Spa Cycles Elan Ti Ultegra review£2,399.00

Can Yorkshire rough stuff royalty deliver the smoothest ride?

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Yorkshire touring specialist and Rough Stuff Fellowship stalwart Spa Cycles has loaded over 40 years of experience into its new titanium Elan all-rounder frame – and it shows from the first smooth and swift turns of the Elan Ti Ultegra's pedals.

In structural terms it’s a simple titanium frame with a head-tube that isn’t tapered and the main tubes are plain gauge 0.9mm pipe. The plastic cable adjuster guides that sit where down-tube shifters would have been are practical rather than pretty, it has quick releases rather than thru-axles, and a 135mm rear axle.

Some neat welding on the Elan frame
Some neat welding on the Elan frame

Di2 compatibility is created in house with a drill. However, the junction of the head-tube and down-tube junction does get a neatly welded reinforcing gusset and the rear dropouts feature swooping cut-out sections with rack and mudguard fittings. It also has perfect fork, dropout and stem-to-stern alignment. The TRP disc fork has mudguard mounts and the bike comes with full-length SKS Chromoplastic guards as standard.

Given that the basic Ultegra spec bike costs ‘just’ £2,100, we ticked Spa’s USE Sumo titanium seatpost (£90) and hand-built Novatec/Ryde wheels (£200) options. Depending on your budget and requirements Spa will build to suit. In an ideal world we’d have changed the basic-looking Spa Navigator saddle and Schwalbe Marathon Ultimate tyres out of pure snobbery too. But when we actually rode the Elan and realised just how well Spa knows how to put a bike together we quickly dropped our preconceptions and got in as many and varied miles as possible.

A smooth ride

It can genuinely feel as if you’re running deep-section aero wheels and tubeless tyres on perfect tarmac

The overwhelming characteristic of the Elan is its smoothness. Not a princess and the pea ‘there’s a tiny bit less buzz than other titanium bikes’ but a whole ‘has it got slow punctures in both tyres?’ league apart in terms of limousine-like smoothness.

And it’s not just that spongy saddle and the titanium seatpost — stand up and it still glides as though you’re riding on a tyre-width strip of glass no-one else can see. Unlike a lot of ‘emperor’s new clothes’ statements we’ve seen written about titanium frames that feel surprisingly crude and chattery, this bike really is that good.

While the softness and heavy, puncture-reinforced tyres mean the first pedal strokes from standstill can feel soft and ponderous, once you get the Elan into its stride it climbs and cruises much better than we expected. In fact, thanks to the speed-sustain effect of the beautifully balanced wheels and the vibration-cancelling frame, it can genuinely feel as if you’re running deep-section aero wheels and tubeless tyres on perfect tarmac, not battling battered asphalt on a Yorkshire back road.

The tall, straight steerer, which keeps the front end as smooth as the rear, can feel vague, but the long, stable wheelbase means the Elan never crosses into treacherous territory, even when working the Ultegra brakes hard. As long as you don’t want pin-sharp precision, that same compliance helps with traction too and the whole testing experience was just one of increasing affection.

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

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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