The new model Formentor from J.Guillem is touted as a titanium speed machine, so we got our hands on one and hit the road. Bicycling Australia's Print Edition Editor Gary Hunt filed this comprehensive review.
When I heard about a new titanium brand being imported by Gabriel Du Plessis at the Blue Globe Alliance I was immediately curious, and set some wheels in motion requesting a frame to build and review. At the same time the Rotor UNO groupset was just being launched. I thought the linkage between the Spanish gruppo and this boutique frameset named for a cape on the Majorcan coastline was worth pursuing. After a few months this Spanish beauty was born.
Jan-Willem Sintnicolaas is the man behind the J.Guillem brand ... its name derived from the way the Majorcans pronounce his first name. He began working with titanium bikes in 1999; firstly distributing the American Airborne line of ti bicycles, and then designing and selling his own brand of bikes—Van Nicholas, out of his homeland the Netherlands.
The successful business grew strongly and was sold to global cycling powerhouse Accell. After a non-compete period, effectively a sabbatical on the Spanish island of Majorca, Jan-Willem began again.
Racy End Of The Range
The Formentor is at the racy end of the tight, five model range. The bikes are only available in Ultegra spec (or as a frame only, to build yourself as we did.) Sintnicolaas told me the J. Guillem ethos is “trying to stay small and deliver quality. By working this way we keep cost down, and our lead times really short. We pretty much have everything in stock.” The other models in the range include a rigid carbon fork MTB, a gravel bike, an endurance bike and a more classically styled road bike; each named after a different locale in Majorca and etched with its name and GPS coordinates.
Despite clever marketing instruments, and as beautiful, well designed and perfectly welded as titanium frames may be, they continue to battle the old demons. Rumours of a friend’s cousin whose frame cracked; or someone saying they’re not stiff enough to handle well. These claims may have been true back in the early days of ti, but even though they have been put to rest through intelligent design and improved production, the reality may take some time to sink in.
Video: Watch as Don Mitchell of Groupe Sportif and Gary Hunt fit Rotor's revolutionary UNO hydraulic groupset to the J Guillem frameset. A big thanks to Stew 'Computer' Campbell and the team at Happy Wheels Bike Shop in Waterloo, Sydney.
The Formentor shows off a set of hydroformed, butted and tapered tubes, clearly designed to bring more stiffness to the frame to not only enhance directional certainty and power transmission but retain that trademark armchair ride, and this trait is evident on the road.
While a comfortable ride is expected from titanium, Sintnicolaas says they measure all their frames for stiffness at the bottom bracket, and also torsional stiffness. For example the Atalaya gravel bike has BB stiffness measured at 128Nm/mm.
Obscure numbers aside, they’ve integrated a swag of up-to-the-minute features on this frame, and done so with their 100 year warranty in mind.
Thru Axles And Flat Mount Discs
There are thru-axles front and back for improved safety and stiffness, as well as flat mount disc brakes to bring the Formentor into the 21st century, and internal cabling to accentuate the sharp clean lines of the frame. A neat design feature lies in the back end of the frame. The rear dropouts have been cast to incorporate the flat disc mounts and include a neat JG emblem.
However achieving this clean look was not without problems. It would have been so much easier to just drill some holes and run the cables into and out of the downtube. Sintnicolaas suggested it would not be prudent to drill too many holes in 0.8mm wall thickness titanium tubing. So by using the head tube and bottom bracket shell for cable entry and exit they have reduced the amount of possible frame failures greatly! Learnings.
Inside the cast head tube is a guidance plate which routes the cables smoothly away from the fork steerer but without creating cable bends that are so tight as to cause poor shifting. The BB shell also has cable management internally to guide the cables smoothly for accurate shifting and accommodating both the derailleur and brake hose...problems exacerbated by creating titanium tube diameters smaller than usually seen in carbon frames.
On the outside of the headtube the logo is part bead blasted and part polished; labour intensive, but the finish is a big part of what titanium is about for some.
Fitted with the UNO hydraulic groupset from Rotor and an FSA Vision aerobar, the finished bike looks quite outstanding. And there’s no doubt this bike is an absolute head-turner, firstly because of that very frame and secondly for the glamorous components hanging from it. This bike received more ogling stares than sideways glances...if you’re looking for a trophy bike to provoke some envy, look no further.
Others might demand function to go with the form, and the Formentor didn’t disappoint on this front either. There is a lot going on here, and once out on the road this 8kg build surprised me. Firstly the venerable ride quality of the ti frame combined with the ti seatpost the Formentor delivers an exceptionally smooth ride while seated.
Super Smooth Ride
Gone was the road buzz of my oversize-tubed carbon frame, replaced with an almost floating sensation, though I was quite evidently still in control. Secondly, this was my first ride on Rotor’s Q rings. Though it faded with time the sensation of a different, smoother spin was immediate...worth further investigation.
The UNO groupset shifts gears like SRAM’s double tap, with a short press dropping to smaller cogs on the cassette, and a further press moving back up. It shifts smoothly and predictably just with a little heavier lever feel. Rotor’s disc brakes performed faultlessly with good modulation and power. (For more on the Rotor groupset see page 90.)
The Formentor at 8kg is a respectable weight for a ti build, and while not startling, it’s no slouch in a sprint or hitting up the local climbs. Heading downhill it’s a fast surefooted and confidence-inspiring ride with the tapered headtube and stout carbon fork keeping things straight and the muted flex of the rear end taking the edge off road roughness as speed increases. I set some PBs and ‘top three’ personal times on the Formentor.
The Formentor Disc is a modern take on classic titanium, offering all the desirability with a suite of modern, practical and aesthetic design features. A captivating and very impressive bike.
Built to the standards of a long term titanium manufacturer, the Formentor Disc frame incorporates sophisticated manufacturing processes and quality welding to deliver an impressive looking frame with modern features. The 100 year warranty speaks for itself.
While at 8kg you won't see these bikes in the pro peloton, the Formentor acquits itself well in the speed and handling stakes. A quality groupset plus the stiff front end, thru axles and disc brakes enable the Formentor to deliver a fast and comfortable ride.
The Formentor frame is expensive, at $5,200 and the Ultegra build at $7,950 is no different. A value assessment takes in more than the price however, and depends on the desires and assessment by the individual. For a frame that will last a lifetime, look superb and perform at a high level...the decision is yours.
Extensive tube shaping, clever design and modern component selection combine to produce a bike that offers superb ride quality along with impressive handling. The Formentor is a bike that will bring a smile to your face each time you ride and may well become a lifelong partner.