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Heroïn HR review

3 Jun 2020
Verdict:

Heroin's second attempt at the perfect bike gets much closer to the goal, but has a little ground still to cover

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
A superbike in performance terms • European-made • Slick aesthetics • Impressive customisation
Against 
Lacks the ingenuity of similarly priced custom frames • Expensive

Heroïn is the lovechild of ultra-wealthy French businessman Marc Simoncini and design engineer Remi Chenu, a veteran of the bike industry. The pair joined forces in 2013 with the goal of creating the ‘perfect bike’, and by 2016 had unveiled the Heroïn H1.

The concept of a ‘perfect’ bicycle is open to interpretation, but I’d say they didn’t get too close to it with the H1. It was a solid bike, but no better than many others and dizzyingly expensive at £13,000.

This latest offering from Heroïn, the HR, is still hardly one for the penny-pinchers at over £10,000, but I’d argue that it is a superior bike to the H1 at a price that at least puts it alongside other top-end models in the superbike market.

Naming rights

While Heroïn has certainly done some impressive work, there’s one thing that niggles. Simoncini says the name of the brand reflects that it sells ‘a pure product that gives you so much pleasure you can’t quit it’.

Personally, I find that a bit offensive. While I’m sure it’s meant to make the brand edgy, I’m not sure I’d want to be associated with a drug that’s best known for destroying lives.

 

Name aside, though, there’s a lot to like. For starters, the bikes are made entirely in Europe; the HR frame is fabricated in Italy and the bike is assembled in France.

It’s not that I have an issue with bikes made in the Far East – manufacturers there are now some of the best in the world – but when buying into an artisan brand such as Heroïn, I think knowing that the frame is made more locally is a big bonus.

The process of developing the H1 and HR was a long one, involving numerous prototypes over three years. The prototypes can still be seen in Heroïn’s workshop in Mougins, near Nice.

Buy now from Heroin Cycles now.

The bike’s finish is premium quality and, for me, the dimples are both aesthetically pleasing and reassuringly technical. ‘It took nearly three years of development, testing and 3D printing, plus dozens of tooling innovations, to successfully produce this “golf ball” texture,’ Simoncini says.

The dimples are designed to create a turbulent boundary layer of air that leads to a smaller vortex of air behind the tube, thus reducing drag. Theorists debate the aerodynamic benefits of dimples, but Heroïn claims the frame is verified in the wind-tunnel at the Magny-Cours circuit in France.

Much was previously made of the aerodynamics of the H1’s fork vents (slits down each leg of the fork), but they’ve disappeared on the HR since they proved less effective with the advent of disc brakes. That’s probably for the best, as fork stiffness is key to handling, and keeping things simple never hurts.

On paper, the HR certainly looks the part. We don’t have a wind-tunnel to analyse the benefits of its dimples, but hopefully the road tells all.

 

That’s an HR issue

In terms of all-out speed, the HR is certainly fast. The frame stiffness makes for rapid acceleration, while the neat integration and aerodynamic tubing means it holds speed well up at 40-50kmh.

I was convinced by the aerodynamics quite quickly, although I doubt the HR is quite up to the level of a Trek Madone or Specialized Venge. It was the rigidity that really impressed me early on, though. The HR offers a platform so stable it feels as if you can just spin freely on the pedals and the bike will leap up to speed.

There’s almost no sense of fighting against the mass of the bike. The stiffness element is apparent in the handling too. The HR was stable, sharp and always highly reactive, aided by the rigid and tactile handlebars.

The reason for that stiffness may be down to material. Heroïn says it uses the rather expensive Torayca M46J carbon fibre in the frame. That’s potentially both a good and a bad thing.

While a fibre like M46J is a high-modulus aerospace-grade carbon fibre, meaning it’s extremely rigid, it has much less strength than intermediate fibres such as Toray T800, making it brittle. My suspicion is that it is probably used strategically rather than all over the frame.

While the HR delivers a healthy rumble through the frame, it manages a pleasing level of comfort – enough to swallow up some of the nastier cracks and potholes of my local lanes, while falling short of a truly comfort-oriented Classics bike. Mind you, the integration of discs has opened the possibility for wider tyres, and there’s certainly ample space for comfier 28mm rubber.

The ride quality would best be described as refined and mature. Essentially, it’s just enjoyable to ride, whether accelerating out of the saddle, descending at the limit (helped enormously by the disc brakes) or simply coasting. Long climbs were aided by the HR’s impressively low build weight of 7.06kg (very light indeed for an aero disc build) and the general stiffness of the frame. I found that tough rides flew by on the HR.

 

Given the HR’s aerodynamic curves, I assumed it would be made from a few moulded sections as most ‘monocoque’ carbon frames are. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Heroïn can provide the HR in near-custom geometry at no extra cost, by offering a wide range of options for tube lengths and angles. 

Just be aware that some of the handling characterisics could potentially be lost should you choose to stray from the stock geometry that I rode.

For stock frames, Heroïn offers customisation of the stem length, handlebar width and of course all of the usual component choices at no extra cost.

So does the Heroïn HR really stack up against the best superbikes on the market? In performance terms I’d say it does. Its ride quality is not unlike the S-Works Venge, and there’s no doubt it’s fast (if lacking the all-out speed of the Venge).

Heroïn has a unique boutique identity yet also embraces the future, placing it alongside names such as Bastion and Rolo. Right now, however, I would be hard pressed to choose a Heroïn over either of those brands, not through any failing of the HR, but simply because those brands set the bar so high.

Depending on what Heroïn comes up with next, though, I’m open to being convinced.

 

Spec

Frame Heroïn HR
Groupset Sram Red eTap HRD
Brakes Sram Red eTap HRD
Chainset Sram Red eTap HRD
Cassette Sram Red eTap HRD
Bars Heroïn integrated bar/stem  
Stem Heroïn integrated bar/stem
Seatpost Heroïn carbon fibre
Saddle Heroïn standard
Wheels DT Swiss PRC 1400, Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance Black Limited Edition 25mm tyres
Weight 7.06kg (size L)
Contact heroin-bikes.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£10,339 (£4,920 frameset only)

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