Fairlight Strain 3.0 Review – Modern, versatile steel road bike with superb ride.
Ready to fit different roles in different seasons, this amazingly comfortable bike gives you everything you need and is packed with great details
For reasons of objectivity I have tried to put some holes in the impenetrable design and ride quality of the stroller. It is an act of gratitude. It’s still hard to imagine where it could be improved with more reflection; It gives me what I need, like a modern steel road bike. It’s quite lively, very comfortable and ready to adapt to different roles in different seasons. At £ 3,099 for the Ultegra Build reviewed here, it represents good value and will last a lifetime if properly cared for.
Fairlight Stream 3.0 – Specifications
Frame: Fairlight Stroll 3.0
Fork: Fairlight Android 3.0 Carbon
Group: Shimano Ultegra R8000
Wheels: Hunt 4 Season Disc
Bar: FSA Gossamer Compact
Trunk: FSA Energy
Seatpost: FSA Sl-K Carbon 27.2mm
Saddle: Fabric Scoop Shallow Elite
Size tested: 54R
Fairlight is an independent UK brand and has a reputation for producing some of the best steel road bikes (opens in a new tab) for British riding conditions. Its range is small and concentrated. There is a gravel bike, adventure bike and of course a road bike, a stroll.
As the name suggests, Strael 3.0 is the third iteration of the brand’s four-season road bike, designed to be versatile enough to ride year-round in various categories.
Fairlight Stream 3.0 – fabrication.
While the four-season road bike is meant for riders in many countries around the world, it is a quintessentially British creation. The island has a long history of riding your road bike in fair weather and foul; The 300km Addox is promoted by a club, cream teas in the muddy lanes, pastry from the pub dining and garage, the air and rain service for good measure or the LEJOG effort for charity or simply hell. Fresh out of the Strel 3.0 box, all of which are boldly handled.
It is immediately obvious that this is not a retro steel bike. The frame geometry and tube shapes are clearly modern. There are also full carbon fork, thru-axles and flat mount disc brakes, all of which fit this forward-thinking design.
Traditionally still in the shape of a 68mm thread bottom bracket (opens in a new tab) and a 27.2mm seatpost, you can expect to see it in a steel frame. But these standards have also been adopted late on carbon framesets, which improve service efficiency and compliance.
Appropriately, Fairlight builds all of its frames using Reynolds steel tubes, which are still produced at its Birmingham factory. For Stroll 3.0 it uses a combination of 853 and 725 tubes, all made for a custom brand. And it’s these tube profiles that really catch the eye.
Fairlight Strael 3.0 Tube Profile, (Image courtesy: Future)
Fairlight says it took two years to develop a new stroll with revised tubes at the heart of the bike’s redesign. The triple-clothed top tube from the Reynolds 853 is unique: it sounds perfectly, which Fairlight says is a “critical factor” in the desire to deliver a comfortable ride. Effectively the slimline tube, which has a centre section wall thickness of only 0.4 mm, is designed to bend under load.
The bottom tube is oval at each end, as in Strel 2.0, but the butting profile has changed with the reduction of the wall thickness in the middle to allow the force to increase at each end near the welds. Fairlight says the result is within 20 grams of the weight of the rear tube.
But it is the chainstays that attract the most attention. Fairlight says that the Reynolds 725 tubes are made of steel, unlike anything you might see on a steel bike. And I think that’s right. Flat, wide and curved they are elegant and interesting – and much different than Stroll 2.0. Fairlight says they were designed to help with power transfer and comfort, with the extra width being able to resist pedalling forces. Chainstays also allow for wider tire clearance. The Strael 3.0 is capable of measuring 36mm tires, which enhances its four-season credentials and aligns well with the constant variation of road cycling for wider tires running at lower pressures.
Fairlight Strael 3.0 ChainStations, (Image courtesy: Future)
Follow the stays and you’ll soon arrive at one of the most stylized elements of the stroll, the rear dropouts. Usually not of much interest, here they are made of a piece of removable aluminium with the axle housing and the disc mount mounted on the non-drive side and the housing and drive side in partnership with the Bentley Components. And changeable. There is likewise a chrome steel plate, which acts as a washing machine for mechanical fixings connected to the body and as a safety towards mudguard and rear rack islets, which can lose colour when installing both add-ons.
It is fair to say that the impressive workmanship and attention to detail of the Mk.II dropouts has been reflected throughout the stroll. Each area of the bike has a seemingly clear purpose, which is then beautifully executed.
Some added details complete the Strelle’s thoughtful design: mounts for mudguards, extra rack and bottom bottle bottom cage, modular cable guiding system (opens in new tab) with mechanical groups (Shimano Di2 and SRAM eTap), and Carbon Fortnake for the interior.
