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Hersh Disc review

29 Feb 2016
Verdict:

You need to look beyond the spec and beneath the surface to reveal the secret of the Hersh Disc's frame

Pop quiz. What do the following acronyms stand for? (1) Nasa (2) Scuba (3) Quango (4) Laser (5) Hersh. Answers on the bottom. OK, I’ll give you one now: Hersh. When I first encountered the brand, I assumed that Hersh was the surname of an ageing Italian master framebuilder who used to create bespoke bikes for pros in the 1960s that were rebranded with the logos of a major bike marque in order to avoid sponsorship conflicts, but who then set up shop for himself when all the big brands shipped production to the Far East. That seems to be the story of most small, Italian-built bike brands, but is actually not the case with Hersh. The company set up in 2009 and the name turns out to be an acronym for History, Energy, Research and development, Sport and High level. Catchy. 

Jigs for hire

Hersh Disc front end

Many bikes these days are rather expensive, and many customers are prepared to pay very large sums to get the bike of their dreams. But that doesn’t mean value isn’t a consideration, even with top-end brands, and with the Hersh Disc I initially couldn’t square the spec sheet with the price. Mechanical Ultegra? Alloy seatpost? In-house wheels? 60tpi tyres? A saddle that can be bought from a large online retailer for less than £18? How do these components add up to a bike with an overall pricetag of £4,895?

That’s not to denigrate any of those individual components, but for almost five grand I’d expect a lot more. To find out what was going on I got in touch with the UK distributor, Ben Higgins, and all became clear. This is no ordinary frame. 

‘Hersh has a core range of frames all entirely handmade in Italy. It’s tube-to-tube construction by a renowned framebuilder, and as such the Disc is fully custom, from the geometry to the ride tuning to the bottom bracket preference,’ Higgins says. ‘It’s all included in the frame price: £2,450.’

Solidity is spread throughout the frame and translates to a comfortable robustness.

Suddenly things didn’t seem so strange. Yes, £2,450 is an awful lot of money for a frameset, but in bespoke bicycle terms it’s actually not that crazy. Especially when you know that the ‘renowned framebuilder’ is Sarto.

Tailor made

Hersh Disc rear mech

It seems odd to be reviewing one bike brand then to start talking about a separate manufacturer, but where the Hersh Disc is concerned it’s necessary. While the name on the down tube is Hersh, the manufacturer of the bike frame is Sarto, and as soon as I discovered this fact, it fired up my interest in the bike. 

Sarto (named after it’s founder Antonio Sarto, and appositely meaning ‘tailor’ in Italian) has been making frames since the 1950s. Go to the Sarto facility just outside Venice and you’ll see a group of highly skilled framebuilders making frames from scratch. They are far from cheap, but having ridden two Sartos previously – the superlight Asola (rebadged as a Nerve 600SL) and the aero-road Sarto Lampo – I’d say they are worth the money, even considering these frames cost north of £3,000 each. 

To some, the idea that a bike brand doesn’t make its own frames but gets them from another supplier down the road might sound like cheating, but the truth is that this goes on in almost every industry, and especially in the bicycle market. Have a scout around the internet and you might be surprised to learn which company has really, physically made your bike. More importantly, if the end result is that you get a truly high quality product, does it really matter what the name on the side is?

As far as I have been able to discover through my own detective work and conversations with Higgins, the Hersh Disc is a slightly tweaked version of the Sarto Energia. Many aspects look identical, but there are enough differences to suggest that there has been some additional design input from Hersh. 

Hersh Disc seat stay

The Energia is not a bike I have ridden, but I do know it costs £1,150 more than the Hersh Disc and has some telling differences. These include a slightly bowed top tube, the option of bolt-thru axles and, notably, different carbon fibres in the shape of higher modulus M46J in the Sarto Energia, and intermediate modulus T800 fibres in the Hersh Disc. In other words, although they look very similar, the Energia is made from classier ingredients. That’s not to detract from the Hersh Disc, however. As a frameset it’s still a high-end piece of craftsmanship from a highly reputable source. Finding out how good the frame is proved to be a tricky task, though.

Hersh but fair

Eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted a difference in the spelling of ‘Disck’ on the frame pictured and ‘Disc’ written here. That’s because the bike I’ve been testing is a prototype, albeit identical to one a customer would receive. It arrived with mismatched rotors, a medium-cage rear mech when a short cage would have been preferable, stripped-back bars and stem but not seatpost (these are Deda components with the logos removed), tyres and saddle that felt out of their depth and, to top
it all off, contaminated (read: useless) rear disc pads.

Hersh Disc off road

Since the Hersh Disc is a frameset first and foremost there’s part of me that feels uncomfortable laying in to the components, but there’s no escaping that the low-end tyres from Velowurth (yep, me neither), poorly set up brakes and heavy wheels (which look suspiciously similar to some budget carbon imports I’ve seen) put a dampener on my experiences with the Disc. 

The tyres made the Disc feel untrustworthy through corners, the heavy wheels were sluggish up hills and the contaminated pads made the brakes excessively noisy. Yet despite all this, I liked riding the Disc. It had the same quality I found in the Sarto Lampo, namely a refined, smooth feel. It’s pretty stiff through the bottom bracket – if less so when wrenching hard on the bars in a sprint – and this solidity is spread throughout the frame and translates to a comfortable robustness. 

As a climbing or sprint machine there are better bikes, but for long, mid-tempo outings the Disc was a fine enough companion, and given a more considered component list it could even be rather brilliant. However, as with the Chesini GP (reviewed here: Chesini GP review) the world of the bespoke bike is becoming more competitive than ever, which makes swearing allegiance to Hersh that much harder.

Spec

Hersh Disc approx. £4,895 as tested
Frame Hersh Disc
Groupset Shimano Ultegra 6800
Brakes Shimano RS685 hydraulic discs
Bars Deda Zero 100
Stem Deda Zero 100
Seatpost Deda Zero 100
Wheels Hersh 50mm carbon disc
Saddle Selle Italia X1
Contact rosasport.co.uk

Answers: (1) National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2) Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (3) Quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation (4) Light amplification by simulated emission of radiation

Price: 
£2,450 (frame)

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