I’ll admit to always having had a liking for Canadians, and a few weeks in the company of the No.22 Bicycle Company’s Great Divide has cemented this affection.
No.22 (titanium’s place in the Periodic Table, element fans) have set themselves up to concentrate on designing bikes while contracting out manufacturing to Lynskey in Tennessee, an approach that allows both parties to focus on their strengths, if the Great Divide is any guide, a machine named after the spine of mountains running down the length of continental America.
No.22 has brought several new-school design attributes from carbon bikes to titanium, giving a contemporary look to what might already be regarded as a traditional material. These include an oversized 44mm head tube (integral head set top/external cup bottom), one that in this case has allowed the fitment of the increasingly de rigueur Enve Road 2.0 carbon tapered fork, fast becoming a ‘must’ on high-end machinery.
An oversized, bi-ovalized down tube is welded to a substantial Pressfit 30 bottom bracket. The combination of these parts and a stout pair of chain stays meant there was little or no flex to be found during hard efforts or out of the saddle sprints, a trait on the more slender-tubed titanium bikes of yore. It is worth noting that the Great Divide’s frame is double and triple butted, processes whose ability to strip weight without allowing flex were evident in the Great Divide’s ride quality. Beware, however, that some Ti bikes are made from plain gauge tubing, an undesirable economy in a material so susceptible to flex.
The dropouts, nicely machined, cowled affairs that screamed quality, led into a svelte pair of seat stays that delivered comfort during long days on the road. Such details we felt set apart the Great Divide from a wash of “new model year” obsolescence. The nicely machined brake bridge with No. 22 logo contributed to one of the most attractive finishes I’ve seen in a long time (although this is of course subjective). Its bead blasted frame and anodized graphics should look good for years to come. The machined alloy head badge is also worthy of a mention.
The No.22 Great Divide is sold as a frameset with Enve Road 2.0 fork. The rest of the build then is largely immaterial for review purposes: would-be owners will choose their own. Anyone who opts for the set up supplied with our sample bike, however, is unlikely to be disappointed.
Our test bike was equipped with new-this-year 11-speed Ultegra groupset which performed in the flawless manner we’ve come to expect from Shimano’s second-from-top offering.
It rolled on hand built wheels, comprised of a 24mm wide Pacenti SL23 rim laced with Sapim Lazer spokes to a No.22 branded hub. Despite the tubeless compatibility, and our fondness for the technology, our tests were completed on supplied (and excellent) Michelin Pro 4 rubber.
Our frameset was rounded out with a Chris King headset, and a seat collar, stem, carbon handlebar and seat post from Thomson’s new-ish road range. Thomson finishing kit has long been the gold standard for our fat-tyred brethren and we’re pleased to report that the road kit is equally well finished.
The No.22 Bikes Great Divide combined low weight, high comfort levels, and neutral handling with good power transfer to deliver a ride best described as sprightly. It lacked the electric acceleration and effortless climbing performance of the lightest and most sophisticated racing bikes, but was an awful lot more pleasurable to ride than many of them; a machine forgiving in geometry and material.
To that end, we’d recommend the Great Divide as machine for long distance riding, and so well suited to the growing trend for events seemingly of ever-increasing distance. Our test bike came to us via Wales, and riders contemplating the crippling 305km Devil Dragon Ride from Margham Park next year would likely find the Great Divide a useful tool for the task.
Titanium has never been a material for the budget conscious, despite the recent attempt of brands manufacturing in China to drive down the cost. At £2399 with Enve Road 2.0 fork, the Great Divide will represent a significant investment for almost any rider.
That said, if it’s a titanium frame you’re after, and we’d consider the material a sensible choice for sportive riders for the reasons given above, one handmade by the reputable Lynskey from double and triple butted tubing is likely to encounter few real rivals.
The Great Divide combined low weight, high comfort levels, and neutral handling with good power transfer to deliver a ride best described as sprightly
Outsourcing manufacture, de rigueur for carbon bicycles, is not as common with titanium, but the union of No.22’s design and Lynskey’s manufacture has created a machine outside of the usual run of the, ahem, mill. It’s a machine that looks at once classic and contemporary; a design likely to remain immune to the vagaries of fashion.
The best I can say is that I did not want to give it back. I wonder if it’s available for a cheeky weekend jaunt between Paris and Roubaix that I have planned for April?