Halfords aren’t typically associated with zooty road racing bikes. Large warehouse-esque stores, wall-to-wall children’s bikes and a funny new-car smell are more commonplace associations.
However, over the past few years Halfords have really gone out of their way to draw in the committed cyclist audience. They’ve reinstated their cycling specific Cycle Republic stores, now accumulating seven branches, and launched their higher end bike brand: ‘13’.
The range was launched with unisex only models, going right up to the Ultegra equipped Intuition Gamma Road Bike (£1,799). Over the summer, Halfords dared to step into the women’s market, with two women’s specific road bikes – the 13 Intuition Lambda (£849.99) and the 13 Intrinsic Lambda (£549.99).
The Intuition is black with pink accents, and the Instinct is white with pastel blue and green hints. Colouring is always going to be personal, so I’ll throw the debate to the masses.
Currently, both women’s options are aluminum. When we asked if carbon was on the way, Director Emma Fox explained that they did see higher end models emerging in the future, but currently they saw their place as a brand that could help recruit more women into the road cycling fold – saying: “There are quite a few brands creating high end women’s bikes, and it’s more beneficial to grow the market [with bikes for first time buyers] than poach someone else’s [customer].”
We were lucky enough to have a 13 Intuition Lambda sent to us to test out. At £849.99, it sits just under the £1,000 Cycle to Work voucher threshold, leaving some extra cash for a helmet, lock and a few other accessories.
Halfords have tried hard to keep the weight down across the 13 range, and they’ve been pretty successful. In the case of the 13 Intuition Lambda, the built bike tips the scales at just a smidge over 10kg. For an aluminum bike, it felt light as I hitched it over my shoulder and ferried it down the four flights of stairs at Factory Media towers.
The frame on both 13 Lambda bikes is made from triple butted aluminum. Triple butted means that the tubes have three different thicknesses – so that where it doesn’t need to be thick, it can be lighter, and where stiffness is more crucial to the ride, the material is thicker. If the material were single butted, it would be the same diameter throughout – either being thick, and heavy, or thin, and “flexy” to ride.
The frames are optimised to fit women. Head of Trading, Jim Berkeley explained that the key differences were in the shorter top tube, saddle, handlebars and cranks.
A shorter top tube is often used in a women’s specific design to cater for the shorter arms and longer legs we are statistically believed to have. There is some debate over the evidence that supports this, but a shorter top tube does put a woman in a slightly more upright position, which puts less stress on the arms and core muscles, where women do typically have less muscle mass.
The bikes are available to suit women from 4″10 to 5″10. The stem is 70mm on smaller models, and 90mm on larger models, the cranks are shorter, and handlebars come in 38cm or 40cm options depending on frame size. All of these things make the bike fit more comfortably for women who usually have smaller hands, and narrower shoulders.
The saddle is also a women’s specific design that offers a wider platform for women’s broader sit bones and has a channel down the centre to avoid pressure points of numbness. It’s a bit reminiscent of my sofa, personally, but again saddle preference is personal.
One of the key unique selling points, again on both 13 Lambda models, is the added aero features: most notably the brakes are mounted on the underside of the chainstays and at the rear of the fork blades to avoid attracting air resistance penalties, which can slow riders down. The cables are also internal – which again reduces air resistance and makes them less susceptible to muck and damage.
It is worth noting that to gain significant advantages from aerodynamic components, it’s generally considered that you’d need to be traveling at around 20 to 25 miles per hour – speeds that most people are not averaging on their commutes or Saturday rides.
However, it’s worth considering that though the 13 Intuition may be a first bike designed for commuting or Saturday ambles around the lanes, it could progress with the rider and go on to be a first time trial bike with clip on aero bars – where the components could make a notable difference. Adding aero features takes nothing away from the bike and adds potential.
The Shimano Tiagra equipped Intuition Lambda definitely has the gearing and added extras required for a commuter/club ride do it all. The compact chainset is joined by a 12-28 cassette, which provides a total of 20 gears. This should be plenty for hilly rides, whilst still giving you enough resistance for flat sprint-fests when you want it.
The TRP brakes are not the most expensive or the most efficient – an upgrade would be to match them to the Shimano Tiagra drive train. Of course, they are effective and will bring the bike to a halt (never fear), just not with the same biting emergency of a more expensive caliper.
Of course, all spec talk aside, how did it ride? The saying “stiff, light, cheap – pick two” came to mind when I initially checked out the bike. It’s often said that it is impossible to reach all three so I was looking for the point where the 13 fell down.
At £850, it isn’t ‘cheap’ per se, but it is for a proper road bike with aero brake mounts and integrated cables.
At 10kg, it’s not the lightest in the house, but it is light for the price point. Climbing on this bike I certainly didn’t feel I was suffering from any weight penalty (aside from the coffee and cake I might have had half way round).
It’s notable that the Vee Rubber tyres are 23mm, and slick – they felt good on the road and if you’re looking for a first racer or wanting to get some speed up in the country lanes, these will suit. A rider looking more for a a regular commuter, or greater stability, might want to consider swapping them for 25mm tyres.
I expected, being light and cheap, that the bike would be lacking in stiffness – but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not a super stiff, fast, racing machine – but at this price point it never will be. However, pedaling out of the saddle up the not-insignificant hill from Coulsdon to Caterham in the heart of Surrey the bike felt sturdy and plenty capable beneath me.
The steering felt sure and confident, though I did find the bike put me in a more upright position that I might usually opt for. However, for commuters or those not wanting to put too much pressure on the lower back, this would be ideal.
Fantastic value entry level road bike what provides a fun ride, sure steering, and some cool aero features. The frame isn’t as stiff as some fast, racing machines on the market, and the brakes aren’t biting or immediate – but this bike would certainly make for many miles of happy riding at the beginning of a relationship with road cycling.