In 2015 I was signed up to compete in the 3rd edition of the Transcontinental race. Having done this previously in 2013 on a steel touring bike I was very keen to improve my finishing time by choosing a more race oriented bike. My main criteria for this bike were disc brakes, a lightweight, responsive carbon frame and an endurance race geometry that would allow me to ride for upwards of 350km per day during the race.
Having looked through various manufacturers and bikes I came across the Stowe which ticked all the boxes I was looking for in the price bracket I was aiming at. The specification for this price was great with a carbon wheelset and the Ultegra quality Shimano R685 shifter/callipers as well as matching to an ideal geometry for doing an event such as the Transcontinental.
Having made the decision and ordered the bike it arrived in early February and I straight away got my riding position set up with a set of TT bars onto the front so that I could get used to riding long distances in this position prior to the race in July. First impressions riding the bike were very good. It felt stable when riding on the TT extensions, even with my luggage on beneath the bars and under the saddle, whilst at the same time very responsive when out of the saddle and climbing thanks to the carbon wheelset. Having never tried the R685 road callipers I was initially unsure as to whether having a hydraulic system would be worth the issues I may have in eastern Europe getting these fixed in an emergency. After riding them however I was certainly convinced, the braking quality was far better and consistent over long descents (although even the longest of descents in Yorkshire wouldn’t compare to the alpine passes I would be descending later in the year so I would have to see how they fared there before full judgement).
The training was starting to go well by late March and I had managed to get in a few rides of over 200km with a 300km ride also ticked off. The only thing I had felt the need to change on the Stowe to this point was the saddle which I personally had not gotten on with. Although this could likely be put down to the extended use of TT bars meaning I put too much pressure on the saddle nose to suit the Fizik Aliante that comes as stock with the Stowe. I also had plans to put on an 11-32 cassette closer for the race which would be easy to do given that the stock bike comes with a long cage rear derailleur meaning nothing else would require changing to get these extra few gears. I felt given the semi-compact chainset (52-36) that a 32 tooth cassette would be invaluable when riding over the alps from France into northern Italy!
Over the longer rides I was very pleased with how the Stowe rode, it was predictable even when riding on the TT bars which often make a bike twitchy and felt effortless maintaining a good pace. It made finding a rhythm easy and was a forgiving place to sit for up to 8 hours at a time.
Unfortunately my aims for the season were dashed when I decided doing a few local Crits would be a good cure for the endless riding of endurance training. This ended swiftly with a crash and a clavicle in 4 pieces. 12 weeks later I was out of the sling and had a new plate in place of my left collarbone but it was too late in the season to regain enough form before the race (and also still fairly sore spending too long holding the bars…). So I am afraid I never got to use the bike for the intended purpose but it certainly made the hours of training and endless riding enjoyable and I am confident it would have been ideal given the opportunity to go all the way to Istanbul.
I would happily recommend the Stowe to anyone wanting a comfortable bike that handles responsively and puts a smile on your face. Although being well suited to events as extreme as the Transcontinental it would be equally at home on sportives or a local club run making it a hugely versatile bike.