Bikes of the Bunch: Low Bicycles LK All-road
In today’s edition of Bikes of the Bunch, VeloClub member Jono Mitchell shares the story of his lovely Low Bicycles LK All-road.
A few years ago I started thinking about replacing my 2015 Cannondale SuperSix. There was nothing objectively wrong with the bike, but my road riding was incorporating more and more dirt and poorly paved roads which just didn’t suit the 25 mm tyre limit of the Cannondale.
My preference was for a metal frame, probably aluminium, perhaps with rim brakes, but definitely something that took at least 32 mm tyres. I wanted something metal because I’d bought a Mason Bokeh gravel bike a few years earlier and really loved the lively road feel and durability of it. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune on a “forever” bike; I wanted something I wouldn’t hesitate to take down a dirt road in the rain.
Struggling with the options available, I turned to the most reliable source of bike information I knew: the Nerd Alert Podcast. After making a submission to the ‘bike selector’ segment, in February 2020, James, Dave, Caley, and Zach discussed my conundrum in detail.
In my submission, I told the team I wanted something “stiff, lightweight, and timeless”. As intended, they interpreted “timeless” as a preference for the traditional horizontal top tube and a desire for something that will stand the test of time; no custom handlebars and no unique bottom bracket standard. There were some great ideas: Vinyl Road, CAAD13, Emonda, Spooky, and while a little out of budget, James’ suggestion was for a custom bike from Low Bicycles, an aluminium specialist in San Francisco. So, armed with this advice, I created an extensive spreadsheet and I started to weigh it all up.
I ended up calling Andrew Low on a whim one day and, as if by divine intervention, he told me about his newly minted “Low Key” line of frames. By cutting out complex tube shaping and fillet welds, Andrew had developed a simpler construction technique that allowed him to build bikes for more than US$1,000 less than his flagship models. Better still, he even had an “all road” version which fits a 38 mm tyre. While disc-only, it was a compromise I was willing to make.
Even after many long hours of deliberation, the final decision felt impulsive. Late one night I put in my order, paid the deposit, and made a rushed decision on the decal paint colour. And then the long wait began.
The frame ended up taking seven months to arrive, which gave me time to sell my old bike in the midst of the pandemic price boom and to decide what I was going to put on my new frame.
For the groupset, I liked the idea of wireless but SRAM Red was going to blow my (already blown) budget and Force was just too … plasticy. Thankfully, the wise cats at Bike Gallery in Melbourne had developed a solution of putting the much more attractive Red chainring on the Force groupset. As my mum would say, “mutton dressed as lamb”.
My original idea for the wheels was Zipp 303 Ss, but on the day I collected the bike I decided to swap them out for Firecrests which are extravagant and unnecessary but totally amazing to ride.
A few months in, there isn’t much I’d change if I was to start again. However, while I do really enjoy the exorbitant wheelset, I’m not totally convinced by the wireless Force AXS. Given the weight penalty and the huge price jump, I’m not sure the accuracy and ease of maintenance is there to justify it.
Assessing the end result, I’m the first to admit the bike is a long way from the original spec for something under AU$5,000 and with rim brakes, but it rides like a dream. It’s more comfortable and stable than my old Cannondale, but not to the same extreme as a gravel bike. It’s also somehow more engaging, which I guess is what I was chasing in the aluminium frame, and I’ve certainly not hesitated to ride it in the rain.
Thanks to Andrew for making such a gorgeous frame, Bike Gallery for the build, and to James Huang for the suggestion in the first place!
Frame: Low Bicycles, LK All-road
Fork: Enve All Road
Brakes: SRAM Force AXS
Shifter: SRAM Force AXS
Front and rear derailleur: SRAM Force AXS
Crankset: SRAM Force AXS
Bottom bracket: SRAM DUB BB English 68/73
Chainring: SRAM Red 48-35T
Cassette: SRAM Force 10-33T
Wheels: Zipp 303 Firecrest
Tyres: Schwalbe G-One Speed 35 mm
Handlebars: Zipp SL70 Ergo 42 cm
Stem: Zipp SL Speed 100 mm 6º
Seatpost: Zipp SL Speed 0-Offset
Saddle: Specialized Power Arc Pro
Bottle cages: Silca Ti
Computer mount: Zipp SL