Werking Cycles Model S bespoke carbon frameset review

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Werking Cycles is a small and relatively new framebuilder. Andrea Sega is the man behind the brand, and after studying composites at university, he was driven to establish his own workshop. Werking started with small components like chain catchers and bidon cages, but in the last couple years, Andrea has moved on to building frames.

The Model S is Werking’s first frame, a bespoke carbon fibre racing chassis. In this review, Australian tech editor Matt Wikstrom explores what the new brand has to offer.

Andrea Sega fell in love with cycling when he was 12 years old. For an Italian boy, such devotion to the sport is not really surprising, but where most would have been satisfied with lusting after celebrated brands, Andrea was drawn to manufacturing. In an earlier era, Andrea would have ended up working with steel, but it was a new millennium and it was carbon composites that captured his interest while studying at university.

“When I was 19 years old [2009], I had the opportunity to attend a course on composite materials,” he said. “I started making some experiments and my passion increased. It was hard work but I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make it my daily job. Now I spend all my time developing new products and exploring new uses for composites.”

Andrea’s first products were a variety of small components such as seatpost clamps, chain catchers and bottle cages, all made from carbon composites. He started selling these products under the Werking name in 2015 and the brand quickly found favour with weight-weenies.

That success was enough to spur Andrea on towards his greater ambition of building his own frames. He had already completed a framebuilding course at San Patriagna in 2013 (where he was tutored by Gianni Pegoretti) and by 2015, he was road-testing his first prototypes.

As he readied his first frame for market, the Model S, Andrea decided to devote Werking solely to his custom-built frames. A new brand, Alpitude, was created for his components, but in both instances, Andrea takes care of every aspect of production in his workshop in Trentino. Indeed, the young Italian is proud of the fact that every one of his products is truly Italian-made.

Before the ride

The story behind the Werking name goes back to the time when the Trentino region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918). The Trentino valley had long served as a strategic stronghold, and at the turn of the 20th Century, as anticipation of war with Italy was increasing, the Empire increased the number of troops in this region and constructed a number of fortifications.

Growing up in Trentino, Andrea was well aware of the significance of the long-abandoned forts in his valley. One was called Fort Pozzacchio/Werk Valmorbia and the name had always resonated with Andrea. “I fell in love with the name Werk and found that it means opera/work. So why not call my framebuilding company Werking?”

Andrea’s local pride also guided his choice of a bear for his headtube badge. “The logo for the valley where I live features two bears, so I decided I could use one to link the territory where I work and live to my brand.” That head badge happens to be made from carbon fibre, a fitting choice for the all-carbon frame that is the Model S.

From the outset, the frame was designed as a bespoke product that could be tuned to fit the exact needs of any buyer by varying the layup for the tubes and the joints of the frame. Andrea works with a local manufacturer to source the tubing he uses, though he has started creating some of his own tubes. It’s a step that will allow him to further customise Werking’s frames while providing him with more control over his work flow.

The Model S is supplied with a range of options, starting with a choice between rim and disc brakes. For the former, the Model S accommodates traditional single-pivot callipers, front and rear, while for the latter, Andrea chooses flat-mount disc callipers and 12mm thru-axles. In both instances, there is enough tyre clearance for 28C tyres.

There was plenty of room for tyres measuring 27mm wide at the front.

Adding to the list of options is a choice of three bottom brackets: BSA-threaded, PF30, or BB386EVO. Buyers are also free to elect to use mechanical or electronic groupsets with internal cable routing for all cables, hoses and wires.

At the front of the bike, Andrea makes use of a 44mm headtube that can accommodate a tapered fork steerer (1.125inch upper bearing; 1.25inch lower bearing). Elsewhere, there is a braze-on tab for the front derailleur while the seat tube accepts a 27.2mm seatpost.

Interestingly, Andrea makes use of bolt-on dropouts for the Model S because they provide a couple of important advantages. Firstly, he considers bolting the dropouts to the frame far more robust and reliable than bonding them; and second, in the event of a crash, any repairs to the dropouts will be considerably cheaper and easier (Werking sells a pair of replacement dropouts for €45 (~AUD$68/US$52)).

The same 27mm wide tyre was a tighter fit at the rear, but according to Werking, going forward the Model S will offer extra clearance and accommodate 28C tyres.

As a bespoke frame, the Model S is made-to-order with customisable geometry thanks to tube-to-tube construction. Andrea collects as much information from the customer to help decide the geometry of the bike, starting with classic body measurements. He also interviews them about where they ride and the bikes they’ve ridden, including impressions on stiffness and compliance, along with ideas on how they think they could be improved. In this way, he is able to build up a picture of the ideal bike for the buyer, then he can set to work to bring it to life.

The Model S sent for review was coupled with a Deda Stream fork and expertly finished with a two-tone paint job that featured an intricate honeycomb pattern on the chainstays and the inner surface of the fork legs. The high-gloss finish almost looked wet to touch while the subtle branding added to Werking’s understated styling. The simple finish also complemented the clean, strong lines of the frame and fork, making for a very tidy and arguably classy bike.

The ~54cm sample frame weighed 1,056g with the headset cups while the uncut Deda Stream fork weighed 398g with a crown race installed. After building up the Model S with Campagnolo’s Super Record RS groupset, Deda alloy cockpit and seatpost, Fizik Aliante saddle, and a Roval CLX 50 wheelset with Specialized Turbo Cotton tyres, the bike weighed in at 7.03kg without pedals or bottle cages.

