Thorn Sherpa Review

Thorn Sherpa Review – Steel Frame Touring Bicycle

I’ve been collecting my thoughts for this Thorn Sherpa review since I first built the bike in my grandad’s shed. I built it in the middle of winter four years ago. I had attempted to build up my new Thorn Sherpa frame in my garage, but at a fun dampening -2°C I received a better offer from my grandad who told me I could use his quintessential English ‘shed at the bottom of the garden’, fitted with a cast iron multi-burner.

Thorn Sherpa review.
Thorn Sherpa attachment points.

I took my tools, stacked up in front of a small fan heater, and hauled the Thorn Sherpa frame and components up the road to a balmy 22°C Costa-del-English-Shed and had a fun couple of days tuning the gears and perfecting the cabling, sweat gently beading on my forehead. Thanks grandad!

When I finally emerged, I transferred a few symbolic components from my old bike (Ramotswe) and placed them on the Thorn. Now my Thorn was Ramotswe. . . . The anthropomorphism of my bicycles works a little like Doctor Who; different body, different character, barely any similarities at all but stubbornly still the same.

This is where the name ‘Ramotswe’ comes from (Wiki)

Thorn Sherpa Review - Forks
The Thorn Sherpa’s forks are above all functional but the attention to detail on the shoulders combined with the slim gauge steel gives them an understated aesthetic charm.

Thorn Sherpa Review – First Impressions

Before I had ridden the Thorn Sherpa I had already formed some opinions on the frame. What instantly strikes you when you first see a Thorn bicycle in the flesh is the attention to detail. There is a broad selection of fittings and attachments for almost any combination of racks, mud-guards and bottle cages.

Thorn Sherpa Review Fittings
Thorn Sherpa fittings for rear racks and cantilever brakes.

A closer look reveals two stickers, ‘double butted, seamless, heat treated, cold-drawn, Cro-Mo steel’ for the frame and ‘Reynold’s steel’ logo for the forks. When you really get down to admiring the finest details you see that the top tube becomes thinner at the back to meet the smaller gauge of the down tube and the welds, which Thorn do not grind down, are smooth and consistent over the entire product. The Thorn Sherpa is a beautiful starting point for building a touring bike or tough commuter.

Thorn Sherpa Review - Front Rack
The Thorn Sherpa can mount practically any size or shape of rack.

Thorn Sherpa Review – Maiden Voyage

I remember the first ride well. I had a comfortably aged Brooks saddle from my old bike and some racy Continental Sport Contact tyres and butterfly handlebars. My new Thorn Sherpa felt like it had a built-in gyroscope, it was perfectly balanced, stable and dependable. I found a quiet country lane and took my hands off the handlebars. The Thorn Sherpa seemed to slip into autopilot and dutifully followed the gentle bends as I encouraged it to drift right and then left. It was, at that time, and probably still is the best bicycle I’ve ever ridden.

Thorn Sherpa Review
Thorn Sherpa Long Wheel Base

The Thorn Sherpa has a fairly long wheel base which improves ride comfort, but most importantly means that you don’t end up kicking your rear panniers with your heel as you pedal.

Thorn Sherpa Review – Finding a Complaint

Writing this Thorn Sherpa review has taken so long, and so many miles of cycling to get around to because I wanted to find something negative. If I just gave a perfect score it might seem as though I’ve not given it any thought. I did eventually find some neutral and perhaps one slightly negative thing to say about The Thorn Sherpa. But as soon as I discovered it Thorn went and changed it on their new revision!

Thorn Sherpa Seat Post Clamp
Thorn Sherpa Seat Post Clamp – Mine has been through the wars but still works perfectly. (Picture does not show the original bolt)

I’ll tell you what it was anyway; I didn’t entirely like the fact that the clamp that tightens the seat tube relied on fittings welded to the frame. It means that if you stripped the thread from the clamp, or it rusted, you would not be able to tighten your seat post.

