Intriguing road offering from Fuji featuring disc brakes, £920
If you were to combine the beginner-friendly aura and style of the Merida with the expert production and efficient specification approach of the Boardman, and then throw in a couple of googlies, you’d end up with the Fuji Sportif 1.1 Compact. It’s not a standard road bike by any means, but it does look very intriguing.
Immediately a few things strike you. First, the frame has a curved top tube to compete with the Merida, although it’s combined with a more convention rear triangle. Then there is the inclusion of mechanical disc brakes, not to mention slightly wider tyres. In fact, it looks a bit like a mixture between a cyclo-cross bike and a sportive rider’s dream machine.
And while it’s the only bike here that doesn’t enjoy the luxury of internal cable routing, there’s so much else going on we’ll forgive it. (After all, unless you’re searching for that extra fraction of a second drag reduction, internal routing is really only a styling gimmick — just don’t tell anybody we said that.)
From the off it’s clear what kind of bike this is: it’s a sit-up-and-spinner. Compared with the Boardman there’s noticeably less natural urge to get the hammer down, but you can’t fault the smoothness of the experience. Those with an especially sensitive posterior will appreciate the slightly wider 27c tyres; they might only offer a couple of mm extra width over the other rubber used in this test, but that’s enough to have a cushioning effect.
Hit a hill and like the Merida, we have a perfect climbing solution — a compact chainset allied to a 32-tooth biggest sprocket at the back. So you really can take your time, sit back, get in a groove with a nice steady cadence and nonchalantly spin up any slope. Then, because of those mechanical discs, you can be sure of taking on the downhill side with confidence too. They work an absolute treat, especially in soggy situations.
Fuji has managed to fit mainly Shimano 105 gears to the Sportif 1.1, which is very commendable given the price and the Avid brakes. We see 105 as the default quality gearset, and it lives up to its reputation here, offering precise, smooth gear changes, but even the Tiagra front mech performs very efficiently.
However, the Fuji isn’t quite perfect, and on the flat it feels a fraction lifeless, possibly the result of the extra mass. Nobody wants to be a weight fascist, but the Fuji is heavier than either of the cheaper bikes in this test, and they weren’t particularly light.
It’s also 1.5kg or 3lb heavier than the Cube. Now, I’m particularly sympathetic to the argument that most of us could happily lose 3lb round our midriff. But equally, if somebody said they could take 3lb off me for £80 — the price of upgrading to the Cube here — I’d be tempted.
Add to that the fact that, when all things are equal and caliper brakes are able to provide all the stopping power you need, do you really want to be carrying the extra weight of mechanical discs? I’m not making a judgment, it’s just something to consider.
We always say: think long and hard about what you want from your bike before you start the buying process. In the Fuji Sportif 1.1 Compact’s case it’s especially important. Despite that name I think there are better sportive bikes on the market. However, if you’re after a bike to ride all year round with comfort, efficiency, reliability and security, it’s very hard to beat.