Bowman Bicycles (Palace/Weald): An accident waiting to Happen

| | | |
Bowman Bicycles Palace

Introduction

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

The frame is of aluminium construction. It consists of mitred 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.

Geometrical Accuracy

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.

Fork

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

Photographs

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

The Marketing

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 Hambini

David 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

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

18 Comments

  1. I know a big brand called S. Every MTB is failing at the headtube. Yes i riding one too… waranty frame arrived same problem at only 4 rides…
    If you want to read and see more. Check pinkbike forum for S enduro

  2. This is huge! Thanks for posting Hambini. I’m not a trained welder but I have some suspicion that frame was very poorly welded using a spool gun. Nevertheless this is outrageous.

  3. Unreal, I’ve worked with apprentice TIG welders who were better. To me the welds look cold with not enough argon and/or shitty prep. To see huge balls of filler inside bridging tube gaps is crazy, makes me wince.

    To think that I liked the look of these when they first came out for criterium racing, I’m heavy for a rider and love a sprint, I would 100% have snapped it.

    Keep on calling the wankateers out!

    The reality doesn’t often match the hype does it?!

    1. The picture of the yellow one shot from the BB was mine. Was doing sprint intervals when I felt a snap internally, there is something metallic rattling inside the chainstays seen in that picture.

  4. I commented on the Road.CC forum about this, they deleted my post. They are complicit in all of this too. Marketing BS to the max. They get unqualified pregnant bimbos on their youtube channel and make a series about riding a bike when women are 6 months pregnant. Stupid idiots don’t realise they can trigger a premature birth.

  5. I want to add some further comments on this. I worked at a bike shop and we sent a bike in to David Arthur when he worked at road.cc for him to review. when it came back the bike clearly had been ridden around their car park and then some photographs taken for the content. There was no thorough in depth testing at all. Even the nobbly bits on the top of the tyres were still attached.

    David Arthur, road.cc, cycling weekly are all bent, they’ll do anything for financial and personal gain. Even if it means endorsing a frame that is not worthy of kindergarten welding

    1. this is the guy who always claims to have been riding new bikes “for the last couple of weeks” the amount of bikes he reviews he must be riding 24/7.

  6. The problem with the cycling press is the same problem that car magazines and motorcycle mags present. They will not call out manufacturers because they depend on them for ad revenue. Hambini you are showing the truth as are some of the other independent content posters. Keep it up.

    1. I think it’s more serious than that: they have nothing to write or talk about…Cycling press as you call it, are mostly bunch of illiterate retards in bibs. Most of them does not have elementary school grade knowledge of physics, maths, or any other thing that is science related.

      Car press at least have something to cling on, mostly “feelings”, like leather, plastic or even fuel odor fetish. It’s much easier to talk about cars, as culturally, a car is rarely only a car. It’s not easy to praise almost identical bikes, 7/24. I get your point, and totally agree. We all know almost any review about anything is rigged to a degree, but for bikes, it’s harder to do, especially if your IQ is only 2 points above the “I can eat by myself” threshold.

      Internet made it worse, because they have to post more often, because Google favor stupidity (posting frequency, they call it). There is not much to talk about, say, the latest front derailleur from Shimano…unless you’ re very creative, can do some destructive testing, have few engineering degrees in all sorts of disciplines, access to a millions-dollars worth labs. I’ve seen an article about a rear derailleur from SunTour few decades ago, I don’t remember which magazine was that, or particular model, but it was about 3 pages. It was an interesting read, enjoyed it, definitely had clever remarks, but totally forgot about that later. Because frankly, I don’t need to know all these.

      I’m watching / reading Hambini, not because he’s a real great engineer. I bet he is, but besides that, he’s a great story teller. He also has the material to talk about. I don’t follow road.cc, pinkbike, or any other mainstream media; I just follow some blogs. There is great content vs shitty mainstream stuff, like in any other mainstream media, be it cars, bikes, news, music.

  7. Funny I have a 2017 Palace R
    It’s a fantastic riding frame with about 15,000k on it .
    No problems whatsoever.
    Guess they were built much better back then .
    Can only guess most frames built in Asia are garbage nowadays, not fair to slam Bowman alone imop

    1. I too have a 2017 Palace R ‘the Green Machine’, and it is absolutely fine. It is an extremely light frame and it goes like the dogs bollocks for an aluminium frame. I regularly check my frame and haven’t found any problems. Looks like there were serious issues with the later iterations and these seem to tally with the problems the company had at the time. Can you place the blame on Neil from Bowmans for poor manufacturing practices? I’d imagine if the company was still going these frame would have had to be replaced – if there was no design fault, and perhaps this was the case for the broken chainstays? It was a shitshow at the end. Anyway the company’s IP has been sold and it has been resurrected and hopefully the new owner will be a lot more circumspect with the frame building quality.

  8. I was a reasonably happy Bowman Palace 3 Disc rider until I dropped it off for a routine service today. Both chainstays cracked through at 9000km under a 61kg rider. Looking at your pictures above it’s definitely the same point of weakness.

    Surprise new bike day! Well, having seen the video it wasn’t exactly a surprise.