We review the Forme ATT Carbon Ironman triathlon bike
Derbyshire-based Forme is new on the scene, but its two ATT bikes are well worth a look for those who want to get maximum speed for an affordable price. The ATT Carbon is light and comfortable, but will flex and kit issues stop it from getting up to race speed?
FRAME AND FORK
Having tested both the alloy and carbon ATT bikes it’s definitely worth digging £400 deeper into your pocket for the carbon frame. It’s a full 350g lighter, a lot more forgiving of rough surfaces on long rides, and the different sizing format means the medium frame is also a bit longer. This synced better with our test team when they pushed forward onto the saddle nose for a steeper, more run-compatible seat angle.
Aerodynamics follow simple, widely used principles of minimal frontal area and tapered tubes. This starts with the flared-leg, straight-gauge-steerer fork and pointy-fronted head tube. Slim mainframe tubes have extensive cutouts for close wheel clearance and a potentially super-low front end. The gear and rear brake cables vanish into the down tube and top tubes respectively.
The seat tube fin wraps round the rear wheel, with a teardrop seatpost extending the drag reduction right up under the saddle. The dropouts at the end of the chunky chainstays are a conventional vertical rather than adjustable horizontal style. The own-brand Forme brakes are mounted above the wheels rather than hidden out of the wind. Forme only offers three frame sizes, so you can stop reading now if you’re particularly small or tall.
The standard ATT Carbon 1.0 comes with adequate 4ZA Cirrus all-rounder wheels and excellent Schwalbe Ultremo ZX HD tyres for £1,999. Our sample was supplied with the optional deep-section race wheel package – 4ZA T100s, which are light and offer an aero advantage in calm conditions. However the flat sides make them vulnerable to bullying from sidewinds or traffic turbulence, and glue-on tubs won’t be to everyone’s taste. For the price difference between the two bikes, you could get a similar set of extra wheels that would leave you with a training and racing set.
The Forme brakes are really spongy compared with SRAM and Shimano, which makes the already random response from the carbon rims unpredictable in the wet. Forme are keen to point out that the bike comes with a proper aero FSA aero bar and extensions, although light weight comes at the expense of limited adjustment without reaching for a saw.
Otherwise the componentry is best described as a mixed bag. An aero-profile FSA chainset pulls a KMC chain through Shimano 105 and Ultegra mechs, controlled by microSHIFT tip levers. The chainset is very heavy (963g), but the 28-tooth large cog on the cassette gives you a winch option if you need it. The soft-nosed tri-style saddle is as good as most better-known branded gear.
A forgiving saddle is at a premium on the Forme, as it’s a bike that likes to be driven from the rivet if you’re racing. That’s not to say it doesn’t cruise well, as the front end of the frame is well damped from vibration and bigger hits. The Kenda tubular tyres offset the vertical stiffness of the slab-sided wheels with a naturally buoyant and pothole-proof ride. The springy cantilevered armrests and generous pads on the Vision bars also take a fair amount of frame sting out of the equation once you’re settled into a tuck.
The relatively short head tube offers plenty of potential to get properly low if your back can hack it. While the thin-axled FSA cranks aren’t the stiffest around, reasonable overall weight makes it easy to work up to speed on the flat or climbing. Given the comfort level, we were surprised how often we got into the biggest gears and how long we stayed there, and shifting was easy and crisp. This all creates a bike that we repeatedly stayed out on for longer and rode further than we had originally planned too, which is a very positive sign for potential Ironman use.
There are some downsides you need to be aware of, though. Firstly the skinny, cutaway ‘throat’ of the frame and the slim fork give a relatively limp grip on control. This is particularly obvious on tighter, descending corners, roundabouts or when the wind gives the front wheel a shove. The inconsistent brakes don’t help confidence on downhills either, although you will get used to the frame and braking feel over time. Giving it full gas out of the saddle out of corners or up climbs can also create a lot of flex in the frame and wheels.
That means it responds better to a kind word in the ear than a hard jab with the spurs when you need to get a gallop on. It’s still a decent, comfortable distance machine that offers easy speed, particularly for athletes who go for the kill on the swim or run and not the bike.
- Frame and fork
Size tested: M
Sizes available: S, M, L
Weight as tested: 8.98kg
Frame weight: 1,545g
Fork weight: 470g
Frame: Toray T700 3K carbon monocoque
Fork: Toray T700 3K, full carbon, 1.125in steerer
Chainset: FSA TriMax Pro TT, 52/38T, 175mm
Bottom bracket: FSA Mega Exo
Cassette: Shimano Tiagra 12-28T
Chain: KMC X-10
Derailleurs: Shimano Ultegra rear / Tiagra front
Shifters: microSHIFT BS-A10 bar end
Front: Forme 4ZA T100 carbon tubular
Rear: Forme 4ZA T100 carbon tubular
Tyres: Kenda Super Domestique tubs, 700x23c
Wheel weight: 1,130g front / 1,670g back
- Other components
Stem: SL Alloy, 100mm
Bars: FSA Vision TriMax PRO SI R-Bend
Headset: FSA No 23
Saddle: One23 Tri Gel
Seatpost: Forme carbon aero
Brakes: Forme dual-pivot w/ Tektro RX4.1 levers
+ Efficient position and comfy, responsive ride character
+ Good price, particularly if you go for the conventional wheel option
– Front-end flex can be unsettling when ridden hard or in high winds
– Limp, inconsistent braking and limited frame sizing