Ironbridge Bicycles celebrates Britain’s industrial heritage. Its 1851 model is named after the year of the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace, a showcase of all that was great about British design and manufacturing at the time.
The paint job is patriotic in Royal Blue, with Union Jack highlights and an ‘Exporting is great’ slogan along the top-tube. This will either make you think of Land of Hope and Glory or that you’re riding a pedal-powered version of a Brexit battle bus.
Under that red, white and blue skin lurks a beautiful piece of classic British frame building. The front triangle uses skinny Reynolds 853 tubes that are filet brazed so smoothly you’d swear it was a one-piece construction. A luscious, lugged bottom bracket shell sits in the middle of the bike and the back end is made with S-bend chain- and seatstays from Italian tubing maestro Columbus.
The 1851 is designed to be an all-rounder, capable of handling road rides, off-road adventures, commuting and touring. Braze-ons for lights, racks and guards mean luggage and illumination can easily be carried while keeping spray at bay.
The 1851 uses a Hope VTwin converter with its X2 brakesDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
The geometry is fairly standard with a slightly slacker road 72-degree head angle and standard 73-degree seat angle. The wheelbase is long, which gives the 1851 stability at speed, and it’s no slouch on tarmac thanks to the surprisingly quick roll of the gravel-specific Schwalbe G-One tyres in 30mm.
A classic Reynolds 853 steel fork offers a subtle level of compliance, making the 1851 a lovely place to be when you’re riding over rough stuff. There’s an option for a carbon fork should you want to lose a few grams, but then you’d be missing out on the plush smoothness from the all-steel model. The wheels are superbly built and are laced to Hope hubs with a nicely whirring freewheel.
Continuing the British theme, the 1851 uses a Hope cassette, with a massive 10-44t range, a Hope chainset and Hope X2 disc brakes with a V2 cable-to-hydraulic converter alongside SRAM’s Rival rear mech and levers. Unfortunately, the Hope combination doesn’t work as well as a full SRAM setup. The large cassette is beautifully machined, but you get a lot of vibration through the transmission as if the chain just isn’t seating as well as it should.
Rear seatstays are joined by a beautiful filigree-worked Iron BridgeDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
The X2 brakes have a fine reputation off road, but combining them with the trick-looking VTwin converter results in a dull, almost wooden feeling at the lever. Some of this could be cured with careful set up, but when the alternative – a full SRAM groupset – is simpler, cheaper and lighter, we can’t see the point beyond being supportive of fellow British brands.
Aside from the brake feel and drivetrain issues, the ride is up there with the best steel and titanium all-rounders we’ve tried. The smoothness of the chassis on bumps, ruts, gravel and dirt is superb. The handling is sweetly composed yet nimble enough for the occasional excursion into singletrack.
The massive gear range means hills are easily conquered and the bike’s comfort levels on long rides are wonderful, especially with the Brooks Cambium saddle and Hope carbon seatpost. In this spec it’s expensive, the frameset is £1,850, and we can’t help but think it would be a better bet with a little less reliance on non-standard parts.