After selling off my Catrike (it just didn’t work for me in my area) I knew I needed a new bike. I jumped in doing research & decided what I really needed was a gravel bike.
The world of road cycling has became ridiculously niche, but the gravel bike is in a tight category that fit my needs perfectly. It has the room in the frame and fork of an xc mountain bike (up to 42cm tires fit mine), the low bottom bracket of a road bike (this means you sit “in” the bike, and can have a more upright seating position) and the drop bars of a traditional road bike (or, in some cases, cross bars or other odd variants). Occasionally, even so called Gravel Bikes are sometimes called “Adventure Bikes” or “Super Road” bikes, but generally speaking, those are different animals.
After looking at the market, I took a big chance and ordered a Motobecane off of a website called “Bike Direct”. Sight unseen. Crazy? Maybe. Thing is, the important parts of a bicycle are really the components. Things like frames, unless you’re REALLY into cycling, have been figured out. Geometry, welds, etc, we’ve gotten to the point where $200 bikes are plenty strong and ride well. Sure, suspension components can be important, but for me that wasn’t even a consideration.
I wanted, at minimum, a Shimano 105 groupo bike. 105 is Shimano’s “pro-sumer” line. Not quite Ultegra or Dura-Ace, but also 1/2 the cost and almost all the function. Why the huge price difference? Well, honestly, weight. That’s about it. Some might argue that 105 actually lasts longer, but I won’t delve into that. All I know is that 105 components work damn well, are reliable, serviceable and feel good. I also wanted to make sure I could fit large tires, and wanted good quality disc brakes. At minimum I wanted BB7s, but other models were acceptable.
The Sprint CF Comp comes with a Shimano 105 drivetrain minus the front crank, where they use the excellent FSA double crank instead. 15mm thru axles on the wheels, which are stopped by TRP HY/RD (cable actuated hydraulic brakes). All of the cockpit pieces are built by Ritchey, a trusted industry brand. The kicker, and also the wildcard, is the frame, which is made of carbon fiber.
Now usually a carbon fiber road bike with 105 groupo & discs will cost well north of $2000. In some cases WELL north. Adding up the parts costs on the pieces that make up this bike, you actually get very close to $1500 without including the frame. Cost of the bike out the door (and delivered to my door)? $1500. So, at worst, I would be buying the components and could later purchase a different, name brand frame to hang them from. As it turns out, that won’t be needed.
The Sprint CF rides like a dream. Anyone who has ridden a CF bike knows that beautiful, soft, smooth and responsive feeling. You pedal and it GOES. You turn and it carves. Stiff but light, CF is a super material, but usually costs an arm and a leg. So how the hell do we get this bike so cheap? Volume, and super low overhead.
The purchasing at bikes direct is a little scary. Essentially you never get to see the bike until it gets to your door. And returns are… troublesome. You pay for return shipping… if they allow the return. Returns for reasons other than quality issues are only accepted if they are low on stock. A little scary. But again, for the price, the gamble is worth it. The components themselves are worth the price of the bike. And the frame is not just good, it is excellent! I’m 225lbs and it flexes not even a bit under me. Yet it is compliant and comfortable over bumps and rough road.
So, perfect? Well, mostly.
The one drawback, and it is honestly not a big deal, is that the bike comes only partially assembled, and not “tuned” at all. You have to mount the front rotor, connect the brake, align the fork to the stem, put on the front wheel, and then do the adjustments to the drivetrain that allow it to shift sweetly. Out of the box the bike did not shift into all the gears. With my bike shop background I’m able to do the adjustments needed, but I would honestly suggest anyone buying one to just bring the box to your local bike shop (LBS) and ask for them to assemble and tune it. Most places will do that for $50-$100, which is a bargain compared to buying the same bike anywhere else. And you get to bring business to your LBS. Granted, some places might not like that you bought your bike online, but keep in mind that for them, service is almost 100% profit. Selling bikes, they are making just a few points on them, hoping you’ll come back for tune-ups, tubes, etc. Any LBS that poo-poos your online bike purchase isn’t thinking clearly… and isn’t worth your business. Plenty of smart bike shops around.
