Now in its third generation, the Bowman Palace is a stylish aluminium road bike from a small British brand that is offered either as a frameset for £845, or you can have the Palace 3 Shimano Ultegra R8000 build as tested here.
Viewed from afar, the Palace looks reasonably traditional, with a conventional diamond frame that eschews dropped seatstays and features reasonably slim tubes. Closer inspection reveals that there’s more going on.
The main tubes vary in profile all along their length, broadening to meet the bottom bracket shell and tapered head tube, but slimming towards the seat cluster and a skinny 27.2mm seatpost.
The seatstays are near enough straight, but are flattened slightly for rear-end compliance, their stiffness oriented perpendicular to that of the chainstays in the usual manner.
When it comes to component standards, the Palace is straightforward. There’s nothing awkward or proprietary about the cockpit and headset set-up, the seatpost is a standard round one, and the bottom bracket is threaded.
The cables run inside the down tube and emerge at the bottom bracket, and there are specific ports (blanked off on this bike) for clean Di2 routing.
These are indeed threaded bosses, but they’re only there because the Palace shares its rear dropout with the more endurance-focused Bowman Weald, which features full mounts and larger clearances, and is the better choice if guards are a priority. The Palace does, however, fit 30mm tyres.
Bowman’s sizing runs on the smaller side. I initially opted for a 54cm bike with 379mm of reach and 542mm of stack, but test bike availability meant I ended up with a 56cm (388mm reach and 562mm stack), making up the reach difference with a shorter stem.
This naturally meant a less aggressive fit, but not so much as to compromise the bike’s racy persona.
The one standard build gets you a full Shimano Ultegra disc groupset with a race-oriented semi-compact 52/36 crank and a slightly more forgiving 11-30 cassette. The choice of a GS (medium cage) Ultegra rear derailleur gives you the option of fitting a wider-range cassette, should the mountains be calling.
Bowman specs its own AL24 wheelset, a nice all-rounder aluminium option with a modern 20mm internal rim width that gives road tyres a good profile.
These come fitted with top-quality 28mm Continental Grand Prix 5000 tyres, a welcome sight on any test bike, although they’re not the tubeless variant, which would be handy given the rims are already compatible. For an extra £695 you can upgrade to carbon clinchers.
Despite its more traditional aesthetics, the Palace delivers an impressively rounded ride, balancing liveliness with a surprising degree of comfort.
It’s a pleasure to push hard on, while the slim seatpost, flattened seatstays and low-pressure-friendly rim width all add up to a smooth ride. That Bowman specs some of the best road bike tyres out there only improves matters.
Whether you’re spinning gently up climbs or throwing it around out of the saddle, the Palace is a willing accomplice – it’s simply a satisfying bike to ride whether you’re cruising for pleasure, or chasing seconds and apexes on a technical descent.
There are any number of ways to make a good road bike and there are compromises inherent in any design, but the Palace 3 just feels spot on and we can find very little fault with Bowman’s off-the-peg build.
You could unlock additional fizz and add aesthetic appeal by swapping in more expensive wheels, but there’s nothing wrong with the standard alloy ones, and the complete package is excellent.
The Palace doesn’t have the aerodynamic features of a CAAD13 for example, but the riding experience is similar. Comparisons aside, the Bowman is a lovely bike for general road riding, competitive or otherwise.
It’s an elegant sufficiency of performance, comfort and style.
Bowman Palace 3 geometry
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74||73.5||73||72.5||72|
|Head angle (degrees)||71.5||72||72.5||73||73.5||73.5|
|Seat tube (mm)||495||515||525||540||560||580|
|Top tube (mm)||505||520||540||560||585||600|
|Head tube (mm)||120||130||140||160||180||200|
|Fork offset (mm)||50||45||45||45||45||45|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||70||70||70||70||70||70|
How we tested
We put four of the best aluminium road bikes you can buy right now to the test on our local road loops and testing grounds. The Cannondale, Kinesis and Bowman all come with disc brakes and are priced between £2,000 to £3,000, while the Specialized has a much smaller price tag and a spec that includes rim brakes.
Also on test
- Specialized Allez Sport: £999 / US$1,200 / €1,109
- Cannondale CAAD13 Disc 105: £2,250 / US$2,300 / AU$3,499 / €2,299
- Kinesis Aithein Disc: £2680
- Bowman Palace 3 Ultegra R8000 Disc: £2,750
|Available sizes||50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60cm|
|Tyres||Continental Grand Prix 5000 700x28mm|
|Stem||Deda Zero 1|
|Seatpost||Deda Zero 2 27.2mm|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Ultegra|
|Handlebar||Deda Zero 2|
|Brakes||Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Ultegra|
|Frame||6069-T6 triple-butted aluminium|
|Cranks||Shimano Ultegra 52/36|
|Cassette||Shimano Ultegra 11-30|