When creating the retro-inspired Echo, Creme’s developers weren’t able to plunder the firm’s heritage for inspiration because, well, it doesn’t have one. What they have done however is create a frame that wholeheartedly follows the retro steel mantra. You might not know much about Tange, but as one of Japan’s oldest high-end steel manufacturers (established in 1920) its tubing is the equal of the more recognised Reynolds of Birmingham, or Milan’s Columbus.
Tange’s Prestige tubing was introduced in 1984 and soon found its way onto many range-topping tour machines of the day. Mountain bike pioneer and frame builder par-excellence Tom Ritchey’s legendary Logic tubing came about from a collaboration with Tange – it was a modification of Prestige and is still one of the most highly regarded steel tubesets today.
Highs: Beautifully appointed frame with a similarly lovely ride
Lows: Woeful brakes and average drivetrain performance
Buy if: You want a classic quality steel race bike that won’t break the bank
The geometry is classic mid-80s race bike stuff. Our large test bike featured a 570mm seat tube and 573mm top; the head angle is steep by modern standards at 74 degrees, and it’s paired with a 73-degree seat. The fork is a classic chromed steel lugged affair with an investment cast crown and is beautifully finished. The lugged steel frame makes the Creme look a far more expensive proposition than it actually is.
The fork is a thing of beauty, but the brakes are objects of fear if you’re not careful:
The fork is a thing of beauty, but the brakes are objects of fear if you’re not careful
The ride was truly impressive – you’re in no doubt that you’re riding a classic shaped bike, with the long ride position being capped at either end by great contact points. Up front the combination of Ritchey Classic stem and bar gives the stiffness of a modern clamp and oversized bar, and the mid-compact drop shape too. The ‘Classic’ of the name refers to the chrome-like mirror polish finish, which means the bike looks ‘right’.
At the back an 80s-style single bolt lay-back post is topped with San Marco’s gorgeous-to-look-at riveted Regal saddle, which is as comfortable as it is cool looking.
Having such good contact points only enhances the personality of the quality frame. It’s solid and stiff where you need it to be but has enough zingy spring to ensure a ride that’s smooth and makes you feel connected to the road when riding on the limit.
The Echo’s 9.7kg weight should hold it back on the climbs, but we were actually pretty impressed with its capabilities. A good gear spread, lively wheels and a stiff chassis all contribute to the performance.
On fast descents things are rather more of a mixed bag. The Echo feels planted and assured – but that sense of security is soon shattered when it comes to stopping, when the combination of hard, waxy non-cartridge pads on the unbranded Tektro brakes and shiny black rim surface results in truly woeful braking. You will stop, but it’ll be a dozen or so metres further down the road than you’d expect.
The wheels are a homage to the box-section Mavic GP4s of the 1980s, which were ‘the’ tubular rim to have. Here they are in clincher format, though they do have a classic rim’s 14mm width – minimal in the modern world of wide (20mm+) rims and 25c tyres. They look impossibly svelte shod with 23mm Gatorskins.
Despite its near-10kg heft, the echo tange is a capable climber:
Despite its near-10kg heft, the Echo Tange is a capable climber
You’d imagine that such slender rolling stock would translate into a harsh ride over coarse surfaces, so we were shocked to find that the Echo isn’t the boneshaker we expected. The quality of the Continental tyres is one factor, but the life and natural give in the chassis certainly plays a bigger part.
The drivetrain is 10-speed Shimano 105, with an FSA Omega crankset and KMC chain. It all works well together, but isn’t nearly as smooth as the latest 11-speed 105. We can’t help but think that the crankset was chosen for its polished finish as opposed to its price or performance – it’s just another key point in the Echo’s spot-on visual homage to rides of the past.
Some may deride history-lite Creme for this retro bike pastiche. On this evidence though it’s created an affordable classic styled road machine with a killer of a frameset and sympathetically put together finishing kit. For that reason we’d highly recommend trying the Echo Tange for your retro kicks – just be sure to swap out those brakes when you get a chance.