I keep finding myself revisiting the Look booth ever since the French firm unveiled its 765 Gravel RS at the 2018 Interbike. Not only was it a damn good looking bike, it also looked polished with its clean cable route, integrated front end, and matte green paint with orange accents. Who would have known green and orange can coexist so nicely together?
I revisited the bike some eight months later at Sea Otter Classic in Monterey and yeah, it still looked like a rockstar. There was also an e-bike version that stole the show…
And now the 765 family is expanding, the newest model, dubbed the 765 Optimum+, is nearly identical to its gravel-focused sibling, down to its race-oriented geometry, but with a few notable modifications to better suit the endurance/all-road crowd.
The carbon frame features Look’s blend of high modulus fibers along with its signature 3D wave stays designed to soak up the rough stuff.
As it is geared for the road, Look reduced the number of bottle cage mounts from four to two. Also gone is the top tube-mounted bento box mount and the integrated Direct Drive stem/spacer system in favor of a more traditional bar/stem combo. Approved rear tire clearance is now 2mm more for a maximum of 700x42c. It is still compatible with 650bx2.1 tires should you decide to take it off the beaten path.
But wait! Also hidden deep into the launch is Look’s own R38D tubeless carbon hoops. With a 38mm hooked rim measuring 26.5mm externally/19.3mm internally and laced to Centerlock DT Swiss bits, The wheelset will be standard equipment as part of a claimed 8.5kg medium 765 Optimum+ build complete with Shimano Ultegra R8000 built kit.
A mid-tier Ultegra R8000 model with a heavier cockpit and Shimano WH-RS171 wheels, plus a 2,799€ third build with Shimano 105 and RS510-spec’d starting are also available.
So is this a gravel-minded road bike or a road bike with serious gravel chops?
Feedback Sports' Ominum Trainer all packed and ready go to. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Beeline had one of their mobile bike shop on hand to help setting up the bikes, such as installing pedals for me because I forgot to bring a 8mm hex wrench, I blame that on my mini-tool. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
FSA's SLK crankset with their new super compact chainring aiming for the adventure/gravel crowd. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
DMT's slick RS1 featuring a single BOA dial to tighten/loosen the skeleton skin top. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Kenda's Flintridge Pro gravel tire, now available in 35c and 40c Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
SCICON AeroComfort Road 3.0 TSA bike travel bag, the choice of ProTour teams when they have to ship their bikes to races. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
What really makes SCICON AeroComfort Road 3.0 bag so unique is its wheeled caddy which secures your bike in the bag without the need of removing the handlebar and seatpost. All you need is to take the wheels off, mount the bike on the caddy and put the bag over it. Yay for being able to keep your dialed bike fit intact. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Variety of pedal stack for your Speedplay Syzr pedals. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
... As well as customizable axle lengths. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
This must be the first time where I had a presention done in the dark. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
The Joder riding shirt from Colorado's Panache Cyclewear Photo:Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Panache's Joder riding shirt features a full zipper, but perhaps the biggest standout are its two lower front pockets for small items such as gels, bars, phone, etc. Photo:Stephen Lam/ element.ly
For the first time ever, the annual spring PressCamp was all about road and by that I mean any bikes that come with a drop handlebar.
Here are the 9 coolest products I saw from the two days of back-to-back meetings.
Ridley Helium SLX
Prized for its comfort and the lack of grams, the Helium has long been a proven staple in Ridley’s line up and has had its share of refinement over the years. The newest iteration, the Helium SLX, is its lightest yet and continues to live up to this featherweight chemical element. With a new blend of Ridley’s 60T carbon and a new lay up schedule, Ridley was about to bring the frame down to 750g for a medium size while increasing its stiffness about 15% more than the previous model.
As for tire clearances, Ridley recommends a max 25mm for tires and 28mm for rim widths. In other words, most of the new wide aero wheels on the market will play nicely with the Helium SLX. Cable routings are now fully internal for both mechanical and electronic shifting groups for a cleaner appearance.
The sub-300 gram fork now features a full monocoque straight blade design and that’s counting its stainless steel inserts at the dropout for better alignment and protection. I briefly test rode the $5,800 version with full Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 mechanicals and the initial review was quite positive. The bike begs to be climbed, moves so eagerly with every pedal stroke and steers precisely around twisty descents. The geometry gravitates towards the aggressive racing stance as it was made for the ProTours, but I found the Helium to be comfortable, not squishy. Stay tuned for a long-term review soon.