Thorn Sherpa integrated rear derailleur hanger.
Thorn Sherpa integrated rear derailleur hanger.

A fix for this would be to remove the bosses, any mechanic/garage can do this for you, and then you could repaint it and use a standard collar clamp as is common on the majority of bikes. So a repair would be possible if you needed it, but I have to admit, I’ve had no trouble with mine in the years that I’ve had it.

The only other critique I can muster is that the frame is a little expensive compared to some of its rivals such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker and I’d like to have seen more colour options. When I bought mine I only had the choice of red or black.

Thorn Sherpa Review – Weight and Materials

Thorn 969 Cro-Mo
Thorn 969 Double Butted, Seamless, Heat Treated, Cold Drawn Cro-Mo Steel – Impressive!

The Thorn Sherpa is a pretty heavy touring bike, but that’s not really avoidable with this level of durability and it’s no heavier than its rivals such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker ( LHT) or CroMotion frames. I don’t know much about the CroMotion bikes but I’ve seen the Thorn Sherpa side by side with a couple of Surly LHTs and I have to say that the Thorn stands out as being the more premium product. That said, the Surly LHT is a little cheaper and wins in terms of value for money as it’s every bit as competent a touring bike as the Thorn Sherpa.

Protecting The Thorn Sherpa From Rust

Thorn Sherpa Attachment Points
The Thorn Sherpa has well crafted attachment points for front and rear racks, three bottle cages and cantilever and v-brakes brakes amongst others things.

Attachment points are vulnerable to rust unless you protect them. I put heavy bike grease on the thread and use those spare fittings as a place to store spare rack screws and washers. It’s also important to apply grease to the inside of the seat tube every few months or so.

My Conclusion on the Thorn Sherpa

The Thorn Sherpa is a durable and attractive steel touring frame that can keep pace with the very best. It’s simple, unfussy and works with a wide range of components. The Sherpa is probably the best bike I’ve ridden for ride quality and comfort and with some premium components it inspires confidence. I trust it. With zero flex and assertive, balanced handling the frame feels right with or without a heavy payload.

I expect to ride my Thorn for many more years. I’ll continue to use it for touring and utility and it may even be called on for the ultimate responsibility – carrying a wee child!

To see more pictures check out the England to New Zealand gallery and if you enjoyed this Thorn Sherpa review please consider leaving a comment or sharing. Thanks everyone!

4 thoughts on “Thorn Sherpa Review – Steel Frame Touring Bicycle”

  1. Hello I am interested in asking questions about the Thorn Sherpa. I am considering it for a new touring bicycle and would love to ask a owner about it beyond what you have mentioned here. You may reach me at my email address which I will include below.

    Thank you very much

  2. Thanks great information. I have been touring on an Orange p7 mountain bike. 20kilos ish on rear rack. Bottles 3 litres on front forks. Ortlieb handle bar bag. Oh I love it! But had back wheel problems. Bearings died on original shimmano wheel. So replaced with Hope evo 2. Same problem. Poole my home town to santiago back wheel bearings excessive play. Carried on to porto (Portugal) then across to salamanca where I am writing this post. Oh my goat! Very excessive play now in the Hope back wheel. Im going to carry on to Santander.ferry back to U.k. I could easy replace wheel in bike shop. But im interested to see what happens. WORD OF WARNING best travel on shimmano HUBS. Plenty of spares available. Im going to buy a THORN WITH ROLOFF HUB NEXT YEAR. happy travels. Harry.

  3. “I expect to ride my Thorn for many more years.”
    I thought you said elsewhere that you had sold it in NZ?

    1. Hi Keith, I’m impressed to see that someone is paying attention! You’re dead right, I did sell her, sort of… The trade fell through at the last moment. The same moment a friend of mine back in England proposed a tour where this bike would be required, which was also the same moment I realised I had made a decision placing money concerns (about shipping the bike home) above plain common sense. I’m nothing if not lucky.

      It’s great to have you here Keith!

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