Artemis Winery, one of the stops on the Highlands cycle tour.

Bike Review: Johnson Esquire SL Disc

“The Johnson Esquire oozes character and quality, each component seems to have been selected carefully and combine to create a bike which delivers across the board. The nishing touch is the quality paint scheme, unique and stylish and very appealing.” – Luke Meers.

It is difficult for a bike to distinguish itself from the myriad of other high end carbon bike on the market these days. It seems every manufacturer is claiming to be improving weight, comfort, aerodynamics and rigidity simultaneously. While this
is likely true to some degree due to the ever evolving nature of technology and manufacturing, as consumers it presents a monotonous marketing spiel.

Johnson provide a small range of bikes and in their short history have earned a good reputation. The Esquire range of frames in the line-up reflect owner Ben Johnson’s desire for a bike that performs similarly to the top tier of race bikes but gives riding sensation more akin to a quality steel bike.

Their latest release is the disc brake equipped Johnson Esquire SL; a bike which manages to stand out from the bunch without resorting to gimmicky features or overly loud design. Rather, it is the refined and measured nature of the bike which sets it apart.

There is very little to fault in the bike, from simple, clean aesthetics to fantastic wheels and a well thought out specification list. The whole bike provided little to no ammunition for critique, but was a joy to ride and review. 

The Esquire is a beautiful designed frame in terms of geometry and tube profiles. The head tube is noticeably shorter than many of the current endurance style frames. This allows for an aggressive and aerodynamic position on the bike when required. Despite this head tube, much of the rest of the geometry lends itself to comfort, such as the spindly seat stays and reasonably conventional geometry.

‘Immediately At Ease’

This balancing act seems to work. I felt immediately at ease on the bike, confident in the handling. I like an aggressive position and the lower front end allowed a suitable seat to stem drop. The paint work is faultless and hugely appealing. I haven’t had so much positive feedback when out riding with the bunch about the look of a bike, or the name either actually. 

A light frame (about 1000g), it takes the 886 gram frame of its non-disc-equipped brother but with strength added to the stays, head tube and forks to accommodate the extra loading incurred with disc brakes. The only criticism is that under heavy braking, the bike felt marginally less stable than what I’m used to when riding non-disc bikes. The solid bottom bracket area, despite not being as obviously oversized as many current frames, provides more than adequate stiffness, with little noticeable flex under heavy accelerations. Johnson designed frame with “box shaped” tube section at the critical junction points and high load areas in order to provide maximum lateral stiffness.

As far as could be ascertained during this test, it appears to have worked very well. Herein lies the great appeal of the Johnson; firstly it looks fantastic, and secondly, it delivers all round performance to rival framesets of the big name brands. This is no small feat for what could be described as a boutique company. Despite the level of performance, aesthetic appeal, and limited production volumes the Johnson range of bikes seem quite competitive in the price stakes. 

Often there is one component on the specification list of a bike that seems out of place, a mismatch of quality, weight or design. The Johnson Esquire however, seems very well thought out in terms of componentry. The Ergonova bars and 3T stem are comfortable and performance oriented without being over the top.

“I haven’t had so much positive feedback when out riding with the bunch about the look of a bike, or the name either, actually. ”

— Luke Meers


Supreme Quality Featherlight Wheels

 Enter the Featherlight Elysian wheels. These wheels were possibly the highlight of the bike. For the first time riding a disc brake equipped bike, there was no obvious sense of being slowed during climbs and accelerations. The Featherlight wheels can claim most of the credit for this; the tubeless ready carbon clinchers were very lively and felt quick in all conditions. The people at Johnson are quite proud
of what they have achieved with their latest crop of wheels.

Whilst keeping their cards relatively close to their proverbial chest, Johnson did reveal that a lot of work had been done on the latest release of wheels. This includes developing a unique high temperature resin as well as new moulds and fabrication methods. The intent was reportedly to set these wheels apart from competitors in a market that is very full of carbon products and spurious claims.

The result; a wheelset that is absolutely lovely to ride. The 26mm wide, torroidal shaped, 38mm profile rims felt stable in all the wind conditions encountered during the review. The wheels would best be described as all-rounders and even afford the use of disc brakes without unnecessary bulk at the hub. 

In short, the Esquire SL Disc really delivered on the self-imposed brief of Johnson bikes. It rides with the easy going comfort and sense of fun that one would associate with rolling around on an old school steel frame. Yet the wheels and frame dynamics give the sense that the bike is ready for any accelerations or racing loads that us mere mortals could throw at it. For those wanting to venture into the world of disc brakes without needlessly compromising performance, this may well be the bike for you. 

Johnson Bikes are a proud partner of Bicycling Australia’s Noosa Classic Gran Fondo cycling event on August 26 2018 – for full details and registration visit 



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