Wiggle’s takeover of the Eastway brand has seen it move away from urban bikes more into the road bike arena, alongside cyclocross, with new track, gravel and urban machines are also on the horizon.
A crowded marketplace
We’ve managed to get an exclusive test of one of the bikes in its new Emitter racing bike lineup, the carbon R4, which looks set to challenge fellow British brand Boardman in the sub-£1000 road bike stakes.
The R4 is based around a frame weighing just a kilo and a matched carbon fork, both of which are very impressive to see at this price. Add in Shimano’s all-new 10-speed Tiagra groupset – with no cost-cutting substitutions – Shimano wheels, Ritchey components, Continental tyres and a Fizik Aliante saddle and the whole package appears very appealing indeed.
The name says Tiagra but it now has a very 105-like appearance
Like Boardman's benchmark Team Carbon, the Emitter is very much a race machine, its steepish frame angles resulting in fast handling. The short, 99cm, wheelbase and low front end make for an aggressive riding position, which is backed up by its low weight.
It feels flighty and responsive when climbing, Conti’s supple tyres providing plenty of traction on descents, though we’d have preferred an 11-tooth sprocket to exploit the Emitter’s propensity for pace. Going downhill at speed the R4 feels planted, and free of the nervousness that can come into play when bikes are this quick to respond.
Slick-shifting new Tiagra
We’ve mentioned before how impressed we are with Shimano’s new Tiagra groupset, and Eastway has gone for it in its entirety, along with Shimano’s RS11 wheels. Tiagra delivers slick shifting, a look to match and excellent brakes, whose quality pads work well in the wet and dry and have plenty of responsive feel at the levers. This allows you to feed in braking power without having to resort to heavy-handedly grabbing the levers for maximum stopping power.
The wheels are some of Shimano’s most basic, but you get quality hubs that you can service yourself, they’re stiff under cornering and stayed true and trouble-free during testing. You can’t ask for much more from budget hoops.
The aggressive riding position and low overall weight ensures plenty of thrills on the road
We were glad to see the 25mm rubber – and feel its effect too – as the R4 frame and fork are a firm pairing. Thankfully, that firmness stays pretty neutral, so though you can feel coarse road surfaces it doesn’t reach your hands or hindquarters with the sort of resonance that becomes wearing after a few hours in the saddle.
It’s a big plus for comfort that Eastway has gone for a high-quality saddle, though the same can’t quite be said for the front. The Ritchey bar’s compact drop is a great shape, but the tops and the transition to the drops are fairly narrow, and it’s wrapped in a foam-based gel tape that does little to counter the stiffness and deliver a more comfortable ride. A thicker gel tape would help, as would not winding the present tape quite as tightly.
That said, at this sort of price that’s really just nitpicking. The Emitter’s debut, as a reinvention of the Eastway brand, is a truly impressive one and it certainly gives the Boardman a serious run for its money at this hard-fought, cycle-to-work-friendly price.