Go back a few years, or even decades, and the classic style of the Temple Cycles Adventure Disc 1 wouldn’t look at all out of place. Today, this classic style meets 21st Century componentry, with disc brakes and 11-speed wide-ranging gears. Is there a place for this kind of old-meets-new fusion style in adventure cycling?
We get to know Temple Cycles and enjoy a local(ish) gravel ride with the team here, as well as give you the low-down on the bike.
The flagship model of Bristol based Temple Cycles’ off-road line, the Adventure Disc 1 is a bike designed not to be categorised. Call it a gravel bike if you like, a touring bike or a commuter; but as Matt Mears, the founder of Temple Cycles puts it, “We don’t want to make bikes which you’d just call one thing or the other. For us, bikes are meant to simply be ridden, wherever and however you fancy. You can ride the Adventure Disc 1 on all sorts of surfaces, take it touring, bikepacking, use it mainly on the roads or mainly on the gravel, it’s simply meant to be your trusty companion.”
Adventure Disc builds
Although the bike on review is the top-tier, coming in at £2,595/$3,366/€2,875, it’s worth noting here that there are two other models of the Adventure Disc built to more affordable price points.
The Adventure Disc 2 (£1,895/$2,454/€2,099) features a Shimano 105 compact 2X drivetrain with TRP Spyre cable disc brakes, while the Adventure Disc 3 (£1,495/$1,936/€1,656) has a more traditional touring build, with a triple chainring and 9-speed Shimano Sora shifting with the TRP Spyre cable disc brakes, as well as Shimano RX wheels.
All three models share the same British Reynolds steel frames and cast steel forks.
The Temple Cycles ethos
Matt Mears is a perfectionist. He’s constantly analysing the design of the three bikes Temple offer, the way he runs his business, how Temple Cycles can operate more sustainably and offer something different. “We really emphasis having one bike for life,” Matt explains, which helps you understand why Temple Cycles offer something pretty different to the norm in the bike industry.
You won’t find yearly releases of Temple bikes with minor changes or perhaps a new colour way. Sure, these bikes change over time, just as the Adventure Disc 1 is the evolution of the Adventure Disc to bring it more up to date, but these are only the product of meaningful change.
“We’re always careful about developing our products too fast, and much prefer a slow evolution, listening to our customers, looking at what else is out there and of course getting as much riding done, in as many varieties as possible on them. We don’t want to make mistakes and it’s super important our bikes are as dialled as they can be.”
If they want to build bikes that last a lifetime, Temple’s bikes need to be serviceable in 20 years time, which of course has a huge influence when it come to the build and design, especially where the ever changing standards of things like axles, brake mounts, and headtubes are concerned. The fact that Temple Cycles offer a lifetime warranty on their frames is a testament to their principles.
Each bike is hand built in house at Temple Cycles’ Bristolian HQ by a small team of mechanics, after the Taiwanese and Vietnamese-made steel frames have been painted in nearby Cardiff. Gearing and bearings hail from Japan with polished alloy finishing kit from Taiwan, tyres from Germany or Japan depending on the model. With exception of the Hunt Bike Wheels bikes, the wheels are built for Temple Cycles in Huddersfield, UK, saddles come from Brooks in Birmingham and then the bikes are finished with gorgeous headbadges, made in Northampton.
The Adventure Disc 1 on test
I’ve been enjoying riding the Temple Cycles Adventure Disc 1 over the last month, as the dry, dusty trails of summer have transitioned to the slippery slop of autumn. From short after-work rides to longer day trips, an overnighter and even a socially distanced gravel event, I’ve got a good feel for the bike, albeit not the feeling I was initially expecting…
I’ve admired Temple Cycles’ bikes for years for their classic style; polished finishing kit, traditional steel tubing, Brooks final touches. Although it’s a style that many adore, it’s not really one that I’d personally choose over more modern designs. Now these features combined with the modern Shimano GRX groupset and a wide, tubeless wheel/tyre combo yielded something I was curious to try.
I suppose I expected the ride feel to be a compromised by these style choices, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. From the very first evening unladen ride up Lansdown Hill, my local rocky testing loop, it was obvious that the capability of the Adventure Disc 1 far exceeded my rather conservative expectations.
