Britain’s Sven cycles of Dorset has impressed us before with its fresh approach to custom and off-the-peg bikes. The company is not afraid to take chances and the ambition of founder Darren to create something bigger than a micro-custom builder and bring proper bike production back to the UK is highly commendable.
I also like that Sven is not afraid to step out beyond Reynolds tubes, fancy lugs and fancy paintjobs.
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Sven Cycles Swift frame and build
The Swift's frame is built around a custom-spec Reynolds 631 frame and fork. Darren has worked with Reynolds to refine this tubeset to the demands of the extra stresses and weight of an e-bike transmission.
My test bike comes fitted with a Shimano Steps E6001 motor and an optional E8010 504w battery to extend the range (£120), Shimano also claims 1,000 charge cycles for the battery, so it should last long enough to see me through plenty of long-distance commutes.
The motor drives a Gates belt drive (chosen for its low maintenance and oil-free cleanliness) and an Alfine hub gear. The bike isn’t exactly a flyweight at 23.3kg so I like that it's kitted out with a moto-style Hebie twin-leg kickstand.
The wheels mate 650b DT Swiss rims to a Hope Pro 4 front hub and an 8-speed Shimano Alfine unit at the back with Di2 control. Shimano also provides the hydraulic disc brakes.
The Brooks Cambium C17 saddle is equally as comfy as the Ergon grips, which feel like the ideal companion to the back-swept bar and upright riding position.
Busch and Muller lights come fitted as standard and they can be operated directly from the Steps head unit.
The Schwalbe Big Ben tyres roll over everything and anything and feel tough. They also come enclosed with full carbon guards — a custom commission by Sven cycles with a suitably high price of £140, although Darren tells us he is looking for a better priced alternative when the Swift switches to a full-production version.
The bike is priced from £3,250, and anyone interested in international pricing or delivery should contact Sven Cycles direct for details.
Sven Cycles Swift ride impressions
I’ve only had the bike a couple of days, and a couple of shopping runs got me used to the Shimano power — Steps does an excellent job of gently feeding in the power so there’s no jerky slow-speed manoeuvring.
What also impresses (compared to the Bosch systems I’ve used before) is there is much less drag on pedalling when the system is off — yes you can still feel a bit of drag, but it's nowhere near the pedalling-through-treacle feel of an unpowered Bosch motor. I know that’s not exactly a common occurrence when riding an e-bike, but it's good to know anyway.
I’ve also taken the Swift on a long run through a hilly 50 miles of Wiltshire's back roads, gravel and pathways, and the bike is a joy to ride. It's no 'head down and hammer' machine, but the commanding upright position and great contact points make it the bike equivalent of rambling — just get out in the country and enjoy the surroundings.
The Steps system is combined with Shimano’s premium urban drivetrain Alfine Di2, and a simple left and right dual-button operation — the right-hand buttons handle up and down shifts across the 8-speed hub gear, while the left handle shifts between modes (Off, Eco, Normal and High) and metrics (Range, Mode, Odometer, Distance, Speed, Max Speed, Average and more) on the display.
The shifting from the buttons is pretty spot on, although I did get the occasional glitch between six and seven with the hub gear holding onto the previous gear just a fraction too long.
It also has a neat auto-mode where the system shifts up or down depending on cadence and how much power you're drawing to the e-assist. This works well but, like any auto gearbox, it does sometimes trip up. It is possible to adjust the auto settings though and I'll play around with it once I’ve got a few more miles under my belt.
Sven Cycles Swift early verdict
I plan on using the Swift long term for commuting and general transport, but so far I’m loving the way it rides, and the quality of the meticulous hand-built steel frame really shines through.
It's not often that utility bikes get this amount of care and attention in their construction (and even less so when it comes to urban e-bikes), and Sven Cycles should be applauded for raising the game.