In a time of more & more carbon and ever-changing wheel standards, it’s always nice to see classics like affordable 700c steel tourers being built with modern touches. UK-based bike maker The Light Blue is one such company building modern steel bikes, with a long history stretching back to the late 1800s. They still make some classic, retro throwbacks, down to those 1″ headsets that’ll outfit you for the next L’Eroica, but we’re more interested in a pair of contemporary tourers. Two of their most modern bikes are the Robinson & Darwin that still carry over a lot of that heritage in a package ready to head out on anything between a quick-moving sportive or months-long tour…
The Robinson is built to be the most versatile bike in The Light Blue’s line-up with quick road geometry, but big clearances and a host of braze-ons. The TIG welded Reynolds 725 steel frame with its bi-ovalized downtube and butted 4130 unicrown fork have space for 32mm tires, or 28s with full coverage fenders which you get mounts for. It’s a disc brake only bike and sticks with a 1.125@ headset, threaded BB, and quick release axles. The frame uses slider drops though, so can be upgraded to a thru-axle rear if desired, or of course single speed setups. It gets modular bolt-on external cable routing for various setup options, plus rear rack mounts for more touring.
The bike is available in a few different single and double ring builds, with this SRAM Rival 1×11 selling for 1800€. The claimed 1800g (56cm) frame and 1050g (uncut steerer) fork are also available as a frameset for 660€ in this Volcano Orange or a dark Airforce Blue and five stock sizes from 50-62cm.
The Darwin is its slightly more heavy duty touring sibling. Again it gets a 725 frame and butted straight blade fork, but this time both get a bit more options with more accessory points brazed-on. First off the frame and fork both get full rack and full-coverage fender compatibility. Then on top of that the fork adds a two-position bottle cage/accessory rack mounting point to expand your hauling and the frame gets a third bottle cage mount in the underside of the downtube.
This time tire clearance also expands to about a 42mm tire, with this 1900€ Darwin D Tour model with a 10 speed Tiagra triple sporting 38mm Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. The frame also gets a bit more reinforcement up front care of a CNC machined headtube with supporting rings built-in around the headset.
The disc brake specific Darwin uses a different ADS-3 sliding dropout for geared, singlespeed, or internally geared hub builds. It also adds Gates-certified belt drive compatibility with a split midway in the seatstay.
Like the more sportive/gravel bike, the touring Darwin is available in a number of complete builds with everything from an X9/X7 double for 1680€ up to a Rohloff complete for 2650€, with singles, doubles & triples in between.
Frame weight is just a tad higher, claimed at 1850g (M), with the same fork weight as the Robinson. The bike comes in three stock sizes S, M & L (50-57cm seattubes), and two somewhat unique colors. At just 660€ you can get one in matte black or for a bit more, there is this 720€ galvanized version coating the bike in zinc for corrosion resistance and the nice shiny silver color.