A trio of automotive engineers from Melbourne banded together in 2014 to create Bastion, a bicycle design and manufacturing brand that’s really turning heads. Gemma Mollenhauer has been riding their latest creation and filed this review.
Although new to the custom frame-building business, Bastion has already made an impression in the bespoke cycling world. From their innovation through technology to their unique frame finish, Bastion endeavours to be a cut above the generic, providing an experience rather than simply a product. With a trio of ex-automotive engineers at the helm, Bastion brings together the best of technology and aesthetics to welcome a ‘bold new era of cycling’ with open arms.
“For us, Bastion is a symbol of staying true to what we want to be about and where we want to go,” co-founder and managing director Ben Shultz told Bicycling Australia. “A physical bastion is typically the highest point in a castle, or a tower on its own on the border of a country. It implies being able to look into the future and see things coming.”
A high-end build
This sentiment is visible in the Bastion Road Disc frameset. Constructed with carbon fibre tubing and 3D printed titanium lugs, not only is the design and aesthetics of the bike unique, so too is the handling. As a test bike, the frameset was fitted with high-end specifications indicative of their clientele.
For Shultz, and his fellow co-founders and ex-automotive engineers, James Woolcock and Dean McGeary, creating and designing bespoke framesets came as a natural progression (and skill application) after all three were presented with redundancy from Toyota’s Technical Centre in Melbourne.
“There wasn’t that many exciting jobs left in Australia (especially with automotive going out). So we made the decision to follow our passion for bicycles, but also advanced engineering,” said Shultz.
I guess you could say the automotive industry’s loss was the cycling world’s gain, and while it’s still early days for Bastion, they’ve certainly got a lot of things right from the get-go.
From the start of my experience dealing with Bastion, Shultz really pushed their pride in customer empowerment (one of their core values), and my experience was no different. After Bicycling Australia had finalised the details on the bike review, I was asked in for a bike fit – surprisingly something that doesn’t often happen when reviewing. It doesn’t usually come to the detriment of the review; however my fit, done by RiderCC bikefitter Stewart Morton, ensured I was comfortable from the get go.
By treating the customer as the ‘chief engineer’, Shultz and the team at Bastion are able to open the process up to the customer – also sending through engineering reports to ensure the customer understands not only what their bike will look like, but also how it will handle.
“People say, ‘Oh, you can’t let the customer make these decisions,’ but we’ve developed the simulation tools and the ability to show them graphically and schematically what the bike is going to look like, how its going to handle, what the steering is going to feel like and compare it to the current bike they have, and compare it to other bikes in the market. It gives them a real-world reference and is a bit like a virtual test ride, I suppose,” Shultz explains.
Bastion is not the first custom frame-building brand to combine carbon fibre tubing with titanium lugs. However, the Bastion frame collection offers a unique and visually pleasing design. Although maybe not for everyone, the Bastion framesets are akin to adding a natural varnish to a timber and certainly celebrate the natural beauty of carbon.
“We really set out to build something that’s really refined and feels like quality when you ride it,” said Shultz. “The reason we choose titanium and mix it with carbon fibre is to achieve that. The carbon fibre gives us light weight and the ability to tune the stiffness of the bike. The titanium really takes a lot of the edge off, it really smoothes out the ride and makes it feel really planted as well.”
Titanium lugs are 3D printed in New Zealand and are used to maintain a lightweight, yet bump-dampening ride. An Evo386 bottom bracket offers application to a diverse range of componentry, while customised drop-outs offer a nice touch.
I’ll admit it’s hard for me to fault this bike. Custom geometry ensures a proper fit, while customer-driven choices in terms of groupset and touchpoints offer quite limited potential for the individual to be unhappy with their purchase.
So, are there any downsides?
“We didn’t design it for aerodynamics, so that’s the only compromise,” explaind Shultz, “But everything else – we wanted to build a bike that’s one of the lightest, torsionally stiffest in terms of pedaling response and handling stability, but also really comfortable. And so we wanted to do that just through sound engineering and choice of correct material and structure. No gimmicks, no springs, no inserts. We wanted to build a bike that was simple, elegant and would last a lifetime.”
And the bike certainly handles as such. It’s noticeably stable and planted, while maintaining pedaling efficiency.
Descending is confidence-inspiring, and mixed-surface riding is comfortable. Ride quality is much the same as my Specialized S-Works Amira due to a similar level of carbon stiffness, whist the planted nature of the frameset feels akin to more long-wheelbase framesets such as the Canyon Endurace.
A note on the details
Prior to collecting the test bike, I didn’t consider componentry. When I found out the bike was to be fitted with only what can be described as top-of-the-line, I was stoked but not surprised. This fit with the customer-facing nature of Bastion and the idea that if you’re going to buy one of these bespoke framesets, you’re probably going to go all out.
ENVE SES handlebars and wheels (fitted with 28c tyres) added an aerodynamic feature to the frameset, along with a noticeably smooth ride. The Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9170 groupset was something else, and well worth the price tag of a high-end groupset.
Overall, Bastion delivers a bespoke, beautifully designed and well thought-out frameset paired with an intimate desire to meet the customer needs and expectations. On the most basic level, the frameset is comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. When designed and specced to fit an individual request will check all the boxes.
It’s clear customer service is a huge priority for Bastion, along with creating a high quality product. The frameset handles beautifully, and as you’d expect, top-quality componentry adds a certain quality and lightweight aspect. Overall, if I had a spare $20,000 to drop on the bike of my dreams, a Bastion bicycle would certainly be in the pool of options.
Frameset alone was impressive, especially in descending and taking the bike off-road. Titanium lugs and 28c tyres managed to almost transform gravel into bitumen…almost. While hydraulic disc brakes and a comparably long wheelbase made for a sturdy, confidence-inspiring ride.
This bike isn’t cheap, and it’s not meant to be. It’s a premium product for someone who wants a lifetime investment. It’s for that person who knows that cycling is far etched into their life, and is part of their identity. One could easily spend $20,000 on one of these bikes, and know that they’re not just getting a product in the end; they’re getting a personalized, unique and comfortable machine that is exactly what they want. In the world of bespoke framesets Bastion is comparably priced to their main competitor Baum.
Shultz and his team are dedicated engineers who seem to really care not simply about the product they’re developing, but also about the interactions they have along the way. They’re open-minded in exploring alternatives, patient in the process and quality control, and above all they’re passionate about the idea that custom-built bikes are the best option for any cyclist.
Frame: Carbon fibre tubing with 3D printed titanium lugs
Shifters: Dura-Ace Di2 R9170
Front Derailleur: Dura-Ace Di2 R9170
Rear Derailleur: Dura-Ace Di2 R9170
Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace R9100
Cassette: Ultegra 11-28/ 50-34
Bottom Bracket: EVO386 (C-Bear)
Wheels: ENVE SES Disc 5.6
Tyres: Pirelli P0 Velo4s 28c
Brakes: Dura-Ace R9100 hydraulic
Handlebars: ENVE SES
Bartape: Bastion prototype lazer-etched
Saddle: Specialized Power Arc
Seatpost: Custom Bastion titanium seatpost with ENVE seat clamp
Weight: 7.4 kg (based on test bike including Ultegra pedals (52))
Price: framesets start from $7,750, complete bikes start at $13,000
Distributer: Bastion Cycles, Melbourne