Bowman Bicycles were a British brand of bicycles fronted by ex journalist Neil Webb. Bowman Bicycles was a trading name of BB Velo Ltd. Bowman were launched in 2014 and went into liquidation at the very start of 2022. They were known for producing aluminum frames and were aggressively marketed and sold on the UK market.
One user got in touch with the Hambini YouTube channel at the end of October 2021 complaining of problems with his Bowman Palace bike. This post covers the teardown of that frame. The findings were truly shocking.
The frame is of aluminum construction, is consists of mitered tubes that have been welded at the junctions. The forks are of carbon construction. The interface between the frame and the fork uses two bearings in the top of the head tube and the bottom of the headtube. The bottom bearing seat is slightly flared to allow for a larger diameter bearing.
The bottom bracket of this bike frame used a BSA thread pattern, 1.37″ x 24TPI. The frame had a sticker on it that stated it was “designed by Neil Webb in the Garden of England”. The box stated the frame was hand welded in Taiwan.
Overall Construction (inc. Welding)
This frame was utterly unacceptable. Every weld examined had a defect. This varied from lack of penetration, lack of fusion, to some areas with no welding at all. The mitering of the tubes to produce the frame was very poor. The tubes were often cut several millimetres short and weld filler was used to bridge the gap. Large areas exhibited “cauliflower” type weld defects, suggesting a lack of purge gas was used.
Aluminium is an extremely good conductor of heat and thus it requires significantly more power than steel to weld. Many commentators speculated the defects were attributable to insufficient ability to generate a weld pool thereby causing the lack of fusion and penetration.
This frame did not appear to have been stress relieved, it is not clear if this is a requirement of the tube manufacturer but it should be noted that the frame chainstay failed indicating there were residual stresses present that had exceeded yield limits.
The headset bearing locations had been machined badly. They were off centre with large chunks indicative of chatter.
The reinforcement brace across the rear chainstays was at least 12 degrees from being horizontal. Both rear dropouts were found to lean in towards the centreline of the bike on two planes. The bottom bracket was jagged and rough, it had not been faced. The misalignment between the two halves of the bottom bracket indicated it had been threaded independently from both sides, the subsequent welding had likely distorted it to make it “egg” shaped.
The headset bearing seats were neither concentric nor were they finished well. They exhibited misalignment in parallel and angular directions. The lower bearing seat was also so far from concentric that it had a very thin sidewall for a significant part of the clock face.
The fork was found to have bearing seat landing locations that were irregular they were misaligned. The fork was also necked close to the flare out point
User submitted Photographs
Several users have submitted additional photographic evidence of poor build quality
Another user who sent in photographs of similar failure on his Weald bike
Neil Webb who was the Managing Director of the now defunct company was a journalist prior to setting up his own brand. Stemming from this, the marketing for this frame and brand was extensive with clear emphasis being placed on the “aluminum is better” concept. Bowman did numerous videos with YouTube channels Road.cc and David Arthur. Their frames were extensively tested by the UK cycling media which generally gave them extremely high ratings. Comedically, Cycling Weekly stated the aluminum frame which is high on the galvanic index could accumulate water and despite this still awarded it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
David Arthur – Just Ride Bikes
David Arthur, a prominent journalist who has done freelance work for numerous cycling publications, accused the Hambini YouTube Channel of spreading lies about his “Integrity and Reputation”. Despite a direct email and over 35 commentators asking him to clarify his allegations with references and citations he did not reply. He stated
Just to add some facts here, because what I said has been twisted around, my issue isn’t with the treatment of the frame, I’m not questioning his engineering knowledge, my issue is with how my integrity and reputation is being challenged by blatant lies being stirred up by HambiniDavid Arthur – Just Ride Bikes
At the time of writing, David had disabled the comments on any of his videos associated with Bowman bicycles after the teardown of the frame.
Allegations of Fraud
There have been several allegations that Bowman were sending their bikes out with named wheels from a reputable brand but in fact putting stickers onto a different brand that was considerably cheaper. There were many comments sent in to the Hambini YouTube channel and numerous other internet forums and social media outlets.
Neil Webb was not available for comment on this matter.
WARNING – SAFETY NOTICE
There is no official recall notice on this frame or others – it is unlikely this will happen due to the dissolution of BB Velo Ltd (Bowman Bicycles). The likelihood of this frame being a “one off” is slim given the number of complaints on various internet forums, messages to the Hambini Channel from bike shops and Bowman’s Facebook page showing various failures and the additional photographs that viewers have sent in.
Any user of a Bowman frame is advised to get their frame inspected. The faults found here far exceeded any acceptable level of fitness for purpose. These types of faults can lead to unexpected and catastrophic failures.
Watch the video on YouTube
A Hambini Channel viewer submitted his own video of his frame. He had a lack of penetration and cracks in his headtube