The Bostal is described as an on- and off-road gravel bike and it’s very good. It buzzes with excitement when you spin up the pedals and switches lines with the eagerness of a spaniel let loose in a field. It's comfortable on both byways and singletrack alike and rides well naked or loaded. Only four standard sizes blot its copy book but if it fits it's a winner. So how does it stack up against the best gravel bikes?
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Windover Bikes is a new company to emerge at last year’s Bespoked Handbuilt show where it showed off its first two bikes to the public. Windover was started by three ex-employees from Enigma Cycles with over 15 years of frame building and 10 years of bike fitting experience under their belts. The Beacon, the company's other model is equally intriguing with flat bars and massive tyre clearance but, first things first, let’s talk Bostal.
Windover Bikes Bostal gravel bike -Technical details
The Bostal is a Reynolds 853 Steel gravel bike designed in-house, tested in Sussex, and then made in the EU by a hand-picked frame fabricator. A rust protection coating is applied both inside and outside back in the UK and it’s then powder coated in this rather fetching satin finish blue colour or Olive. Subtle decals and a classy stainless steel head badge wrap up Bostal branding.
Reynolds 853 DZB (double zone butting) was chosen after testing various builds of both custom and stock Reynolds tube sets as it offered the combination of quality, strength and weight Windover required. All 853 tubes are traditionally round with no fancy shaping passing the review panel and are of Windover's own requested diameter. The headtube is made from Reynolds 631 and is ring-reinforced and the rear stays are cro-moly with tapered S bends. The clean aesthetic is definitely aimed at letting the ride do the talking, not the finish.
The frame features internal cable routing from the top of the downtube to the rear of the bike. There's a 1x set-up on this bike but 2x, Di2 and wireless options are possible and all neatly enter through symmetrical ports on both sides of the downtube.
The Bostal’s chainstays are fairly traditional at 430mm to not lose too much of that road feel while still fitting the biggest tyres possible and not using asymmetric or dropped stays. A T47 bottom bracket shell has been specced which allows for excellent internal cable routing options as well as allowing the chainstays to be pushed out to the max and still be able to run 2x gravel chainsets with 700 x 50mm tyres.
The rear dropouts are of a simple design, certainly not as complicated or flashy as others in this market but not plain. There are three recessed slots to break up the plate design, a rack/mudguard eyelet and they are 12mm T/A with a replaceable dropout.
The frame features three water bottle locations, two inside the main frame and one under the downtube. There are rack mounts and mudguard mounts as well should you require them.
The Windover Type 2 fork is the company's own design featuring a 47-52mm adjustable offset dropout. The fork also features the now ubiquitous ‘anything cage’ mounts as well as mudguard mounts and internal dynamo cable ports.
I won’t go into details about the Shimano 600 GRX groupset (apart from any deviations) in this review as we’ve been over it plenty except to say that it worked very effectively.
The finishing kit is all Ritchey with a Comp stem, seat post, and cork bar tape with a Skyline saddle and a Baquiano flared handlebar. The seat clamp and headset are provided by Hope.
Windover has specced a Rideworks bottom bracket with good reason as not many T47 BBs have both the recessed sleeve for good internal cable routing flexibility and accept Shimano’s 24mm standard axle without shims.
Wheels on the Bostal are the Venn Carbon rimmed option (a £500 extra) and spin on Bitex hubs and Sapim spokes. They are tubeless-ready and set up that way for testing with Continental Terra Trail 40mm Tyres. One slight deviation on this test bike is that we have TRP rotors fitted instead of GRX.
You can buy just the frame or various options all the way to Di2 versions. We are testing the GRX600 1x11 version - priced at £2,950 - which includes the Venn Carbon rims upgrade as a £500 option.
Windover Bikes Bostal gravel bike - Performance
This is a fun bike to ride, there is no getting away from it, and you feel rewarded as soon as you push on the pedals. There is a real buzz from the frame that has often been described as the legendary ‘Steel feel’
What on earth does that mean? It’s best summed up as an ‘exciting’ ride, as it takes all your inputs and returns it in a more eager way than most alloy frames. Titanium can do this as well at a much higher price but steel, especially well-crafted and hi-spec 853, has it in shed loads.
There’s a controlled enthusiasm to the frame, the more you try to wring out of it the more it feels up for the task, whatever that is. It’s comfortable, too, never jarring you just hovering over the corrugations as best as anything can do and reacting quickly with every twitch of the bars.
The Bostal has a 160mm head headtube and which helps to offer a commanding position on the tops, hoods, and more importantly in the drops which allow for more time to be spent at full-gas aided by a 71-degree headtube which delivers quick handling without being overly twitchy.
Off-road gravel riding is often a combination of slow crawls up through byways and twisting lanes interspaced with insane blasts of speed down off-camber daft descents to farm gates or into sneaky wooded singletrack, so being really relaxed and in total control in the drops is very important, as that’s where the brakes are located.
The Bostal really is a speed demon. Tuck in and wind up the cranks and it flies along. It’s a pleasure to ride on pretty much every surface I chucked it at. Our test bike has a 10T SRAM cassette fitted out of preference from one of the owners. It’s a good option, (talk to Richard) and helps wring out a little more speed for those that like that.
Riding the Imber Perimeter Trail on its varied surfaces is a perfect test for the Bostal and one in which it thrives, the steel frame remaining focused and yet smooth underneath you. Should the need arise to make sudden direction changes due to rocks or potholes the bike responds deftly to steering adjustments.
