Austrian Company Simplon lent us a bike to test. I was planning to do the Festive500 on the Simplon Pavo GF Disc because it seems a perfect bike for riding day after day, but a rogue patch of ice had other ideas (Sorry Simplon).
The Simplon Pavo is a premium carbon bike, the price tag of just under £5k (for the spec tested) is enough to tell you that. But what makes a premium bike, and what does that money get you? For starters there’s an Ultegra DI2 groupset with hydraulic disc brakes. Then you’ve got DT Swiss R24 Spline Disc Brake wheels shod with 25mm Schwalbe Ones (although 28mm tyres will fit too). There’s a Selle Italia SLR saddle and the cockpit is finished with Simplon’s own brand ERG carbon bars. The frame is where the value lies with Simplon though. It’s clear many hours, and lots of expertise have gone into designing this frame. With the price putting the Pavo up against similar spec bikes from Specialized and Giant it’s aiming high for a relative unknown in the UK.
You can specify different wheels, saddles, groupsets and there’s a choice of two colours through Simplon’s bikebuilder website. Once you’ve created your bike with the bikebuilder, you get a code. You then use the website to find the dealer that’s most convenient to you (more being added all the time) and give them the code. All bikes are distributed through their dealer network.
The Simplon Pavo Granfondo Disc is, as its name implies, not an out-and-out race bike but it’s not far off. The Raptor fork and Vibrex comfort seat post are there for your comfort. Comfort doesn’t have to mean boring though, and Simplon have managed to keep the frame stiff where it matters. This stiffness coupled with the lack of weight on this frame helps the Pavo accelerate cleanly, and the short sharp climbs around Cambridgeshire and out into Essex were dispatched with ease.
The own-brand carbon bars are also designed with comfort in mind. Carbon bars are lighter than alloy and can further help to reduce road vibes. After they leave the stem these ERG bars sweep back towards the rider before they angle back out to form the drops. I didn’t notice any unnatural flex when standing, and I certainly felt a lot fresher after 50 miles than I would on my TCR or Allez which are both set up quite hard.
There are some nice touches like the motivational messages on the frame. There’s a built-in frame protector situated behind the front mech to prevent damage in the event of chain suck. The seat post is round, with a flat rear edge which is supposed to provide a certain amount of flex but will also ensure your seat is straight. The seatpost is also textured. Carbon seatposts in carbon frames can slip, so Simplon have provided a solution.
The Simplon Pavo certainly lends itself to longer rides, or multi-day events. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite make the Festive500 this year, but I did get a chance to test out the Simplon build quality instead. When manufacturers make lighter and thinner frames it can come at the cost of durability, so you’ll be happy to know that the Simplon Pavo crashes very well thank you. I won’t go into too much detail about my crash, but I was completely taken by surprise by a large patch of thick ice after relatively clear roads for 50 miles of my ride. The bike went down on both sides as you can see in the pictures, it also took a passing glance off a van that slid off the road behind me. Simplon wouldn’t let anyone ride a crashed frame before a thorough check and x-rays, but it passed and was on display at the London Bike Show this week having had the scuffed parts replaced.
So, what does make a premium bike? Decent components. A frame that is light and comfortable for long days in the saddle. Often big compromises in stiffness are made to produce a frame that is springy enough to give comfort on long rides. But clever engineering has meant that even with allowances made for its softer focus, the Simplon Pavo handles better than it has any right to. You can be certain of a solid build quality that will stand up to a bit of abuse. The DI2, comfortable saddle and very capable alloy wheelset are all worthy of the bike. At this price you don’t want to be swapping out components, and you won’t need to unless you’re really fussy. The frame is what really matters though and is what you’re paying a premium for. If I was being picky I’d like to see tubeless wheels, and they are available but they’re almost £200 extra. This bike is more than the sum of its parts though. Simplon certainly know how to build a frame.
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