BH Ultralight Ultegra review£2,900.00

A Basque climbing machine with a feather-light chassis

BikeRadar score3/5

The Ultralight is Basque Country brand BH’s weight-focused race bike and its frame is available in two versions, the range-topping Ultralight Evo at a claimed 700g, and the standard Ultralight we’re testing here at 760g.

In keeping with the gram-shaving theme, the frame has a minimalist and dare we say it, rather boring, matt black paintjob. (Paint, of course, adds lots of weight.)

This understated colour scheme doesn’t do a lot to draw attention to a frame that’s elegant, if not distinctive. Its top-tube, down-tube and bottom bracket are big and a bit boxy for stiffness, with walls that manage to feel very thin without being flimsy.

Things are a little daintier looking at the seat cluster, with a slim seat-tube and stays in aid of compliance, while the rear triangle is completed by chainstays that are narrow but tall, aiming for the maximum torsional stiffness given limited available space.

Spanish chainset to match the bike’s Iberian roots
Spanish chainset to match the bike’s Iberian roots

Geometry-wise there’s nothing too outlandish, but it’s worth paying attention to the reach when making comparisons as it varies very little across the three smallest sizes. Our medium test bike had a pretty average 384mm, with a small and an extra-small being just 1 and 2mm shorter respectively. Diminutive riders may end up with particularly short stems as a result, so trying before you buy makes sense.

Its climbing prowess and responsive nature doesn’t quite, to our minds, justify the firmness of the ride

With a frame weight below that of many WorldTour level machines, it’s not surprising BH isn’t quite as generous with the spec as some manufacturers might be at this price, but there aren’t any chinks in the armour. Being Spanish, a Rotor chainset rather than the groupset-matching one is de rigueur, and the Ultegra groupset is complete aside from a KMC chain. The wheels are solid performers, with one minor flaw, which we’ll get to later.

The road manners of the Ultralight weren’t what we were expecting. On good roads it’s taut and lively, the racy machine we were expecting. It’s not lacking in stiffness and it’s a satisfying bike to propel up a steep hill.

The anodising on the Vision rims suffers after a few wet rides
The anodising on the Vision rims suffers after a few wet rides

At the same time, its climbing prowess and responsive nature doesn’t quite, to our minds, justify the firmness of the ride. There’s no obvious culprit in the component spec — a carbon seatpost might have been preferable to the alloy one, but at least it’s nice and skinny, and even the nominally 23mm tyres can’t take much of the blame since they measure up at around 26mm on the moderately wide Vision wheels.

The frame itself looks like it ought to be mega-plush with its now-obligatory ultra-thin seatstays, and yet it isn’t. It may be the result of multiple factors rather than a single design feature, but on broken British roads, the Ultralight can be quite jarring. The usual disclaimer applies: heavier riders will object less than our flyweight tester, but we can’t help but be a little disappointed

The other criticism we’d level at the Ultralight is an aesthetic one: those Vision clinchers look sharp and stylish out of the box, but the black anodising on their braking surface starts to disappear at the first sniff of rain, and when it’s half-worn as ours was after a single wet ride, it looks messy. We’d rather they didn’t bother with the anodising in the first place.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Matthew Allen

Senior Technical Writer, UK
Former bike mechanic, builder of wheels, hub fetishist and lover of shiny things. Likes climbing a lot, but not as good at it as he looks.
  • Age: 27
  • Height: 174cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 53kg / 117lb
  • Waist: 71cm / 28in
  • Chest: 84cm / 33in
  • Discipline: Road, with occasional MTB dalliances
  • Preferred Terrain: Long mountain climbs followed by high-speed descents (that he doesn't get to do nearly often enough), plus scaring himself off-road when he outruns his skill set.
  • Current Bikes: Scott Addict R3 2014, Focus Cayo Disc 2015, Niner RLT 9
  • Dream Bike: Something hideously expensive and custom with external cables and a threaded bottom bracket because screw you bike industry.
  • Beer of Choice: Cider, please. Thistly Cross from Scotland
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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