Review: Culprit Arrow One Road Bike
Culprit received a good bit of attention when they introduced the Croz Blade aero road bike that could run disc or rim brakes. But the Arrow One let founder Joshua Colp leverage his years of work with another brand to bring a bike to market a little quicker while he developed the switch hitter.
The Arrow One’s full carbon monocoque frame is a blend of unidirectional and 3K woven Toray T800 carbon fiber and comes in at a claimed weight of 940g for a raw medium frame. It comes with a paint/logo matched fork that comes in at 385g (raw, claimed). The frame’s front triangle was designed by Colp while working with Trigon for the past five years. Yes, it started life as an open mold, but he says they’ve reworked the internal cable routing and altered the layup to get the ride characteristics they both wanted along with improved routing options for both mechanical and electronic drivetrains.
From there, he tweaked the seatstays and opened a co-owned mold that’s available to Trigon and Culprit exclusively. As the relationship developed, he wanted a stiffer frame. Colp says he tweaked the layup for his own bikes and they’re about 8% stiffer than their Trigon cousin. The fork is also shared with Trigon, but they’re using it on different types of bikes. It’s a pretty good looking tear drop shaped aero fork that Colp says provides a compliant ride, too.
While the Croz Blade draws the eyeballs, the Arrow One gives them a UCI approved, race ready bike for point chasers. Does it live up to that goal?
CULPRIT ARROW ONE DETAILS & WEIGHT
The Arrow One is a pretty good looking bike. While the logo and graphics scheme may not appeal to everyone, the gray on black option minimizes its visibility. We tested a size 58, which is the largest offered and has a 580mm effective top tube. We left the steerer tube uncut, which looks a bit tall, but not unseemly in part thanks to carbon spacers that closely match the finish on the frame and stem.
Up front, there’s a small relief on the headtube that gives it a bit of shape. Necessary? No. But it does make it visually more interesting. The headtube is tapered 1.125″ to 1.5″, and the junction between it and the downtube is bigger than these images let on. From this angle, you can see the multidimensional shaping of the top tube. It’s tapered a bit from top to bottom. Width stays the same from front to back, but it gets a bit shallower.
It also has a recessed ridge on the bottom. All this adds up to a very, very stiff front end.
The top- and seat tubes are curved just enough to give it character and flow smoothly from one into the other around the seatpost. It uses a 31.6 seatpost, keeping things stiff at the back end, too.
Thankfully, the thinner, curved seatstays provide a bit of relief from the otherwise oversized tubes.
Seatstays curve out slightly, too, joining the chainstays at the full carbon dropouts. Chainstays are pretty stout, with extra girth at the bottom bracket for improved overall lateral frame stiffness when hammering.
The bottom bracket is BB30. Shift cables pop out just in front, and the rear pops back in just behind it.
The complete bike with new SRAM Red, Culprit tubular wheels w/ Tufo tires, Prologo saddle and Culprit branded cockpit was 14lb 12oz (6.69kg).
PARTS & ACCESSORIES
Complete bikes come with house branded bar, stem and seatpost. Several options are available, including a plain looking alloy stem, but the carbon models are what you want. The post may look familiar, it’s an open mold and is used by some pretty big brands. The bar and stem were developed with Trigon, too, and Colp says they come off the same assembly lines as products from some of the biggest names in the industry. The bar and stem are stiff, as you might expect from its bulk, and contribute to the overall solid feel of the bike. The bar has cable channels on the bottom, and the post uses an easy to adjust bezel on the front of the clamp.
When we get a bike in from Trek, Specialized, Niner or other big brands, our expectations are generally pretty high. With upstarts or smaller brands like Culprit, we’re never quite sure what to expect. We’re pleased to report the Culprit Arrow One is impressive. There’s a lot to like about the bike and only a few little issues…some of which have already been resolved or are easy fixes. First, the good: It’s stiff without beating you up, it’s fast and it’s light.
