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10th November 2010 Words Matt Lamy
Sitting quietly on a pedestrianised South London high street is Pearson Cycles, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of biking goodies. This year is the firm’s 150th anniversary and to celebrate that fact, each of its own-brand models features a commemorative sticker on the top tube.
Like all the bikes in this test, the Compass frame originates in the Far East rather than the London Borough of Sutton. But where Pearson’s relatively small operation has the edge on other firms is that you can ask for a custom spec, and have your personal choice of components fitted. We’ve opted for the standard specification, which costs a penny less that £1,200 and features a Shimano Deore drivetrain and hubs, and the same Tektro brakes that feature on the Dawes and Claud Butler.
Unlike the first two bikes, Pearson has opted to use standard round-profile Reynolds 631 tubing throughout. That is probably more in keeping with touring bikes of yore, although the beautiful red sparkle finish with classy little bands on the seatstays is a fine modern touch. The frame shape is surprisingly similar to the Galaxy, although Pearson has also included a few practical extras. The first of these is a dynamo mount on the front forks — an essential lighting solution for the cycle tourist — and a pump mount on the non-driveside seatstay.
The rest of the bike is finished with decent stuff — a very road bike-orientated Pearson-branded saddle cradles your soft bits while the front end gets oversized Pearson-branded stem and handlebars. They’re perfectly functional items and, hallelujah, there are a full four bolts on the faceplate.
Fast and forgiving
So to the road. Because the Compass shares a very similar geometry and an almost-similar tubeset to the Galaxy it is no surprise to find the ride sensation is also familiar. Again there is an all-present smoothness, but in the Compass there is an added urgency — the bike feels like it wants to go faster. In fact, it’s a very entertaining ride. Like an eager puppy, the Compass just wants to explore — a handy trait in a touring bike. All this without sacrificing comfort.
This keenness, combined with responsive handling, could get you in trouble. Because these bikes are carbon-free zones — so you don’t have to worry about anything cracking spectacularly — and there’s no harsh aluminium feedback to temper your exuberance, you are tempted to really enjoy yourself, particularly on loose descents and ‘fun’ terrain. But as with all the machines in this test, the Compass is no lightweight and you may yet carry even more mass in panniers, so just remember you will have to stop at some point. On this occasion the Tektro Oryx cantilevers are combined with chunky, single-use Cane Creek brake levers, which provide a reassuringly firm purchase. A side effect of this is that the brake hoods are a far more pleasant place to rest your sweaty mitts than the thinner Shimano examples specced on the Galaxy.
Keep it trim
Like Dawes, Pearson has opted to fit ultra-efficient bar-end shifters, and the more you ride with them the more you love them. With a simple twist of its D-ring, the right-side rear mech shifter can also be put in friction mode rather than index, and the real beauty of this is that you control exactly where the derailleurs sit. If you hear the chain rubbing on the front mech, just trim it by tweaking the lever. And if you have to ditch a front derailleur, crankset, or even use a different cassette at the rear, they’ll happily adapt to that too.
In this specification the Compass comes in £50 more expensive than the Galaxy but you’ll have to supply your own pedals. At 13.7kg it’s also the heaviest bike on test, although weight is a less important factor on a bike with wide-ratio gearing that’s only going to get heavier as you load it up.
So the Compass is a great bike that manages to combine traditional elements with comfort. But perhaps the most notable part of its character is its unbridled sense of fun.
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