The enigmatically named 13 Bikes has just launched an all-new range sold through Halfords. First impressions of its lineup-topping – and equally oddly named – machine are good, thanks to its understated presentation and price-busting kit based around 11-speed Shimano Ultegra.
The frame is aero optimised, with dropped seatstays reminiscent of BMC (and the 2015 Giant Defy) with all the cables internally routed to cut down on aero noise. The TRP brakes are mounted on the rear of the fork crown and the chainstays to reduce drag. But the down tube tapers towards the rear rather than having the semi-teardrop Kamm-tail design used by a lot of its competitors. This may not be as aerodynamic, but it does counter potential stiffness issues. And the 27.2mm seatpost is preferred to a slightly more aero seatmast because of the increased comfort it offers.
Dropped seatstays appear to be on trend in 2015 bikes
We have no complaints about the kit. Ultegra is impressive in a shop-bought bike at this price, with the PF30 frame having an FSA converter to allow the use of Ultegra’s excellent chainset. The TRP Aero brakes – side-pull front, centre-pull rear – are consistently powerful, but they do lack the feel of Ultegra’s dual pivots, requiring a shorter throw of the lever. This takes a while to get used to, but even throughout a long rain-soaked test ride they were never anything but good.
The 13 RS wheels, made by the Taiwanese company Xero, have a 50mm carbon aero shroud bonded to an alloy rim, so you will need to remove the tyre if you need to true them. The rim is also narrower than the latest generation of aero wheels, which probably accounts for the use of 23mm rubber rather than 25mm. And though the blunted rim profile isn’t bad in crosswinds, the front does catch gusts in blustery conditions.
The 50mm rims can catch gusts of wind but offer an aero benefit
The geometry is at the racier end of the spectrum. Parallel 73-degree angles, a long top tube and short 990mm wheelbase make for a sharp handling bike that appreciates speed and revels in fast direction changes – and has a decent level of comfort. The Fizik Aliante saddle and compact rear end soak up bumps well, though there is more vibration through the front, which we could feel after four or five hours.
Halfords should be proud of this excellent debut. The Gamma’s equipment is uniformly excellent, the ride is exciting and the weight is good for the price. It’s efficient enough for even the stiffest climbs to be manageable, though we’d have still preferred the wider gears offered by a 52/36 or compact chainset rather than the aggressively race-orientated setup it came with.
13 Bikes 2015 range