I’d heard of them. I’d seen them out on the road. I even knew the recently-defunct French Pro Continental outfit, Sojasun, rode them at the Tour de France in 2013. But until this review I must confess to not knowing a whole lot about Spanish bicycle brand, BH. What better time to find out?
Turns out the Beistegui Hermanos business was founded in the Basque region of northern Spain in 1909 as, of all things, an arms manufacturer by three brothers – Cosme, Domingo and Juan Beistegui. They were quite good at making handguns by all reports, something they did up until the 1930s. After the First World War, however, they began trying their hand at bicycles; something they continue to do rather well today with six-figure annual sales and a professional palmares that includes no less than seven Vueltas a España, including the very first in 1935. More recently BH also carried Italy’s Rinaldo Nocentini into the maillot jaune for nine days at the 2009 Tour de France, riding for AG2R-La Mondiale.
Given such proud and decidedly-ballistic origins, please don’t pistol-whip me when I suggest the endurance-styled 2014 BH Quartz isn’t exactly a two-wheeled weapon. The again, it isn’t meant to be.
Without much doubt the full carbon monocoque frame is the highlight of this bike. It packs plenty of design punch with a beefy down tube leading to the impressive BB386 Evo bottom bracket, developed in collaboration with FSA. At a whopping 86.5mm wide it delivers increased lateral stiffness, riding stability and power transfer with every turn of the pedals. The Quartz also boasts asymmetrical chainstays to further enhance frame stiffness, an intriguingly compact 1.5” carbon headset that’s fully integrated within the frame and even features carbon dropouts. Significantly, the Quartz uses the same core removal technology developed for BH’s Ultralight and G6 ranges – a construction process which essentially allows the engineers to specify different thicknesses of carbon fibre at key points of the frame, optimising strength but also making the finished product very light; evidenced by the fact the bare BH Quartz frame has a claimed weight of just 950 grams. This is up to 10% lighter than some of its main rivals.
Despite its featherweight frame, the first time I picked up the Quartz it still felt a little heavy; a feeling replicated out on the road particularly at lower speeds. You don’t need CSI to identify the main culprit here. The wheels did it. Weighing in at just under two kilograms, the largely bulletproof yet hefty Shimano WH-R500 alloy wheelset is something to consider upgrading if your budget has any stretch. The transformation is likely to be quite significant if you do.
Weighty wheels aside, the rest of the BH Quartz has much to offer. Once rolling at decent speeds it holds its momentum well and begins to feel far more responsive on the road, allowing for more confident handling and cornering. Shifting and braking performance is solid as you’d expect from the ever-dependable 10-speed Shimano 105 groupset, although the chain and cassette are lower-spec Tiagra. It’s also worth noting the frame is electronic compatible should you opt for an upgrade at some stage in the future.
The other essential point to mention is the BH Quartz is an extremely comfortable bike to ride; a key factor given it’s the main BH offering in the endurance road bike category aimed more at recreational riders than hard-core club racers. The overall geometry of the Quartz delivers a relaxed riding position, aided considerably by an extended head tube which is noticeably taller than the more aggressive set-up of its Ultralight and G6 siblings in the BH road stable. The semi-round shape of the Prologo Kappa Evo saddle is suited to longer-distance riding and contributes further to the overall comfort level, as does the 27.2mm diameter seat post beneath it; kept intentionally slim to provide more flex over longer journeys and, therefore, reduce fatigue in already-weary muscles. Put to the test in the real world, I found this design and component ensemble indeed dealt capably with all but the most corrugated of road surfaces, absorbing enough of the bumps to ensure a smooth and forgiving ride in most riding conditions.
The final piece in the BH Quartz puzzle is, of course, aesthetics. Even the most fleeting of glances will tell you it’s certainly not radical in its design. But so what? The BH Quartz is still an eye-catching and entirely modern road bike; more than able to hold its own in the style stakes on the local coffee ride. It’s hard not to be impressed with the clean lines offered by the cleverly-designed internal cable routing system, for mine one of the smartest features of the entire bike. Up close the finish reveals just the undressed carbon finish beneath blue and white pin striping and a slick glossy coat –there’s no final aesthetic layer of 3k or 12k carbon weave. Some prefer this philosophy of function over form, but when it comes to frames I prefer a more refined and fully finished look.
Overall the BH Quartz is a good-without-ever-quite-threatening-to-be-great endurance road bike from a brand steeped in European cycling tradition. Given its excellent lightweight frame, I can’t help but feel it could have been better with slightly upgraded components that deliver greater value for money. If you’re a serious recreational rider or perhaps just starting out and want a genuine carbon road bike that’s versatile enough to straddle almost anywhere, it’s well worth a test ride. Likewise if you’re looking for a robust training bike so you can cotton wool your favourite bike for racing and special occasions, it’s a worthy contender.
The BH Quartz is a modern, endurance-focussed road bike built around an impressive lightweight frame. It’s ideally suited to committed recreational riders who value comfort and versatility as much as speed.
Solid at higher speeds, but feels a little heavy on the road at times. A good choice for training and recreational riding, and it would allow you to get a first taste of racing, but it wouldn’t my first choice for a new race rig.
Value for money:
The Quartz is priced near the top of its component class, but delivers well in terms of quality and comfort.
The BH brand has some strong racing heritage, however the Quartz’s frame geometry leans towards an endurance riding position and would suit less race inclined and less flexible riders. The quality frame is let down by some weighty components, but it’s still a slick looking platform with a stable and comfortable ride.
Frame: QUARTZ Carbon
Stem: BH LITE
Front Derailleur: SHIMANO 105
Brakes: SHIMANO 105
BB: FSA PF30/386
Handlebars: BH LITE COMPACT
Tyres: VITTORIA RUBINO SLICK
Saddle Clamps: BH QUARTZ
Fork: QUARTZ FULL CARBON 1.5″
Shift Levers: SHIMANO 105
Rear Derailleur: SHIMANO 105
Crankset: SHIMANO 105 50/34
Cassette: SHIMANO TIAGRA CS 4600 12/28 (10 SPEED)
Wheelset: SHIMANO WH-R500
Saddle: PROLOGO KAPPA EVO
Seat post: BH LITE (27.2mm x 350)
Weight: 8.6kg, 56cm
Distributor: JetBlack Products www.jetblackproducts.com