- Dialled Bikes 853 Prince Albert
- Cult classic rejigged in top-line tubing
- Agile 130mm-fork geometry
Dialled Bikes’s Prince Albert frame has become something of a minor classic, offering distinctive style and a frolicsome ride for not very much money. Now there’s a new version using Reynolds’s top-notch 853 tubing and carrying a chewier price tag. Is it worth the extra?
The geometry of the original Prince Albert clearly wasn’t broken, so it’s reassuring to see that Dialled hasn’t fixed it – the 853 is the same shape as the original frame. The only visible differences are the absence of the distinctive extra tube at the front end and a new selection of colours. The blue test frame is particularly appealing, but you can have red or grey if you prefer. Compared to the 520-tubed frame, the seat cluster is a little more “level” (the seatstays join the seat tube roughly opposite the top tube rather than above it) which looks a bit cleaner. The downside is that this appears to have been achieved by raising the top tube, so there’s a little less standover than the original frame. We suspect that this only applies to the Large size, though.
You’d expect the 853 frame to be considerably lighter than the 520 one, but in this case you’d be surprised – on our scales the 853 is only about three ounces lighter. We know what you’re thinking – that’s about the same weight as the original PA’s extra tube. The thing to remember about 853 is that it’s not actually less dense than regular chromoly, but it is considerably stronger, so you can use less of it, either by speccing smaller-diameter tubes or ones with thinner walls, or both. The PA, though, has hung on to its generously-proportioned tubes. That has two effects. First, you don’t get the weight saving that you’d expect. But second, you get a ludicrously strong frame. 5.5lb of 853 goes a long way…
Cable routing once again employs full-length outers from shifter to rear mech to keep the dirt out. The absence of the extra tube means that the front cable guides are now actually at the front, which tidies the routing somewhat. Other features intended to counter UK Slop And Grime™ include the forward-facing seat clamp slot and generous clearances around the rear tyre.
At the back there’s a neatly-executed brake mount (no V-brake bosses, welcome to the 21st century) with the now-traditional bracing tube. There’s enough chainstay clearance to fit a 185mm rear brake, but only just. But that’s OK, you don’t really need a 185mm rear brake – we only stuck one on because it was what we had to hand…
Dialled just sells frames, so you can build it how you want. We lobbed our usual hardtail build kit at it with a couple of new guest components. The frame geometry is designed around a 130mm fork, so one of RockShox’s new budget Tora 318 forks found its way into the headtube. We’ve been using the Magura Louise FR brakes for a while now and they’re doing well – plenty of power and good feel. They’re a bit clumpy-looking, but that’s a matter of taste.
Most of the other stuff (SRAM X-9 transmission, Ritchey bits and bobs) you’ll have seen before. It all came out looking very agreeable, although we should probably have swapped out that red headset spacer before taking the pictures. Hey ho.
The 853 is the same shape and nigh-on the same weight as the original PA, so there’d be something very strange happening if it rode any different. That’s fine by us – PAs ride great. If you’ve got a minute, pop back and read our original PA test, you’ll get the idea.
We can’t help being a little disappointed, though. Yes, it rides fine, looks good and is very strong. But we find ourselves thinking that something of an opportunity has been missed here. The great thing about 853 tubing is that it’s very strong. By using just as much of it as the 520 tubing on the original bike, Dialled has come up with something that’s quite possibly indestructible. But the 520-tubed bike was more than strong enough – we’ve never heard of one breaking, and we know that plenty of them get ridden in ways that would break them if they were going to. So the 853 bike could have been equally strong and a chunk lighter and more zingy, and that would have been worth paying more for. As it is, we’re not sure what the extra cash gets you beyond better looks (if you didn’t like the extra tube), more strength than you know what to do with and a nice tubing sticker.
Positives: Extremely unlikely to break, looks good, proven rapid-reaction geometry, mud friendly
Negatives: Kind of overbuilt, not as good value as the 520 PA.
Don’t get us wrong, the 853 PA is a very good bike. It’s got sorted geometry, it’s strong, it looks good. But the considerably cheaper 520 PA has all those attributes too – we’re not convinced that the 853 offers anything extra that we actually need…