Forme Thorpe Elite – review

We called in the Forme last month, when, gripped by the prospect of British success at a home Olympics, we called in a fleet of machines begun on British drawing boards (check back soon for reviews of the Pearson Hammer and Tongs and the Boardman SLR 9.2).

There is a simplicity about the Forme Thorpe Elite which appeals. High-end frames have, in recent years, become increasingly robotic as the quest for aerodynamic advantage continues a pace.

The Forme Thorpe Elite is a machine which rides well, looks great and is competitively priced

How much benefit does a regular rider, the type who will buy a machine like the Forme Thorpe Elite, gain from an aero machine? More value should be placed on ride quality and aesthetics, in my opinion; after all, everyone wants a bike which looks good.

And this 2012 edition of the Thorpe Elite is a machine which rides well, looks great and is competitively priced at £2,999.99. The frame and fork are both made from a Torayca 700 carbon fibre; the highest grade of  ‘standard’ carbon fibre produced by the Japanese firm, who also supply Pinarello, among others. The frame has all the hallmarks of a contemporary machine designed for performance: a tapered head tube (1 1/8″ – 1 1/2″) and BB30 bottom bracket, chunky chainstays and narrow seatstays. Cable routing is external and while we’d prefer internal cable routing on a bike of this price, it does make it easier to service.

Forme describe the Thorpe Elite as a machine designed to offer a balance of high performance and comfort, and, after a month’s riding, we’d deliver a similar verdict. It’s a stiff machine, as expected at this price, and, on the whole, one which manages to deflect the worst of the road buzz emitted from the south east’s poor road surfaces. It’s not the most comfortable bike I’ve tested hits year – the Focus Cayo Evo trumps it in that respect – but it’s a bike which responds well to pedalling without submitting the rider to a bone-shuddering ride.

Easton’s lightweight EA90 SLX wheels are a welcome addition

The Thorpe Elite is very well-specced for the price. It’s described as a Dura-Ace build and Shimano’s top-end groupset provides the key components (front derailleur, rear derailleurs, shifters) alongside a handful (front brake, rear brake, cassette) from the second-from-top Ultegra group. FSA SL-K Light chainset has standard 53-39t chainrings matched to an 12-25t cassette. That’s best described as a race-ready combination which, considering the popularity of compact chainsets, may put some riders off. It does provide plenty of ammunition for fast riding, though.

The impressive spec continues across the rest of the bike, not least with the Easton’s EA90 SLX wheels. These are the lightest aluminium clinchers in Easton’s range, with claimed weight an impressive 1,390g. Such light wheels added considerably to the Thorpe Elite’s climbing ability, although we did detect some sideways flex when sprinting.

The 53-39t chainset is ideal for racers

Many bike manufacturers skimp when it comes to wheels – and they are an easy and obvious upgrade point – so it’s refreshing to see Forme buck the trend – and the same goes for tyres, with the Easton hoops wrapped in Schwalbe’s superb Ultremo ZX rubber. Otherwise, Easton also provide the aluminium EA70 handlebar and stem combo, and carbon fibre EC90 seatpost, while the only non-branded component is Forme’s Ergofit Race SL, which is still a good piece of kit with titanium rails, although it did prove a little firm for this reviewed on long rides.

Forme have only been around since March 2010 and in that time the range has evolved from five bikes to more than 50 for 2013. Next year’s Thorpe Elite, which will start to appear in the shops soon, uses the same frame, chainset, wheelset and tyres as the 2012 model we tested, but the groupset is Campagnolo Chorus 11-speed (Campagnolo will be used across the Forme range in 2013), while the finishing kit is provided by Belgian brand 4ZA. The price will jump £100 to £3,099.99.

The heart of the bike remains the same, however, and it’s an impressive offering from such a young brand.

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