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Fairlight Strael 3.0 review

20 Jan 2023
Verdict:

The third generation of British manufacturer Fairlight’s Strael steel road bike is all-season, all-distance and all-conquering

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£4,204 as tested (frameset starts from £1,399)
For 
Comfortable, High-level all-round performance, Versatile, Good value, Fantastic buying process and customisable options
Against 
Steel isn’t as lightweight as carbon, but that’s a steel issue not a Strael issue

The Fairlight Strael 3.0 is the third generation of the British steel bike manufacturer’s all-season road bike.

Built with custom Reynolds tubing and with a wealth of sizing and spec options, the Strael offers high levels of both comfort and performance, while being relatively lightweight for a steel frame.

Fairlight’s direct-to-consumer model allows prospective customers a comprehensive but intuitive buying process that ensures the fit and build of each bike is perfect for its owner.

The spec on this review build is mostly the standard Shimano Ultegra Di2 setup that Fairlight offers, but with a Chris King headset, which adds to the price slightly.

So while there are both cheaper and more expensive options, the £4,204 pricing of this tested model – which matches what you’d expect industry-wide – sits near the top of the range as full builds begin at £2,549 for a Shimano 105-equipped Strael.

While you are making some weight sacrifices choosing a steel bike, the Strael’s fit and feel combined with Fairlight’s buying flexibility gives it incredible value over similarly priced carbon frames.

Find out more or start the buying process at fairlightcycles.com



Fairlight Strael 3.0 development

‘Our bicycles are tools, not trophies. Designed for transport, recreation, exploration and enjoyment.’ That’s what the Fairlight website says, although the brand’s Strael road bike has won trophies, including two wins at the Transcontinental Race.

Fairlight Cycles is a London-based, direct-to-consumer steel bike manufacturer, founded in 2016 by Dom Thomas and Jon Reid. The Strael was its first bike, released in 2017, and as the pampered firstborn, it is still the one that takes design priority, with developments being handed down to its three siblings in the range: the Secan, the Faran and the Holt.

‘The Strael is our four seasons road bike,’ says Thomas, who previously designed bikes at Genesis and built custom bikes under the name Wold Cycles. ‘We wanted to build something with the feel of a steel race bike and the function and practicality of an audax bike.’

The result is a bike that has an unsurprisingly classic look thanks to its slender steel tubes and external cable routing, however the 3.0, released in 2021, is full of modern touches.

‘We didn’t want to move on from the Strael 2.0 unless there were real improvements, so it has taken two years of development to finally push the design forward,’ say Thomas. ‘That meant new factories, new tooling, new tubing and new processes.’

Fairlight Strael 3.0 geometry and sizing

Fairlight says its ethos is ‘fit, function, form’, and that makes for an easy way to assess the bikes. The company offers five sizes of Strael, with two head tube length options (R and T) for each size, giving users a decent range of fits with minimal extra fuss in production.

The Fairlight website includes a fit calculator, where would-be customers can input either their fit measurements, if they know them, or the measurements of a bike that they like the fit of. After that, a member of the Fairlight team will get in touch to discuss the best sizing options.

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When choosing my test bike, I sent Fairlight the measurements of a size large Canyon Ultimate – a bike that fits me well – and the bike they sent me was a size 58R, which is the one with the shorter head tube.

The 58R Strael has a 402mm reach and 583mm stack, just 1mm longer and 3mm taller than the Canyon. The Strael has 5mm longer chainstays than the Ultimate at 418mm, which contributes to an 11mm longer wheelbase at 1,014mm. Despite the relatively lengthy wheelbase, the Strael has a short 54mm trail to ensure lively handling.

Fairlight Strael 3.0 build

There are mounts for front and rear mudguards and a rear rack, as well as for three bottle cages, including one under the down tube with shims deployed so it doesn’t interfere with the external cables. Fairlight also offers the option to add an internally routed dynamo.

In fact, the options are plentiful. Ordering the bike presents a wealth of build decisions including colour, groupset, wheels, tyres, headset, stem length, bar width, crank length, brake setup and bottle cages.

For this test bike, I opted to go with Fairlight’s standard Shimano Ultegra Di2 build – partially because it is the all-round best groupset on the market, partially because it was what I was offered – which comes with Hunt 4 Season Disc wheels, Continental GP5000 28mm tyres and FSA finishing kit.