Raleigh Stuntman ($2,499)
Inspired by the character Colt Seavers (by actor Lee Majors) in the 1981 television series The Fall Guy, the Stuntman is tailor-made for those who spend their days in the office planning their next bike camping epic. The gorgeously-painted frame is made out of double-butted Reynolds 631 steel for comfort and durability, but with modernized specs such as a 142×12 rear axle, a tapered headtube, and plenty of tire clearance (more on that later). In fact, the frame feels so solid we reckon it’ll be pretty difficult to break in half unless you decide to enter Redbull Rampage with one.
We think the components choice is pretty well fitting for what the bike is intended for as well: A no-nonsense full SRAM Rival 1X11 drivetrain with a 40T front ring for propulsion along with matching hydraulic discs to slow things down when called for. And when the road (or groad) gets a bit more gnarly, you could use the mechanical dropper post with 65-80mm of travel from a bar mounted remote on Raleigh’s own branded drop-bar with 16 degree flare in its drops. Interestingly enough, the Stuntman went with a full aluminum fork for better strength which also keeps the price low. Did I mention there are mounts for racks and fenders? So yes, all this bike missing is the stuntman himself.
The wheel build is an interesting proposition too: 50C (!) Clement X’PLOR MSO Tubeless rubbers mounted to sealed Novatec hubs laced to 28mm wide Weinmann U28TL tubeless rims with 32 14/15g butted stainless spokes, brass nipples. It’s nowhere as exotic as say, a pair of Zipp 454 NSWs, but again, you don’t go off-road on your 4-Runner with HRE P201s with Pirelli P Zeros, do you?
FSA WE hybrid-wireless drivetrain ($TBA)
Over the years, new companies with new drivetrain ideas have popped up, getting some flare about how disruptive their products will be, and eventually flame out in one way or another… Let’s face it, the barrier to enter the drivetrain business is not only risky, requiring a lot more than money and engineering, but it’s also been dominated by the big three (Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo). That said, if there’s a company that could challenge the big three, FSA might just be it. You see, FSA has been cumulating their manufacturing know how for about 25 years making headsets, handlebars, cranksets, stems, wheels… essentially everything except a drivetrain group. Yet after years of development rumors and the occasional spy pics, they felt they finally have something to offer: The WE hybrid-electronic groupset.
But what the heck is a hybrid-wireless system anyway? Like is it wired AND wireless at the same time? The short answer, as confusing as it might be, is yes. The shifters are wireless utilizing ANT+ to securely communicate with the derailleurs while the derailleurs are wired to be powered from the battery within the seatpost. This is a solution where FSA engineers felt was more reliable and longer-lasting (claimed 4,000 to 6,000km per charge). We’ll take their word for the time being before our long-term test but the samples they had at PressCamp looked very close to the production model with very clean lines and completely functional for rides. The shifters felt comfortable in my hands and the FSA will be offering carbon lever blades in two different lengths (6mm difference) for better ergonomics. What’s more, a companion app will be available for users to further customize their system for things such as shift speed and button function.
Now, the shifting operation is of course, different than what’s already out there. The WE utilizes a rocker switch with different textures to differentiate up and down shift.
It works as advertised, being able to do both single and multiple shifts when called for. The switch will take a bit of time to get used to since the buttons are relatively close to each other, but that could be matter of getting used to a system like the first time you use a Mac. We’ll see whether the WE will be as popular as Di2, eTAP, or EPS, but the competition just heated up a bit more.
ABUS YADD-I Urban Helmet ($79.99-89.99)
Originally beginning as an aero-helmet concept, the YADD-I is part of ABUS’ introduction to the US helmet market. Yes, ABUS is probably better known for their badass locks in the states but the German company has been producing helmets since 1992. At first glance the YADD-I might look like a modernized skater helmet, but beneath the shell are air channels (ABUS named it Forced Air Cooling Technology) to suck cold air in to keep your head cool. There’s even a detachable soft visor that works just like your favorite cycling cap. Instead of using a teethed or geared retention system, ABUS uses a simple but brilliant Soft Tune System where it simply uses an elastic band to automatically adjust to the user’s head. Nine colors will be available starting this April, and that’s not counting the special edition with the flag of the City Chicago on top. Nothing against Chicago but I’d be very happy if ABUS released one with the California Bear on top.
