We sometimes get the chance to ride bikes so new they arrive as a final prototype and The Light Blue Newnham was one such bike.
While it should be in stores later this year, we couldn’t wait to show you this steel machine from Cambridge’s finest.
The Light Blue originally designed the Newnham to complement its Wolfson road machine, adding extra smoothing comfort. That was in 2018, and since then expectations have changed regarding endurance bikes. Now consumers expect larger tyre clearances to allow for more versatility.
So, before it finalised the design, the team at The Light Blue took another look at the Newnham.
The Light Blue Newnham frame
The Newnham boasts big clearances for a road bike: it can accommodate tyres up to 38c, or 32c when you add mudguards into the mix.
The frame features removable cable-routing bosses for cleaner lines, if you fancy running a wireless electronic system.
The chassis itself is an intriguing mix of Reynolds 853 with a Columbus head tube (paired to the Columbus full carbon fork) and heat-treated steel chainstays that add a bit of beef for the all-important power transfer.
The Light Blue doesn’t claim a frame weight yet, but my test bike was 9.11kg on the scales.
The use of high-grade 853 for the main tubes is a smart choice. The tubes are cold-drawn, which means the steel is forced through a die at intensely high pressure then manipulated through rollers and mandrels to set the wall’s thickness, butting and final shaping.
The advantage over traditional heat-based manipulation is a tube that has three times the tensile strength of basic chromoly tubes.
These tubes are (TIG) welded together before undergoing a final heat-treating process that makes the frame four times as strong as basic steel alloys and compares well to high-end materials, such as titanium. In fact, it’s claimed to have the very same strength-to-weight ratio.
The Light Blue Newnham geometry
These geometry numbers are based on a prototype model, so may be subject to change by The Light Blue for the final production model.
The Light Blue Newnham kit
The Newnham’s build is based around a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset, which is all the groupset most of us will ever need. Smooth, accurate, electronically assisted shifts, confident and controlled braking, ergonomic contact points; the ratios chosen for this build are also spot on.
Elsewhere, The Light Blue’s parent company, Ison Distribution, gets the chance to showcase its own components. The slick Genetic stem holds a Genetic Driser bar. It features a slight backsweep and a rise from the stem clamp.
It’s beautifully shaped and creates a position that’s a little shorter and more upright than a standard road bar, and I approve.
The manipulated profile gives great handholds on the hoods and the oversized tops are an excellent place to spend time too. The compact drop with its slight flare meant that I spent much more time down in an aero position than I normally would on my successive four- to five-hour test rides.
Out back, a Genetic carbon post with a bit of setback means the ride position feels more sporty than sedate, while the clever Tioga saddle with its spider web-like shell wrapped with slender high-density padding is flexible yet supportive and ideal for long days out.
The Light Blue Newnham ride impressions
These superior contact points are only enhanced by the buttery-smooth ride of the Newnham’s frame.
I half expected it to feel a little ‘noodley’ with its slender, ovalised top tube and larger but still slender ovalised down tube. Thankfully, it’s anything but: it responded sharply when I stomped on the pedals and reacted well to direction changes.
The steering is just what you want from a good endurance bike: well-balanced and easy to control, as you’d expect from a machine with such a gloriously accomplished, smooth character.
The handling isn’t leisurely though; it’s still quick to react and it all adds up to a great companion on any ride. On climbs the chassis feels responsive and the taut wheels give the Newnham an overriding feel of efficiency.
Head downhill and its predictable handling inspires confidence through twisty technical sections.
The Halo Carbaura disc wheels are nicely put together with even (high) tension throughout the spoking, a well-shaped, modern tubeless carbon rim and a freewheel that picks up quickly.
They come tubeless-ready and shod with Schwalbe’s best tubeless road tyre yet, the Pro One TLE in 28mm.
The frame and fork both sport a classy retro look and the finishing of the frameset is top-notch. I was also taken by how versatile a bike with such big clearances can be.
The Light Blue Newnham bottom line
Is the Newnham flawless? Well, not quite. The paint is a little fragile, but it’s possible that this – and the overspray on the inside of the seat tube, which led to the seatpost slipping – are pre-production issues.
The smooth-running, hardiness and airtight tubeless-ness of the Halo wheels really impressed. However, their brash graphics look a little out of place on a bike as classy as the Newnham.
A subtler set (or none at all) would send what is a heavenly looking and riding machine into the stratosphere.