Carbon-framed, SRAM Rival equipped bike for £1700 from web-based company
To our further surprise we found Pedal Force was offering a number of substantially discounted ‘build' options, allowing the customer to purchase frames with all levels of groupset or combination of groupsets from Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo, to best suit their needs. Wheel options also appeared very competitive.
To test the validity of claims that, despite being an online company, importing from manufacturers in the Far East, the quality frames and customer service were sufficient to assuage any fears, we put our money where our mouth was and bought an RS2.
Using the Force
So just how is it possible that Pedal Force can do this and still make money? It's down to a ‘group buy' system, which allows potential purchasers the chance to sign up for a frame at the maximum price they are prepared to pay (up to a predetermined ceiling), the more people that sign up for the deal before the cut-off date, the lower the cost. Simple.
Pedal Force doesn't need to pre-order hundreds of frames from the manufacturer so there's no occasion where it has to pass the costs of unsold frames on to the consumer. When everyone has signed up for the deal (remember, at this point you haven't spent any money) Pedal Force informs everyone of the final price, you pay a deposit and the deal is done. If the initial number of purchasers then fail to come up with the money as pledged, compromising the low cost, you're simply returned your deposit and nobody has lost anything.
When everyone is signed up, you pay the remaining balance on your account, sit back for few weeks while the frames are manufactured, and eventually the postman knocks on your door with a beautifully
packaged carbon frame. You'll need to pay the tax man a few quid import duty on it (£36 in our case) but even this doesn't add much to an astonishingly good deal.
And don't think that this is some faceless, virtual e-company you're dealing with. At all points of the ordering and manufacturing process you're kept in the loop as to what the status of your order is and what the likely delivery date is going to be. You can pick the phone up at anytime and talk to a real person in the company's Connecticut USA offices and at one point I even got a call from a shipping company CEO in Singapore telling me that my frame was being loaded on to the plane.
Let the Force be with you
So at all points the service has been of the highest order and from my experience entirely dependable, but of course all of this would be entirely meaningless if the bikes themselves weren't any good.
Fortunately we can confirm that this is not the case and where our original purchased RS2 proved very good, 2011's group-buy QS3 is even better, excellent in fact in both value and performance terms.
Where the RS-2 was sportive focused the QS3 is much more race oriented both to look at and to ride. This is evident in the design of the oversized asymmetric headtube and the inclusion of the new standard BB30 bottom bracket (although shell adapters are available should you favour the use of a traditional crankset).
Clearly Pedal Force has gone for increased stiffness over the RS2 in these key areas and it's paid off with a livelier, more responsive ride where the front-end handling is razor sharp.
The excellent build-quality of the tube-to-tube construction jumps straight out at you and suggests the quality of a much more high-end manufacturer, and the rear triangle somehow offers a degree of comfort at odds with how responsive the bike is under drive. Pedal Force is also famous for its weight, or lack of it, and sure enough the QS3, equipped with a modest mix of SRAM Rival/FSA and Rolf Aspin wheels for our test ride weighs in at well under 17lb.
As a blank canvas on which to build your own project bike, the QS3 offers good quality, and excellent value too.
Cost: Ceiling price for the 2011 QS3 group buy is $850 which converts to £544 at current exchange rates. If 60 people sign up that reduces to $549, or a mouthwatering £350. Our test bike bought with the build as seen would cost an amazingly low £1,700. At time of writing the scheme had just gone live and 30 potential purchasers had registered in the first few days. Check the website to follow the status of the Group Buy scheme.
Ritchey Logic WCS II
Pedal Force HM carbon
53/39 with 11-25
47, 50, 53, 56, 59, 62
FSA OS 150
Michelin Pro Race 3
Rolf Prima Aspin