Opting for a 74-degree and short seat tube allows Windover to spec a long exposed seat post which flexes and helps to adsorb bumps while seated on rougher sections of the track.
Having a low top tube provides greater standover clearance which is a huge bonus when the bike is heavy and you’re tired. Plus that long expanse of seat post is ideal for fitting large seat packs without rubbing on the rear tyre, a definite positive for a gravel bike.
Out of the saddle on techy climbs or long drags the Bostal responds well to every pedal stroke and with my 82kg weight I could not detect any flex or wasted effort from the BB area or the rear triangle. Its 9.91 kg weight seems almost invisible on the trail in these situations, certainly not feeling heavy - more the opposite.
Our Bostal is fitted with 700 x 40mm Conti tyres with massive clearance. The frame will take bang up to date 700x 50mm or 27.5-inch x 2.25in tyres, that’s 90s mountain bike tyre widths right there. 700 x 45mm with mudguards is also perfectly possible.
The wheels on our bike have been built with the optional Venn 259 Carbon Rims and proved a great combination with the frameset. They are 32.5mm wide externally and make the Terra Trail 40 tyres feel wider than they are. I’ve not been that kind to them over the course of the test but the rims show absolutely no signs of my enthusiastic misuse and I’ve not burped or flatted the tyres during my test period.
The Bitex hubs spin smoothly and there is only a mild noise from the freehub in the rear. One oddity I have noticed from the rear hub is that, for a fraction of a second, you can feel a tiny overrun as if the chain is about to spool up. It must be a characteristic of its pick-up design and nothing has ever come of it from the hundreds of km I have done on another pair.
The Conti Terra 40 tyres are a great match for the character of the frame. Add some more pressure and they are surprisingly fast on the road sections. Let them down to 30psi or below and they grip to everything except long grass and wet mud. There is plenty of grip in the gravel crud around Wiltshire and I’ve only spun out when the climbing slimy chalky soil on a rooty climb.
The fork has huge clearance with the 40mm tyres fitted and although it has an ‘adjustable offset’ it is not the simplest of tasks to swap it over as you need to add in an extra spacer and re-set your brakes to work.
I swapped the fork to the 47mm shorter offset when I loaded the bike up with a Jack Rack, two fork bags and a set of rear panniers. Did I notice the difference? The bike was slightly less keen to steer which is what you are looking for with that amount of weight on the front. It remained comfortable and smooth on the trail and still climbed well out of the saddle with the controllable steering. It’s a small change but it is there and helpful for the purpose I wanted to try it with. Windover says there is no best option ‘setup’, they encourage you to play around and find one that works for you.
As standard the fork is communicative and direct without ever feeling overly harsh on the hands or wrists. Coupled with the carbon wheels and 40mm tyres it offers a smooth ride for your hands.
The Type 2 fork has the customary triple fork boss mounts for ‘anything cages’. While these recessed bosses give the fork a clean look it means more complicated cage fitting. Normally the cage fits up tight to the top of the mounting boss, as per the water bottle boss on a frame, but here, without a spacer, it will face against the outer leg of the fork. I ended up fitting Free Parable Monkii Cleats for a Gorilla Cage 2 without issues, once I sourced long enough bolts, but it is less than ideal without spacers for other cages.
Shimano’s GRX groupset performed as expected with the added advantage of the 10T SRAM Cassette providing a little more speed on the flats and descents. The non-standard TRP rotors and GRX calipers were superb and an eye-opener. The Ritchey finishing kit did its job unspectacularly but effectively but praise goes to the very comfortable Skyline saddle. Personally, I'd prefer a different thicker silicone handlebar tape.
There are four sizes available S, M, L and XL. I felt I could have ridden the XL as I'm closer to the top of their spread than I would have thought at 'only' 183cm tall.
Windover offers the Bostal frame in three versions; frame only for £1,150, Frame and Type 2 Fork for £1,450 and Frameset (Fork, seat clamp, BB and Headset) for £1,650. The company also offers three ‘standard’ complete builds with some options. The GRX600 costs £2,950, GRX 810 £3,400 and the GRX815Di2 £440 all of which are possible to be had with the Carbon Venn wheel upgrade for £500+ and if you prefer a 2x don’t panic as that can be optioned for £100+.
Windover Bikes Bostal gravel bike - Verdict
The Bostal is a new bike in a hot category of handmade frame makers and faces some tough competition. At £3,450 (incl. Venn rims) it squares off against a similar weight Fairlight’S Secan 2.5 at £3,169 (including the Hope H/set and Carbon Hunt wheels). The Secan is one of our all-time favourite Gravel bikes. Mason’s equally respected Bokeh GRX gravel bike, this time in Alloy, doesn’t offer a GRX 600 version but the 810 GRX version with Alloy wheels costs just £3,205. Another well-reviewed option is the Shand Stooshie built in Scotland comes in at £3,870 for GRX 810.
So £1,450 gets you Bostal's frame and fork, pretty close to Fairlight’s Secan 2.5 £,1399 and Masons Bokeh at £1,325 and Ritchey's very fine Outback at £1,408.
A lot will depend on finances and your aesthetic requirements but whatever you do don’t dismiss the Bostal until you’ve given it a test ride. I think you’ll be surprised.
If you are in the market for a niche gravel bike with a serious frame-building experience behind it then Windover Bikes Bostal offers a ride feel in spades. It might look a little less exciting than some of the other models in the market but it has it where it counts out on the gravel. It's not a bargain and with only four sizes (at the moment) it won’t fit everyone but if it does fit you book yourself a test ride, and you won't be disappointed.