Words from Andrew Diprose
North London Dirt / The Ride Journal
My brother Phil and I are geeky about routes. Really geeky, and especially London mixed-surface routes. Being ‘citylocked’ means whether you’re a roadie looking for quiet lanes or a gravel grinder hunting a local dirt fix, that convoluted line on your Garmin is everything. We don’t all have easy access to those instagram friendly open vistas or double-track leading to the horizon, right?
Poring over Google maps, troubling Street-view, zooming-in to satellite imagery… All so we can find fresh routes we want to ride, and are proud to share with like minded souls. So when the guys at Brother Cycles (yup, also brothers - yup, also love bikes) asked us to put together a London route for the launch of their new ‘all-road’ Stroma frame we lept (on our bikes) at the chance.
We used our experience planning routes out of North East London (2020 marking the third year of North London Dirt, our annual Gravel bike event) to recce on a route to suit the new Brother Cycles Stroma’s versatile 30+mm ‘all road’ tyres. This meant we could hunt out a tonne of broken road, buff dirt tracks and some smooth suburban black-top. A ride-it-all route for a ride-it-all bike.
The more I got excited about the route and the possibilities of a frame like the Stroma, the more I thought ‘I think I need a bike like this!' Just a few days later, I put in a call to Will. Fast forward a few weeks and I was now the proud owner. Cloud 9 swiftly (like, 12 hours after I dropped off the parts!) built the frame up and I’ve been out refining the route the actual bike is designed for!
Okay, let me confess something now. I have a history of abusing road bikes. In winter, I end up riding them like a gravel bike (the gravel bike in turn gets ridden like a mountain bike). Too many rides where mud-clogged wheels stopped turning, those 23mm tyres fighting for traction on another farm track ‘short-cut’, the sound of a gritty paste on a titanium ‘stays. I needed a bike like the Stroma.
So how does it ride? It’s lighter and more spirited than I’d have imagined for a road bike that is so damn versatile. Brother is rightly well known for great adventure bikes, the Stroma is a departure for Brother though, it is a bonafide road frame, a bike that can sprint… it’s just one that can handle the rough with the smooth.
On road, it’s well mannered. The geometry feels forgiving and planted but responsive, none of that ponderous steer-and-wait handling that often blights ‘do it all’ bikes. People say ‘steel is real’ for good reason (okay, it is a great rhyme too) the material feels like it has soul, it feels like it has life. It also has the look and feel of a frame for life, dependable. Like it could take the odd knock and still come out looking fantastic. Switch to off-road... And it feels like it’s coming home. No ‘out of it’s depth’ handling angst. You’d probably not want to carve steep singletrack on it - much as I’d give it a go - the tyre limitations would put paid to that.
I built up the frame with a dependable mix of new Shimano 105 - double chainring, flat-mount hydraulic disks, HUNT’s fit-and-forget 4 Season wheels and a Thomson stem and seatpost (topped off with a Fizik Arione perch). Nothing too ‘weight weenie’, yet it STILL rides ‘light’.
And damn, it looks right too. The perfect mix of modern looks and features (12mm bolt through axles, 44mm headtube to take a 1.5” tapered steerer carbon fork, flat mount brakes, all the good stuff) while still boasting timeless and gloriously un-gimmicky looks. The colour is spot on too. Is it warm grey, or is it light blue, or is it green… it may just be sage? Who cares? I just know it looks great whipping along a broken farm track with my (other) brother at my side, somewhere in the hinterland between the city and the countryside…. Riding ‘all Bro’d’ if you will!