The not-so-minor details
Cell Brunswick 2.0
Excellent frame design and parts choice.
Wide range of intended usage.
Confident in technical cyclocross rides.
SRAM Rival brake levers a little mushy.
Hard riding frame.
Australian brand Cell Bikes have transformed themselves over the last few years. A clear change in direction has given birth to a good deal of commendable bikes in the cross country, road and cyclocross segment. These well-thought out bikes are designed for ‘proper’ riding, and backed up by impressively good value pricing, they’re developing a solid reputation. This is especially the case with the Brunswick, their locally designed aluminium bike with a cyclocross and gravel riding focus.
We love reviewing a bike with a good story behind it, it makes our job that little bit easier when a bike is more than just a frame with parts and there’s a genuine tale to tell. The Brunswick is the result of a small design team’s passion for a tiny and niche segment of the Australian market; cyclocross. While the market for a bike like this may be small it’s certainly on the rise, and for good reason, we urge people to give them a try. Showing commitment to the scene of CX racing, Cell have even launched a grass-roots racing team, Get Rad Racing, and they’re racing the Brunswick all over the place.
Why would Flow ‘Mountain Bike’ get involved with testing a bike with no bouncy bits like this you might say? We are drawn to these bikes as mountain bikers because we enjoy riding them, on dirt, the road or cyclocross race track. Roads are frightening at times, especially in Sydney, and trails within riding distance from home can become a little same-same after time and you need a break, or they can be off limits to riders when the weather turns sour.
While we won’t profess to having loads of experience with these type of bikes at Flow, our time spent riding and reviewing the Cannondale Slate was bloody awesome and our personal rides here include the Niner BSB. These bikes are often called a mountain biker’s road bike, so why not?
What is it, who’s it for?
This may be the toughest part of the whole review – describing exactly what type of rider this bike will suit. Who’s it for? Well, in short summary, it’s for just about anyone!
Use it as a road bike, a commuter bike, a gravel bike, a cyclocross bike, a touring bike, bike-packing bike, a bike bike.
While Cell’s second iteration of their Brunswick has its heart firmly set in the gravel and cyclocross scene, there are many elements that widen its options for other styles of riding. Things like its massive tyre clearance for a variety of tread sizes, rack mounts for panniers, mounts for full-length fenders and plenty of length in the steer tube for an adjustable ride height position.
Two models of the Brunswick are available, via their direct-to-consumer website ordering system (with free shipping), or from their Melbourne CBD or Sydney CBD showrooms. We spent most of our time on the top-tier Brunswick 2.0 ripping about on gravel roads, tarmac and the odd bit of singletrack, and it took it all in its stride.
Frame and build
There’s a lot going on with the frame detail, the Brunswick has been designed from the ground up with the experience and feedback gained from the original Brunswick frame a couple years ago. The frame is constructed from triple butted 6061 aluminium, with a full-carbon fork and both wheels are secured with thru-axles.
The big chainstays are a contrast to the thin and flattened seat stays, shaped that way for increased ride compliance, an area where aluminium frames usually lack in comparison to the more expensive carbon frames out there.
There are mounts galore, accommodating just about any rack or fender you could wish for, turning this thing into an all-weather super-commuter or trekking workhorse wouldn’t take much at all. It’ll carry three water bottle cages, or two cages and a tool/pump bracket under the downtube.
And adding to the user-friendly nature of the bike is its full length and completely external cable routing. Full length housing keeps the rear derailleur more protected from the elements and the external routing makes maintenance much easier. Sure hiding the cables inside the frame is aesthetically pleasing but it can also be a monumental headache when changing cables or brake lines. Cell have managed the particularly tricky task of cable routing very cleanly, good stuff.
Up front the full-carbon fork is a real standout feature, the carbon material takes a little sting out of the ride and its burly structure feels seriously robust on rougher surfaces. Grabbing a big handful of front brake will confirm that the fork and whole front end is super strong, it feels like you could run over anything with a front end this tough.
The thru-axles at both wheels take the sturdiness of the ride to the next level, we’re seeing more cyclocross and gravel bikes going down the path of thru-axles and we’re all about it. There’s a lot that this segment can learn from mountain bike design, the security and solidarity of thru-axles can make a lightweight bike feel confident and tough. Wheel removal is quick and easy and the levers on the axles are tidy and effective.
Tyre size is a real point of contention on a cyclocross bike, there are restrictions in place for racing competitions at different levels, for example an official event in Australia a tyre up to 35mm is permitted, and an international UCI event the widest is 33mm. While it is specced with 33mm tyres, there’s enough tyre clearance on the Brunswick to allow up to a 42mm tyre, bigger tyres will lift the bike’s abilities off road, allowing more traction, control, comfort and less risk of punctures. If this were ours we’d be experimenting with bigger tyres with deeper tread to get a little more crazy on the dirt, and perhaps keeping a thinner and smoother tyre on hand for longer rides on the road or extended stints commuting.