The Chris King headset and Hope seat clamp are non-standard and would set you back an extra £155. They're nice but not necessary if you're budgeting or want that money for other upgrades.

Fairlight Strael 3.0 frameset

The Strael is built from Reynolds tubing, with the main triangle being constructed from Reynolds 853, which is the highest-grade non-stainless steel the company produces. Its strength allows for tubes that can be very thin and light while still being very stiff, and Fairlight works with Reynolds to produce custom versions to suit its bikes’ needs.

That is evident in the chainstays and top tube, which are wider than they are tall, meaning they provide lateral stiffness for power transfer while offering vertical flex for vibration damping.

Fairlight offers incredible detail and insight into the frameset in its ‘Design Notes’, which are well worth a read, even just to appreciate the quality and transparency.

Riding the Fairlight Strael 3.0

The Strael has been around long enough for me to have heard consistently good things about it, and I was interested to see if it lived up to its reputation. I needn’t have been concerned – it’s comfortable, quick and the right side of twitchy.

The 28mm tyres aid comfort, and it soaked up the buzz of my local roads really well. I found the fit agreeable, and the stiffness was enough for efficient acceleration without making for a harsh ride. Its handling was a dream too, offering agility where required and confident cornering, even at speeds and on sharper turns.

At a touch over 9kg it’s competitive weight-wise for a steel bike, but not as light as some, and I noticed its heft when the gradients got steep. However, unless you live in the mountains and are riding for KOMs, that isn't really an issue.

Fairlight Strael 3.0 verdict

For those of us who do most of our riding in the UK – which is what this bike is built for – the Strael is a hit, especially when you consider its value when paired with its ride quality, spec options and the frame’s durability.

Besides, if you’re committing to a steel bike, you won’t expect carbon-competitive weight. What you want is ride quality, functionality and longevity. While it’s too soon for me to comment on the latter, the Strael has the other two in spades.

Fairlight Strael 3.0 specs as tested

Brand Fairlight
Price £4,204
Frame Strael 3.0
Fork Fairlight Anraed 3.0 Disc Carbon Tapered Steerer
Weight 9.08kg (size 58R)
Sizes available 51R, 51T, 54R, 54T, 56R, 56T, 58R, 58T, 61R, 61T
Headset FSA Orbit ITA
Levers Shimano Ultegra Di2 STR8170 Hydro Shifters
Brakes Shimano BR8070 Hydro Flat Mount Calipers, Shimano Ultegra SMRT800 C/Lock 160mm F&R rotors
Rear derailleur Shimano Ultegra R8150 GS
Front derailleur Shimano Ultegra R8150 Braze-On with Adaptor
Crankset Shimano Ultegra R8100 50/34
Bottom bracket Shimano Ultegra Bottom Bracket Cups 68mm
Cassette Shimano Ultegra R8100 12-speed 11-34
Chain Shimano Ultegra R8100
Wheels Hunt 4 Season Disc 24/24
Tyres Continental GP5000 28mm
Bars FSA Gossamer Compact
Stem FSA Energy
Seatpost FSA SI-K Carbon
Saddle Fabric Scoop Shallow Elite

Products reviewed by Cyclist are independently selected and tested by our editorial team.Cyclist may earn an affiliate commission if you make a purchase through a retailer link. Read our reviews policy.


Fairlight Strael 3.0 alternatives

Fairlight Faran

The Faran (from £2,099) is Fairlight’s utility bike, and comes with all manner of rack mounts. It has a similar feel to the Strael when unloaded, but Reynolds 631 tubing adds strength for a few more grams.

Fairlight Secan

For a one-bike-fits-all solution, the Secan (from £2,499) is Fairlight’s gravel bike but takes plenty of cues from the Strael to make it road-capable should you fit it with road tyres.

Pick of the kit

Fizik Tempo Artica R5 boots, £249.99, extrauk.co.uk

You might wonder why on earth you’d want to wear white boots in winter, right? I’m here to tell you that not only is white unquestionably the best road shoe colour, but the Gore-Texing of the Articas makes it a doddle to keep your shiny shoes shiny.

Water rolls off, dirt wipes off. I found them thermally efficient enough to deal with freezing temperatures and there was no overheating either. Just remember to consider thick winter socks when choosing your size.

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