As road cyclists, we often drool over lust-worthy and expensive marvels of carbon engineering. We also crack the shits over our creaking bottom brackets, fiddly cable routing, and proprietary parts.
Durability is overlooked to get something lighter, or sleeker. Poring over articles about what the pros are using, how their bikes are set up, and what the latest releases of gear are that make your current stuff obsolete is the norm.
There has been a huge rise in the endurance and off road market, but that has always meant an extra bike. Yes we can buy cx bike, endurance bikes or gravel bikes as an extra bike, but it just isn't agile or advanced enough to be a proper road bike.
What if one was? I'd wanted a bike to do this for ages. To ride any damn road I pleased, and ride it with panache. Climbs, descents, gravel, short rides, long rides. Ride everything and feel like I was on the right bike to do it. There always seemed to be a caveat to every bike that stepped into this genre as to why it would fall short in one area or another. Then I got a Curve Belgie Spirit. That changed everything.
Curve started out as a few Melbourne guys making quality carbon rims. They'd grown reasonably well before stepping into the arena of titanium frame building. With ultra endurance legend Jesse Carlsson as a part of the team, it was inevitable that they would make quality bikes made for going the distance. Jesse had won the 6500 kilometre Trans Am bike race aboard the brand's flagship Belgie bike. This is their road bike with racing geometry, and has been an outstanding success. It was after many requests for a frame more suited to endurance that they created the Belgie Spirit.
I have used one of these rigs on The World Everesting Project - a trip to try to complete 5 Everestings, in 5 countries, in 15 days. Having completed this trip, I rode a total of 1,216 kilometres and 45,431 metres of climbing. I rode on a lot of gravel, rough roads, and around 100 km on cobbles. It was right up there with the toughest of tests I could put this bike through, and this bike crushed it all.
This titanium frame is built to accommodate up to 32c tyres (35's still fit comfortably), this bike can easily call itself a gravel bike, but that doesn't at all tell you the full story. With a set of normal road tyres on, the frame is alive. Stiff through the bottom bracket, climbing out of the saddle is very comfortable. The angle of the head tube is the same as the standard Belgie, it's just taller on the Spirit. Personally I found this a touch too tall, so with a 17 degree down angle stem I was able to get a nice and comfortable position, that felt as aggressive as a normal road bike.
Compliance is what sets this bike apart though. A sloping top tube allows for more flex in the seat tube, made even better by the Syntace P6 Hiflex seat post that I used. The chain stays are longer on the Belgie Spirit than its road cousin, to accommodate the bigger tyres, but I did not feel at all that this longer wheelbase affected handling adversely. Both seat and chain stays are bowed on the way from main frame to axle, and this definitely gives a softening effect over the bumps. Even on the heavy gravel descents, I never had any of the hard, bone-jarring hits that I expect when riding a stiff road bike.
The fork is really robust at the top, and tapers right down to be very narrow at the axle, where a 12mm thru axle secures the wheel. Early on I was in 2 minds about the fork's stiffness. There is a noticeable flex in the fork when you are really pushing hard. Being that I normally ride a super-stiff road bike, it felt a bit too soft. But at the same time I set the KOM on Strava for the extremely technical and steep descent of the Azami Line of Mt Fuji, reaching speeds of near 100 km/h. So really, the flex was more a difference to get used to, rather than something that genuinely affected performance.
That flex proved invaluable later when I was to ride both heavy gravel and cobbles. Descending cobbles is not essentially fun. When I paired that fork and frame with a Syntace Racelite Carbon bar, and the 32c Compass tyres at 60 psi, I had a bike that accommodated rough stuff with elegance. A super stiff front fork would have been horrid there, whereas the Curve CCRD gave me no issues whatsoever. I rode for 26 hours up and down that cobbled hill, and I barely had even sore hands towards the end. That fork is awesome.
Curve supplied a pair of the soon to be released G4 wheelset when I started the trip. I was super fortunate to be able to have a pair to use. 25mm wide, 25mm deep, and 1340 grams for the pair. I'm not a fan of carbon wheels for road riding, as braking is poor in the wet, and they can warp and de-laminate on long and technical descents. The disk brakes on the G4's solve these issues perfectly, so these beautiful rims were able to be unleashed to their full potential. 24 spokes both front and rear, laced in a double cross pattern, they are a perfect blend of lightweight and rigid stability. I never thought twice about hammering hard through technical descents with the G4's, they were flawless. It's hard to believe that such a hard wearing and robust wheel is so damn light. Curve had done a great job here.
The style is banging too. The weave of the bare carbon looks absolutely mint. The Curve chevron symbols sit either side of the rim, one marking the valve hole. They are even reflective which is a nice touch. The rest of the branding is dark and subtle, much like everything Curve does. I get sick of bikes looking like a rolling billboard, it's just ugly. Curve surf that wave perfectly by using minimal writing on their products.
If I were to be riding more gravel, I'd probably go for one of their tubeless options, and take the slight weight penalty for doing so. But at the same time, it's not all that hard to have a wheelset for climbing days, and a set for gravel days. It's literally plug and play to have the ultimate set-up. But for the amount of climbing on this trip, these wheels were a necessity, and this lightweight set worked admirably as an all-rounder.
This bike delivered. It was exactly what I had been looking for in a bike. Curve has managed to produce a bike that is light, stiff, compliant and tough. For every scenario that you could take a drop bar bike, this bike will do it. I haven't raced CX on it, but am planning to, and suspect it would ride as well as it has everywhere else. Curve promised a bike that could ride all day, on any road, and they have lived up to that promise. Finally I have an N-1 bike, one that can take me anywhere I want to go.
WHERE TO BUY
Head to Curve's website here
The Belgie Spirit is available as frame only from $2,799
Belgie Spirit frame set from $3,599 (Frame, Fork, Hope Headset, Curve Ti Seatpost, Curve Ti Seatclamp and DT Swiss Skewer)
G4 Wheels - TBA
This is not a paid review... La Velocita does not get a proceeds of sales from Curve, Curve's other retail outlets.
FULL BUILD SPEC
- Frame - Curve Belgie Spirit size 56.
- Fork - Curve CCRD
- Wheels - Curve G4 Carbon disc rims laced to a pair of DT Swiss 240's hubs with 12mm thru axles.
- Tyres - Compass 32c standard gumwalls for the gravel and cobbled climbs, Compass 26c ultralight gumwalls for the pure tarmac.
- Shifters - SRAM Red 22 Hydrualic.
- Bars - Syntace Racelight Carbon 420mm.
- Tape - BBB Synthetic cork base layer, double wrapped with Lizard Skins 2.5mm.
- Stem - Tune 110mm 17 degree.
- Headset - Curve's own brand.
- BB - Ceramic Speed BSA 68mm in red,
- Cranks - SRAM Red GXP 172.5mm 110 BCD.
- Chain Rings - Praxxis Works 50/34, cold forged.
- Pedals - Shimano XTR Race,
- Brakes - SRAM Red Hydraulic with metallic brake pads
- Rotors - Shimano XTR Saint Ice Tech 160mm centrelock.
- Seatpost - Syntace P6 Hiflex.
- Seatpost clamp - Curve titanium.
- Saddle - Specialized Toupe.
- Cages - King Cage Titanium.
- Derailleurs - SRAM Red 22 yaw front, and SRAM Red 22 WiFli medium cage rear.
- Cassette - Shimano XT 11-40.
- Chain - SRAM Red 11 speed.