Light Blue’s long association with Reynolds steel is represented on the Darwin by an uncharacteristically (for an adventure-cum-gravel machine) slender 725 double-butted tubeset. But it’s the frame that’s the star of the show here, offering every fixture and fitting you could want on a bike designed to traverse continents or just get you (and your stuff) to work on time.
Provision for guards, a rear rack, front low-rider rack, braze-ons for 1x drivetrains, a front mech, hub gear cables, hydraulic hoses, three bottle cages, adaptable dropouts to take every gearing configuration from singlespeed to hub gears… it has it all.
That usability’s married to a seriously accomplished ride. The skinny tubeset could make for a noodly flexy ride but the Darwin tracks straight and handles beautifully, staying ‘online’ over the rockiest terrain. That it balances this with a lively feel that takes the edge off jarring lumps and bumps is impressive.
On the road, the one-by drivetrain offers plenty of range, and the choice of a 46t front ring means the Darwin has plenty of top-end speed potential when the road heads downwards.
The massive 38c tyres have a chevron tread pattern that rolls well on tarmac but isn’t the fastest feeling. Off road it’s a similar mixed story. The large volume means plenty of comfort and, run at lower pressures, decent grip over grit and packed dirt, but hit anything even slightly greasy or wet and there’s little traction.
Mind you, the Halo Vapour disc wheels are a great match for big volume tyres. Their mountain-bike-like 21mm internal rim width shapes the tyre wonderfully well and it’s tubeless compatible, too.
Stopping duties are taken care of by Avid’s BB7-S, cable-operated calipers, which elicit plenty of power but do require a much firmer hand than the slick Rival unit of the Polygon. They’re also a little more prone to vibration and chattery noise than their equivalent full hydraulics.
Overall, the Darwin’s another great bike to come out of the Light Blue stable – a superb steel machine packed with character. With faster tyres and better brakes it’d be unbeatable. As it stands it’ll help you beat a path just about anywhere you’d want to go.