I took delivery of the Aprire Inverno AR just in time for some proper wet and grimy weather, just the kind of conditions that I imagine the Iverno AR will see a lot of. At £745 with a full Shimano Sora groupset, it fits into the first ‘proper’ bike or winter hack that will also tackle some gravel and even the odd ‘cross race category. You can also buy the frame only for £295 and kit it out exactly as you want.
Aprire are the in-house brand of Cycles Perfecta, who are carbon specialists. We spoke to Aprire’s designer, Phil Dempsey a few months ago when we visited the Cycles Perfecta workshops. Although all their carbon manufacturing is done in the UK, their aluminium frames are designed here and built-in China – for now. Phil has applied his years of experience designing bikes in China, to his own designs and it shows in the way the Inverno AR rides.
First inspection of the Inverno AR and I really like the paint job. Unfortunately it’s not the standard livery but a one-off. However, as they have their own paint booth, you can ask for custom colours (for a little extra of course). Quality of the paint job was very good and it stood up to a lot of abuse, both from the elements and being thrown in the back of my car with other bikes.
A Shimano Sora groupset is fitted to the Inverno AR. This was the first time I’ve used Sora and I came away pleasantly surprised. I was expecting clunky and heavy controls, but nothing could be further from the truth. Shifting was slick and true, with the front mech having a nice bit of trim available to stop any chain rub. The Sora shifters have a really nice shape and were easy for me to access, even with my little hands! The overall look and feel belies the fact that this is one of Shimano’s cheapest groupsets. Cheap it may be, but it performed perfectly during the whole test period.
The Sora groupset was a mini revelation with one exception: braking. Sora uses cable operated disc brakes and this was my second time using mechanical discs. I wasn’t impressed the first time and second time round was no better. The feel and power isn’t any better than my TRP CX8.4 mini Vs. Although they were OK, they don’t live up to the rest of the groupset’s performance. Despite this they do work, just not as well as I know discs can. I would recommend upgrading. Shimano Tiagra now comes with hydraulic brakes!
Wheels are Mavic Aksium ONEs. These aluminium rimmed wheels, while not the lightest out there, were up for all kinds of riding. I tried to run them tubeless but didn’t have much luck, which was a shame, especially when heading off-road. With twenty-four straight pull spokes, they stayed straight and true over some pretty shocking surfaces.
The Inverno AR came shod with Schwalbe’s CX Comp tyres, but I swapped them for a set of their 38mm G-Ones. The G-Ones livened up the ride and made it easy to dive off-road when the opportunity arose. Swapping to Clement Strada LGG tyres for road rides kept them feeling fast.
Stem, seatpost and handlebars were from the Ritchey Comp range and performed flawlessly, as always. Understated in matt black, they blend in well with any colour scheme. You can find lighter, but for items that are going to get some hard use, is it worth it?
The Prologo Kappa saddle was a comfortable perch on and off-road, but then saddle choice is such a personal thing. One rider’s favourite is another’s hell on a bike!
Another item that I really liked was Aprire’s own brand bar tape. This is a made with a PU gel and has a wonderful tacky feel to it. It is apparently long-lasting as well as comfortable and I think I will be buying a couple of rolls for my summer CX sportive rides.
So that’s the details, but what was the Inverno AR like to ride? When I took delivery Aprire only had an XS available. I was a little worried about the fit – I’m 172cm tall – but it actually turned out alright. With plenty of extension on the Ritchey Comp seat post and the saddle pushed back I had enough room in the ‘cockpit’. A longer stem would have been nice, but my spare parts box came up empty! Being a smaller frame than I would normally ride, I did manage to catch my heels on the chain stays, but it really only happened a couple of times. Long or short rides, I never felt uncomfortable on the Inverno AR.
Starting off on a few Sunday club runs, the Inverno AR proved very capable. With 28mm road tyres I had no problems keeping up on a typical Sunday route. The 50/34 compact chainset will get you up anything on-road, while the shifting was smooth and faultless; not bad considering this is a review bike with a ‘cheap’ groupset. While it feels heavy to pick up, you don’t feel this when riding at all. Stomping up hill, there’s no feeling of sluggishness or flex.
Heading out on some long and wet solo rides it behaved perfectly. Cruising along was a pleasure and it tackled climbs happily, despite it’s weight.
The Inverno AR has a wonderful, lively feel, which considering its cost is a real surprise. Made from 6061 aluminium the frame features an unusual Aprire designed seat stay arrangement to give stiffness but with low vibration”. This takes the form of a split wishbone seat stay. Considering everyone thinks of aluminium as giving a harsh ride, Aprire have got it right; the ride is smooth. Long distance rides were tackled without feeling you had taking a battering from the poor road surfaces. Upfront a tapered head tube and carbon fork combine to keep the steering light and direct, allowing the Inverno AR to follow twisty lines through the woods without any unexpected surprises.
Ride quality was nice and stable, the kind of bike you could ride no-handed without any unexpected wobbles. I imagine it would also make for a good touring bike, there’s plenty of scope to add mudguards and racks.
You would have no problem handling the daily commute on the Inverno AR. It’s nimble enough for weaving between traffic, but not so twitchy that it becomes a chore. And while I’m no longer commuting every day, I could ride the Inverno AR back and forth across London again and again and again…
The Inverno AR was more than happy diving off-tarmac and onto some bridleways. With 38mm tyres fitted it was perfect for cruising along the gravel and mud tracks. It would make for some great summer weekend adventures, as it has the speed to get you out of town and then onto some good old fashioned rough stuff.
And while not a full-blown ‘cross racer it was happy to tear around the local trails. Riding my own cyclo-cross training circuit around the local recreation ground, the handling was good; not up to my own carbon race bike, but it would do for the occasional ‘cross race. If you were looking to tackle a CX sportive, then the Inverno would be more than happy.
For me the Inverno AR sits happily in the ‘do-it-all’ bike category, with a bias to road and easy off-road. I can imagine it being ridden all week as a commuter and then tackling a club run, a weekend tour or an off-road sportive.
It’s a lot of fun, for not a lot of cash. You can upgrade and go for Shimano Tiagra, 105 or Ultegra, which will improve those brakes! But the quality of the frame will remain the same and Aprire have got that dialed.
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