To put it mildly, the Culprit is not what most of you reading this probably think it is. Just another Asian-made carbon bike? Yes, it is. But, after seeing our fair share of me-too carbon bikes pop out of one open mold after another, the Culprit Arrow One surprised us with its abundance of contemporary frame details, proving that designer Josh Colp was an astute observer of both current product and marketing trends
The monocoque Culprit has its beginnings in sheets of high-end Toray carbon. From the UCI-approved sticker on the top tube, the trapezoidally shaped tubes, 1.5-inch-lower head tube bearing, front and rear carbon dropouts and the internal cable guides that work with either electronic or mechanical drivetrains, the Arrow One has more than just the appearance of a well executed
race bike. Even though, like so many other carbon bikes, our test bike was black in color, it was refreshing to see a unique frame design. With its curved rear end, the Arrow One definitely stood out on the group ride, and the bladed fork gave the front end a distinct aero look. Pencil-like seatstays notwithstanding, overall, the Culprit has a distinct well-built and sturdy feel to it.
If you opt out of just buying the frame, Culprit offers a variety of house-brand carbon components to go with the frame, which allows you to further personalize the bike in terms of stem length, bar and wheel depth. To sweeten the deal, they also offer custom colors for the handlebar and stem to match the color chosen for the frame. If you’re the type of rider looking to maximize the personal appearance of your bike, that’s a very unique option. For a $30 upcharge, you can get the wild-looking “soft ride” seatpost (versus a standard 31.6mm post) that uses an internal titanium sheet “spring,” which will certainly offset any initial trepidation you might feel about riding a carbon post with two-thirds of its mass carved away. Culprit said the post provided 25mm of motion, which, although visible in action, was never perceived by the rider when pedaling. Our test bike also came with Token tubular wheels, which added some extra cost to the finished bike. The Token carbon tubular wheels rolled smoothly and featured butted, bladed, straight-pull spokes.
If we had to pigeonhole the category of bike that the Culprit Arrow would most easily fit into, we’d say it was a race bike. From the 73-degree head and 73.5-degree seat angles, combined with a 99.5cm wheelbase, the Culprit’s numbers reflect a bike with fast habits, and it did not disappoint. That is, it didn’t disappoint the faster, more aggressive riders with the predilection to “hammer” everyone on the group rides. For the weekenders, the Culprit’s fast handling and too-stiff-of-a-ride quality were enough for them to opt out and choose another bike to suit their slower but longer rides.
The Culprit can be built with either a Shimano Ultegra, Di2 Ultegra or SRAM Red drivetrain. Our test bike was spec’d with the battery-operated Di2, and, just as we’ve come to expect, it did not disappoint.
There are a lot of things we like about the Culprit. Key among them is the opportunity to have a carbon bike that is available in a range of colors other than the all-too-ubiquitous black. While not as complete of a custom-build program as Trek’s best-in-class Project One offerings, the fact that you can sit at your computer and design your own frame graphics is pretty cool. Remember, too, that with each bike you get a free jersey, bottle cage and torque wrench set—all of which is similar in sound to the famous “but wait, there’s more!” sales pitch. But wait, there is more. With each bike purchase, Culprit will also pay for a personalized frame fit session, and from order to delivery, they say you’re looking at about a four-week time frame. Culprit may not be a well-known name in the game now, but it’s a brand that could easily build a following. The benefit of personalized graphics aside, the Culprit Arrow One came away as a sturdy, fast-handling, rigid carbon bike that could just be the ticket for an up-and-coming racer.
• A lot of bike for the price
• Not yet a household name
• Design your own graphics
Price: $5495 ($2449)
Weight: 16 pounds
Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL
For more info: Culprit