The Simplon Inissiso Crosser first caught my eye at the 2018 London Bike Show; it’s glossy bright red paint job really stood out on the stand. The Inissio is very much a do-it-all bike, coming in Granfondo, Tour and Crosser versions. I got to ride it in it’s Crosser guise, which was perfect for me.
The heart of the Simplon Inssio is the frame, an angular UD carbon construction that promises a fast ride. Tucked away under that glossy red paintjob – also available in matt black – are a variety of modern carbon construction methods, here’s an explanation of some of them. The Uni Directional Toray carbon fibre is impregnated with resin, in a method called Hot Melt. This reduces the amount of resin needed, saving weight and improving stiffness.
Simplon use PU foam cores to help form the frames, these make it easier to lay up the carbon layers without any creases. This gives a stronger, lighter structure with consistent layers. The PU cores melt out during the curing process. Each frame size has it’s own tube sizes and diameters, larger frames get bigger and/or fatter tubes.
While most of these methods are designed to make the Inissio stiff and light, Simplon haven’t forgotten about comfort. No point having a super light, super stiff bike if you’re too beaten up to use it. To this end Simplon add Vectran fibres to the seat-post, seat-stays, seat-tube and tope-tube. They call this their comfort concept. As well as the Vectran fibres, thin seat-stays allow for some vertical deflection, while resisting twisting. The top-tube has a flattened top and bottom that also allows some movement, while the sides are pointed, giving protection from side impacts.
Other technologies on the frame include a tapered fork-steerer, for improved steering and headset life. Round the back asymmetric chain-stays help to balance out the different twisting forces that are applied through the rear triangle.
So that’s enough acronyms and tech for now, what’s the bike like? Well I had the Inissio Crosser for a short period, but managed to fit in three rides that I think covered pretty much ever kind of surface. Every surface apart from any ‘cross machines default one; mud! Our recent mini-heatwave meant all my riding was done on hard-pack and dusty trails, oh poor me.
For my first ride I left the stock Schwalbe X-Ones on, which came with inner tubes. Personally I’m a tubeless kinda guy, but I was in a hurry to get out, so the tubes stayed in. Riding off-road with tubes means higher pressures to avoid pinch-punctures. This also leads to a harsher ride and a loss of grip in some sections, so I was hardly surprised to puncture in the first half hour. Probably down to me riding as if I had a tubeless set-up. Adjusting to a more careful riding style left me puncture free for the rest of the day.
Riding up and over the Downs and the Inissio Crosser climbed well, despite the stem being a bit short for my liking and the bars a little narrow. This won’t be a problem when you buy a Simplon bike as you can customise handlebar width and stem length to your own liking.
All those acronyms came into play on the rough stuff, the bike behaved impeccably. I even managed some PBs on a long, rolling gravel section. Off-road you can’t tell if the comfort factor is working, the South Downs were rock hard and nothing short of a full-suss fat-bike would have helped! On the short road sections I rode on the Inissio Crosser felt fast, despite being on off-road tyres.
Honking up short hills out of the saddle was, well, not fun, but you did feel all your effort was going into making the bike go forward! Coming down off those hills with Shimano’s Ultegra disc brakes was a joy. I’m still on rim brakes and love the control and power you get with disc brakes. You can feather them for fine control, or slam them for those crazy steep off-road descents. And of course, come winter they’ll work wet or dry. Plus you won’t be wearing out your rims, suddenly carbon rims off road seem a good idea!
The only thing that concerns me with them is my ignorance when it comes to working with them. I’ve grown up with all kinds of cable operated brakes and love tinkering with my bikes. Hydraulics are a whole new world to me and I would be a little worried about doing any trail-side repairs. Saying that MTBers have been using them for years without any problems.
Coming off the Downs I headed to the local rec’ where I do some of my ‘cross training. It has plenty of trees to play slalom round and the football pitches are perfect for practising race starts. First up were a couple of sprints over hard grass. Now my days of bunch sprinting are long gone, but the Inissio Crosser had me believing again! From a rolling start it shot forward and as I clicked through the gears kept going faster. So all those carefully designed tube shapes and diameters obviously work, or maybe I’m getting fitter!
Sprint time over, next up was cornering round the closely spaced trees. Whether slow and wide or braking hard and diving in fast, the Inissio Crosser held it’s line. I only managed to get the rear wheel to slip out once and that was probably down to too much tyre pressure. The only part that was missing was a good mud session and as I said there has been a distinct lack of that this summer. I would like to see how the seat-stay bridge coped with a few muddy laps, it looks a little low.
Next up I swapped out the Schwalbe X-Ones for some gravel friendly G-Ones. There was plenty of room for these comfy 40mm gravel tyres, which I ran tubeless. They popped onto the DT Swiss R24 Splines without any trouble, changing the quality of the ride straight away. With the extra tyre volume I could drop the pressure, making for a more comfortable ride. The lower pressures also offer improved grip, but still feel fast when you nip back onto the tarmac. The R24s performed well on or off road. They make for a good do-it-all wheelset, which you could even race.
With my new rubber installed it was time for a longer gravel ride through sunny Dorset. The idea was to mix as many different types of road surface as I could find and I think I managed that. Everything from tarmac, to gravel, grass, cobbles and sand; just no mud! On this long day out the comfort really came in, despite the mix of less than pristine surfaces. The only off part of the ride was the Selle Italia SLS saddle, which I found a little slippy. Again something you can change, or maybe I need less shiny shorts?
Part of the route included some sandy climbs and descents on which I really appreciated the slick gear changes and braking from the Shimano Ultegra groupset. There’s nothing worse than a sticky gear change halfway up a technical climb, but Shimano’s latest Ultegra managed it all.
This was my first chance to have a disc equipped brake to ‘live’ with. So I got to see how easy it was when it comes to wheel removals. I’ve seen thru-axles, but had thought they looked a bit awkward to deal with. Nothing could be further from the truth, wheel changes are only a little slower than QR levers. Plus with the way the wheel is fixed to the frame, through a ring, you know there’s no way the wheel’s going to slip. The thru-axle also gives a much more solid mounting, giving better braking and a stiffer front end; all good things.
I didn’t get to play around with pad changes or bleeding, but I expect it’s something I will have to learn in time. A nice feature with Shimano’s set-up is that you can easily change which lever operates which brake. It’s a simple case of two 8mm spanners and what looks like five minutes work. The one issue I did have with thru-axles is that they won’t sit on my workstand! Mine holds the bike by the bottom-bracket and front drop-out, but there aren’t any on the Inisso Crosser!
So after my time with the Inissio Crosser what’s the overall verdict? Well for me this is a great all round bike. Although I tried it in it’s Crosser get-up, that basically means do-it-all! It handled everything I threw at it with ease. I would have liked to try it out at one of the summer cyclo-cross races. With it’s fast handling and acceleration the Inissio promises to be an excellent race machine.
Now over the last couple of seasons there have been some very dry starts to the ‘cross season, but eventually it gets mucky. And when the mud comes, everything changes. Clearances that looked huge in the summer become mud traps and rigid bottom-bracket shells become mud-shelves. Not a problem if you have a spare bike and willing pit-crew, but can be a problem if you’re on your own. So with that one caveat, I can recommend the Simplon Inissio Crosser, fast, comfortable and excellent off-road.