Technology and art have always combined in bicycles. One man’s treasure is another man’s poison; but whether your treasure is a hand-built lugged steel machine draped in 8-speed Campagnolo or SRAM eTap hanging off a bang-up-to-date creation, the beauty, and elegance of a bicycle are indisputable.
Bastion Cycles are taking this perfect marriage up a notch by – according to their own strapline – ‘Engineering a New Art Form’. They sent one our way for a brief dalliance. We drooled over it as we pulled it out of the box, then clocked up some miles to see what it was all about.
Before we get into the bike itself, who are Bastion and what are they doing, for those who don’t know? Without diving headlong into the technical detail, Bastion are combining 3D-printed titanium lugs with filament-wound carbon tubes.
Mixed material carbon and titanium bikes are nothing new, but the processes being used for the titanium lugs particularly certainly are – in the bike industry at least.
3D printing (or Layer Additive Technology) has been used by a few companies before – in 2013 Charge Bikes produced the dropouts of a Titanium cyclocross prototype using this method and Moots are now using in on the rear dropouts on their Routt RSL model – but it is yet to be used to this level or on so many key structural parts of the bike frame.
It is an approach that is quite logical for custom lugged bikes, though, as the lugs can be created at the desired angles and ready to attach the correct tube diameters without the need for separate, costly molds; and without the need for the time-consuming welding and shaping of Ti lugs ready to attach the carbon tubes.
All of the tech aside; the lug shapes, dropouts, finishes and variations in tubing thicknesses being produced by Bastion result in striking-looking bikes that you cannot help but fall in love with. They’re beautiful – and I say that as someone who, as a general rule, doesn’t like the aesthetics of road bikes with disc brakes.
The sample we were sent was their ‘Alpha 3’ test bike. All the time we were arranging the review, Ben at Bastion was highlighting to me how we should ignore the finish quality of this bike as it was not up to standard.
On that basis I would never have any concerns about the quality of a production version of one of these machines – I’m quite a perfectionist and I thought the finish was lovely.
The first outing on Alpha 3 – a Shimano Ultegra Di2-equipped build with accompanying hydraulic disc brakes and Curve wheels – was a short, sharp shakedown around some local hills, which enabled a brief glimpse into what the bike had to offer on some very familiar terrain. Initial impressions suggested a smooth ride, despite obvious front end stiffness. The bike was solid under power without being jarring whilst cruising.
Longer outings further affirmed that initial feedback. The Curve disc brake forks spec’d on this bike tracked beautifully and seemed to pair well with the solid build of the frame at the front end without any feeling of being overly stiff (I had feared the bike might feel overbuilt on account of the front end appearing quite stout). Combining this with considered geometry, the front end always felt well sorted; and the bike was very well mannered as a consequence.
These longer rides also highlighted that the long integrated seat post (ISP) offered a good level of long-term comfort at the back end, and without any feeling of fragility that I had initially feared on the basis of the ISP and seat stays being quite skinny.
The square-section chain stays perfectly balance those skinny seat stays to offer a direct power transfer which doesn’t disappoint. I wouldn’t call the bike ‘lightning-quick’ under acceleration, but it didn’t lack any stiffness and certainly never felt like the bike was holding me back.
Our time with this Bastion was brief. If I were having a Bastion built for myself there are certainly changes I would make over the way Alpha 3 was built but, as a bike that was not built to my spec, if I had to ride it on a long-term basis I would be entirely comfortable with the bike staying as it was.
As a bike that is now serving as a taster for prospective customers, it is a great insight into how a Bastion can be built – and I would suggest is the perfect middle ground for future customers to gauge where they need to go from here in terms of stiffening up or softening down at either end of the bike.
Overall I’m a big fan of the Bastion aesthetic (yes, even despite the disc brakes). Whilst in the saddle I loved seeing the fat down tube appearing from either side of the skinnier top tube; and off the bike that carbon weave and uniquely crafted Ti lugs gives the bike a signature look which draws the eye.
Personally, I would love to see how a more traditional style of bike produced in the Bastion methodology would look as I feel like it could produce quite a striking result.
Bastion supply prospective customers with one of the most clear and concise frame drawings I have seen. I really value this clarity, and many big name manufacturers could do better in following Bastion’s lead here. In addition, a file is sent to customers which enable the customer to view and play with a full 3D model of their new bike via a readily available app.
I spent ages fiddling with this despite the bike not being mine – it’s great fun and quite addictive, and is a really nice extra touch to the whole experience. Topping that off is an engineering report to confirm the frames integrity, build spec and other details to prove that it meets the intended brief. As a custom bike customer, you will never be more informed or assured.
For reasons I am not going to go into here and now, I am still not sold on disc brakes on road bikes. This is not the time or place for that discussion; but, for others who may agree with me (or for those planning to race), Bastion are finalizing a rim brake adaptation to their Alpha 4 test bike as I type and are accepting pre-orders for that configuration.
If you need to ask, the frameset RRP starts at AU$7,750+GST before shipping if you customize yourself online; or from AU$8,750+GST to work with a consultant at Bastion, or at one of their global partners. The latter includes a professional bike fit and design consultation. Again, this isn’t the place for discussion surrounding that – if you can justify the spend and are considering a Bastion, frankly, that is all that matters.
You will be rewarded with a unique bike that will be striking in appearance and uniquely yours in both ride qualities and in the inscription that can be added to the rear dropouts during the 3D printing process. All that is then left to decide is your accent color.
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Pictures supplied by Bastion and shot by Spurlo Style