PURSUIT CYCLES ALL ROAD BIKE TEST

Pursuit Cycles is the latest endeavor from industry veteran and craftsman frame builder Carl Strong. Strong began making frames in junior high and eventually started Strong Frames in 1993 making a name for himself in the world of steel and titanium.

In 2011 Strong began working with carbon and made an instant headline with his award-winning tube-to-tube carbon fiber frame that took home top honors for best carbon layup at that year’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS). 

With such notable accolades tucked in his back pocket, Strong began to evolve his carbon art and began to experiment with molded construction, as it permits more control of the finished frame. 

In an effort to expand his carbon abilities, Strong teamed up with some friends in Bozeman, Montana, to launch Pursuit Cycles to exclusively focus on custom carbon frames with the goal of making the highest-quality bikes possible.

THE FRAME

Our All Road is one of three purpose-built frame designs. In addition to the All Road, Pursuit offers the road-race-oriented Pure Road and the mixed-surface-ready Supple Road.

The traditional silhouette of the All Road’s monocoque carbon construction is the canvas for a lava lamp paint job that screams custom finish. Pursuit offers personalized paint options that are worthy of hanging in an art exhibit. But, Pursuit was quick to remind us that it’s just a bicycle and to “ride it like you stole it.” Pursuit offers various levels of paint customization, and this is an example of their highest design tier, which starts at $1000. However, there are less expensive options around $400, as well as a standard option for no additional charge. Strong said most customers opt for the standard paint jobs, but top-tier designs can be personalized and crafted with the variety of designers in town. 

“Pursuit promised road bike-like handling and they delivered. Our roadie test riders were impressed by how quickly the All Road replied to input and muted road imperfections at the same time.” 

All Road framesets start at $4800 in stock geometries, as well as custom sizes at no extra charge. Each frame is tuned specifically for the rider’s needs. Pursuit takes into consideration the rider’s goals, frame size and weight to optimize the layup of the carbon to provide the desired feedback. 

Clearance for up to 700x40mm or 650x48mm tires helps the All Road maintain a compact geometry and the road bike-like feel that designer Carl Strong intended.

Our size 55.5 is one of the 13 stock sizes Pursuit offers. It has a 101.4cm wheelbase with a 55.2cm stack and a 39.6cm reach. The head tube is minimal for a bike this size at 13.5cm thanks to the sleek design of the internal headset and tapered steerer tube. 

The titanium threaded T47 bottom bracket is a sweet touch that is included on all Pursuit frames. Tire clearance maxes out at 40mm, which is where the All Road takes its name. By avoiding design features to accommodate wider tires and an adventure bike feel, the All Road is able to maintain many road bike handling characteristics and remain fully capable on most types of gravel, which we like. 

 

THE PARTS

This bike is equipped with Campagnolo’s 13-speed Ekar drivetrain. We’re big fans of the massive gear range Ekar offers. Our build has a 40-tooth chainring paired to a 9-42 cassette. The gear range added with the small 9-tooth cog sets Ekar apart from the other gravel offerings—from SRAM and Shimano, which are limited to 10- and 11-tooth cogs. The less than 1:1 ratio in the easy gears make spinning up climbs possible, and we need all the help we can get. Pursuit offers a dozen other drivetrain options for riders to build a bike that best meets their specific needs.

Enve supplied the rest of the small parts. Their SES 4.5 AR wheelset comes with Chris King hubs. The rims have an internal width of 25mm with a hookless bead, making them tubeless only. At 49mm deep in the front and 55mm deep in the rear, the 4.5s provide nearly unmatched aerodynamic benefits. The dimensions make them ideal for wide, high-volume tires. Enve’s 27.2 seatpost offers noticeable compliance in the saddle, and their gravel bars flex just right in the drops, though the flare is a bit extreme for us. 

The handmade Berk saddle maintains the traditional aesthetic with its long nose and ties together the entire boutique build with matching green bar tape.

THE RIDE

Pursuit promised road bike-like handling and they delivered. Our roadie test riders were impressed by how quickly the All Road replied to input and muted road imperfections at the same time. Our gravel-focused riders mentioned how plush the ride felt, especially over washboard gravel.  Everyone was impressed with how unique the final build was.

A pair of 40mm Donnelly XPLOR tires paired well with the Enve wheels and felt more like 45s on the dirt. The knobs are grippy and reliable in loose dirt yet short enough to be fast-rolling on the pavement. 

The Campagnolo Ekar drivetrain elevated the utility of the All Road. The gear range is a big plus, and the modulation and efficiency of the brakes remain unmatched. Braking responds directly to the pressure the rider inputs better than any other set of binders on the market. We were able to pedal smoothly at speeds over 36 mph, which we only hit on the pavement. 

We’ve noticed the factory chain lube is a bit sticky, and after a few rides becomes a bit gunky. After about a week, we fully cleaned the chain and applied some of our usual lube, which quickly improved shifting. While riding the Pursuit, we noticed the Campy shift lever would get stuck on the brake lever. A quick twist of the 1.5mm Allen under the lever allowed for adjustment of the shift lever fore and aft, which fixed the problem.

THE VERDICT

Our complete bike weighed in at an impressive 17.62 pounds. Considering the $11,250 price tag, this All Road very well could be hanging on a wall. However, we could see this being the bike for anyone looking for a unique performance-oriented all-road bike that can be laid up to take advantage of the performance characteristics carbon
fiber offers. 

Our hand-built standard layup performs as well as any flagship gravel bike from a major manufacturer, but has an unmatched aesthetic that draws attention from just about any rider on the road. Consider the Pursuit’s Extralite layup to save about half a pound in the frame.

PUNCH LINES

American-made custom

Road bike handling for groomed gravel

Boutique build and price

STATS

Price: $11,250, $4800 (frameset)

Weight: 17.62 pounds

Sizes: 53.5, 54, 54.5, 55, 55.5 (tested), 55.5 tall, 56, 56.5, 57, 57 tall, 57.5, 58, 58.5cm

www.pursuitcycles.com

 

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