(In the Sacramento area I HIGHLY recommend Edible Pedal in West Sacramento. Brian knows everything about bikes. Seriously, he’s like the 6’4″ yoda of cycling. Um, in a good way big guy. In a good way.)
Other than the tuning, the bike was pristine. Everything mounted cleanly, all the parts were there and well labeled. I was able to throw things together and immediately go for a quick ride down the block (albeit without access to my big gear, adjustments needed and all that). The bike is well finished, the equal of anything twice its price down at the big name bike store. If you do your research on the components and read the sizing guides carefully, you too can have an amazing bike at 1/2 the cost. Bikes direct also has titanium cross/gravel bikes as well as steel, aluminum and of course, carbon. Happy riding!
I think this is the bike you mentioned: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/disc-brake-roadbikes/sprintcf-comp-discbrake-road-bike.htm
Can you comment on tire clearance? They say it can fit 45c tires but how much room is there actually for them? I’m tempted to buy this and turn it into a 650b road plus bike.
TONS of tire clearance. Very nicely shaped wheel wells with plenty of room. You could easily run this as the world’s most comfortable 650b road+ bike Kris. Let me know how it works out!
Finally! A review of the MB CF! I just bought the Pro version with Ultegra and I think it’s a phenomenal value! I too had to do some assembly but also have a mechanical background however save for a turn or two on the rear derailuer barrel adjuster, all my brakes and shifters have worked just fine. One thing I noticed when I went to change tires what that rear wheel was missing the rim strip. Minor details in the end. I consider myself very lucky to get such a great bike for the price, $1800. I was also very happy to find the wheels have sealed cartridge bearing hubs (there is some confusion in the description). I was also surprised to find clip in pedals included?! And even though they are cheaper pedals they are really good! If I could ask for anything it would be a more aggressive tire, this is after all supposed to be a cx/gravel bike. But alas the Conti tires are really good and will be used for my second set of road wheels.
As for the bike itself I’m just blown away by the performance and comfort! The brakes are great, the shifters are excellent, it’s not as twitchy as my last bike which was more cx, even though it has the same headtube angle. Internal cable routing and thru axles front and back are a huge plus. I mounted my Clement 40c tires on it and it just clobbers everything while being even more comfortable. Highly recommended!
Thanks for the comment Chris! I’ve continued riding the snot out of the bike and it delivers on all fronts. Agree on the tire thing too, I immediately purchased a set of Kevlar lined cross tires.
I am considering purchasing the “pro” version that Directbikes is now offering, does anyone know the approximate weights of this model? Thanks
Rocco, I’m unsure of the weight of the “pro” model. I would recommend emailing Bikes Direct with the model name and size you would require, as the different sizes would have different weights. Thanks for reading!
Yay! Thank you for this review. Will probably pull the trigger on this one. My LBS are greaheads and will just dig working on a new bike 😉
Did you non-pro version (the one I’m eyeing) came with the clip-in pedals as well? I agree that the description and the picture don’t jive on that one.
The bike I purchased did indeed come with clip-in pedals. I was thinking I would replace them, as they are 1 sided, but honestly they work great for what I use the bike for right now.
Just picked up the 105 based version based on this review, cant thank you guys enough. So little information out there on BD bikes, haven’t found a dedicated forum to date. Couldn’t afford the Ultegra version and passed on the Century Pro Ultegra 8000 for the same price, there is some heartburn from it, as I could find almost no info on it, one review said it was darty handling, and just did not did not want a murder flat black bike. Ill take pearl white thank you. Its crazy, on some of these bikes, you could but them for the parts value alone.
The prices are most definitely insane, but I’ve been incredibly happy with the bike. The frame is solid and all the components are great. Love it!
Thank you so much for this review! Does this have mounts for racks or fenders if someone were to choose? I’m thinking of something for a 2-day bike pack venture.
Glad to help! Unfortunately, a lack of mounts is one of the downsides of this otherwise wonderful bike. Certainly one can use clamp on bosses & get fenders on in other ways, but these features would be a nice addition for the next version of the bike. And it would make a really lovely lite packing bike. Comfortable, fast, stable.