New builder Sonnet was only set up in January 2017 and, judging by the serial number, this was the very first track bike to roll off its artisanal production line. The frames – either custom geometry or off the peg – are built in Europe, and then finished and built in Hackney, East London.
The Columbus SL Spirit-tubed MkII Track is a lovely piece of machinery that’s been finished to bike-show standard: the polished lugs are exemplary and the metallic/sapphire blue paintjob shows off the subtly shaped tubes in the stays and the downtube that are rolled to increase strength and performance. Sonnet draws its inspiration from the old-fashioned Italian race bikes of cycling’s golden generation. So as befits the frame and its finish, it’s tastefully attired throughout. The negative-rising Nitto quill stem, matching compact drop bars and the Rolls saddle all evoke performance components of yesteryear.
The drilled-out TRP brake levers are matched to Campagnolo (what else?) Potenza brakes, which are the best on test by a country mile. They bite into old-fashioned but rock-solid Mavic Open Pro wheels (Sapim spokes, Miche Primato hubs) that are hand-built by renowned wheel-builder Harry Rowland. They’re not the flashiest of wheels, but in the normal course of events with a truing here and there, these wheels should last until the rims wear out years into the future.
At the back, the freewheel is a White Industries ENO unit, which as well as being one of the best on the market, sounds delicious, like an expensive fly reel spooling out line. The fixed gear is an Andel unit. Again, these are components chosen to last.
As for the ride, the Columbus SL frameset is on the firm side, but the big plus is that it moves along nicely when you stamp on the pedals. The stiff gearing of a 48x18 (72gi) is marvellous to look at, but it does mean building momentum is sometimes a struggle for out-of-shape thighs.
At £1,499 for the frameset alone, it’s a serious investment but this is a bike built for purpose. Its track credentials mean the ride isn’t as forgiving as the Genesis and Temple but, with these looks, it’s still easy to love.