Bowman Palace first look review

UPDATED 12/03/15

I’ve been lucky enough to have been loaned Neil from Bowman Cycles very own Palace to try for a couple of weeks. For those of you who don’t know, Bowman is a new brand to the UK market and the Palace is the first frame to launch, shortly to be followed by the Pilgrims. After only a couple of short rides the Palace has made a good impression with me.

Neil has been around bicycles for decades and indeed I first met him a few years ago when he was a tech writer for UK magazine Cycling Weekly and I took him a NeilPryde Alize to review. I thought from the first meeting that Neil was a smart guy who gets bikes. Not long after that Neil left Cycling Weekly to design bikes in a journey that sees him today running his own new fledging bike company.

The Bowman Cycles website describes the company as producing “performance-centred bicycles frames designed for the discerning cyclist and the competitive bicycle racer”. It further expands by saying their initial concept for the bikes “has matured into a range of bicycle frames designed to provide the ride and performance characteristics that committed cyclists demands. Racers and discerning riders alike have one thing in common: the need for great handling. Get this right and the pleasure of the ride is guaranteed”.

The website then goes on to talk about a passion for bike racing and also that great bikes are about more than just numbers and specifications, things that many of us would agree on.

The Palace is named after the Crystal Palace Crits, a famous London mid-week bike that Neil told me is a technical circuit where a great handling bike can make for a fantastic ride. Neil also stressed that the key aspect of the Palace is that it’s designed to be a great handling bike first and foremost, not a race bike necessarily but a great handling bike that you can ride as hard as you want to, whether you’re racing or just out having a great ride with your mates.

The Bowman Palace is designed here in the UK by Neil and manufactured out of Triple Butted, custom formed 6069-T6 Aluminium in Taiwan. The finish is a smart black anodised finish designed to be tough, with largely teal and white graphics. The frame also includes a full carbon tapered steer fork with 1:1/8th to 1.5 steerer which is becoming standard these days. Also increasingly common and very welcome is clearance for 28mm tyres. There is a PF86 bottom bracket (which helps lower weight), a 27.2mm seatpost – great for a little more compliance and full external routing.

DSC01417The external routing is interesting as many frames now have or are switching to internal routing but I’ve yet to meet a bike mechanic who doesn’t prefer external routing to enable you to get the best mechanical shifting. I say mechanical deliberately as the external routing pretty much precludes Di2 for most people who won’t want to run cabling externally.

The claimed weight for a size 56cm frame is 1200 grams dropping into the territory of other fine aluminium frames like the CAAD10, the Kinesis Aithein, Canyon Ultimate AL SLX or the new Rose Xeon RS. A tough market that shows a resurgence in stonkingly good aluminium frames that the Palace aims to garner a reputation as being similarly impressive.

DSC01406The geometry of the size 56cm bike that Neil’s loaned me features classic 73 degree head and seat angle and a headtube length of 165mm which should work for a lot of people. The site also helpfully lists stack and reach measurements should you need it.

The frameset including frame, fork, headset and seat clamp retails for £650 and can be bought either directly from the Bowman Cycles website or from a number of dealers.

Neil’s bike is built up with SRAM’s top of the range Red groupset, Zipp finishing kit, a fabric saddle and bar tape. The wheels are lightweight aluminium clinchers with wide rims and quality Japanese bearings shod with quality Continental GP4000s in 23mm.

DSC01407It’s a nice build and with the frame weight of 1200 gms, makes for a light bike.

Sadly in my limited time with the bike I only managed two rides on the Palace with a total distance of just over 70km.

DSC01415Even in that time it was possible to tell that it is a bike that handles well and changes direction well with out being nervous or twitchy, in fact it felt well planted on the road. Like any good aluminium frame, the Palace provided good feedback through the bars and saddle in a way that carbon bikes often don’t – it’s a “chatty” ride that gives you feedback on the road surface in a good way. Power transfer seemed fine and I enjoyed riding the bike. I rode it over a range of surfaces and terrain and I was surprised again and again how comfortable it was and how well it handles. The Bowman Palace is also a great descending frame and the light build helped create a bike that likes to go fast and is good fun to push the pace on.

I thoroughly enjoyed my short time with the Bowman Palace. It’s a fine example of an affordable, well designed and manufactured bike and yet more proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a terrific ride.

If you like the look and the price point, in my short time with the Bowman Palace, I can’t find any reason why you shouldn’t go for it if you want to.

If you have any questions or want me to look into any aspect of the bike, please leave a comment and I’d be happy to.

Bowman’s website is here: http://bowman-cycles.com/

Thanks for reading.

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