In a world of carbon fiber bike designs chasing advanced aerodynamics, lighter weight and greater integration, you might be forgiven for thinking that steel bikes were an evanescent concept. But while they may have fallen out of favor with the cutting edge of bicycle design, their continued presence and construction is a testament to the versatility and durability they offer.
It is for these reasons that I am a fan. I actually have my own custom steel bike, which happily functions as a winter bike, a touring bike, a commuter bike, a gravel bike, essentially anything I ask of it. So I was intrigued when I was offered the chance to Review Temple Cycles first iteration of a dedicated steel road bike.
The small Bristol-based company, founded in 2014, became best known for its city and e-bikes adapted from vintage designs. Now though he’s targeting hardened road cyclists with his latest build, the (very simply named) Temple Road.
Temple says the road is inspired by the “classic clubman’s bike,” a bike forged to simply “get miles and enjoy the ride.” The “tried and tested” facets that he says reflect these values are found primarily in the steel frame. And unlike many steel bikes, this is steel all the way. No carbon forks here, just a continuation of the top class Reynolds 853 steel in the lovely slender forks. The Road’s skinny tubes stand out in a world of oversized carbon tubes, and I think they have a classic aesthetic when paired with the minimalist racing green color that was on my Review bike.
In addition to the classic design, the frame includes practical touches that any four-season bike should, including fenders and rack mounts. But it’s the combination of these quintessential features with modern trappings that make this bike stand out. More clearly, the Ultegra Di2 R8170 12-speed (equipped with a 50/34 chainring and 11-30 cassette) juxtaposes the old-school frame, but it’s a stylish, high-performance group that I think it just enhances the riding experience. the temple road Likewise, the addition of disc brakes is far from traditional, but it’s a practical choice that reinforces this bike’s position as a year-round, any-season ride. To accommodate these modern touches, the steel frame features internal cable routing (there’s also external capability for mechanical gearing), as well as substantial front and rear clearance, especially for up to 30mm tires with mudguard and 35 mm without. As you’d expect from a frame of this type, the bottom bracket is a conventional 68mm BSA thread.
Temple offers builds with different wheels, all supplied by British brand Hunt. Mine came with the lane-shredding Four Season AllRoad, perfect when paired with mudguards for Britain’s gritty, bumpy winter roads. You can choose to upgrade to deeper section Hunt Aerodynamicist carbon wheels to turn the road into a proper summer whip as well.
The Hunt wheels were shod with Panaracer Agilest TLR 30mm tubeless tires which, while soft and grippy, lacked the durability required for this time of year and I suffered a couple of punctures fairly early on.
I had mixed feelings about the finishing kit. For one thing, I got along great with the modestly priced, fully recycled Selle Italia Model X saddle, but I’m not such a fan of stem, stem and bar designs. I recognize the aesthetic Temple is trying to achieve with their own branded parts, but I didn’t like these silver sandblasted parts and felt they cheapened the look of the bike. Overall they performed adequately, although the drop of the bars was quite short, but I would swap them out for some fancy black parts if I owned the bike.
This build, without any additions, will set you back £4,295.
The Temple Road’s geometry is much more competitive than I expected, and its measurements aren’t that far off from my primary summer bike, an S-Works Tarmac SL6. This meant it was easy for me to quickly find a good ball position, but it quickly upset the assumptions I had had about the handling it would offer and the type of riding it would really thrive on.
Temple specifically says that the road’s versatility makes it ideal for long touring distances and audacious rides. It’s certainly capable of excelling in these areas, but the fairly aggressive geometry can be off-putting if you’re looking for something looser and more upright for long distances. I tend to ride in a reasonably long and low position so it wasn’t a problem when I was riding regularly, but I had a slight pain in my shoulder when I got back to riding after a layoff and I wasn’t used to the position
While the impact of geometry on comfort may vary from person to person, its effect on handling will be more consistent. You might expect this to involve some nimbleness and nimbleness through the corners that you might find on a thoroughbred race bike, but I actually found the Temple Road to offer a fairly relaxed and controlled feel through the corners. However, I thought its ride quality shone most brightly when it came up to speed in straight lines. It offered exceptional stability, even on rough and bumpy roads, and just felt planted. This inspires a lot of confidence and helps you keep what you’ve gained when you’re up to speed, and I can imagine the addition of the deeper carbon Hunt wheels would improve that feeling.
In terms of gaining speed, I was surprised by how sensitive Temple Road is to acceleration. There’s a level of flex that I’d normally expect to find on a steel bike, but I felt the Temple Road was potentially stiffer than the norm. Lateral flex is often quite different, especially when moving from a carbon bike to a steel bike, but there was less feel here and that definitely gave it a more bouncy feel out of the saddle. That stiffness, as mentioned before, might not lend itself to those looking for an ultra-compliant ride for quiet long distances, but the Road seemed to sit a bit in the middle between most bikes. steel and carbon road bikes. However, I did not find Temple Road to be laden with unwanted comments. Compared to my own steel bike (with carbon fork), I’d say it gave more grunt on bumpy roads, but I wouldn’t rate it as uncomfortable or intolerable. Again, it might be a stretch to recommend the Temple Road as an all-out tourer, but as a four-season bike for training and club rides, I’d say it hits the spot.
On the climbs, the Temple Road won’t immediately take you to KoMs, but like its performance on the flat, it’s quietly confident and stable at a steady pace. It has the stiffness to offer a welcome response when you increase your effort, but ultimately its weight will prevent it from being something that thrives on the climbs. That said, my build (with mudguards, pedals and bottle cages) came in at 9.8kg, impressive for an all-steel bike, possibly thanks to those skinny tubes.
I really enjoyed walking around Temple Road during the winter. First off, this is clearly a bike that will last and see you through as many seasons as you ask. It’s rare to see an all-steel build in mass production, but I think it really works here. Like the combination of this classic design combined with a modern group.
My reservations start at the cockpit and seat post. I don’t really like the style of the spec silver parts and think some better quality parts would help bring out the best in a very capable bike. I also don’t think Temple Road is as suitable for something like a long-distance, multi-day hike as may be suggested. Yes, it has the mounts and clearance to handle that kind of riding, but I think the race geometry might not be right for a lot of people who want a ride like that.
I think the Temple Road has a lot going for it as a bombproof, all-season bike, perfect for conquering the winter lanes, long commute or the weekend club. At £4000, there are other steel options to consider that will be just as capable as the Temple Road, but more importantly, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if, going in, you appreciate what the bike has to offer. It’s modern and classic, and I’m here for it.
For more information, visit Temple cycles.