The Temple Adventure Disc 1, here painted in a Farrow and Ball-esque shade that wouldn’t look out of place on a Cotswold front door, might look pretty, but it’s a brilliant ride too. Even from the first outing, the off-road centric geometry was really confidence inspiring (with rocky descent PBs to match), even fitted with narrow 38mm tyres. The tyre choice of the semi-slick Panaracer Gravel King SKs did also mean that it felt spritely on the road, although they were soon swapped out when the dust gave way to mud and I craved more grip.
Built with a British Reynolds 725 steel, a high quality heat-treated chrome-moly, the frame is strong, but not at the cost of weight. In fact, the total build in a size small comes in at 10.52kg (excluding pedals/bottle cages/mounts). Standard 12mm thru axles make the classic frame compatible with most modern disc wheelsets, and the design is optimised for flat-mount disc callipers, such as Shimano GRX. The seat clamp is integrated into the seat tube, secured by a 5mm nut and bolt that’s easily replaceable.
Cables and hoses are external, which make for easy servicing and replacement, with guides integrated into the frame, neatly under the down tube. There’s plenty of clearance when it comes to fitting big rubber, with a maximum tyre width of 45mm at 700c or 47mm at 650b. Serious travellers will be happy to hear that there are three pairs of bottle cages on the frame; two sets as standard in the main triangle and a third set on the underside of the down tube, perfect for extra water or tools.
With a lugged crown, the fork is investment cast steel, featuring two bosses on either fork leg for attaching cages for extra water or luggage, and eyelets for fixed mudguards and a dynamo set up, should you wish to add those later.
I won’t need to go into too much detail about the Shimano GRX groupset that completes the build. Choosing the top tier GRX 800 series, this mechanical groupset gives precise shifting even over rough ground with a wide range of gears from the 11-42 tooth cassette paired with a 40T single chainring. For single day rides, free from loads of extra gear, I found this to be a more than adequate range, even when faced with some tough inclines. For bikepacking, I’d ideally prefer a smaller gear to compensate for carrying the extra load, although this would mean replacing the GRX with crankset with a smaller chainring, or opting for an XT rear mech (compatible with GRX shifters with Di2 1X only) to allow a wider ranging cassette.
It’s worth noting here as we’re talking about gears, that you can buy a spare mech hanger from Temple for a tenner by emailing their customer services. Well worth having in your spares!
Those who have tried GRX will be familiar with the fantastic braking technology that’s been partly inherited from Shimano’s MTB division, which conversely actually makes you faster. Or so I’ve found, by knowing that you have excellent stopping power at your fingertips means that you can really go for it on the descents!
Wheels and tyres
Temple have specced their flagship Adventure build with Hunt 700c 4 Season Gravel Disc wheels, with a 20mm internal, suitable for tyres between 23 and 50mm wide. 28 spokes should be plenty for most, and they certainly stood up to the test on some pretty rocky byways and bridleways. At 1,629 grams, they’re a fairly lightweight option for a gravel wheelset. Sealed cartridge bearings make servicing much more straight forward, and prolong the longevity of your wheelset.
The Adventure Disc 1 comes Gravelking SK tyres in 38mm already set up tubeless, which is a great touch and saves the inevitable faff when you get home. Having said that, I’m not known to be much of a Gravelking fan, so after about a month of rides I switched over to a pair of 40mm WTB Nanos for more winter grip and a bit extra volume too. Perhaps the option to choose a more aggressive, off-road centric tyre at the ordering phase would be handy here.
If you’re planning on adventuring solely on the road, I don’t think that the Gravelkings would be a bad choice, especially in the winter months where a bit more grip than pure slicks is usually appreciated on badly surfaced roads.
The chrome-esque finish of the polished alloy seatpost, stem and bars compliment the external headset, gorgeous Temple stem cap and shiny head badge. The bars are wide, starting at 42cm on this small build, where I would usually run 40cm bars for off-road use, and the 90 mm stem was rather long for me, which I switched out for a shorter 80 mm. This was compounded by the GRX hoods, which are really quite reachy.
