The Sensa Umbria Sora Special might be a bit heavier and a little less refined than other sports bikes, but it has no qualms dealing with speed and with some judicious upgrading, it’s a winter bike that could become an all-year favourite.
Smooth-running Shimano Sora drivetrain and brakes
Discount from retailer means its great value
Aluminium forks let you feel every bump on the road
You can trust Cycling Weekly. Our team of experts put in hard miles testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.
Brought into this country by Chorley’s Merlin Cycles, Sensa can almost match brands such as Giant and Cube when it comes to range size. From mountain bikes, to road bikes, to commuters — all tinged with a typically Continental flavour — the options are simply huge.
This Umbria model isn’t even the cheapest Sensa road bike available, that distinction goes to the £424.99 Prima Special. However, let’s have a quick word about pricing. The official RRP is £599.99 although, as we publish this, the bike is being sold for a lot less.
If you are unlucky enough to want to buy the Umbria when Merlin is demanding the full whack, you have my sympathies, but please don’t write to us complaining.
And on that theme, a bike that currently costs under £500 must be a bit ropey, no? A quick glance over the frame doesn’t suggest anything untoward — sure, the welds around the tube joins aren’t the neatest we’ve seen, and the finish is a bit old-school these days, but there is a refreshing honesty about it.
There are no sneaky design tricks to distract your attention from the whole — this is really rather a nice, traditionally proportioned road bike.
How that converts to ride experience is probably just as you’d imagine. It’s a very direct bike to ride. Whip it into a turn and it doesn’t complain, get out of the saddle to up the momentum and it doesn’t dawdle to react. If you like going fast, it’s a satisfying machine to pedal and push to the limit.
Hit a bump or some less-than-perfect road surfaces and it’s another matter. You’ll feel most of it, although, probably not as much as initially feared. I’m minded to give aluminium bikes just a little bit more leeway than carbon frames when it comes to comfort, simply because you expect a slightly harsher experience. Not helping matters is the fact that, in the quest for lower costs, an aluminium fork has been specced. That’s a pretty unusual choice, and the one clear indication this is a budget special, but at least there’s one upside — it makes control up front very direct.
If that metal fork is the price to pay for decent Shimano gears and brakes, I’ll take it. Not only do you get the almost indestructible Sora gearset — which has lost none of its steadfast competence when it was refined for its most recent iteration — but there are also proper Sora brakes. At this kind of price, that’s a real reassurance. And the Supra rims on Shimano Tiagra hubs spin very nicely too.
Three times the fun
Indeed, I’m rather keen on all the Supra kit fitted to the bike. Of course, there’s no real difference between this and any of the typical own-brand alloy parts you’d find on most sub-£1,000 bikes, but it reinforces the quietly capable attitude of the bike.
There’s also something I’ve forgotten to mention. With this Sora groupset you get a little bonus: an extra chainring. The Umbria Sora Special comes with a triple chainset, giving you more gear options, which is particularly useful when the going gets hilly. That makes this a really excellent winter training option or entry-level sportive bike.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the Sensa Umbria Sora Special — it seemed to do everything just a little better than expected.
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1