Long before the mountain bike was an itch in Gary Fisher’s baggy shorts, people went off-roading on touring bikes. Pearson Cycles in Sutton has paid homage to old-school ‘rough stuff’ riding with the amusingly named ‘A Cunning Plan’.
The heart of the bike is a Reynolds 631 steel frame and fork with disc mounts, and fittings for racks and mudguards front and rear, which is available for £549.99. You can dress the frameset up however you like. As tested, it’s ready for rough trails and muddy bridleways, but you could just as easily build up a conventional touring bike.
In this guise, the cunning plan referred to in the name is messing about off road. The long wheelbase (107cm in the XL tested) and touring bike geometry make for steady handling. Don’t expect the point-and-shoot agility of a cyclo-cross bike, but what the Pearson lacks in immediacy it makes up for in stability. This bike is forgiving of ham-fisted riding, and looks after a tired rider at the end of a long day in the saddle.
It’s also a lot more comfortable than most aluminium ’crossers. The long chainstays and curved front fork take the sting out of rough paths. That’s true even with narrowish 30mm Schwalbe CX Pro tyres. They may be slim for off-roading, but they cut through soft ground to find surprising grip in wet and slimy conditions. There’s loads of mud clearance, too. In fact, there’s enough space for 40mm tyres if you want an even plusher ride.
Clearance? The Pearson accepts 40mm tyres
Leave the trails behind and hit the road and the Schwalbes roll reasonably well, although the hefty wheels do hold it back a bit on the hills. We swapped the CX Pros for some 28mm slicks which underlined the bike’s versatility, with average speeds on familiar loops within half an mph or so of typical speeds on a pure road bike.
Since Pearson Cycles will build the bike however you want it we won’t dwell too long on the finishing kit, but Shimano 105 derailleurs and a Fizik Arione CX saddle are highlights. Avid BB7 Road discs are also a good shout, providing reliable stopping power without the additional expense of a hydraulic setup.