Bike review: the Pilgrim Northdown tourer

The Pilgrim Cycles Northdown

Bike review: the Pilgrim Northdown tourer

A customisable touring bike at a reasonable price from touring specialist Pilgrim Cycles. Julie Rand used the bike to cycle from Land's End to John o'Groats.

The Pilgrim Cycles Northdown is a full-touring build bike based on a British built Reynolds 631 frameset, slugged and silver brazed for "a traditional yet lively ride". The frame has slightly over-sized main tubes and braze ons for front as well as rear racks. It has also has braze ons for a bottle cage and we added another one. The frame can be built for either a 1” quill stem or 1 1/8” Ahead stem.

Pilgrim Cycles, a cycle-touring specialist shop and cycle cafe based in the Surrey Hills, customised it to my spec so it had 9-speed mountain and road bike running gear, bar end shifters and ‘cross-style’ cantilever brakes with top level brake levers. It had cyclo-cross style flared drop bars for comfort.

My husband and I tested this model out over a 3-week Land’s End to John o’Groats trip in spring 2016, using Ortlieb rear panniers and a handlebar bag, which fitted on despite the top level brake levers.

The wheels are hand-built touring wheels and the off-the-peg price of £1950 normally includes Tubus racks and SKS mudguards, finished off with a Brooks B17 saddle and bar tape. Frames come in half-inch increments and there is a wide selection of colours.

The bike was a delight to ride throughout the whole trip, handling the steep climbs and descents of the West Country and Scotland with aplomb and the flat, off-road canal towpaths of Somerset and National Cycle Network routes equally well.  (We fitted Schwalbe Marathon tyres to the bike, which proved to be an excellent choice as I only suffered one puncture throughout the 1,000-mile trip – and that was after riding over a broken bottle!).  We also swapped the Brooks saddle for a women’s-specific one.

The steel frame looks great and is so comfortable to ride it makes you feel like you can ride it all day, every day.

Roland Seber, Guildford Bike Project

The bar end shifters took a little getting used to but once mastered, were trouble-free. The purple and yellow colour scheme looked very smart and attracted some envious looks wherever we went – even soliciting a ‘thumbs up’ from a passer-by through the window of a Cornish pub!

Roland Seber adds: 

The Northdown is great blend of traditional looks, modern performance, reliability, comfort and good ergonomics. The steel frame looks great and is so comfortable to ride it makes you feel like you can ride it all day, every day. It's responsive to pedalling input but nice and compliant over bumps. It also has fairly slack geometry for a comfortable riding position and good shock absorption.

"I could have done with a slightly longer steerer tube and some more spacers to raise the bars up a bit. Combined brake and gear levers would probably be better than bar end shifters as you don't have to take your hands off the bars. I am a big fan of thumb shifters for ease of use but they are better on flat bars."

All in all, the Northdown is a lovely bike for the serious tourist or day-rider and good value. With the customisation available, you could end up with a favourite bike you’ll ride and enjoy for years.

Price: £1950  

Available from:

Pilgrim Cycles Ltd

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