Urban Cyclist - - Bike Grouptest -

£ 1,499.00

Light Blue’s long as­so­ci­a­tion with Reynolds steel is rep­re­sented on the Dar­win by an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally (for an ad­ven­ture-cum-gravel ma­chine) slen­der 725 dou­ble-butted tube­set. But it’s the frame that’s the star of the show here, offering ev­ery fix­ture and fit­ting you could want on a bike de­signed to tra­verse con­ti­nents or just get you (and your stuff) to work on time. Pro­vi­sion for guards, a rear rack, front low-rider rack, braze-ons for 1x driv­e­trains, a front mech, hub gear ca­bles, hy­draulic hoses, three bot­tle cages, adapt­able dropouts to take ev­ery gear­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion from sin­gle­speed to hub gears… it has it all. That us­abil­ity’s mar­ried to a se­ri­ously ac­com­plished ride. The skinny tube­set could make for a noodly flexy ride but the Dar­win tracks straight and han­dles beau­ti­fully, stay­ing ‘on­line’ over the rock­i­est ter­rain. That it bal­ances this with a lively feel that takes the edge off jar­ring lumps and bumps is im­pres­sive. On the road, the one-by driv­e­train of­fers plenty of range, and the choice of a 46t front ring means the Dar­win has plenty of top-end speed po­ten­tial when the road heads down­wards. The mas­sive 38c tyres have a chevron tread pat­tern that rolls well on tar­mac but isn’t the fastest feel­ing. Off road it’s a sim­i­lar mixed story. The large vol­ume means plenty of com­fort and, run at lower pres­sures, de­cent grip over grit and packed dirt, but hit any­thing even slightly greasy or wet and there’s lit­tle trac­tion. Mind you, the Halo Vapour disc wheels are a great match for big vol­ume tyres. Their moun­tain-bike-like 21mm in­ter­nal rim width shapes the tyre won­der­fully well and it’s tube­less com­pat­i­ble, too. Stop­ping du­ties are taken care of by Avid’s BB7-S, ca­ble-op­er­ated calipers, which elicit plenty of power but do re­quire a much firmer hand than the slick Ri­val unit of the Poly­gon. They’re also a lit­tle more prone to vi­bra­tion and chat­tery noise than their equiv­a­lent full hy­draulics. Over­all, the Dar­win’s another great bike to come out of the Light Blue sta­ble – a su­perb steel ma­chine packed with char­ac­ter. With faster tyres and bet­ter brakes it’d be unbeatable. As it stands it’ll help you beat a path just about any­where you’d want to go.

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