s decreed 55-60psi (check its online pressure chart) leant the Vars a preternaturally smooth character.

And this I can corroborate – with tyres pumped to 80psi, the Vars became noticeably more buzzy.

Yet even in such an un-recommended state the Vars’ ride quality still shone, and that speaks to the frameset. It’s plenty stiff through its spine, the front end steadfast in sprints while the BB and chainstays felt like they funnelled power efficiently to the rear wheel. But more than this, the Vars had a very distinct ride character best described as harmonious.

It rode as if its stiffness, its smoothness and its speed had all met up in the middle, been melted down together and then recast as one.

If there is a chink in this armour it’s that many would love their bikes to weigh 6.8kg, not 7.3kg. But custom bikes do tend to be heavier because of how they’re made – they flat out use more material than monocoque moulded frames due to the wrapping of tube-to-tube joints.

But with the Vars the result is worth the grams spent, because this is a bike mixing it at the sharp end in design and spec, but in a breakaway all of its own when it comes to ride quality.

Pick of the kit

Sportful Fiandre bib tights, £180

Like generations past, the Fiandre bib tights’ cut is high-waisted, thereby creating a large, insulative overlap with top layers; it has ankle zips to help get the things on and off; and uses Sportful’s own DWR-coated, fleece-backed fabric.

However, to this mix Sportful has added Polartec NeoShell, a stretchy, waterproof material up the shin and over the knee to contend with front wheel spray. To aid leg flexion the knee panels overlap the shin panels, as if your knees are wearing little hoods.

It sounds odd but it really works.

• Buy the Sportful Fiandre bib tights from Chain Reaction Cycles

Spoon Customs Vars Disc alternatives

Spoon Customs Izoard RR

In case you needed reminding that Spoon is a custom builder, try this for size – an Izoard RR, usually made entirely from steel tubing but here given an integrated carbon seat tube (£3,920 frameset).

• Read our full Spoon Customs Izoard RR review

Spoon Customs Finestre

Or east, or south, or north… just pedal. Because the Finestre (£3,420 frameset) is Spoon’s steel take on gravel, built with clearance for up to 2.1in tyres on 650b wheels or 42mm on 700c wheels.

Spoon Customs Vars Disc spec

Frame Spoon Customs Vars Disc
Groupset   Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Brakes Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Crankset Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Cassette Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Bars Ursus Magnus H.02 Integrated
Stem Ursus Magnus H.02 Integrated
Seatpost Spoon Custom
Saddle Prologo Scratch M5 Tirox
Wheels Enve SES 4.5 AR on DT Swiss 180 hubs, Enve SES Road 29mm tyres
Weight 7.3kg
Contact spooncustoms.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£5,200 frameset; £12,900 as tested

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