The parts highlights
Cell Bikes have a reputation for great bang for your buck, and the Brunswick 2.0 sure doesn’t disappoint for a wallet friendly $2299. Not only do the parts represent decent value, they also confirm the amount of consideration that has gone into the core usage of this bike.
The SRAM Rival 1 single-ring drivetrain and hydraulic brakes are at the heart of a modest and solid parts kit, and a big reason why the bike rides so well. Rival 1 is SRAM’s second level single-ring cyclocross/gravel component group, one step below Force 1 which we’ve had plenty of good experience with, on and off the road. Mountain bikers will notice strong similarities between the Rival 1 parts and the SRAM mountain bike drivetrain; it uses a the narrow/wide X-SYNC chainring and 11-speed clutch rear derailleur. The shifting is only on the right hand side and is crisp and positive. The SRAM Double-Tap shifters take a little getting used to if you’re a long time Shimano shifter, but works well, the clutch rear derailleur keeps the chain nice and secure, never did we feel any fear of dropping a chain on the bumpier rides.
The 11-36t cassette provides a pretty good range when mated with the 40t chainring, it’s on the low side of the spectrum, but we’re all about gearing low. If you’re spinning out of gears at the higher end of the range just relax or get into an aero tuck for more speed.
The tubeless ready wheels are from AClass (the complete wheel division of well known Alex Rims) and tyres are the Vittoria Cross XG Pro in folding bead and 33mm width. We set up our wheels tubeless and never looked back.
The SRAM Rival disc brakes with 160mm rotors gave the Brunswick reliable and consistent braking control on long descents, rain and mud. We’re big fans of disc brakes on road bikes, and it’s plain to see how they can benefit more than just mountain bikes. While the lever feel is not as snappy and positive as some of Shimano’s road hydraulic disc brakes, the braking power is always there. Our test bike could probably do with a brake bleed now after a few months of riding.
Cell’s own brand components make up the rest of the bike with a nice carbon 27.2mm seatpost, bar, stem and saddle. The thick Cell bar tape is nice and cushy, and the drop in the bars is not too far, so riding in the drops off road was easy and great for heavy braking moments. Our saddle did rattle in its rails after a few rides though, a warranty issue that should be quickly sorted out by Cell.
Riding the Brunswick
We rode this thing all over the place, from our regular road rides to frantic cyclocross laps with the crew, gravel grinds and even pushed its limits through singletrack. While we realise it’s no mountain bike, we certainly had it working like one at times!
The riding position is quite relaxed when compared to a typical road bike, the bars sit quite high and the steering feels slacker and far less twitchy. This laid-back body position had us feeling super confident to ride the Brunswick on slippery surfaces and push the limits of the tyres, we quickly began throwing it around the place, jumping holes in the road and up and down gutters with a light spring in our stride.
On the road amongst the bustling traffic we felt safe, the riding position lets you react to changes in traffic flow with confidence, and the combination of bigger tyres with tread and powerful disc brakes made our road bikes feel dangerous in comparison.
Hopping the odd obstacle or cyclocross barrier may not be something that we’re used to doing on curly wurly bars and narrow tyres, but soon after giving it a try we were mixing it up with the cyclocross folk in no time. With solid thru-axles and burly rigid forks, landing nose heavy holding the brake hoods never felt so secure.
Hitting the dirt roads was an absolute hoot. While we are used to riding mountain bikes with meaty treads, this fast rig feels wild and alive in your hands, but once we got the hang of it we channelled our inner CX racer and just kept on mashing on the pedals motoring through sketchy sandy sections and slippery mud with a grin and a laugh.
Setting the tyre pressure just right for the ride ahead is vital, we ran between 40-50 psi on the rougher and looser surfaces and up to 70-80 psi on roads and faster rides. Being setup tubeless with Stan’s No Tubes sealant, valves and rim tape made so much difference to the ride, at times we’d be gripping the tops of the bars and ploughing through rock-strewn cobbled roads without a care in the world.
There were even times where bad line choice sent us hurtling into baby-head sized rocks loose on the surface of the fire trail, hitting the rim so hard it sounded like a steel drum band at full volume – PING PANG DANG DING BONGGGG!
We didn’t lose any pressure though, even the rims didn’t show any signs of damage. From that day on we put more trust in the wheels and rode harder and harder.
The Brunswick 2.0 would be a sure bet for a first time foray into the world of cyclocross racing. The CX scene is fun, growing and a fresh change from the world of mountain biking and road riding. With more CX events popping up in regional areas you’d be well served giving one a try on a bike like this.
Or the Brunswick would be a safe commuter bike with more confidence in traffic than a skinny road bike. Mount racks to carry your gear and fenders to keep you dry, and the disc brakes are far safer than rim brakes on wet and crappy roads. And no doubt it would also prove to be a solid and reliable touring bike with such a comfortable riding position, sturdy parts kit and mighty tough wheels.
We loved our time on this thing, it opened up possibilities and had us exploring trails we’d not consider on a mountain bike, so we’re all about it.