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Heroin H1 Limited Edition review

17 Aug 2017
Verdict:

A custom carbon creation that pushes the boundaries of what's decent in price and performance

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
€14,900 (approx £12,600)

First things first, I find it somewhat distasteful that this bike is called Heroin.

Yes, there was some mild mirth at seeing the courier docket. ‘Contents: Bike. Heroin.’ But beyond that, Heroin? Seriously?

It’s a name that might have seemed edgy in 1985, but people also liked shellsuits in 1985. And Phil Collins. Plus, this company has only existed for three years.

Its makers could have called it anything – literally, given that the name Anything is actually available.

Marketing manager Nicolas Piquet-Gauthier only cements the point when he says this bike produces a ‘pure and addictive pleasure you just can’t live without’.

Just like heroin, then. Rant over. Next question: is the bike any good? The short answer is ‘yes’. Should you buy it? The long answer is on the way.

Employing experts

Heroin was founded in 2013 by design engineer Remi Chenu and French entrepreneur Marc Simoncini, the former the founder of French bike brand CKT, the latter France’s answer to Alan Sugar – if he looked like the love child of Paul McCartney and Miguel Indurain.

Their idea was to make the ‘perfect’ bike, a not insignificant task that involved designing all aspects of the machine from the ground up. The result: the Heroin H1.

‘We started from scratch and all carbon parts you see are created, developed and made by us, from the rims and cockpit to the small CNC parts like the seat clamp,’ says Chenu.

‘The frame is made in Italy. The tubes by one company – we can’t say which but it isn’t a bike company, it makes carbon parts for F1 – and then afterwards Sarto wraps the tubes to make the frame.

We designed all the moulds and did all the prototyping and testing, including at the ACE wind-tunnel.’

For those unfamiliar, Sarto is an Italian framebuilder that builds bikes for a host of other companies as well as making frames under its own name.

ACE stands for Aero Concept Engineering, an independent aero consultancy agency that operates out of a wind-tunnel at Magny-Cours, the former home of the French Grand Prix.

Often start-up companies are accused of importing and repainting catalogue frames and calling that a bike brand, but after some lengthy chats I had with Chenu it really does seem these guys have done their homework.

Have we met?

Despite being totally black there’s something that draws the eye about the Heroin, and it’s the dimples.

The head tube, seat tube and down tube are all covered in dozens of circular indents, along with the rims and the fork, which also has a slit in each leg, just below the crown.

Eagle-eyed readers might feel like they’ve seen this somewhere before, and they’d be right.

Zipp has been doing the dimple thing for years on its wheels, and Ridley the fork-hole thing on its Noah aero bike.

That shouldn’t detract from any potential ingenuity of the design, though. After all, golf balls existed long before Zipp wheels, and vented wheelarches in cars long before Ridley forks.

While the physics behind these designs is complex, in basic terms the idea is to make the Heroin more slippery, and according to Chenu’s research it works.

A like-for-like wind-tunnel test showed a holed, dimpled bike to have a 10% lower drag coefficient than a version where all the holes and dimples had been filled and smoothed over.

As ever, testing the veracity of these claims in the real world is all but impossible, but in subjective terms the Heroin did feel faster than your average bike, particularly in the early phases of acceleration.

However, this could just as easily be down to wheel depth and weight (38mm and a claimed 1,275g for the pair) or overall weight.

Heroin reckons a frame weighs 750g, and I weighed the whole package at 6.91kg – not bad for a bike with a power meter, electronic shifting and integrated aero cockpit.

Still, it’s a way off Heroin’s 6.5kg claim, but it does therefore allude to something else going on here: stiffness.

There’s no doubt about it, the Heroin is a punchy bike, with a bottom half that remains stoic during big efforts. This translates into some serious zing when churning through lower gears on the flat or when attacking climbs.

However, I didn’t feel like the Heroin was quite worthy of the well-worn phrases ‘holds its speed well’ or ‘floats up climbs’. 

There is a sense of free speed here, but it’s not in the league of a Specialized Venge or a Trek Madone in the same way that those bikes could never hope to compete with a full-blown time-trial bike.

There is also a sense that the Heroin will make you a faster climber, but again not in the way that the 5kg Fuji SL 1.1 or sub-6kg Sarto Asola will.

Too much too young

Interestingly for a bike at this price, and one made by a custom builder no less, the Heroin is only offered in stock sizing. I found the fit perfectly fine for me, offering a low if not aggressive position thanks to a 159mm head tube.

Handling was nimble yet stable, something congruent with a frame boasting relatively short 407mm seatstays and a 991mm wheelbase – both measurements towards the shorter end of the spectrum for a 55.5cm top tube bike.

Yet I can’t help feeling some people might be disappointed by the lack of bespoke geometry available here. For nearly £13,000 I’d want a bike that wasn’t just ‘perfect’, but ‘perfect for me’.

While we’re on that subject, that bike should also be the best bike. For close-on 13 grand, it should make me complete an hour in 54 minutes, be more comfortable than my bed and weigh less than my helmet.

It should be all the colours at once, and none, corner like a rat up the Large Hadron Collider’s drain pipe and laugh at all of my jokes. It should make all who look upon it cry with jealous rage.

The Heroin, I’m afraid, does none of these things. Then again no bike does, and likely no bike ever will, but if you’re going to price your bike so excessively I think it’s fair to expect some excessively high judging criteria.

Others in this hyper-price category do somehow manage to justify themselves by being finely crafted by highly desirable, established marques.

The Passoni Top Force (£13,000, reviewed in Cyclist issue 20) and Legend Venticinquesimo (£12,000) are both good examples, and one could imagine them holding their value well over the years.

Despite being finely crafted, the Heroin doesn’t have the pedigree of a Passoni or a Legend, and while it might rival the performance of a host of other bikes costing thousands of pounds less, it doesn’t better them.

If the Heroin was half the price this would be a very different story, but as it stands, although pleasurable to ride, it’s a bike that – despite its name – you can live without. 

Spec

Heroin H1 Limited Edition
Frame Custom carbon
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace 9070 Di2
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace 9070
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace 9070, Rotor INpower 3D30 power meter
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace 9070
Bars Heroin integrated carbon fibre bar and stem
Sten Heroin integrated carbon fibre bar and stem
Seatpost Deda Superzero
Wheels Heroin High Modulus rims on Tune hubs, Sapim CX-Ray spokes
Saddle Heroin carbon rail
Weight 6.91kg (55.5cm)
Contact heroin-bikes.com

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