Despite being a little wider than I’d usually opt for, the subtle flare of the bars was really great, especially for descending in the drops. If you wanted to go for more extreme bar, you could switch out for a silver set of Salsa Cowchipper bars, just like James has done on his Adventure Disc Build. Oh, and it used to go without saying, but the round profile bars also make attaching accessories like a computer mount, lights or bags really easy.
The bars and seatpost are finished off with some rather luxurious touches from Brooks of England, including a Cambium C17 All Weather saddle, the modern take on their classic leather saddles, and Cambium rubber bar tape. Having tried out the saddle before, and having found it wasn’t my cup of tea, I immediately switched this one out for the test. Having said that, if you do get on with this model, I think it looks great on the Adventure Disc.
The bar tape was new to me, and it certainly has a really premium feel to it, with plenty of ‘cush’ for comfort at 3mm thick and a lightly textured surface giving great grip. The ends are secured by high quality bar end plugs with the Brooks logo subtly embossed, and some cotton finishing tape at the centre of the bars.
Although I concede that this tape is in keeping with the vintage aesthetic of the Temple bikes, I found that after just a few rides it started to fray and look a bit untidy. If this were my bike, I’d keep the great Brooks tape and finish it off with black electrical tape instead. In fact, that’s just what I intend to do on my own bike next time I switch tape!
The full tech specs
Here’s the full build details of the Temple Adventure Disc 1:
|Frame||Tig welded Reynolds 725 heat treated steel, 12mm thru axle, flat mount disc, three bottle cage mounts|
|Fork||Investment cast lugged steel fork, 12mm through axle, three fork leg mounts|
|BB||Shimano Ultegra BSA threaded 68mm|
|Brakes||Shimano GRX RX10 flat mount hydraulic, Tektro 160mm rotors|
|Chainset||Shimano GRX RX810 42T chainring, 170mm cranks, 11-42T cassette, Shimano GRX RX812 11-speed rear derailleur|
|Bar tape||Brooks Cambium rubber bar wrap|
|Handlebars||Temple AL-6061 flared 42-44cm, 31.8mm clamp|
|Headset||Temple sealed 1-1/8th aheadset|
|Saddle||Brooks Cambium C17 All Weather, black|
|Seatpost||Temple Alloy 27.2mm|
|Stem||Temple polished, 90mm|
|Tyres||Panaracer Gravelking SK 38mm, set up tubeless|
|Wheels||Hunt 4 Season tubeless ready with EZO sealed cartridge bearings, Sandvik triple butted spokes|
Builds from Temple Cycles are available in this Lichen Green, Peat Grey or Slate Blue. You can then choose between black or tan Brooks Cambium C17 saddle and rubber handlebar tape.
The following are available as extras, with many more accessories available in the Temple Cycles web store:
- SKS Bluemels mudguards £45
- Tubus Cargo rear rack £99
- Tubus front rack £80
- Restrap 13L pannier bag £80
- Bookman rechargeable light set £40
- Stainless steel bottle cage £20
- Kryptonite D-lock £40
The best way I can describe the Adventure Disc 1 is by using the proverb ‘like a wolf in sheep’s clothing‘ (aka ‘a thing that appears friendly or harmless but is really hostile’), only replace friendly for pretty and harmless for rowdy. The Adventure Disc looks like a vintage classic, but boy, does it ride. I expected genteel, and I got shreddy, learning that I shouldn’t have judged this book by its cover.
Once you get past the pastel colourway and polished parts, the consideration that’s gone into creating a bike that really goes back to Temple Cycles’ ‘bike for life’ ethos becomes apparent. Modern standards in shifting and breaking are combined with clever details like easily replaceable seat clamp fittings and serviceable sealed hubs.
The versatility of the bike struck me; with plenty of mounts and eyelets meaning you can add fork cages, front and rear racks, a dynamo set up and mudguards in many different combinations depending on what kind of riding you’re into at the time, without being limited by the frame’s restrictions. The clearance of 45mm at 700c and 47mm at 650b is plenty enough for a drop-bar bike, in my opinion.