Fairlight Stream 3.0 Dropouts (Image courtesy: Future)
The geometry of the stroll (which opens in a new tab) is treated equally. Each frame size is offered in both ‘regular’ and ‘tall’. This is called the Fairlight ‘proportion geometry’ and basically gives the option of a shorter and longer frame for the racier position, or a taller and shorter frame option for a more upright position and better for riders with shorter legs and longer. Back or long legs with low back.
I rode the 54R. The numbers are pretty much in line with what you would expect from a dynamic and fast built bike. The stock height is 551mm and reaches 386mm, which should equate to a comfortable ride position without being too upright and pedestrian. The head tube angle is 72.5 degrees, which is typical for a modern and race road bike in this frame size, but the 418mm long chainstays give a hint of consistent ride.
The stall frame and fork claim weight of this 54T is 2.6kg, which includes all trimming, such as the headset and thru-axle. The full build, including the 28mm Continental GP 5000 (opens in new tabs) and the 11-speed Shimano Ultegra Groupset (opens in new tab), Hunt Four Season Disc wheels (opens in new tab) with FSA aluminium finishing kit weighs 8.8. Kg.
Fairlight Strain 3.0 -Test Ride
There is something satisfying about using any product that is suitable for the purpose. And Strael 3.0 is exactly that. At home on the English roads I am currently riding, it felt like it had ridden every stretch many times before. It absorbs lumps and bumps. It glided happily over the smooth sections, filtering the feedback from the road all the time to keep me at ease but still engaging. Subsequently, I began to feel completely at home in its company as a reunion with an old friend, where repartee is quickly established, no matter how much time is spent between meetings.
The geometry of the bike indicated that it was adaptable and that on the road, the Strain strikes the ideal balance. It is reliable in its handling but still quite nimble. Rolling along it is very comfortable, it is not unexpected for a high quality steel bike, it is best designed for all four seasons; The oval top tube is visible to better fulfil its promise. However, its fast turn was equally impressive. I’m not a sprinter but the bike responded quickly when I got out of the saddle and started speeding. There was no discernible ‘over-flexing’, but rather efficient transfer of energy through the pedals. And once again the strain was happy to stay there to accelerate.
It was a long ride when Strael really came into its own. Along the 50 or so miles, it took smooth and poor surface A and B roads, some hills, farm lanes and an off-road cycle track, which was nothing short of a joy to ride.
Fairlight Strael 3.0 Frame Profile, (Image courtesy: Future)
Its performance also hints at the bike’s long-lasting versatility. A smooth and cushioned ride across a variety of surfaces, some of which are decidedly devious, invaluable in long-distance rides or multi-day trips. The ability to get up to speed quickly and then manage it means you don’t want to stroll on a fast club ride. Similarly impressively rises and descends. This type of steel bike may not fly over the hills in comparison to a lightweight carbon bike but most importantly the stroller is not stiff here, making the energy I feel is never wasted. Going downhill it was a good move, holding its line with real hope. I always think steel bikes go down well, and the stroll is no exception.
Basically, it’s great across the board with a road connection that inspires confidence whether you’re travelling or looking to put a hammer on.
Fairlight Strain 3.0 Steel Road Bike,(Image courtesy: Future)
Pros and Cons
Good balanced ride quality, both responsive and comfortable,
High quality work,
Equipped for a four-season ride with plenty of tire clearance and mounts,
Wide range of sizes,
Nothing – even the orange, deep grey and putty colour options should make sure almost everyone is happy,
Fairlight Stream 3.0 – Value and Conclusion
The Strael 3.0 frameset costs £ 1,399. Compared to Mason’s 4-season steel road frame, the resolution (which opens in a new tab), costs £ 1,599 and is made using the Columbus Spirit and Life Tubes. Like the Stroll, it has plenty of clearance for most tires, and a rear rack for mudguards. Condor’s Fratello Disc Frameset is once again equipped to handle the ride for seasons, priced at £ 1,299.99.
Fairlight also offers several complete construction options. The Ultegra-equipped Strael reviewed here will set you back £ 3,099. This is of course substantial money, but one that represents value. You are getting a well-built steel frame that will last a lifetime if you wish. On top of that you will benefit from components that are too built to stay, such as reliable and high-performance groups and lightweight and serviceable pairs of wheels.
For reasons of objectivity I have been trying to drill holes in the impenetrable design and ride quality of the stroller. It is an act of gratitude. It’s still hard to imagine where it could be improved with more reflection; It gives me what I need or need, like a modern steel road bike. It’s quite lively, very comfortable and ready to adapt to different roles in different seasons. Obviously a long-term bike. Probably one for the ages.