Shand Cycles was relaunched in 2011, and its reputation continues to grow. The Scottish company’s founder, Steven Shand, has been building custom steel bikes since 2003, and still offers a full custom service, but this is an off-the-peg model.
Highs: Gorgeous looks, glorious ride
Lows: Weighty, pricey, top-shift only
Shand describes the Stoater as a ‘go-anywhere adventure bike for the road’, its Rohloff 14-speed hub gear and Gates Carbon belt drive helping with a minimal-maintenance ethos. The Rohloff has a legendary status for high mileage, and the life of a Gates belt far outstrips that of a chain. The flipside is a heavier drivetrain, and with most of that weight focused at the rear axle it has an effect on ride dynamics.
The gates belt drive promises low maintenance reliability: the gates belt drive promises low maintenance reliability
The Gates belt drive promises low maintenance reliability
But that ride is simply superb. Thanks to steel’s inherent ‘spring’, the gorgeously finished frame and fork revel on technical trails and rougher surfaces. And once we’d adjusted to the weight distribution we started to have fun letting the back end drift – think rear-wheel-drive sports car. On the road it’s well mannered and direct, off the beaten track it’s cosseting and controlled.
Gates’ latest drivetrain uses a ‘Center Track’ belt. Unlike earlier systems this has a solid ridge through the centre of both the chainring and sprocket, which means it’s impossible for the belt to roll off and simpler to align it when setting up. The Speedhub’s 14 gears offer a spread of 526 per cent, with equal size jumps throughout the range; broadly speaking it’s the equivalent of running a compact drivetrain, and we never found ourselves reaching for an extra gear even on the toughest of climbs.
A twist-shifter gets round the problem of rohloff’s flat-bar-only shifter: a twist-shifter gets round the problem of rohloff’s flat-bar-only shifter
A twist-shifter gets round the problem of Rohloff’s flat-bar-only shifter
The downside is that Rohloff’s own shifter only works with flat bars. To get around this, Shand has used Co-Motion’s American-made aftermarket twist-shifter mounted to the right of the stem. The CNC-machined grip works brilliantly and offers easy shifts, though it is a little rough on ungloved hands and you have to move your hand from the hoods or drops to shift, so it may not be the best option for fast riders. TRP’s dual-action cable disc brakes continue to impress – they’re powerful, silent and offer plenty of fine control at the lever.
The frame looks as impressive as any that we’ve seen, produced by any artisan builder, anywhere in the world. The welds are super smooth, and the richness of the paint left us open-mouthed in appreciation. It’s this – plus the high-quality components from Germany, the USA and the UK – that’s reflected in the price. But Shand should take great pride in its versatile and seriously impressive Stoater.