Riders of a certain age may recall when Holdsworth was one of the finest British bike manufacturers, with steel machines being raced by prominent riders. Sadly the original company fell by the wayside several years ago, but the brand has been resurrected by current owner Planet X, and offers quality steel frames in keeping with Holdsworth’s heritage.
The Strada was designed by Mark Reilly, and is built from Reynolds 953 stainless steel. It’s TIG welded before being highly polished, apart from its matt detailing, and the enamel-painted brass W.F Holdsworth head tube badge that adds authenticity.
An oversized head tube is a useful concession to modern cycling, housing the carbon fork’s tapered steerer and 1.5-inch lower headset bearing, but behind it, every tube is slim and round, apart from the subtly ovalised chainstays, which are crimped to provide clearance for 28mm tyres.
Opposing the vintage-looking frame are the charcoal and black components that make it go. A compact Shimano Ultegra groupset with 50/34 up front and 11-32 at the back ensure no hills are out of reach, and another Planet X brand, Selcof, provides the carbon fork and seatpost plus aluminium cockpit.
The complete bike price is high, but it’s still impressive that it includes a Fulcrum Racing Zero wheelset with ceramic bearings, something guaranteed to lift the performance of any bike.
My large model weighs 7.88kg, possibly because of its large cassette and alloy bar, and on the road its low mass shows. The effect the Fulcrums have on performance is considerable, their thick, bladed spokes, milled rims and rigidity guarantee slick progress. Hutchinson’s Fusion 5 25mm tyres roll well and offer decent grip.
The 15cm head tube and 57cm equivalent top tube combine classic looks with the option of a long, low riding position. From the first metres there’s something special about this frame, as it bounds up the road. Every pedalling input has a more noticeable effect on forward motion than any other bike on test.
Undoubtedly the Fulcrums account for some of this, and when out of the saddle, driving against the rigid wheels while pushing down on the pedals creates a definite spring that seems to whip the bike forwards between pedal strokes.
I'm not talking trampoline here, it’s not elastic in the material sense, but is similar to the feeling you get from your first ride on oval chain rings, where the bike’s response seems to accelerate within each revolution. It’s pretty addictive though, and very effective, ensuring the Strada clips along at a very non-vintage pace.
The frame’s dynamic nature makes it very talkative, with braille-like surface commentary helping when things get twisty. Its 73-degree parallel angles are an ideal blend of stability at all speeds and composed corner carving, with no nasty surprises when you need to change line mid-bend.
Not only is the Strada stiff enough to fly, but firm saddle aside, it rides the bumps very well too and won’t be shaken from its course. It’s an impressive spec on an impressive frame, and my only worry is how often I’ll want to polish it.