Forme Vitesse £999

Ideal road bike for new riders

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

Forme are a new British brand targeting new riders and Cycle to Work schemes, with a range from £499 to this £999 Vitesse. The frames are made in Taiwan by one of the top factories, and there are flat-bar commuters and mountain bikes imminent, plus two carbon fibre road models due later on.

A crucial difference from other brands is that Forme (French for fitness) are tailoring all their bikes for their target market. Pure performance and razor handling are less important than comfort and confidence. It isn’t as glamorous as making 6kg scalpels with telephone number price tags, but it’ll probably do a great deal more to develop cycling and get more people on bikes.

  • Frame: Comfortable and good looking, but soft power transfer limits appeal (6/10)
  • Handling: Plenty of stability for new riders, with enough fizz to be fun (8/10)
  • Equipment: Full Shimano 105 works smoothly and impresses in the showroom. Great saddle too (8/10)
  • Wheels: Shimano R500s are a bit disappointing at this price, but upgraded on the Vitesse from August (5/10)

The spec of the Vitesse was designed to match those of the biggest mainstream brands and it stacks up. A complete Shimano 105 groupset is now a rarity on a £1,000 bike, sufficiently so as to be a strong selling point.

The R500 wheels are a bit heavy and flexy compared to classier wheels such as the RS10s you get on some £1,000 bikes, but the designer told us they were selected for their reliability and the value of the Shimano name at the cost of some performance.

It’s a handsome bike with classic lines and that’s sure to further boost its appeal to new riders. Its name may mean speed, but the immediate and lasting impression is that the Vitesse is a comfortable cruiser. It’s roomy, smooth and assured.

Some bikes are so singleminded in their pursuit of speed that they strain at the leash and demand you put the effort in, meaning they’re as exhausting to be around as a friend with ADHD. The Vitesse can get a move on, and it tracks accurately above 30mph, but it feels best when you relax a bit.

The geometry of the smooth-welded frame was designed by Forme brand manager Adam Biggs, who raced in France as an espoir (U23) for three years and continues to race at elite level in the UK alongside his day job. To his credit, Biggs didn’t design a twitchy race bike for himself but made a bike that new riders will enjoy.

As well as providing comfort over bumps and doing a decent job of damping vibration the Vitesse has an excellent blend of stability and agility. It reacts quickly, but without demanding too much concentration. The cockpit, in modish white, completes the package.

The bar offers only one useful position on the drops yet much more variety up top, thanks to long forward sections before the hoods. The saddle is very comfortable too, so new riders have every encouragement to up their mileage.  The 105 hoods are accommodating, and the shifting and braking performance is good.

If you do insist on riding the Vitesse hard you’ll soon find its limitations. There’s tangible flex from the bottom bracket, the rear triangle and the wheels, whose mass is always apparent. Factor in the 9.4kg weight, and it isn’t a sizzling ride.

But if you want to go out and hammer, buy a Boardman Team Carbon, our current favourite £1,000 bike and one so far removed in character from the Vitesse that, according to Biggs, Forme don’t even consider it a rival.

In terms of practicality, the 105 shifters cause cable routing problem for lights. Mudguard and rack mounts are conspicuous by their absence too, though Forme say they’ll be added to the 2011 range this summer, when the Vitesse will also get lighter wheels.

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