Bike Lane

Look­ing for a bike that can take on just about any­thing you can think of? The Aussie-de­signed Cell Brunswick 1.0 has more than a few tricks up its al­loy sleeves.

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Contents - Words & Pho­tos TIM ROB­SON

Cy­cle tour­ing, new MTBs and bike tests

THE CY­CLING IN­DUS­TRY loves a sub­cat­e­gory to head­line a new mar­ket­ing cam­paign. Add a jazzy name, a few bright colours and voila, a new sup­pos­edly must-have seg­ment is born.

The thing is most of these newly in­vented la­bels have al­ready been around the block once or twice, and choos­ing the right bike still comes down to analysing just what you want to do with it.

Aus­tralian cy­cling mail or­der house and re­tailer Cell Bikes has re­sisted the urge to call a spade a long-han­dled ma­te­rial dis­place­ment com­po­nent, mar­ket­ing its Brunswick as a cy­clocross ma­chine first and fore­most. The Brunswick can, how­ever, do a lot more than just pedal around a muddy field in the mid­dle of win­ter; in fact, it’s a rather bril­liant, af­ford­able ad­ven­ture bike that can do a host of jobs.

Based around an al­loy frame and car­bon fork, the Brunswick isn’t an off-the-peg de­sign. Cell Bikes prod­uct man­ager and bike de­signer Dave Mus­grove has hand-picked the com­po­nent set, di­men­sions and even the frame’s tube thick­nesses to of­fer a ma­chine that re­ally de­fies its $1200 price tag.

It’s a great look­ing rig out of the box, too – and un­less you buy your Cell from one of the com­pany’s Syd­ney or Mel­bourne out­lets, that’s how you’ll get yours, by the way. The sub­tle grey paint is well ap­plied and the low-key de­cals off­set it per­fectly. It’s well bolted to­gether with de­cent fit­tings, but don’t for­get to get it ser­viced after a few weeks; this first tweak is the most im­por­tant of any bike’s life, and will save you money in the long run.

This is the sec­ond go-around for the Brunswick, and it’s been up­dated with a few key changes for 2016, not least in the area of tyre clear­ance. It comes with a set of 700c x 31 tyres as stock, but our tester has been equipped with a pair of ul­tra-wide tube­less Maxxis Ram­bler 700c x 40 knob­blies, and there’s still room to spare around the fork crown and rear stays for even chunkier hoops.

The al­loy wheelset is built for strength, not weight sav­ings, but the stain­less steel spokes and brass nip­ples of the 28-hole build are a nice touch. The spokes on our tester’s wheels set­tled and loos­ened a lit­tle after a few rough kilo­me­tres, but came back into true very eas­ily; an im­por­tant point if you plan to head back­coun­try. Disc-equipped wheels, too, can han­dle more of a wob­ble than a rim-braked ver­sion with­out mo­men­tum-sap­ping rub.

Equipped with Avid ca­ble disc brakes and a clever mix of SRAM Apex road and GX moun­tain bike 10-speed groupset parts, the Brunswick’s fin­ish­ing gear is all in-house branded stuff, which works very well. The com­pact drop bars are well shaped, the four-bolt forged stem is neatly de­signed and the nar­row di­am­e­ter seat post of­fers some flex to iron out road and trail chat­ter. Even the stock sad­dle is pretty good out of the box.

Neat touches abound, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to carry three bot­tles, a full com­ple­ment of front and rear rack mounts, drillings for mud­guards and fully en­closed ca­ble hous­ings that run un­derneath the down tube. This is a nod to the bike’s fo­cus as a cy­clocross racer, where rid­ers of­ten have to hoist the bike up on a shoul­der to jump over ob­sta­cles.

It’s avail­able in five sizes from small through medium, medium/large, large and XL; our large tester was al­most spot on for our pair of 180cm-plus testers. It feels short in the top tube even with a set­back seat post in place, and one tester com­plained of toe over­lap with the front tyre – a sign that the front-centre mea­sure­ment may be too small for the rider, de­spite what the size chart sug­gests.

Out in the real world, the 11kg Cell is about 3kg weight­ier than a typ­i­cal road bike, but nowhere near as hefty as a sim­i­larly equipped and priced moun­tain bike. Its wider tyres can be run at up to 75psi, but a lower fig­ure of 60psi pro­vides the Brunswick with a lively, quiet ride that doesn’t drag on hard-packed gravel or rough tar­mac.

Its slen­der seat post and padded sad­dle also take the sting out of the rear-end, while the car­bon-fi­bre fork does an ad­mirable job of iso­lat­ing the hands from chat­ter. We’d re­place the stock thin bar tape with a thicker, more padded prod­uct (and even run gel in­serts un­derneath the bar tops) for even more com­fort, but it cer­tainly isn’t painful out of the box.

The Brunny gets a fair clip go­ing along firm packed gravel and dirt roads thanks to a nice wide range of gears, and the ca­ble-ac­tu­ated disc brakes are a great ad­di­tion, re­quir­ing a lot less hand ef­fort

to bring your speeds back down.

Drop bars and road bike-style levers are a bit trick­ier to use in twistier ter­rain, but we belted the Brunswick around our lo­cal sin­gle­track with no drama, sur­pris­ing the rid­ers of more off-road ori­en­tated ma­chines in the process.

Apart from a few spokes that needed tweak­ing and a rear wheel skewer that didn’t want to be­have, we’re strug­gling to crit­i­cise the Brunswick, es­pe­cially for the money. Some per­son­al­i­sa­tion of bar tape and sad­dle wouldn’t hurt, and swap­ping in Avid BB7 brake calipers for the stock BB5 units would give a bit more ad­justa­bil­ity out in the field – but it’s a tweak, not an is­sue.

The Brunswick is a real Swiss Army knife of a ma­chine. Sim­ply by swap­ping the tyres for ones with a nar­rower, smoother tread pat­tern (not as easy as it used to be thanks to tube­less sealant etc.) you will cre­ate a bril­liant long-dis­tance tour­ing rig that can cut it on both tar­mac and gravel. Add racks and pan­niers, and its me­chan­i­cal sim­plic­ity and rel­a­tive af­ford­abil­ity make for an ideal tour­ing com­pan­ion, and throw­ing on some lights and mud­guards gives you a top-line com­muter rig that can han­dle the cut and thrust of in­ner-city war­fare.

The model you see here has been a smash hit al­ready – so much so that Dave tells us an up­dated midyear ver­sion is on the way.

Clock­wise from above The Brunswick is com­fort­able off-road; and equally at ease when set up as a long dis­tance tourer; the driv­e­train is a mix of SRAM’s Apex road grouppo and MTB-ori­ented GX parts; chunky Maxxis Ram­bler 700c x 40 tyres; the frame is well fin­ished and built to last.

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