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Spoon Izoard RR review

3 Nov 2017
Verdict:

Classic looks meet modern performance from an innovative British start-up

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£6,200 complete bike, frameset from £1,995

According to the Spoon Customs website, ‘No matter how nicely a bike rides, it’s not a great bike until it looks rad.’

We won’t dwell on the use of the word ‘rad’, but one glance at this bike reveals that Spoon practises what it preaches.

Thanks to its lustrous paintjob, which switches between pink and gold depending on the angle of the light, the Spoon Izoard looks like an ornamental sculpture. There is substance behind the style, though.

Spoon founder Andy Carr has taken a slightly unconventional approach to the steel bike building business.

‘I’ve gone through the United Bicycle Institute and the Bicycle Academy to train in building steel bikes,’ he tells us.

‘My brazing is fine but I find it really difficult because of a tremor in my left hand, so it didn’t take me long to realise that I’d never be able to build frames commercially to the standard I’d want,’ he says candidly.

‘With my experience of building, though, I was able to go out and look at the bike building market with open eyes and start thinking about what to look for in a supplier.’

That search led Carr to Italy, the historic home of artisan steel bike building.

‘Our entire supply chain is based in the north of Italy, which is what I believe needs to be done to get the product where it needs to be,’ he says.

While Italy is where the production takes place, the customer experience is all based here in the UK.

Working with Bath-based bikefitter Torke Cycling, Carr liaises with the customer on fit and design.

Once the geometry and other specifics have been drawn up, all the details are sent to Italy for the actual building process to begin.

Unsurprisingly, Italian-based Columbus tubing is the steel of choice, and Carr uses a combination of Life, Spirit and HSS steel tubing in the frame.

‘Steel has changed, both in terms of its perception and performance,’ Carr insists.

‘By using carbon forks and oversize modern profile tubes it’s possible to design a really direct, precise, stiff front end.’

With that in mind, the Izoard is certainly no traditional steel cruiser, but in Carr’s view is every bit the aggressive road race machine.

For a bike that looks almost more like rolling jewellery or artwork, and one that was fawned over by at least a dozen passers-by during my test rides, that promise of performance is vital to making this more than just a cafe bike.

Hard and fast rules

Before my first test run, Carr advised I run the Spin Industries Koppenberg wheels at a lower than normal pressure given the wide rim width – advice that I carelessly tossed aside.

As a result my first ride on the Izoard was a little teeth-chattering. As is often the case with performance steel, you can’t expect the soft and forgiving ride that the metal is traditionally associated with – the Condor Super Acciaio and the Genesis Volare are both examples of how stiff steel can be.

Thankfully, the Spoon Izoard is not as stiff as those frames, and with a careful readjustment of tyre pressure I found it relatively comfortable.

The Izoard’s slightly stiff ride did have ample rewards, though. Mainly that it is blisteringly fast.

Having ridden aero speed machines and time-trial bikes in recent months, the Izoard did not feel slow by comparison.

In fact I was constantly forgetting that it was not a carbon frame, and the many bystanders who asked me about it didn’t have a clue.

With its seamless fillet brazed joints, internal cabling and sizeable tubes, it’s a doppleganger for a classic carbon custom steed.

I happily kept up on even the fastest of chaingang rides on the Izoard, and found that it held speed like a middling aerodynamic build, aided by the slippery 3T Aeronova handlebars and deep section wheelset – after all, the frame is only part of the aerodynamic puzzle.

It’s no surprise that the geometry sits on the racy side, too. Although it looks quite tall, the head tube measures 160mm from the external edge of the Chris King bearings, against a 565mm top tube.

That makes for a long and low stance that will have most riders sitting in an aggressive position.

The bike also showed strong form on climbs. To my amazement, on an ascent of my favourite local 3km climb I posted my fastest time in years, only seconds off my PB from my fitter days.

With a chunky 1,700g frame weight and hefty deep section wheels, it certainly wasn’t down to the low weight of the Izoard, but rather a very stiff rear end that transfers power with striking efficiency to the road.

When it came to handling, the Izoard’s rigid build provided very direct feedback from the road, a big asset for gauging grip in corners.

The wide head tube and carbon fork made for predictable and enjoyable descending, and the Challenge Criterium open tubular tyres complemented that handling quality well, providing a natural traction that made them feel more like a tubular tyre than a clincher.

Feel the steel

I was left feeling that if this were my own custom project I would tweak it slightly. Most likely I’d request a little more comfort dialled in with the geometry and tubing choice, and possibly a higher front end.

That’s not to pick flaws in the Izoard, which is perfectly geared to road racing, but for me I’d want this to be a bike for life and I’m not sure my back will be forgiving enough to allow such a slammed position in years to come.

Looking to the future, Carr has designs that incorporate a carbon seat tube and integrated carbon seatpost, which could add some vital vertical deflection to the ride while cutting some weight.

But, of course, I’d obviously keep this paintjob – it was a winner all round.

In terms of what Carr wants the Izoard to be, it hits the spot remarkably well, proving that custom steel can compete in performance terms with carbon even while being pitched at a similar price.

More broadly, Spoon shows that while the focus is perpetually on carbon, steel has been quietly coming on in leaps and bounds.

For a reasonable price, cutting-edge tubing can create a high-performance ride that’s enhanced with the customisation and longevity offered by steel.

What’s more, great steel frames just look rad, if you’ll excuse the expression.

Spec

Spoon Izoard RR
Frame Columbus steel, carbon forks
Groupset Campagnolo Super Record
Brakes Campagnolo Super Record
Chainset Campagnolo Super Record
Cassette Campagnolo Super Record
Bars 3T Aeronova Team
Stem 3T Arx Ltd Carbon
Seatpost 3T Ionic 25 LTD
Wheels Spin Industries Koppenberg XXLR 50 Fat Boy carbon clinchers
Saddle Brooks England Cambium C13
Weight 7.4kg (56cm)
Contact spooncustoms.com

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