Sven Cycles Pathfinder first ride review£4,000.00

British steel go-anywhere machine

Sven Cycles has been making a splash in the world of custom bikes, with a range of classically styled steeds built from custom Reynolds tubing. Sven now has ambitions to produce a range of ready-to-ride bikes at more rational prices. My test model is a higher spec option, but the range starts at £2,900 for a SRAM Apex-equipped version.

Sven Cycles Pathfinder spec overview

  • Weight: 10.2kg (57cm)
  • Frame: Sven-designed Reynolds 931 stainless steel
  • Fork: Reynolds 931
  • Gears: SRAM Force 50/34, 11-32
  • Brakes: TRP Spyre
  • Wheels: DT Swiss rims, Hope Pro4 disc hubs
  • Tyres: 2.2in Schwalbe Thunder Burt 650b
  • Handlebar: Salsa Cowchipper
  • Stem: Thomson Elite
  • Seatpost: Thomson Elite
  • Chainset: White Industries
  • Shifters: G30SRAM (bar end)
  • Saddle: Brooks Cambium

Sven Cycles Pathfinder frame and kit

The Pathfinder’s been “built to ride wherever you want”. With a full complement of rack and mudguard mounts, this steel chassis could easily be used for gravel racing, adventure cycling or bike packing.

The geometry is more old-school mountain bike than road derived. The short, upward pointing stem and wide, flared Salsa Cowchipper bar give a commanding level of control, whether you’re up on the hoods or down in the flared drops.

The wheelset is tightly built and free of flex
The wheelset is tightly built and free of flex

The Hope-hubbed wheelset is tightly built and free of flex, even when bouldering downhill on rocky terrain. The wheels are shod with Schwalbe’s mountain bike 2.2in Thunder Burt tyres. They roll well on tarmac, for a fat tyre, but off-road the massive volume means you can run really low pressures for excellent comfort and grip.

The Pathfinder’s relaxed on-road manners translate into superb stability when traversing loose surfaces and gravel-strewn corners off road. The plush feel of the frame balances stiffness through the pedals with compliance through the main tubes to create a bike you’ll want to go exploring on.

The use of the time-trial-derived RTC (Return To Centre) SRAM bar end shifters is a neat idea, as on a wide, flared bar double-tap shifters can be a little unwieldy. The outboard shifts are slick and quick, but inboard shifts can be a little slow on occasion, the same goes when dropping from the big to small ring up front.

The Salsa Cowchipper bar and Thomson stem offer great control, whether on the hoods or down in the drops
The Salsa Cowchipper bar and Thomson stem offer great control, whether on the hoods or down in the drops

The TRP Spyre brakes are great cable units. Thanks to their dual-piston design you get rub-free running and lots of control. They’re paired with TRP brake levers, and while I’d prefer to see hydraulic units at this price, there aren’t any TRP off-the-peg hydraulic brake/lever units out yet. SRAM or Shimano offerings wouldn’t feel right on the wide, angled bar.

The wide gearing makes short work on the climbs and offers plenty of speed potential at the bottom end.

The Pathfinder is a monster of a bike and if this debut off-the-peg bike is anything to go by, Sven Cycles has a bright future bringing back homegrown bike manufacturing to the UK.

Sven Cycles Pathfinder early verdict

Exciting to ride, quality finish and unique build, but pricey.

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

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