Bike Test - Regal Black Knight
Regal are a in-house brand from All Terrain Cycles. This bike received some rave reviews when it was first launched a few years back and we were keen to get the budget bike in, as we'd read of the race-ready value being hard to beat. The Mirage equipped bike is the lowest specification offered but obviously this could be altered according to personal choice and budget. But to give it a fair crack we decided that £699 was a decent entry level race-ready price point.
Black has a certain look to it, although slimming if you wear it, it makes bikes look fairly plain. I know everyone thinks that bike reviewers are snobs and I'd agree, I am. I like to have something to have a firm opinion on, colour being an easy starting point. And I'm not alone. Seeing as most bike racers are only second to drag queens in their opinions on colour choice, it's safe to say most people thought the Regal looked a little dull.
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.
Aggression continues through the front end and the Carbon bladed fork is direct and functional. The integrated design matches the frame by adding strength to the sprint qualities of the Black Knight. Carbon and straight yet they certainly took some of the buzz away from the tarmac.
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.
These budget handbuilt wheels are surprisingly good. Compared to similar (and more expensively) priced complete wheelsets they are better functionally and easier to keep. The stainless spokes and Campagnolo cup and cone bearing hubs are a must for British weather. The Mavic eyeletted rims add more long term freindlyness into the bargain.
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 road - The Ride
The first impression of this bike is that there will be no prisoners. I was actually pleasantly surprised as the complete package is far better than the first thoughts suggested. Don't judge a book, or bike for that matter, by it's cover and all that. Our first ride together was weaving through the city streets and the Black Knight was well up for a duel with the taxis and buses.
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...
Obviously to get this bike within budget there are going to be some compromises. Fortunately Black Knight have decided to make these in areas that are less functional but personal nonetheless. As a new or returning cyclists the saddle/bar choices will be fine, but for this opinionated road-hardenend old roadie they needed swapping for something a little more familiar.
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.
A full Campagnolo Mirage nine speed group was perfectly set up and performed perfectly too. Braking is a little sharp after using Chorus/Record differential set ups, but Campagnolo certainly have a functional attitude to the lower end gruppos and the nine speed stuff goes on forever.
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.
The Regal philosophy is pretty simple - Fast and furious.
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...
| RCUK VERDICT |
Good: a good choice for TT racers and crit specialists with a tight budget
| Bad: Short chainstays made the rough roads rougher |
Frame sizes: S, M & L - 44.5, 50 & 55.5cm (c/c) (compact)
Size tested: M (50 cm)
Frame tubing: Regal Triple butted Heat treated alloy
Fork: Carbon with alloy steerer
Headset: Hiddenset 1 1/8"
Crankarms: Campagnolo Mirage double 170mm
B/B: Campagnolo Mirage
Pedals: none supplied
Chain: Campagnolo Mirage
Freewheel: Campagnolo Mirage 9 speed 12-25
F/D: Campagnolo Mirage 9 speed
R/D: Campagnolo Mirage 9 speed
Shifters: Campagnolo Mirage 9 speed
Handlebar: ITM Racing Super 330 42cm
Stem: ITM Racing 11cm
Brakes: Campagnolo Mirage 9 speed
Wheels: Campagnolo Mirage 9 speed hubs / Mavic MA3 rims / Stainless spokes 32h front - 32h rear
Tyres: Hutchinson Reflex 700x23c
Saddle: Selle Italia Trimatic
Seatpost: ITM racing 27.2mm
Weight: 19.2lbs less pedals
Price: Complete bike as shown £699.99 Frame and fork £399.99
Contact: All Terrain Cycles 01535 632173