Reilly Spirit HSS review£2,499.00

New kid in town

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Brighton-based Reilly Cycle Works showcases the enormous frame designing and building talents of Mark Reilly, respected as a master of his craft. Experienced with titanium and steel, Mark has been using Columbus Spirit steel tubing for over a decade, more recently progressing to hydroformed Spirit HSS as used here.

Hydroforming lets frame designers get more creative, and offers the ability to customise a frame’s stiffness, comfort and looks with specific tube profiles. The triple-butted niobium steel forms a flattened top-tube, down-tube with flattened upper surface, extremely flattened seatstays that broaden towards the seat-tube, and ovalised chainstays with no crimping or bridge. The 44mm diameter head-tube is a match for the oversized down-tube and swoopy carbon fork.

What sets this frame apart is its fillet brazed construction, which creates beautifully clean, flowing joints that are complemented by the beautiful paint finish and smart graphics. It’s far more labour intensive than TIG welding, and accounts for much of the cost, but each frame is bespoke, and the price includes paintwork design.

The company has a long association with Columbus for its frame tubing
The company has a long association with Columbus for its frame tubing

We like the brazed-on front mech mount, removing the need for an unsightly clamp, and customers can opt for internal cable routing, depending on their chosen groupset. Any braze-ons required, such as down-tube cable stops, are in stainless steel, as is the head-tube badge.

Our model is one of the first bikes we’ve had supplied with the new Shimano Ultegra groupset, with hints of Dura-Ace, and refinements across the board. Its compact 50/34 chainset is paired with a climb-friendly 11-32 cassette and long cage rear mech. The brake callipers are a little less angular, the hoods slimmer and the shift levers enlarged.

Apart from the lever feel, the groupset was mostly forgotten once riding, as the frame took centre stage. Whereas a good carbon fibre frame seems to float over the road surface, only feeding back abbreviated passages of surface texture, the Reilly maintains an impressively detailed commentary. It’s a firm ride, but not harsh, smoothing road vibrations and taking the edge off sharp hits.

Reilly maintains its reputation for stunningly crafted, high-performance steel frames
Reilly maintains its reputation for stunningly crafted, high-performance steel frames

The complete bike carries a little more weight than some here, but from the way it rides, you’d never know. Assertively swift over rolling terrain, the handling is crisp, confident and predictable, and makes good use of the 25mm Continental tyres’ generous 27mm inflated width.

It’s content to cruise, but standing on the pedals unleashes a bit of a hooligan, switching from assertion to controlled aggression. The wheels aren’t super light, but deliver able performance to match the frame’s ability and, at 23mm wide, help stability too.

Both head and seat angles are 73 degrees, which is quite normal, but we found the zero setback seatpost pushed us too far forward of our preferred pedalling position. The narrow 40cm Deda bar is easier to live with, but a customer could specify alternatives to suit.

The Reilly Spirit HSS has lines and a lustrous finish we could gaze at all day. Such metallic artistry deserves to be enjoyed, and riding it is a treat that improves with every hill crested, and one we wouldn’t tire of.

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

Robin Wilmott

Tech Writer, Tech Hub, UK,
Robin began road cycling in 1988, and with mountain bikes in their infancy, mixed experimental off-road adventures with club time trials and road races. Cyclocross soon became a winter staple, and has remained his favourite form of competition. Robin has always loved the technical aspect of building and maintaining bikes, and several years working in a good bike shop only amplified that. Ten years as a Forensic Photographer followed, honing his eye for detail in pictures and words. He has shot at the biggest pro events since the '90s, and now he's here, drawing on all those experiences to figure out what makes a bike or component tick.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 178cm / 5'10"
  • Weight: 75kg / 165lb
  • Discipline: Road, cyclocross, time trials
  • Beer of Choice: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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