Assembling the bike was a straightforward matter. I didn’t have any difficulties fitting each part to the frameset, and thanks to Andrea lining each internal route with disposable tubing, running the cables through the frame was very easy. The end result was clearly a race-oriented bike that could hover around the race-legal weight without too much extra expense.

Pricing for the Model S starts at €3,350 (~AUD$5,070/US$3,900) (excluding VAT), which includes the custom-built frame, Enve fork, and a Chris King headset. At this price, the frameset is finished with a choice of a clear coat and coloured logos, or, a range of single colours. Alternatively, buyers can opt for custom paint from €220 (~AUD$330/US$255), where the final charge will depend on the paint selected and the complexity of the design.

Placing an order is simply a matter of getting in touch with Andrea directly or one of his retailers (such as Chainsmith in Sydney, Australia). A 50% deposit is required when placing an order, and at the time of writing, the lead time was around four months.

Finally, every Werking frame is supplied with a three-year warranty for materials and workmanship and a one-year warranty for the paint. For more information, visit Werking.

After the ride

The Model S presented as a reasonably light bike with strong lines that suggested it would make for an aggressive race bike, and that’s exactly what I found. Stiff and sturdy, the bike was quick to respond to my efforts and I always enjoyed a heightened sense of speed, especially on smooth roads.

The stiffness of the bike could be a curse or a blessing, though, depending on the prevailing road conditions. The bike was at its best on smooth bitumen where I could revel in a few hearty out-of-the-saddle sprints and not be troubled by any unwelcome feedback.

In contrast, the amount of feedback from rough roads was quite noticeable and any kind of hit — from holes, road seams, or train-tracks — often bordered on harsh. As a result, I found myself preferring a reasonably plush wheel and tyre combination (25C tyres; 60psi, front and rear) to tone down the feedback. With these wheels, I was able to tackle a variety of terrain with a reasonable amount of comfort, however I wouldn’t go so far as classifying the bike as a versatile performer.

According to Andrea, the frame sent for review had been maximised for stiffness, so my impressions of the bike were exactly as he expected. In this guise, the Model S should suit any racer that prefers a large amount of chassis stiffness, but for everybody else, I’d recommend a more forgiving layup.

With a reasonably low weight and plenty of stiffness, the Model S performed well in the hills. There was plenty of efficient responsiveness for me to enjoy, though the bike wasn’t quite as potent as BH’s Ultralight EVO or Tsubasa’s Crow. As mentioned above, Werking’s workshop is located in the mountainous region of Trentino, so it’s not really surprising that the Model S possesses a fair bit of climbing prowess.

There’s often not much point dwelling upon the steering and handling of a bike with custom geometry, however the geometry selected by Andrea proved to be very effective. The bike was well composed when travelling downhill thanks to a chassis that was innately stable and steering that was on the slow side of neutral.

The only drawback was that this combination produced some understeer, so the bike tended to run wide when exiting a corner. I didn’t find it too difficult to compensate for it; all I had to do was push harder on the bars to stop the bike from wandering too far from my desired line.

I’ve always had reservations about bolt-on dropouts because of the risk that the bolts could come loose when out on the road. In this instance, though, there was no obvious brake rub at the rear wheel, I never detected any sway in the rear end, and the bolts remained tight. Thus, over the short term at least, the dropouts didn’t create any problems, and as discussed above, in the event of a crash, may actually provide a benefit or two.

At the end of the review period, a small problem developed with the frame as I was dismantling the bike. The threaded insert on the right-hand side of the bottom bracket started coming out of the frame (2-3mm) as I was removing the cup, a clear case of the bonding agent failing.

Andrea was understandably dismayed to see the problem, and while it was the first time it had occurred for any of his frames, he admitted it was a risk whenever threaded inserts are bonded to a composite frame.

In discussing how this issue would be handled for a customer, Andrea said it was a simple repair that would always be covered by his warranty. In those instances where the frame was outside Europe, he would endeavour to work with a local repairer rather than have the owner return the frame to his workshop. In this instance, Werking’s Australian retailer, Chainsmith, was able to take care of the repair and re-assemble the bike without any issues.

In the aftermath, Andrea remains committed to using threaded inserts for the Model S. The issue has prompted him to revise his design for the threaded inserts by adding additional milling slots to increase adhesion with the frame. For those prospective buyers that would rather avoid the risk, they still have the freedom to opt for a threadless bottom bracket (PF30 or BB386 EVO).

Summary and final thoughts

The market for custom made road framesets is a small one, yet it seems to be populated with a multitude of choices. Not only is there a range of materials, there’s also a rich choice of nationalities. And thanks to the rise of the internet and the effects of globalisation, it is possible to consider buying a custom-built frameset from almost anywhere in the world.

For those interested in a bespoke carbon fibre frameset, the field of options shrinks considerably and the prices involved tend to be very high. When compared to the rest of this market, Werking’s Model S stands as a reasonably inviting proposition: an Italian-made racing frameset without an overly extravagant price tag.

The Model S is still an expensive frameset, though, and most would be forgiven for contemplating a framebuilder with more experience and recognition than Werking, even if it added to the cost. This is a challenge that every framebuilder has had to contend with, and the only way to overcome it is to remain devoted to the craft. Judging from Andrea’s passion and enthusiasm, I don’t expect he’ll have much trouble with this.

What do each of the individual ratings criteria mean? And how did we arrive at the final score? Click here to find out. You can also read more about our review process.

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