Finding a new track frame is harder than you may think. Unlike a road bike, in which you have a choice of hundreds of brands with new models released on an annual or even twice-annual basis, the track market is much more limited. A smaller number of manufacturers means finding a frame in your preferred style, colour and price range is rare. After months of research I found the Handsling TR1…
Unlike many of its competitors, Handsling allow buyers to customise their own paint scheme and design. The option to match the bike with club colours or make something unique is an exciting prospect. The process is relatively simple. The manufacturer requires a pantone number for your chosen colour scheme. This can be found easily online or in your local paint shop. I decided to go for a light blue offset with dark grey and black, taking the idea from an old Herne Hill Velodrome Trust cap I had lying around. I really liked the layout of the original Handsling design so decided to stick with that.
The frame comes in either a gloss or matt finish. I opted for matt, preferring its atheistic appeal. Conceding that I had probably chosen fashion over function here, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised. The matt finish cleans easily and hasn’t shown any signs of wear and tear, yet.
Overall, I’ve been really pleased with the look of the frame. The detailing is clean and the colour combination has come out better than expected. The aesthetic appeal of a bike might not be at the top of everyone’s priority list, but I think it is an important factor. Though there are no physiological benefits to choosing a frame you see to be stylish, feeling comfortable on the bike can positively impact your mentality and give you extra motivation in training and racing. This can make a big difference, especially if (like me) you’re coming back to a sport after a few years away.
The shape of the frame is built to offer both strength and speed. It has a small head tube to create a low profile whilst the down tube is cut away so as to follow the arch of the wheel. This helps minimise drag allowing for the frame to cut through the air at speed. The aerodynamic profile is complemented by a bulky bottom bracket shell. Extra stability in this area of the frame provides a stiff base to ensure power is transferred efficiently from the pedals. All of this results in a fast and smooth ride. I also found it to be responsive when accelerating. It handled well whilst swinging up and down the banking at speed. I haven’t owned a frame in this price bracket before but, having raced it for the most part of a season now, I really can feel the difference.
I was lucky enough to try a few different frame sizes out before making a purchase. I went with a 54cm size frame (measured from the centre of the bottom bracket to where the seat tube meets the top tube). This is small for someone of my height but helps create a slighter, more aerodynamic, profile. Built for racing, the frame suits those with a more aggressive riding position. For those who prefer a more comfortable stance adding extra spacers to the headset can counteract this.
Adding too many jazzy components to a bike can sometimes have an adverse impact on its aesthetics. I wanted to balance the bright colours and modern shape of the frame with simple but high-end components. I opted for a Dura-Ace FC-7710 crank set with Shimano 105 pedals. The wheels match with Dura Ace 7600 large flange front and rear hubs. These are then fixed within Mavic reflex rims, standard spokes and Continental Sprinter tubs. The bars and stem are both oversized and from Ritchley’s mid-range alloy selection. The saddle is a Fizik Arione R5 with K:IUM rails. This sits above an aero seat post that comes as standard with the frame. The internal clamp system tucks the screws and bolts away from the wind but is a pain to adjust. This involves nervously knocking the seatpost until the brace comes loose – one of the frame’s few downfalls.
The price of the TR1 is competitive. Retailing at £1,199 it is one of the cheaper full carbon framesets within the range. Like many carbon products the frame is manufactured in China’s Shenzen province. Being a micro company that operates largely through word of mouth, Handsling are able to cut down on advertising and marketing costs that are folded into the price of big brand frames. These savings are then passed onto the consumer through a competitive price tag. Time will tell as to whether the quality stands up against some of its better-known competitors. In the meantime, a two-year manufacturing warranty that comes as standard with all of their frames has put any initial doubts to rest.
I was warned that the shipping process would take from 2-6 weeks. This can feel like a long time but is worth the wait. A lot of bigger importers buy frames in bulk and then store them in local warehouses until they are brought. Although this reduces the customer’s waiting time, it also limits choice of the frame’s colour and design. Track racing at Herne Hill Velodrome is seasonal with the cooler months in the year resigned to training. I decided to make good use of the winter by ordering the frame in November and picked it up just three weeks later.
The customer service at Handsling was excellent. I was invited over to see one of the frames up close before committing to anything. This afforded me an opportunity to get a better feel for the company and ask questions about the production process. They were quick to respond to a number of queries around sizing and even helped me cut down the forks when I was ready to start building. This level of care is rare to find. In a world where large on-line distributors dominate the market, it was refreshing to deal face to face with a small supplier. Personal interaction with those who work within the industry can be a good source for general tips and an important medium through which knowledge is shared.
In conclusion, I’ve been really impressed with my experience. Finding the right bike for you is something that can take time and research. Style, colour and geometry are all subjective preferences and hard to find in a complete package. Having more control over any of these elements can only bring you closer to finding what you’re looking for.