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Colourbolt Maximum Black review

12 Aug 2015

Colourbolt may not be a brand that shouts loudly, but it could prove to be a big noise.

'Oh, that’s nice. What is it?’ This was a phrase I got used to hearing while aboard the Colourbolt Maximum Black, and for me it added to the bike’s appeal. I’m always drawn to products that can wear anonymity as a badge of honour. Only once you know where to look will you be able to spot the subtle hallmark of the brand. The clue is in the name. A single coloured chainring bolt is all that gives away the bike’s true identity. Within that too is a further hidden meaning. A red bolt denotes the bike combines carbon and steel (the fork is an Enve carbon), while a copper coloured bolt is indicative of an entirely steel build. Quirky, but satisfying.

I’ll admit to being pretty-well over the whole matt black trend, as for the last 18 months the Cyclist office has been awash with precious little else, but Colourbolt’s so-called ‘Drenched Black’ finish is something different. From a distance it may look humdrum, but get up close and it has a roughened, almost scaly texture. Company founder Jay Pond-Jones tells me the reason behind the unusual finish is to give the TIG-welded tubeset a more seamless aesthetic, as the surface texture blends with the welds, disguising them, almost like a fillet braze. As a rather useful aside, the roughened finish is also tough and durable.

Colourbolt Maximum Black chainset

A collaborative approach

Pond-Jones makes no claims to be a bike genius himself. Coming from a background in TV and advertising, his passion for bikes was born out of racing his colleagues across London’s deserted streets in the small hours after working on Los Angeles time. You can’t go and watch him brandishing a welding torch, like you could with the likes of Tom Donhou, but instead Pond-Jones’s approach is to seek out the appropriate expertise for each part of the process, making each bike a collaboration. 

All builds are completely bespoke so begin with a full consultation and bike fit session at north London’s Mosquito Bikes. From here the frame drawings are passed into the hands of one of two expert framebuilders, chosen for their specialisation in steel. In the case of our Maximum Black bike, the TIG-welded Columbus Max tubeset, selected specifically for its high stiffness-to-weight ratio, was the handiwork of BTR Fabrications, based in Somerset. 

It’s an undeniably elegant creation. One of the standout design points for me is the way the seatstays butt together at their junction with the rear of the seat tube. Another nice touch is the way the hydraulic cable routing has been well considered. Despite being entirely external, it remains almost invisible.

Colourbolt Maximum Black seatstays

The seatstays appear as if they’re not designed to offer flex for rider comfort – they are ovalised vertically, not as you might expect, horizontally – yet the sensation out on the road is really rather agreeable. The rear end of the Maximum Black deals admirably with road shocks, the bumps dissipated with a nicely dampened ‘thud’, rather than a reverberating ‘ping’ that would, over time, be tiring and annoying. 

One of my early test rides lasted for nearly 220km, and after more than seven hours pedalling the Colourbolt from deepest Dorset into London, I climbed off feeling unscathed by anything the bike had dished out, and that’s despite the chunky 31.6mm aluminium Thomson seatpost. It’s testament to the quality of the frame that even the Enve carbon fork – a top choice in its own right – was made to feel a little on the harsh side by comparison to the rest of the bike, because I was certainly aware of more vibration through my hands than I was anywhere else. 

The Smart Enve System wheelset, with its 45mm rim profile at the rear and 35mm up front proved a perfect partner to the build. The wheels are light and responsive and add a bit of zest to the ride feel. The supple Veloflex Corsa 25mm tyres bolstered the overall comfort.

Slim and fast

Colourbolt Maximum Black ride

With all that said, you might be anticipating a big ‘but’ around now. Not so. The comfort the Maximum Black delivers is not at the expense of performance. You’re reminded that this is a steel frame with full hydraulic discs when you consider its near-8kg overall weight, but I was considerably less aware of that figure than I expected. It doesn’t take off like a startled gazelle – it’s more of a kicked goat – but it accelerates fast enough. There’s also a lively feel once you’re up to speed that defies its heft, and even on a 20% gradient that extra bag and a half of sugar’s worth of extra weight compared to an equivalent priced carbon bike seems to pale into insignificance. 

Descending is also a pleasure aboard the Maximum Black. Hunkered down in the drops in a tight crouch I regularly descended at speeds I would usually be nervous to maintain for anything longer than just a few seconds. Combined with the added confidence of the Sram Red hydraulic disc brakes at my fingertips, I achieved one of my highest-ever top speeds on a favourite descent. 

It’s an impossible dream for steel to compete with carbon in the weight stakes, but this handcrafted bike has got what it takes to overcome that. It’s the kind of bike that rewards its owner with the pride that comes from a bespoke build but, more importantly, possesses a ride quality that you’ll almost certainly fall in love with.

Contact: Mosquito Bikes


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