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Pretorius Outeniqua review

31 Dec 2015
Verdict:

A titanium bike is for life, not just for Christmas and the Pretorius Outeniqua presents a strong case.

Something occurred to me as I began testing the beautifully turned-out Outeniqua from Pretorius Bikes: simply that there has been a fair number of titanium bikes passing through the Cyclist office recently. A flick through recent issues of the magazine reveals a handful of classy ti builds from the likes of Moots, Lynskey, Festka and Legend. Admittedly, the latter two were hybrids of carbon and titanium, but it got me thinking that the attitudes of framebuilders towards this premium metal has evolved considerably. 

There was a time when titanium was predominantly considered the best material for touring or commuting bikes, thanks to its durability and comfortable ride feel, but the bikes we’ve been testing recently have been devoid of mudguard eyelets or rack mounts. These days, in the right hands, titanium is being crafted into high-performance frames.

Pretorius Outeniqua headtube

Pretorius founder Jean-Claude Pretorius is one such exponent of the craft. ‘Thanks to modern influences such as the oversize pressfit 30 bottom bracket shell and 44mm head tube, titanium can now be a real contender as a choice for a race bike and keep pace with carbon in that arena,’ he says. His company is based in London and, although the frame construction takes place in the Far East, there is a home-grown feel to the bikes. 

‘Every bike begins with a coffee and ends with a beer,’ Pretorius says. By that he means that each build starts with a bike fit for the customer, followed by a discussion over coffee about the intricate details, such as the eye-catching ‘sour apple’ green anodised Chris King hubs and headset fitted to this test bike. The beer is reserved for the moment you walk in to collect the finished article, usually two to four weeks later. 

Metal head

By creating his own bike brand, Pretorius is realising a dream and a lifelong passion for titanium. ‘I owned a classic old titanium Colnago back in the day, and I absolutely loved it. I guess I’ve always had a passion for metal bikes,’ he says. 

Pretorius Outeniqua weld

He also claims he resisted the decision to produce frames in Asia, trying to find a UK or Europe-based alternative. To make the venture financially viable, however, he had to settle for just doing the frame finishing processes on home soil – tasks such as the polishing and bead blasting, plus creating neat details such as the removable machined alloy cable stops. 

But arguably it’s these final touches that give the brand its identity. Each frame travels the short distance to Hertfordshire to create the elaborate, contrasting metal finishes that define its logos and graphics. There are no decals, just variations in the frame’s raw material, although for an additional fee you can have custom paint too. My opinion, though, is: why paint something that can be made so beautiful in its natural state? 

Pretorius Outeniqua titanium

So, it’s got the looks, it’s certainly no heavyweight at 7.3kg, and because it’s titanium there should be no concerns about its durability. But can the Outeniqua back up these appealing attributes when it comes to the ride? My past experiences of titanium’s ride quality have often left me feeling that it has a good deal to offer but never truly shines in any one area. Pretorius told me of his recent decision to change to a double-butted tubeset, seeking to make the Outeniqua a more modern Ti bike that feels more alive and with improved feedback for the rider. 

This information, combined with the wide-diameter tubes, meant I wasn’t expecting a flexy ride as I set out to test the bike on some of my tougher, hillier local loops. With a host of challenging climbs at my disposal I was keen to see if the Outeniqua could really feel as lively and handle as sharply as a carbon bike. 

School of hard knocks

Pretorius Outeniqua Chris King

Straight away the solidity of the frame revealed itself. It’s an alpha male of a bike, like a business associate who shakes your hand and tries to crush your fingers. I decided I wasn’t going to be bullied by it, so I tested its macho credentials by charging it up inclines, sprinting for imaginary finish lines and pushing as hard as I dared through the apexes on descents. It held firm, unfaltering, and after more than three hours I had to concede that while the bike could happily do this all day I could not. 

After subsequent rides and more time spent getting to know the Outeniqua (not always tearing around like a madman), I realised there is another, more sympathetic, side to it. You can take pleasure in just simply whiling away some miles on it too.

Pretorius Outeniqua ride

The wheels continually impressed me. Exclusive to Pretorius, the Curve 38mm carbon clincher rims paired with Sapim’s CX Ray spokes and one of the best hubsets money can buy in the Chris King unit, leaves little to be desired in terms of function and looks, but most importantly they rode superbly. Laterally very stiff, just like the frame, they really help to accentuate the feeling of instant power delivery. On the other hand, if you’re not planning to race this bike, the wheels might be the component to reconsider. The overall ride feel was definitely towards the harsher end of the spectrum of any of the titanium bikes I’ve tested previously, and I feel this could be tempered by opting for a different wheelset. But therein lies one of the beauties of custom builds – you have the luxury to spec exactly according to your needs and personal preferences.

I still don’t think I can say the Outeniqua amazed me in any particular regard, but it was an enjoyable bike in many ways and certainly renewed my enthusiasm for titanium, reasserting that Ti can, with the right approach, stand toe to toe with carbon. It might never be the choice of the all-out elite racer, but there’s a great deal more to the pleasure of cycling than just pinning numbers on your jersey, and Pretorius’s titanium custom builds are well worth a look. 

Spec

Pretorius Outeniqua (£5,500 as tested)
Frame Pretorius Outeniqua
Groupset Campagnolo Chorus
Bars Deda Superleggero
Stem Deda Superleggero
Seatpost Deda Superzero
Wheels Curve 38mm on Chris King
Saddle Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio
Contact pretoriusbikes.com
Price: 
£2,250 (frameset)

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