Austrian brand Simplon has been around for over 90 years, being a family-owned concern since the 1930s, but it’s only been in the last year that its bikes have become available in the UK (but not currently in the US and Australia).
Simplon aims to do things a little differently. You can order a bike through your local bike shop, choosing from a huge range of custom options for gearing, bar and stem sizes, saddles, wheels, tyres and more. The bike is then built in Austria and shipped to the shop, so it’s a semi-bespoke service for off-the-peg prices, which is good to see.
The Inissio Crosser is pitched as a cyclocross bike, and while the low weight (1,150g frame) and ’cross-friendly gearing mean that the Inissio is easily up for racing, its 73-degree head and 73.5-degree seat angles mean the bike makes more sense on fast stretches of dirt and gravel.
Carbon frame and fork create a lightweight ride that is tough enough for cyclocross duties Robert Smith / Immediate Media
The endurance-style ride position makes the Simplon seriously swift over rough stuff, and the Schwalbe X-One treads provide great purchase on looser surfaces.
On tarmac the Simplon rides brilliantly. Yes, the knobbled surface of the X-Ones does add a bit of drag, but not as much as you’d expect. The Inissio rides very much like Orbea’s impressive Terra, in that it blends the demands of an out-and-out gravel bike with a great endurance option.
Knobbly Schwalbe X-Ones are great over loose surfaces Robert Smith / Immediate Media
The Inissio’s handling is snappy, perhaps a little quick for off-road twists and turns, but that helps its feel on the road. It’s not too nervous when navigating wooded singletrack sections, you just need to keep your wits about you to get the best from it.
The Shimano Ultegra works as well as I’ve come to expect and the 46/36 gearing makes short work of off-road ascents. You also get wonderfully controlled and powerful braking from the Shimano BR-RS805s, especially with the sensible pairing of a 160mm rotor up front and a 140mm at the rear.
Shimano BR-RS805 brakes come with sensibly sized 160 and 140mm rotors Robert Smith / Immediate Media
I’m a big fan of the ERG carbon bar, its swept-back top section and rounded drops are very much in the shape of a classic Randonneur bar, but in top-grade carbon. The shape is excellent and extremely comfortable, and another plus point on what is a beautifully put together bike.
The big downside of the Inissio is the price. At nearly £3,500 it’s almost £700 more expensive than the aforementioned, and similarly equipped, Orbea Terra. That’s a serious jump in price for little or no difference in performance.