Custom-built for Audax riding, the Hewitt Alpine does the job perfectly. A quick, responsive compromise-free machine that demands to be ridden fast.
If speed’s your thing this is a great choice, and it can also be geared to your own needs.
Ride & handling: perfect for fast days in the saddle
The Alpine’s ride is just about perfect for fast audax and sportive riding.
The immediate impression on riding it is how racy and sporty it feels.
The sub-20lb weight makes for fast, responsive handling that makes you want to just blast along. Very inspiring.
One of our testers knocked ﬁve minutes off his regular 65-minute commute, usually done on a light tourer, without even noticing.
Yes, it comes with clearance for mudguards, but its all-up weight is still 20lb and it ﬂies along beautifully.
Frame: custom Italian steel
The Alpine is custom hand-made in the UK from high-end Italian steel and ﬁnished to a very high standard. The frame combines elegantly with the carbon fork.
Interestingly – and suggestive of this bike’s fast audax role – the frame doesn’t have mounts for a rear rack. It certainly coped with a full seatpost-mounted bag, but the absence of rack mounts does limit the versatility a little.
This particular machine was fully custom built after measuring on Hewitt’s frame-ﬁtting jig, and was geared speciﬁcally for fast sportive-type riding.
The Niobium tubing is a high-end steel alloyed with manganese, chromium, nickel, molybdenum and, yes, niobium. The result is a material claimed to have a ‘higher resistance to environmental effects than conventional carbon steels’.
For fans of the physics, its ultimate tensile strength is around 1000-1150 megaPascals, about the same as that of Reynolds 725.
Equipment: SRAM shifters Rival their opposition
SRAM's Rival groupset proves a match for Campagnolo and Shimano. The levers, which combine up and down shifts, are simple and elegant: the brake levers take care of stopping you, the inner levers handle both up and downshifts.
Typically of a Hewitt bike, the Alpine comes with very well coordinated kit, but the SRAM Rival groupset at its heart proved an interesting choice. This is SRAM’s second-string groupset, aimed against the likes of Ultegra, and it proved a worthwhile alternative.
It does take a while to get used to the Double Tap shifting, especially if you’re used to Shimano and Campagnolo, as it includes elements of both companies’ systems. But it’s also a very neat and elegant solution to shifting. The brake levers take care of stopping, with a single inner responsible for all gear changing duties. To change up (to a smaller sprocket) you tap the lever (twice if you want to shift two gears); to change down (to a bigger sprocket) you push the lever.
Once we stopped trying to shift Campag-like with a thumb lever that wasn’t there, these were a treat to use.
Better than the opposition’s offerings? Not really, but it’s certainly their equal.
The brakes themselves are from Shimano – these worked excellently, offering powerful and controlled stopping.
Wheels: light, quick &inspiring
Whereas Hewitt tends to stick with Shimano hubs on his touring bikes, the Alpine has the somewhat pimpier PMP hubs. Here they’re paired with Mavic Open Pro rims for a race-ready set of hoops. Build quality is second to none, and these ran as smoothly and as quickly as you’d expect.
The tyres are Continentals, and the frame’s high-end theme is continued here, as they proudly proclaim ‘handmade in Germany’. That’s not going to keep costs down, but with many cyclists fans of Conti’s product range this is certainly going to inspire conﬁdence.
These were the lightest wheels of any of the four bikes, and as it’s rotating weight this is the best area to trim those grams. True to form, the wheel and tyre combo performed perfectly on long distance canal towpath commutes and fast road riding alike. As inspiring as the frame.