In a world of carbon fibre bike designs chasing advanced aerodynamics, lighter weight, and greater integration, you’d be forgiven for perhaps thinking steel bikes were an evanescing concept. But while they may have drifted from the forefront of bike design, their continued presence and construction is testament to the versatility and durability they offer.
It’s for those reasons I’m a fan. In fact, I own my own custom built steel bike, which operates gladly as a winter bike, tourer, commuter, gravel bike – essentially anything I ask of it. I was intrigued, then, when offered the chance to test Temple Cycles first iteration of a dedicated steel road bike.
The small, Bristol-based company, founded in 2014, became better known for its city and electric bikes adapted from vintage designs. Now though it’s taking aim at hardened road cyclists, with its latest build the (very simply named) Temple Road.
Temple says the Road is inspired by the “classic clubman’s bicycle”, a bike forged for simply “clocking up miles and enjoying the ride”. The “tried-and-tested” facets it says reflect these values are predominantly found in the steel frame. And unlike many steel bikes, that’s steel all the way. There’s no carbon forks here, just a continuation of the first-class Reynolds 853 steel in the beautiful slender, lugged forks. The slimline tubes of the Road stand out in a world of oversized carbon tubing, and I think carry a classic aesthetic when paired with the minimalist racing green colourway I had on my test bike.
As well as classic design, the frame comprises practical touches any four-season bike should, including mudguard and rack mounts. But it’s the combination of these quintessential features with modern embellishments that make this bike standout. Most clearly, the 12-speed Ultegra Di2 R8170 (fitted with a 50/34 chainset and 11-30 cassette) juxtaposes with the old-school frame, but it’s a sleek, high-performing groupset that I think only enhances the experience of riding the Temple Road. Likewise, the addition of disc brakes is far from traditional, but it’s a practical choice that shores up this bike’s position as a year-round, any season ride. To house these modern touches the steel frame features internal cable routing (there's also external capabilities for mechanical gearing) as well as substantial clearance front and rear, notably up to 30mm tyres with mudguards, and 35mm without. As you might expect from a frame of this ilk, the bottom bracket is a conventional BSA threaded 68mm.
Temple offers builds with different wheels, all supplied by fellow British brand Hunt. Mine came with the lane-crushing Four Season AllRoad, perfect when paired with mudguards for the gritty, pothole-ridden British winter roads. You can choose to upgrade to deeper section, carbon Hunt Aerodynamicist wheels to make the Road into a proper summer whip too.
The Hunt wheels were shod with 30mm tubeless Panaracer Agilest TLR tyres, which, while they were smooth rolling and grippy, lacked the durability required for this time of year and I did suffer a couple of punctures fairly early on.
I had mixed feelings on the finishing kit. On the one hand, I got on very well with the modestly priced and fully recycled Selle Italia Model X saddle, but I am not such a fan of the seat post, stem and bar designs. I recognise the aesthetic Temple is trying to achieve with its own-labelled parts, but I disliked these silver sandblasted parts and felt they cheapened the look of the bike. Overall they performed adequately, though the drop of the bars felt quite short, but I would trade these out for some sleek black parts if I owned the bike.
This build, without any additions, will cost you £4,295.
The geometry of the Temple Road is much racier than I expected, and its measurements are not that far off those of my main summer bike, an S-Works Tarmac SL6. That meant it was easy for me to quickly find a good riding position, but quickly altered the assumptions I’d had about the handling it would offer and the kind of riding in which it would really flourish.
Temple specifically says the versatility of the Road makes it ideal for the long distances of touring and audaxes. Undoubtedly, it is capable of excelling in those arenas, but the fairly aggressive geometry might be off-putting if you’re looking for something slacker and more upright for long distances. I usually ride in a reasonably long and low position so it was less of an issue when I was riding regularly, but I did get some slight shoulder pain when I returned to riding after a layoff and was unused to the position.
While the geometry’s impact on comfort may vary from person to person, its effect on handling will be more consistent. You might expect that to imply a certain nimbleness and agility through corners that you might find on a pure-bred race bike, but I actually found the Temple Road to offer quite a relaxed and controlled feel through corners. However, I thought its ride quality shone through most acutely when up to speed in straight lines. It offered exceptional stability, even on rough and uneven roads, and just felt planted. That inspires a lot of confidence and helps maintain what you’ve gained when you’re up to speed, and I can imagine the addition of the deeper carbon Hunt wheels would enhance that feeling.
In terms of gaining speed, I was surprised at how responsive the Temple Road was to accelerations. There’s a level of flexibility I’d normally expect to come across on a steel bike, but felt the Temple Road was potentially stiffer than the norm. The lateral flex is often quite distinct, particularly when I move from a carbon bike to a steel bike, but there was less of that sensation here and that certainly gave it a more sprightly feel out of the saddle. That stiffness, as mentioned before, may not lend itself to those looking for an ultra-compliant ride for leisurely long distances, but the Road seemed to settle itself at somewhat of a halfway house between most steel bikes and full-on carbon road bikes. Nevertheless, I didn’t find the Temple Road to be laden with unwanted road feedback. Compared to my own steel bike (with carbon fork), I’d say it gave more buzz over rough roads, but I wouldn’t categorise it as uncomfortable or intolerable. Again, it’s perhaps a stretch to recommend the Temple Road as an out-and-out tourer, but as a four-season bike for training and club rides I’d say it hits the spot.
On the climbs the Temple Road isn’t going to carry you immediately to the KoMs, but like its performance on the flat, it’s quietly confident and stable at a consistent pace. It does have the stiffness to offer some welcome responsiveness when you up your effort, but ultimately its weight will hold it back from being something that will flourish on the climbs. That being said, my build (with mudguards, pedals, and bottle cages) came in at 9.8kg – impressive for an all-steel bike – possibly thanks to those slender tubes.
I’ve really enjoyed riding the Temple Road over winter. First and foremost, this is very clearly a bike that is going to last and see you through as many seasons as you ask it to. It’s rare to see a completely steel build in mass production, but I think it really works here. As does the blend of this classic design combined with a modern groupset.
My reservations start at the cockpit and seat post. I really dislike the style of the silver parts specced and I think some better quality parts would help bring out the best in a very capable bike. I also don’t think the Temple Road is quite as well suited to something like a long-distance, multi-day tour as may be suggested. Yes, it has the mounts and clearance to support this kind of riding, but I think the racy geometry may not be suited to many people looking to take on a ride like that.
I think the Temple Road hits its stride as a bomb-proof, all-seasons bike, perfect for conquering the winter lanes, taking on a long commute, or the weekend club run. At £4k, there’s other steel options out there to consider that will be equally capable as the Temple Road, but importantly I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you, going in, appreciate what the bike is offering. It’s modern and it’s classic, and I’m all here for it.
For more information, visit Temple Cycles.