In fact, after our first rides on it, Colin and I both kinda chuckled at how nicely it rode. First impressions were really good, and overall, we’re pretty stoked on this bike.
Using the handlebar shimmy test (grab the bar and shake-steer it left to right as fast as you can and watch for head tube flex), this bike is one of if not the stiffest bike we’ve tested. Steering precision and overall control is excellent. Stand up to crank it and the bike does what you want. Nothing, and we mean nothing, feels noodley.
And it shouldn’t considering this is meant to be a race bike. On smooth roads, it’s great, and three to four rides were spent thinking and enjoying the scenery rather than focused on the bike. On rougher surfaces, it tracks well, but it isn’t something I’d want to ride all day. The curved seatstays took some of the shock off, and it seems like the fork did, too, but it’s definitely a performance bike and not an all-day bike.
The three largest sizes have a 73º head angle, typical for crit racers, although some brands are pushing 74º. It’s stable with hands off the bars, but quick when you need to react. And, thanks to the frame’s stiffness, when you do react, it tends to bring you and the rest of the bike along immediately.
The other type of quick reaction we want is acceleration. Culprit’s tubular wheels didn’t hurt in that department, but what we mainly noticed was the lack of brake rub or bottom bracket flex. Stand to sprint and it goes. It didn’t have that magical pop that some bikes have, but it never, ever felt sluggish, either. Time trialing the flats or grinding up a hill felt equally efficient.
The Culprit Arrow One is a great road bike that should suit racers or fast group riders quite well.
The issues: Just a couple things, most minor. The shift cable housing tended to rattle against the outside of the headtube. Using a bit longer cable or adding a rubber bumper tube would eliminate it. The BB adapter cups to fit SRAM’s GXP crankset into the BB30 frame worked their way loose on the driveside, likely due to the lack of appropriate spacers. Interestingly, we never actually felt anything loose, only noticing it when some creaking started coming from the BB. We compared early photos with these…
…and noticed it’d eked out quite a bit. The fix is simple, really, just order it with a BB30 crankset…our test bike was only equipped with GXP cranks because of early availability issues with the new SRAM Red. We don’t believe either of these issues are a mark against Culprit.
The rear dropouts are all carbon, only the derailleur hanger is alloy. It’s secured by a single bolt, which allowed the back of it to wiggle just the slightest bit. We never noticed any missed or poor shifts, even after hacking the cassette, but we’d like to see this area beefed up a bit. To be fair, there are a lot of high end carbon bikes using similar designs.
Our complete test bike would retail for about $5,400 with SRAM Red, give or take depending on options. Which puts it on par with bikes from bigger brands, but gives you the ability to pick and choose build kits, paint and decal colors, bar tape color, tires, bottle cage, lots of wheel choices and comes with a Culprit jersey and bibshorts. You even get a torque wrench with full set of bits. Oh, and purchase includes a professional bike fit to help you get the right frame and component size. When you factor all that in, it’s not a bad deal. There is the issue of being able to warranty any problems, which Colp has acknowledged and has set up a service center and importer in Iowa to help out with.
A FEW CHANGES
Our test bike came with Culprit’s wheels, which are an open mold rim built up with some really smooth non-branded hubs. For complete bikes, though, he’s offering Token wheels and plenty of them. Clinchers and tubulars in numerous depths and materials are available.
Cable ports and their position have been tweaked a bit since our bike arrived. The ports now sit more flush with the top and down tubes and all are painted to match. The rear brake’s exit port has been moved from the side of the top tube to the top, making it less likely to rub your inner thigh (wasn’t really an issue for us, but a nice change). The rear derailleur’s exit port was also moved from the outside of the chainstay to the top, giving it better heel clearance and a cleaner look.
Colp also wanted us to point out that they can do custom paint, as well.
Check them out at CulpritBicycles.com. Word is they’ll be at the Sea Otter Classic with a demo fleet.