Can the new kid on the bargain carbon block offer real aero advantages? 

13 Intuitive Alpha

13 Intuition Alpha

£999.99 halfords.com

Halford’s own brand 13 bikes were launched last year and stand out for their extensive aero efficient design elements as well as low weight. But does the actual performance of its cheapest carbon fibre option match its contemporary looks?

FRAME AND FORKS

The answer is that 13’s aerodynamic gain claims aren’t just cosmetic. If you’re new to aero bikes then you might think that the tapered leg aero fork has been fitted in reverse in our bike test shots. It’s deliberately positioned behind the fork crown to stop it disturbing airflow and the rear brake is tucked under the chainstays for the same reason. The head-tube is kept as narrow as possible while still allowing for a tapered fork and the gear and rear brake cable disappear into the aero profiled downtube which ends at a Press Fit 30 bottom bracket. The seat-tube and brakeless seatstays are kept as slim as possible and attaching the stays low down also cleans up airflow behind the rider. The minimalist decals and matt chalk finish give it a really high class look to match the state-of-the-art shaping too.

13 Intuition Alpha

The FSA chainset uses 30mm axle on press fit bearings but overall power transfer isn’t a strong point of the frame.

13 Intuition Alpha

Hiding the TRP brakes behind the fork reduces drag but their action isn’t as predictable as a dual pivot brake.

13 Intuition Alpha

13’s custom aero section wheels give you a red marker spoke to help you find the valve quickly if you’re flat.

THE KIT

The 13 uses an identical mixed manufacturer transmission to its Halfords stablemates Boardman (previous page) with 20-speed Shimano Tiagra gears driven by a BB30 FSA crank. The wheels are 13’s own custom sourced semi aero design, complete with colour coded graphics and red valve marker spoke.

TRP crosspull brakes are used to cope with the unconventional positioning while Vittoria provides the tyres. 13 own-brand kit completes the rest of the bike and includes a 27.2mm seatpost designed to minimise drag and display the rubber ‘reversed 13’ number designed to reflect the tradition of turning this unlucky number upside down to make it a talisman rather than a curse.

THE RIDE

The skinny seatpost also adds a noticeable smoothness to life in the saddle but the whole ride is distinctively supple and comfortable throughout. If you’ve read our previous reviews of aero bikes you’ll know that’s a rarity. Despite their deeper rim profile, the wheels are impressively smooth and comfortable too, although the smaller volume 23mm rather than 25mm tyres do jolt more if you hit a sizeable hole. The lack of road buzz and rattle through the forks and saddle becomes increasingly appreciated the further you take the 13 and it’s an efficient and effortless cruiser. Add the tangibly speed boosting aerodynamic gains from the tube profiling and rim shape, plus a low head tube, and if there’s one bike here that suits being fitted with clip-on tri-bars for solo race use it’s definitely the Intuition.

The thin main tube walls and skinny rear stays that keep the frame weight low have a less positive effect when you put the power down. Squeeze the pedals smoothly and the low weight eases the 13 forward without much effort. Hustle it harder than it naturally wants to go and there’s a definite softness in the torque transfer between pedals, back wheel and bars. It’s obvious enough that we actually hopped off a couple of times to check if the brakes were rubbing before accepting its lack of muscle and switching to a smooth spinning approach.

The brakes themselves take some getting used to too. While there is a decent amount of power there if you pull hard enough, getting to the biting point is an indistinct and therefore slightly unpredictable process. It makes fine control a definite issue in the damp too and wet grip isn’t a strong point of the Vittoria tyres either. Add in the soft wheels and it’s a bike that definitely takes descents on the back foot rather than going balls out.

13 Intuitive Alpha

WORDS: Guy Kesteven PHOTOS: Russell Burton

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