£2949.99 › Life in the fast lane

Cycling Plus - - ROAD TEST -

Rid­ers of a cer­tain age may re­call when Holdsworth was one of the finest Bri­tish bike man­u­fac­tur­ers, with steel machines be­ing raced by prom­i­nent rid­ers. Sadly the orig­i­nal com­pany fell by the way­side sev­eral years ago, but the brand has been res­ur­rected by cur­rent owner Planet X, and of­fers qual­ity steel frames in keep­ing with Holdsworth’s her­itage.

The Strada was de­signed by Mark Reilly [of Reilly Cy­cle Works, p53], and is built from Reynolds 953 stain­less steel. It’s TIG welded be­fore be­ing highly pol­ished, apart from its matt de­tail­ing, and the enamel painted brass W.F Holdsworth head­tube badge that adds au­then­tic­ity. An over­sized head-tube is a use­ful con­ces­sion to mod­ern cycling, hous­ing the car­bon fork’s ta­pered steerer and 1.5in lower head­set bear­ing, but be­hind it, ev­ery tube is slim and round, apart from the sub­tly ovalised chain­stays, which are crimped to pro­vide clear­ance for 28mm tyres.

Op­pos­ing the vin­tage-look­ing frame are the char­coal and black com­po­nents that make it go. A com­pact Shi­mano Ul­te­gra groupset with 50/34 up front and 11-32 at the back en­sure no hills are out of reach, and an­other Planet X brand, Sel­cof, pro­vides the car­bon fork and seat­post plus alu­minium cock­pit. The com­plete bike price is one of the high­est, but it’s still im­pres­sive that it in­cludes a Ful­crum Rac­ing Zero wheelset with ce­ramic bear­ings, some­thing guar­an­teed to lift the per­for­mance of any bike.

Our large model is sec­ond light­est on test at 7.88kg, pos­si­bly be­cause of its larger cas­sette and al­loy bar, and on the road its low mass shows. The ef­fect the Ful­crums have on per­for­mance is con­sid­er­able, their thick, bladed spokes, milled rims and rigid­ity guar­an­tee slick progress. Hutchin­son’s Fu­sion 5 25mm tyres roll well and of­fer de­cent grip.

An over­sized head-tube is a use­ful con­ces­sion to mod­ern cycling

The 15cm head-tube and 57cm equiv­a­lent top-tube com­bine clas­sic looks with the op­tion of a long, low rid­ing po­si­tion. From the first me­tres there’s some­thing spe­cial about this frame, as it bounds up the road. Ev­ery ped­alling in­put has a more no­tice­able ef­fect on for­ward mo­tion than any other bike on test.

Un­doubt­edly the Ful­crums ac­count for some of this, and when out of the sad­dle, driv­ing against the rigid wheels while push­ing down on the ped­als cre­ates a def­i­nite spring that seems to whip the bike for­wards be­tween pedal strokes. We’re not talk­ing tram­po­line here, it’s not elastic in the ma­te­rial sense, but is sim­i­lar to the feel­ing you get from your first ride on oval chain rings, where the bike’s re­sponse seems to ac­cel­er­ate within each rev­o­lu­tion. It’s pretty ad­dic­tive though, and very ef­fec­tive, en­sur­ing the Strada clips along at a very non-vin­tage pace.

The frame’s dy­namic na­ture makes it very talk­a­tive, with braille-like sur­face commentary help­ing when things get twisty. Its 73-de­gree par­al­lel an­gles are an ideal blend of sta­bil­ity at all speeds and com­posed cor­ner carv­ing, with no nasty sur­prises when you need to change line mid-bend. Not only is the Strada stiff enough to fly, but firm sad­dle aside, it rides the bumps very well too and won’t be shaken from its course. It’s an im­pres­sive spec on an im­pres­sive frame, and our only worry is how of­ten we’ll want to pol­ish it.

Be­low The Holdsworth badge is a sign of the bike’s her­itage Bot­tom Cur­rent owner Planet X in­cludes some of its other brands in the shape of the Sel­cof fork

The Strada’s per­for­mance shines just as brightly as its beau­ti­fully pol­ished frame

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