Sunday, 22 May 2011

Onix Azzuro Review

I've always been a fan of buying bikes from smaller niche UK businesses, rather than the major global brands.  Whilst looking for a new bike recently, I came across Preston based Onix bikes, owned and run by entrepreneur Craig Middleton.  Less than eighteen months old as a business, Onix is an on-line bike retailer, like Planet X and Ribble, selling their own brand of bike aswell as a range of components.

Craig Middleton

They were recommended to me by the Ken Jones of Onimpex who runs his own cycling team aswell as the UK agency for Bioracer clothing.  Ken is a 25 year veteran of the industry and a very accomplished racer, who knows a thing or two about what makes a great bike.  

He described the Onix Azzuro to me as "the best bike he'd ever ridden."   He was just preparing to ride Paris-Roubaix with Sean Kelly on it, the write up you can read here, so that was quite an endorsement.  Astra Flaners professional Daniel Patten also rides the bikes.  Worth reading his review of the Aurios and Azzuro as a pro-cyclist.
Ken Jones of Onimpex at Paris-Roubaix

Citing their carbon quality as some of the best you'll find for the money, a few days later I went and met Craig to understand his story and see the bike.  Half an hour later, I'd bought an Onix Azzuro.  For a number of reasons.  
  1. The bike just looked fantastic.  The Toray T1000 12K carbon weave is one of the nicest I've seen and it just stands out on the bike, everyone that has seen the bike comments on it, Onix explain it in a bit more detail here.  
  2. The spec vs. the outlay.  As Onix don't have a large dealer margin to support, you get a lot more bang for your buck.  It meant I could get a full Ultegra groupset on the bike, rather than the 105 that I thought I'd originally end up with.
  3. The frame is ultra-stiff.  I wanted this bike primarily for longer flatter rides and speed, less so for sportive rides. Ken's endorsement was key.
  4. Onix are a UK business.  I'll always try and buy local and buy British whenever I can on bike stuff, so this ticked a big box for me.  My previous purchase was from Dolan in Ormskirk.
  5. Craig's story inspired me.  Formerly a printer by trade.  Craig threw it all in to pursue his dream of building bikes that would appeal to cyclists first and foremost.  Read an interview with him here.  In my day job, we love ambitious businesses and Craig is an entrepreneur I'd love to see take on the big boys and some of the conventions of the bike industry.  He deserves some support.
Onix Azzuro with Ultegra
It's all about the bike

Having established that the product is top quality, I set about speccing mine up using the bike builder on the Onix webstore.  I found this useful as you always want to tinker around with spec to see what you get for your money. The spec that I went for on the bike is as follows: -
What also impressed me is that Onix use ex-pro mechanics for the bike builds. No spotty eighteen year olds building these bikes.  My bike mechanic, who is now also one of our guest bloggers - Mike Jackson, spannered for a number of pro-teams, so you know you're getting a quality build.
View from the Rear
In the Saddle

I went for the 58cm frame size, which has a 59cm toptube, so it's a good size cockpit.  I ended up going for a 10mm stem, so as to keep the cockpit within a certain size zone, primarily for comfort.  I also opted to not cut the forks down and go with four spacers up front, as I prefer a more relaxed ride position and I can always cut them down later.  Onix will cut them for you if you want, just advise when you order.

Front Headtube
What strikes you about the bike is how quickly it puts the power down.  The super stiff frame, due to it's large bottom bracket area, over-sized rear chainstay and large downtube just transfers the power straight to the road.  I was concerned that the flared rear left chainstay might mean I hit my foot when pedalling, as I wear a size 12 cycling shoe and ride 175mm cranks, but it was absolutely fine, with about 6-7mm clearance - nothing to worry about.

Oversized N/S Rear Chainstay

I went for an Onix ultra-light carbon seatpost as I thought it looked pretty nice.  It absorbs the bumps well and with a tried and tested Selle Italia saddle underneath the crown jewels, ride comfort is sorted.  

Onix Carbon Post with Selle Italia SLR Saddle
With the frame being stiff, you get plenty of feedback from the road when you're out.  The Azzuro isn't a sportive bike, it's more of an outright road racer for a more experienced rider, so it will be right up your street if you've been considering the Specialized Tarmac, Dolan Ares or Boardman Team Carbon for example. 

If you fancy a sportive bike, then look at their Aurios, which has a more relaxed geometry and you should get a great spec for the money.  I'm planning to spec one of those up too, having recently sold my Specialized Secteur Sport. 

Steering is snappy and direct, I've had no problems on descents and have just sat back and got rolling. You need to be confident in a bike at speed and the Azzuro just gives you that feeling of being rock solid and reliable.

The look of the bike is first class.  When it's leant up against a wall outside a cafe stop, it turns heads and with it being a small niche manufacturer, most people have never heard of the brand but do like the look of the bike.  The carbon fibre frame and forks and manufactured in the Far East and imported into the UK by Onix, who then build the bike locally to your exact specification.  

The bikes currently come in a conventional black/white design, which I personally don't mind in amongst a marketplace of big brand bikes which are appearing with some crazy colour schemes.  You can add some individuality to the bike with components and bar tape if you want to jazz it up.  The red hubs on the Mavic Ksyrium SL's do the job on my bike.

View from the front
For me, the over riding reason for buying the bike is the quality of the carbon fibre.  There's plenty of carbon fibre bikes out there from £1299 upwards, but how many use Toray T1000 12K carbon fibre?  Not many.  

Like most things, Carbon fibre comes in different qualities, so make sure you check before you buy your new bike if you're getting top grade carbon fibre, or a lower grade hidden under a paint job.

In conclusion.  This is a very, very good bike for the money.  You won't turn up at a cafe stop and lean it up against ten more bikes of the same make and model - like with many of the American and Italian brands.  

Riding an Onix, you'll stand out, stand for something a bit different and know that your money not only went further but also went to support a British bike business.  If Onix can reach out to a wider audience, I think a lot of roadies will consider the brand in the future.

Onix Cages and oversized downtube

Carbon Rear Stays

Front Headtube
Ultegra 53/39 Chainset


  1. You brought Onix to my attention, and at last i have enough budget to be able to do something about it! i can only afford to buy once though - i'm headed towards working for the church of England, not a director, so the budget is and always will be limited! The question is, Ribble, or Onix? Would you have a preference out of the two of our local bike builders?

  2. Hi Andy, I'd suggest you give Craig at Onix a buzz or e-mail him (details on their website) and I'm sure he'll work hard to get you a bike to meet your budget.

    Like your blog by the way!!

  3. Cheers Phil. I've been in touch with Craig now, sound bloke. i also bumped into one of my neighbours tonight testing out his Ribble after over-wintering. He know's Craig, and says he'll really help out. I asked Craig about building a bike for me to crack the Clitheroe hills, and he said he'll help me sort what I need for my budget. If else is reading this, I heartily back what phil says, do take a look at Onix! Really helpful, especially if all those figures and techy bits make it all a bit confusing.