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WyndyMilla Massive Attack SL review

11 Sep 2015
Verdict:

Can WyndyMilla, the modest brand from Surrey, be a world-beater on the sportive stage? The Massive Attack SL certainly made us think so.

Price: 
£3,400 (frame & fork)

We first tested a WyndyMilla back in 2013. That was its aluminium-framed Beastie Boy, and now it’s the turn of the carbon Massive Attack SL. Company co-founder and frame designer Henry Furniss admits the names are based on the bands whose music inspires him (also in the WyndyMilla range are the Lightning Seed and the Foo Fighter). And for the record, the company name is clearly borrowed from the Windy Miller character in Camberwick Green and Trumpton, with the alternative spelling derived from the founders’ names: Henry Wynd(y)ham Furniss and Nasima Camilla Siddiqui.

WyndyMilla can lay claim to something that was once the preserve of brands such as Colnago and Pinarello – all its frames are handmade in Italy. Ironically, those Italian brands can no longer say the same now that most of their bikes are built in the Far East. Each fully custom-built WyndyMilla frame begins life with a bike fitting and consultation in Surrey, but is handcrafted near Venice.

Preferring simple round tubes for the tube-to-tube construction technique he employs for the build, Furniss says, ‘It’s the best solution we’ve found for made-to-measure frames where you can still maintain tight control on the ride feel. As soon as you start playing with aero tube shapes, for starters you’re adding weight. The aero frames we’ve built seem to sit at around 1.3kg, plus you often compromise somewhere on stiffness, whether that be losing some or ending up too stiff.’

WyndyMilla Massive Attack SL seatstays

Keeping weight to a minimum is a priority for a bike with a name suffixed by ‘SL’ for ‘superlight’ and the Massive Attack SL frame (size 56cm, painted) tops the scales at around 850g, a significant chunk lighter than the standard Massive Attack at approx 990g, thanks mostly, Furniss tells me, to using a more expensive resin in order to reduce the amount required.

‘It’s not crazy “weight-weenie” light, but it’s a lightweight bike with no compromises,’ says Furniss. ‘We haven’t built it with Kevlar cables or carbon chainrings or anything like that to chase after every single gram, and it’s still only 6.8kg [56cm] including pedals. We could take the SL down to 6.3kg just by slotting in a set of light carbon tubular wheels.’

The target audience is what Furniss calls the ‘competitive sportive market’, where riders want a super-light build to give them an advantage in Alpine events, but one that also rides really well in the real world. For me, the real world is the country lanes around Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire, so that’s where I headed to put the Massive Attack SL through its paces.

Brake from the norm

A completely round-tubed build in carbon is a rare sight these days, but I’m a sucker for this classic look, so the Massive Attack SL instantly appealed to me. In a more modern twist, this latest addition to WyndyMilla’s range has been designed with a direct-mount rear brake under the chainstays. This made me uneasy. My experiences aboard similar bikes (all top-tier brands) have been disappointing, because the brake pads tend to rub against the wheel during hard, out-of-the-saddle efforts. So my first pedal revolutions on the Massive Attack SL were tentative, and I fully expected to hear the same annoying ‘tsh, tsh, tsh’ from the brake blocks during my standing efforts. Joyfully, all that happened when I stomped down hard on the pedals was the bike shot forwards with startling urgency. No noise came from the rear wheel or brake. I tried again, harder, but still silence. While I still believe that the bottom bracket is not the best location for the rear brake, WyndyMilla has achieved something that, so far, no other brand I’ve ridden has managed.

WyndyMilla Massive Attack SL bottom bracket

On the matter of the brake position, Furniss says, ‘Most brands simply inject more resin into the area where they want to drill the holes for the direct-mount brake calliper. We moulded a completely new set of chainstays with the sole purpose of taking a direct-mount brake. If anything we’ve probably overbuilt the chainstays. But that’s better than rubbing brakes, which would drive you mad. We’ve opted for a Dura-Ace rear brake, despite the Sram kit elsewhere, because it’s simply, in my opinion, the best brake for the job. Also the seatstays are almost completely solid. The UCI rules do not permit solid tubes, but ours only have a tiny hole up the middle.’

I’m certain another reason for the lack of brake rub is the choice of Shimano Dura-Ace steel quick-release skewers – no light and flexy titanium QRs here – to ensure a solid connection for the wheels in the dropouts, which at the rear are also reinforced with aluminium inserts. The quality of the wheels also helps. Zipp’s 202 Firecrests are hard to beat as all-rounders – light and laterally stiff, they play a big part in the bike’s oomph.

Hard Cheddar

The resounding impression the Massive Attack SL leaves is of a really solid build, with the front end matching up to the impressive rear-end stiffness, such that the bike feels balanced and incredibly responsive.

WyndyMilla Massive Attack SL review

For a competitive sportive bike, the real test is in how well it climbs, and for me the Massive Attack SL really shone on the hills. It’s a climber’s dream, flattering every effort against gravity. I particularly enjoyed a trip up through the picturesque Cheddar Gorge on one ride, where its usually sapping gradients seemed much less tiresome aboard the WyndyMilla. I was also aware that I spent a lot more time riding hard in the drops than I do on most other test bikes – a reflection both on its aggressive persona plus, rather fortuitously (given it was not custom made for me), the fact that the geometry was perfect for my preferred riding style. Indeed, if I bought one and had free rein to customise it how I liked, I don’t think I’d change much at all. Perhaps I’d consider a skinnier seatpost diameter to potentially soak up a touch more of the road vibration, but that’s about it.

It’s got a lot of what I want from a bike, paired with a beautifully traditional aesthetic that’s hard not to appreciate given the high quality of the finish. I’d happily thrash it around a mountainous sportive any day.

Spec

WyndyMilla Massive Attack SL £6,760 as tested
Frame WyndyMilla Massive Attack SL
Groupset SRAM Red
Brakes SRAM Red, Shimano Dura Ace Direct Mount rear
Chainset SRAM Red
Cassette SRAM Red
Bars Zipp Service Course SL80
Stem Zipp Service Course SL
Seatpost Zipp Service Course SL
Wheels Zipp 202 Firecrest
Tyres Continental GP4000S II
Saddle Fizik Antares
Contact wyndymilla.com

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