Riding from summer into autumn on a mixture of dirt and roads, I thought that the bike would also make a great commuter or winter bike, shod with full mudguards and perhaps a front rack and rando bag. Now that I’ve been riding steel bikes for a few years, I’ve really grown to love the ride quality and character that they offer, which is pretty hard to explain, but something that I felt this bike had plenty of. The product of a small, local (to me) team and featuring a sticker with the builder’s name, that feels pretty personal and special.
My only major beef with the Adventure Disc 1 was the fit. I pride myself in being the average height for a UK female at 165 cm (5 ft 4″), and the size small on review is the smallest that Temple Cycles currently offer. Although the 545 mm top tube was the same as other bikes I ride, the combination of the initial 90 mm stem, layback seat post plus the reachy GRX hoods meant that I was pretty stretched over the bike, which was remedied a little by switching out for a shorter 80 mm stem. For the perfect fit, I’d need to size down the stem further, although this comes as no major surprise as I run a 70 mm stem on my own gravel bike, and probably opt for an in-line seat post. However, if you’re any shorter than the female average — man or woman — then finding an Adventure Disc to fit might be a hard task. Thankfully, I’m assured that an XS sizing is in the pipeline from Temple Cycles. Hopefully it won’t be too long!
Tyres make a huge difference to how a bike rides, and it’s always interesting to consider how modern adventures bikes are specced. Just like the saddle, this if often among the first things I’d swap out, as many manufacturers tend to supply a slicker tread. Perhaps this is to cater to more road-orientated use, summer use or simply to make the bike feel faster, but under ‘British Conditions’, they rarely fare well. As you can customise a few other parts of the Temple during the ordering process including the bar tape and saddle, it would be ace if you could choose a more aggressive tyre from the get-go, especially as they’re supplied already set up tubeless. A great touch.
The last point I’d make would be about frame protection. Although the paint seemed to be pretty robust, I did notice one bit of wear on the headtube from a passing brake hose. Small transparent stickers can prevent this wear, although aren’t the most sightly.
Let’s talk about value. At £2,595 $3,366 €2,875, the Adventure Disc 1 ain’t cheap, but rather falls in the bracket of moderately priced steel adventure bikes. A few measures have evidently helped to minimise cost, including the use of Tektro disc rotors over Shimano and using stickers for the frame graphics (primarily the Temple logo on the seat tube) rather than paint. There again, this top-end model features some premium touches like the lovely Brooks bar tape and saddle, the top-end GRX 800 series groupset as well as tyres already set up tubeless that really warrants this price point.
It’s pretty hard to compare the Temple Adventure Disc 1 its competitors; other steel frame and fork adventure or touring bikes rarely feature this combination of top-end GRX kit and traditional finishing kit. The closest sort of thing I could find would be the new Fairlight Faran 2 at £2,449 for the GRX 800 spec, although this is certainly more modern-looking build.
In short, I admire Temple Cycles’ dedication to serviceability, and with a build of this quality and versatility I can see why people might want it to last a lifetime. The Adventure Disc 1 looks gorgeous but rides even better, and I’m sure will go on to be the loyal companion of many adventurers all over the world.
Ride the Quantock Hills
Fancy a slice of the Quantock Hills riding yourself, where Temple Cycles Founder Matt spend a lot of his childhood, and where we enjoyed a late summer day ride? This is certainly one for riders that prefer chunky, technical trails over pristine gravel roads. Expect rocky singletrack climbs, woodland descents, stream crossings and rooty trails on this wonderful loop over heather-clad moorland, enchanting forested valleys and ancient tree-lined drover’s roads. Oh, and don’t forget to stop by the Coombe Hotel for a cream tea!
Temple Cycles Adventure Disc 1£2,595 $3,366 €2,875
It might look like a very classic bike with Reynolds steel tubing, a steel fork and polished alloy finishing kit, but built with top tier Shimano GRX 800 and modern gravel geo, it's anything but old fashioned when it comes to the ride quality.9.0/10
- Gorgeous classic style
- Confidence inspiring geometry both snappy on the road and fun on the trail
- Lifetime frame warranty and design with serviceability in mind
- Gravelking SK tyres are narrow in 38c and not grippy in the wet
- Smaller size options needed (in progress)
Last modified: 9th October 2020