New kid on the block Fairlight Cycles recently sent us through its all-season, mile muncher — the Fairlight Strael — and I’ve spent the last few days ogling the jazzy paint job and classy lines of the steel machine.
As we recently reported, Fairlight was co-founded by Dom Thomas and Jon Reid, and the brand recently launched its first two bikes: the Strael and Faran.
Thomas is no newcomer to the industry however, having previously worked as a designer at Genesis — bringing us the classic Volare.
We’ve found little fault in the Volare, but Thomas says that the Strael “is without doubt the best road bike I have ever designed”.
Fairlight Strael frame design
When it comes to steel road bikes, very few manufacturers set out with the intention of making an explicitly lightweight bike. Most are primarily interested in the resilience, smooth ride and classy looks that a steel frame affords.
While these are certainly qualities that the Strael possesses on paper, the low weight of the frame is what truly stands out. At 1,910g for a 56cm frame, this appears to be the lightest production steel road disc frame out there.
That word, production, is key here. While it is possible to produce a considerably lighter steel frame, it almost certainly wouldn’t pass ISO fatigue testing and Thomas reckons this is as light as anyone can go before real compromises have to be made.
The level of fettling that Fairlight has gone to to bring the weight of the Strael down, while creating a bike that doesn’t ride like a wet noodle, is quite remarkable.
Starting up front, the front triangle of the Strael is constructed from Reynolds 853, which barring the oh-so-shiny stainless 953, is the British tubing manufacturer’s flagship tubeset.
The already posh, triple butted tubing has not escaped Thomas’ mechanical manipulations and the downtube has been shaped into a bi-oval profile. In layman’s terms, this means the tube is ovalized at either end, but in opposite planes to each-other, maximising stiffness around the bottom bracket while maintaining front end compliance around the headtube.
The top tube has also been shaped, squishing the already skinny 25.4mm tube into a 20x30mm oval tube which, as we bike testers love to say, aims to improve lateral stiffness while improving vertical compliance.
If you look closely you’ll also notice that the profile of the chainstays is far skinnier than is common for a steel bike — Fairlight has specced round, 22mm chainstays rather than the more common 27x17mm oval profiled ones. This is said to improve comfort and drops a little bit of weight from the bike in the process.