The Forme Thorpe Comp is built and tested in the UK, but can it offer an exciting ride?
Forme is one small piece of the success story of British cycling brands. Having launched in 2010 with five aluminium models, it has grown very quickly, now boasting 10 different frames and nearly 30 individual models.
The Thorpe sits one from the top of this extensive hierarchy, with the Comp 1.0 version coming in at a penny under two grand.
Forme seems to have shunned fashion in the design of the Thorpe frame. Its slender, round tube shapes give the bike a more traditional appearance than that of some of its competitors.
You also get external cable-routing, which makes life easier for the home mechanic but isn’t so good should you want to upgrade to an electronic groupset.
This bike takes its name from the village of Thorpe in the Peak District, and is developed and tested in the surrounding hills. I expected big things whenever the road started to ramp up and the lightweight frame didn’t disappoint.
The Forme Thorpe Comp 1.0 comes equipped with a mix of Campagnolo components, with the shifters and drive-train coming from its Athena range, while the brakes are from the now-defunct Centaur line.
Despite being one rung from the bottom of the Campagnolo ladder, Athena is very hard to fault, standing toe-to-toe with Shimano Ultegra in most areas. The shifting is sharp and clean at both front and rear, and, as you’d expect from Campag, the ergonomics of the hoods are superb, although I found the shape the 4ZA Cirrus bars made it a little hard to reach the brake lever in the drops.
My main gripe with the spec of the Thorpe Comp 1.0 is the choice of gearing. Given that this is not an out-and-out racing machine, the sight of a 53/39t chainset is puzzling. More surprisingly still is that the smallest cassette sprocket is a 25t (27t and 29t are available in the Athena locker), which leaves you a gear or two short when riding up really steep hills — surprising given Forme’s origins in the Derbyshire hills.
There’s little that you can really say against the Forme as an all-rounder. Weighing in comfortably below 8kg is par for the price, and means that the Thorpe is perhaps most at home when going uphill, especially on steadier climbs where it rolls along quite nicely.
However, on steeper hills, the choice of gearing did hold me back, as expected, with a 39/25t gear making hauling myself up the 20 per cent ramps of the North Downs more of a challenge than usual, especially at the end of a long ride.
That said, at least I wasn’t too fatigued when hitting those final hills, as the bike proved impressively comfortable, with the 4ZA wheels going some way to cancelling out the negative effects of the alloy seatpost.
However, putting the hammer down on the flat, I found myself slightly underwhelmed, the Forme apparently unable to deliver the sharp acceleration usually felt on bikes of this price. It’s held back in part by the slightly hefty wheels, and by a somewhat flexy bottom bracket, which doesn’t fully reward big sprint efforts.
Like its ride, the Forme offers solid if slightly unspectacular value. The Athena groupset is spot-on if you’re after a Campag-equipped bike for a couple of grand, and will certainly help you stand out from the Shimano and SRAM crowd on the club run.
The frame is also decent value, even if it lacks the zip of some other bikes available at this price point, and it could be really livened up with a wheel upgrade.
If you’re after a British-designed all-rounder, you could do a lot worse than the Forme Thorpe Comp 1.0. The attractive frame is paired with the excellent Campagnolo Athena groupset and solid 4ZA finishing kit to create a bike that is quite happy rolling along on most terrain. However, on steep gradients, the gearing is too high for most riders and I often found myself avoiding tough hills. Meanwhile, the back end and bottom bracket fail to reward sharp acceleration and all-out sprints as well as some other £2,000 bikes. That said, for 95 per cent of the time, the Forme is a reliable companion