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Thompson Maestro Carbon Ultegra review

11 Jun 2018
Verdict:

A comfortable sportive machine from a lesser known brand, but it might leave you wanting on the hills

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£2949
For 
• Custom paint options • Fast on the flat • Comfortable
Against 
• Can lack a bit of zip on ascents • The wheels don't like stopping in the wet

The Thompson Maestro arrived in the Cyclist office in the early spring, ready for testing but before diving into talking about the bike, it's worth looking at the brand, one many in the UK won't be familiar with.

Belgian since 1921

Thompson is a Belgian brand that's been making bikes since 1921, but is lesser known outside of the Benelux area than its history might lead a rider to expect.

The brand was founded in the town of Geraardsbergen, famous for its cobbled Muur. The town and the climb are known to anyone with a passing interest in the Tour of Flanders, and it is at that race that Thompson bikes found early success.

In the 1942 edition of that race was won atop a Thompson by 'Iron' Briek Schotte.

Here in the UK, the brand is hosted in a number of independent shops around the country, one of which is Destination Bike over the top of Box Hill.

A great alternative to the melee at the climb's summit, this bike shop and cafe is a good place to see Thompson bikes and get an idea of the many different custom paint options.

It's those paint options that form the basis of Thompson's custom approach, which gives customers the chance to design the look of their bike, before it's built and delivered in around four to six weeks.

All of Thompson's carbon road bikes and framesets are hand-sprayed and assembled in Belgium according to each customer’s requirements.

The brand offers an online configurator which allows customers to design their own colourways from a range of colour options.

After that, each bike is built to the rider's desired specification; incuding the choice of carbon or alloy wheels, any Shimano groupset, gear ratios, disc or rim brakes, bar width and stem length.

Thompson is keen to push this custom element and entices would-be customers with the possibility of having a bike that won't match any other at their next sportive or on the club run.

The bikes are aimed solidly at the sportive market, which is no bad thing, as the brand's mission has been to deliver bikes 'with more relaxed positioning and confidence-inspiring geometry; bikes that deliver speed and agility whilst adding a degree of extra comfort.'

With those aims in mind, I received a Thompson Maestro for review.

Thompson Maestro review

The Thompson Maestro was designed with a focus on speed, a trickle-down outcome of the brand's previous glory in crit racing.

The Maestro is constructed from high modulus 3K woven Toray Carbon, the result of which is a stiff and efficient frame, but it does give some ground when it comes to weight.

Coming in at 7.87kg (without pedals), it's hardly a heavyweight, but that 900g or so over other bikes could be felt on inclines.

I found that it accelerated well on the flat and was able to hold its speed, particularly through corners and on descents, but lost its edge slightly when the road headed upwards.

The frame

As is the case with any modern road bike, there is always a balance to be struck between stiff, light and aero. The third of these was never a lead consideration as the bike is positioned for all day comfort rather than breakaway glory, so emphasis is on the other two factors.

That's not to say it's overly sluggish in a headwind, but attention appears to have been more focused elsewhere.

The bike's weight has been touched on above, and the additional grams feel like a worthy price for just how stiff the frame is.

Tied to the stiffness is a level of handling that is almost on a par with that I have experienced on much higher end bikes such as the Ridley Helium SLX, another Belgian bike.

The thin seatstays are the source of the bike's comfort and I would be glad to take on a century ride or tough sportive on this bike.

Wheels and gears

The Maestro came with the brand's own Carbon TRC FCC040 Rim Brake Wheelset. These wheels can take some of the credit for the bike's flat speed as the mid-depth allowed them to slip through the air with relative ease.

However, despite the inclusion of Swiss Stop carbon brake pads, braking in the wet was far from assured and the pads could take a little while to bite on the carbon rim.

The build I was testing came with the latest Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset, which meant tranmission – when set-up correctly – is faultless, which was even more essential when rapidly clicking through the gears when bringing the bike up to top speed.

The ride

On a dry day, taking on a flat ride, this bike clipped along at a satisfying speed, taking what power I could muster and using it to propel rider and bike forward.

On wet days, as mentioned before, the story was slightly different. Added caution was needed and longer braking distances were necessary to give the brakes time to slow the slippery carbon rims.

In terms of comfort, the bike excels and would see any rider right for a full day in the saddle. That's not the say it's a slouch, though, and the speed/comfort balance is about right for a bike of this specification.

Conclusion

The Thompson Maestro Carbon Ultegra road bike is a machine I would have liked to ride more during its time with me as it was pretty fun to ride and never left me looking to end a ride early in the way an over-aggressive racer might.

With individuality available through the custom colour options and the personal touch of buying in person from a hand-picked independent retailer, Thompson is a brand worth looking at when seeking out a new bike.

Not faultless, but pretty solid in all the right areas, the Thompson Maestro would suit the vast majority of riders for a summer of long rides and challenging sportives.

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