Enough has been said about current road bike geometry, hasn’t it?. Well the Black Knight takes the compact frame principles and adds a few of it’s own. It’s very aggressive in it’s outlook. A short chainstay and a steepish head/seat angle make this a racey prospect and after riding a few sedate racing bikes recently I have to say I was a little intimidated…
The build quality is excellent, the welding smooth and precise and the fork matches the head tube perfectly, although on the downside the clearance for the rear wheel is tight to say the least.
Other niggles on the frame design front are that the cable stops don’t have adjusters, so no fiddling with your gears as you ride (however I’ve never been able to do this 100% successfully!) and the cable stop for the rear mech sticks out slightly from the chainstay and I kept clipping it with my heel.
Unlike some manufacturers Regal have matched the frame and the fork well, the sharp rake suiting the frame and vice versa. Steering is crucial, but no more so than when trying to negotiate a 100+ field in a crit around Hillingdon.
Hutchinson tyres aren’t totally suited to London streets. They have a tendancy to cut easily in the wet and only grip completely convincingly in the dry. However they combine well with the wheels to add a little welcome suspension to the ride. Forget fitting anything fatter than a 23c tyre, as the picture of the seat tube shows, there ain’t much room for mudguards, or anything really.
A better set of wheels are going cost a fair deal more, but the upgrade would be worth it to make the bike a little more responsive. Nothing really wrong here, just the budget components will never match the performance of equally well-built, but better specced wheels.
Out on the open road the Black Knight’s build and quality were evident and the perfectly aligned frame behaved itself impeccably. On a criterium circuit the Black Knight really impressed, it doesn’t dive at the corners and certainly knows its way through the fast moving pack. Jump on the pedals and the compact rear really digs in, adjust your riding style a little or risk a rear end flick as you stamp the power down. Is this begining to sound like Jeremy Clarkson…?
But balance was another of the first things that impressed when I first rode it, so I was a little confused as to where this bike was supposed to fit in the genres of road bikes. It’s a crit machine but it could take you a little further afield… However there are no favours from the rear end. It’s a compact frame so the rear triangle is small and solid. The shorter chainstays tuck the rear wheel under quite nicely but the seat stays can’t take the shock away when they are so well braced against the rider’s behind. In ‘short’ it’s a bit of a jack hammer.
Yet the race aspect of the ride really sells the Black Knight to me, so the ride scores high. It won’t be for everyone, just if you want a race-only machine. And you could do a lot worse…
The bars left me in no doubt that my small hands are not suited to ergo bends. I just couldn’t reach the brakes when I was on the drops. Deep drops aren’t for the faint hearted and these ITM bars won’t get much use in the low racing position.
The full Record TT version of this bike raised an eybrow or two. Such is the fortunate position of speccing this bike yourself you could make it more personal by changing up or down the groupset hierachy. For under £2K the TT bike is an interesting proposal.
So no real surprise then that this bike is offered as a TT machine option too. It’s perfect in all but top tube length, so you may want to go a size smaller just so that the handlebars don’t end up in a different postcode to your saddle. The low slung, steep and aggressive geometry means you can dial-in a decent TT position (further over the BB for powerful pedalling). As for value, well it’s not bad but there are a few strong contenders in this price area and some (e.g. the Veloce/Mirage equipped Bianchi Nirone) are much more pleasing on the eye too.
Also the Black Knight has kept to its simple design for too long, the 1.3kg all aluminium frame is very well made but there are many others at this price with more technical advances, like carbon rear ends and fancy paint… snobbery aside if you want a no-nonsense race bike with no frills look no further. Close your eyes (no don’t) and you could be on a far more expensive bike.
I liked the initial ride of the Black Knight, straight out of the box it was a rocket ship ride and for riders after a bike just to race on in TTs and criteriums, you’ll not be disappointed but if you want to venture further afield it won’t be as perfect a match – it just has to be ridden hard…
Bad: Short chainstays made the rough roads rougher
Freewheel: Campagnolo Mirage 9 speed 12-25
Saddle: Selle Italia Trimatic
Contact: All Terrain Cycles 01535 632173