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The Latest Minivelo Incarnation from Tyrell
We recently met the founder of Tyrell giving a talk about the background of his brainchild. It was a deeply personal subject that Hirose-san was talking about, and it was a great thing to understand how an architech could come into the bike manufacturing industry and make a bike as unique as Tyrell.
Among the many things that Tyrell has in its pipeline, the first impression that hits you when you set your eyes upon a Tyrell CSI would most likely be: “A foldie with alu/carbon frame?” Upon closer inspection, you will realise that the frame is solid, not fixed with any hinge mechanism and that it is armed to go fast. A light frameset with light high-end components from SRAM, this mini velo is set to leave a trail of flames wherever you may pedal – on the roads and flats of course.
Frame construction comprises of 7046 grade aluminum tubing that has been double butted to shave off excess weight and bonded with carbon fiber seat and chain stays. Tyrell is probably the first mini-velo bike maker to use a carbon fiber rear triangle. The fork is also carbon, which makes the frameset weigh in at about 1.5kg as quoted from the makers. The X-shaped intersection of top tubes give the bike a distinctive and unmistakable look that won’t be confused with any other brand on the market. The unique frame design of slanted triangles adds to overall frame rigidity with the added benefit of a lower overall standover clearance.
The drivetrain, shifters and brakes are all part of the 10-speed SRAM Force groupset that comes stock on the CSI. The only exclusion is the chain, which is from KMC. Toss in a Prologo saddle on an aluminium seatpost and an aluminium drop bar, the whole ride is claimed to hover around 7.2kg, including an aluminium wheelset. This baby isn’t going to slow you down at all, it seems.
With such an attractive groupset and frame design/material, I wasted no time hopping on it and having a go. The handling was superb. It was fast, responsive and sensitive (in a good way). If you could land yourself on one of these machines, you will feel like it’s a bicycle equivalent of the Mazda RX-8.
The smaller wheels, which lessened moment of inertia, made acceleration so much easier and I could climb all slopes on the biggest chainring (which has 53 teeth). Concordantly, braking is a breeze and stopping under high speeds shouldn’t be a worry for you if you keep your weight in the right places. The brakes are both light and powerful even under hard braking but with enough modulation without being grabby, Going at about 40km/h and stopping at a red light 20m ahead was one of the most comfortable and robust decelerations I have ever felt on the roads.
Nothing was sticky or tacky and the CSI is definitely a head turner. I’ve got 4 other road cyclists so intrigued that they unofficially accepted me in their “mini peloton” and I must say it was pretty easy keeping up with them. I ditched them after speeding off from a red light (remember the acceleration was tops) and I had to make a turn into my workplace.
By careful and strategic placement of the carbon fibre seat stay and chain stays, power from the pedals is instantly translated into very quick acceleration and speed. By careful and strategic placement of the carbon fibre seat stay and chain stays, each downstroke of the pedal was met with a forward surge on the bicycle.
The frame’s rigidity is impressive to say the least and at the same time, the carbon rear triangle was strong yet dampened road shock noticeably – vibrations and small bump impacts were well absorbed and it felt like I was on a hardtail MTB.
Mini velos were designed in Japan to be owned by the working class population that required smaller bikes which takes up lesser space at home and office. They are also the preferred mode of transport and so you can see the efforts committed in making it fast and efficient in that aspect. The overall length from wheel to wheel is about 1.6m, definitely much shorter than a traditional road bike. It is light so hanging it on wall mounts should not cause you to break a sweat.
Shortcomings and Conclusion
Going up to 40km/h on the CSI wouldn’t be an issue but anything further than that, you will need bigger wheels and the design of the fork and seat stay does not allow that. You would find that there’s a trade-off for the small wheels – lowered top speed. This is less evident in hilly areas such as Mandai or Mount Faber, but on long straights such as Lim Chu Kang or Changi Coastal, you’d expend more effort trying to go as fast as the person doing the same speed but on a 700c roadie.
On the downtube, you might see mounts for a bottle cage, but in reality, it is not for anything other than a pump, because of accessibility issues. On this frame, a water bottle would be mounted on the top tube, near the words “Tyrell”.
Tyrell has hit another bullseye with the CSI. Fast and light with a more than respectable equipment level and an excellent ride, the bike will appeal to a wide spectrum of riders, from the recreational to the competitive and makes perfect sense in our urban landscape.
Masahito Hirose would be proud. His new flagship bike is a true wonder of cottage industry design.