by Wil Barrett
December 5, 2016
From the engineering prowess behind Van Nicholas comes J. Guillem. If you love exquisite titanium frames, then read this.
Rewind to the Bike Test in Issue #108 of Singletrack Magazine, where Jason Miles pitched three titanium hardtails against each other.
According to the J.Guillem website: “J.Guillem zags when others zig. We like the surprise of the new and take comfort in different. We celebrate inspiration, aspiration and perspiration.” I think that means that they do their own thing and do things a bit differently. I think. The Tomir is quite different (mostly in a good way) to your regular mountain bike though.
Based in Mallorca – all J.Guillem bikes are named after places on the Balearic island – the designer Jan-Willem Sintnicolaas (Mr J.Guillem to you) moved there after selling up and leaving Van Nicholas.
He’ll build you a road bike or a mountain bike exclusively from titanium and this frame is available in the geared version like the one in this test or a Rohloff hub gear-specific model. Both can be bought as a frame only or as a full bike, rigid or with a suspension fork.
You can customise your build to a certain degree with a titanium stem, handlebar, headset spacers and the like. Our test bike came specified with a full complement of very handsome own-brand titanium components – however, the stem/handlebar interface creaked a fair bit and the headset was continually developing play until some assembly paste was applied to the carbon steerer/stem interface. The seat post on the other hand is very nice and didn’t creak or slip.
The frame is undeniably a work of art. I have to admit I did gaze for a while, and a few times, at the intricate (3D cast) dropouts, the angled cut of the seat tube, the internal cable routing entry points and the chunky chainstay yoke. In other words, it’s gorgeous.
The top tube is triangular in profile, the seat tube is ever-so-slightly bent to put the rear wheel in the right place and the downtube has a suspension fork-friendly bend in it. There’s no routing for a dropper post – this is a full-gas cross-country race bike anyway.
The rigid fork isn’t the most comfortable way to cover bumpy ground and it’s a lot stiffer and unforgiving than the frame. It’s very light but perhaps a bigger tyre up front than the 2.25in Vittoria Barzo might work better, or perhaps the extra stiffness of a 15mm through axle really isn’t suitable for a rigid fork.
The website says the Tomir has “Competitive XC Race Geometry”, and that’s true. It’s got racy geometry, including a 71° head angle and that means that this isn’t a slack, hooligan bike like the other two. Handling is far from twitchy, but it changes direction very quickly and puts the rider firmly in a stretched-out, flat-backed position.
It’ll also be the first to the top of the hill (as long as the rider doesn’t blow his or her nuts off before they get to the top), but probably won’t win coming back down again. It’s supposed to be a machine for maximum pain and speed, ALL THE TIME.
Except it isn’t best at maximum speed. Not quite all the time anyway.
It’s a bike that seems to be most suited to long duration, long-distance rides where sustained speed is the key requirement. The sort of ride where you might be setting off at the crack of dawn and returning way past bedtime. Or the sort of ride that involves covering the bike in bags of sleeping bags and insulated coats. For those kinds of epic adventures and long endurance events it’s almost perfect. As long as their body can cope with the racy riding position, under the right rider it’s an ideal tool for the odd record-breaking ride, in fact.
For a short, lung-bursting, cross-country race for an hour? It’s OK at those, and, again, under the right rider it’ll cause some damage, but it’s not as light as an equivalent carbon hardtail and, in spite of the serious-looking chainstays and big oval downtube, it doesn’t seem to have the same amount of uncompromising stiffness of many other ‘XC race’ bikes that convert all of the rider’s power into straight-line speed.
On the start line of any race, whatever the duration or distance, the Tomir will, however, be one of the most, if not the most intriguing and beautiful bikes there. There is magnificent attention to detail and a level of craftsmanship here.
The Tomir is an example of top-drawer framebuilding which anyone would be proud to show off. It’s marketed by J. Guillem as a race bike so in that context it’s a fast, responsive bike and with the right build it can be light(ish) and comfortable(ish).
It’s perhaps a bit too heavy to really compete against more responsive, stiffer and lighter carbon bikes in a short race though and some careful setting up (or at least a daily stretching routine) will be needed to make sure the riding position isn’t going to cause problems in a long race or ride. For pure aesthetic appeal, exclusivity and ‘wow factor’ though it’s probably one of the greatest bikes I’ve ever ridden.
The J. Guillem Tomir Specifications
- Frame // 3Al-2.5V Titanium
- Fork // J. Guillem rigid carbon, 15mm thru axle
- Hubs // J. Guillem sealed bearing alloy, 100x15mm front & 142x12mm rear
- Rims // Stans No Tubes ZTR Crest 32h
- Tyres // Vittoria Barzo TNT 29 x 2.25in
- Chainset // Shimano Deore XT 36/26t
- Front Mech // Shimano Deore XT 2×11
- Rear Mech // Shimano Deore xT Shadow Plus
- Shifters // Shimano Deore XT 2×11
- Cassette // Shimano Deore XT 11-40t
- Brakes // Shimano Deore XT w/160mm front & rear 6-bolt rotors
- Stem // J. Guillem Titanium 90mm
- Bars // J. Guillem Titanium 760mm wide, 0mm rise
- Grips // J. Guillem Labyrinth Lock-On
- Seatpost // J. Guillem Titanium 27.2mm
- Saddle // J. Guillem Titanium rails
- Size Tested // 17in
- Sizes Available // 15.5in, 17in, 18.5in, 20in
- Weight // 22.9lbs (10.41kg)