Kenda Valkyrie ($69.95)
Admittably, Kenda is better known for their line of mountain bike tires, but the Taiwanese tire maker’s newest top road offering, the Valkyrie, aims to change that as a result of three years of development at their new R&D center in Cleveland, Ohio (Fun fact: Kenda is an official sponsor of the Cleveland Cavaliers). With the Valkryie, Kenda claims a low rolling resistance and an increased wet/dry with the use of their third generation R3C rubber compound while the new KA armor takes care of puncture protection in lieu of the more common but heavier kevlar belt. At a claimed 178g for 23c, 182g for 25c, 235g for 28c and 265g for 30c, the Valkyrie sure reads like a high-performance racing tire. The 700x23c and 25c are available now, with the 28c and 30c available around later this spring. If you’re a tubular guy, the Valkyrie has you covered too, offering 22c and 24c wrapped on a 300tpi casing, (which will cost a bit more than the clincher version). The tubeless version is also in development.
If you’ve been on a local race team for a while, I am sure you know something about ordering, actually, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, picking the right apparel maker for your next team kit. Fit parties, back and forth, and I won’t even go into the actual design of the jersey. There’s a reason that very position on my team is appropriately named the kit bitch.
But Giordana is here to streamline that process and is opening up their line of speciality apparel for customization. Your team can now order custom water-shedding G-Shield jerseys/bibs for wet days and the lightweight Sahara jerseys/bibs for hot summer days, while having access to their customized Giordana elite FR-C line of clothing if you are so inclined. The order minimum is 10 and the program includes Giordana’s own in house designer to help with the design, from a finished template to ideas still on napkins, Giordana will be able to help and all garments will be made in the same factory in Italy as the rest of the Giordana’s offerings with an average 6-8 week turnaround from start to finish.
HIA Velo/Allied Cycle Works ALFA ($2,700 frame/fork)
Perhaps the most exciting news from PressCamp and for a good reason. Think about this for a second: For $2,700, you get a sub-800 gram frame (56cm) in six sizes plus two head tube heights per size to choose from, plus lifetime warranty and factory repair service. Sounds good right? The frame is made entirely in the U.S. (Little Rock, Arkansas, to be exact) starting from the pre-preg itself. Speaking of their composites, the ALFA includes the exclusive use of Innegra fiber within its layout to have better impact resistance and helps keep the frame together shall the frame fail for safety, and just so it won’t snap into a million pieces when you stupidly crash at your next criterium in category forever 4.
For a complete bike, HIA is planning to offer a complete build starting at $4,000 with full Ultegra mechanical. 4k is a decent amount of money for a bike but a very competitive price if you’re already looking at custom U.S. made bikes.
No small details were overlooked, as evident by the metal badge here in the downtube that doubled as an access port if you choose to run a mechanical groupset by simply swapping it.
Also, if you think the paint job on the ALFA is bitchin’, that’s because it is in fact gorgeous. The in-house paint department, formerly known as SoCal’s Cyclart, definitely knows a thing or two when it comes to paint. HIA is hoping to introduce new paint finishes every week because 1: They can, and 2: Showing up to a group ride on a bike with the same bike same paint job as someone else is just not fresh.
Infinity Bike Seat ($170-$295)
I was skeptical when I first saw the seats from Infinity. If there’s a museum of awkward looking saddles, the Infinity is probably going to be there. Afterall, where is my bottom supposed to go? So I gave the Infinity a shot during the presentation and surprise surprise, nothing catastrophic happened contrary to conventional wisdom. The saddle is finicky to test and to review upon, much less in a short demonstration. But the Infinity saddle felt different than other split saddles that I’ve tried. Perhaps it’s the next big thing after the latest clipped nose saddle rage?
But seriously, though, don’t judge a seat by its (lack of) cover.
Cipollini MCM custom($3,872 frameset)
Almost a 180 degree difference from the Alfa aforementioned above, the Cipollini MCM is the Italian racer-turned-maker’s first made-to-order fame. For $3,872, you’ll get a slippery-looking carbon aero bike with custom geometry and custom finishes on a frame loaded with all the latest standards such as a tapered headtube, a BB86 bottom bracket, and mechanical/electronic shifting compatibilities. What’s more, the MCM will accommodate sizes from 44cm all the way to 63cm with tire clearance for 28C tires across the board.
While we’re on the MCM, it’s also worth mentioning the MCM2 that I feel is even more compelling. The MCM2 is currently still in the development phase and wasn’t shown at PressCamp, but it is in essence a MCM with an integrated electric motor. The current prototype is said to be around 10kg/22lbs but we should have more info on the bike soon. Hate eBikes all you want but I think the MCM2 is one of the hottest eBikes I’ve seen this year and it actually looks like a normal bike.
Don’t even think about bringing the MCM2 to your local races, though, that’s just wrong.
We hinted at the arrival of an unnamed Ridley whip in our 10 drool-worthy items list and now it has finally arrived, name and all.
The all-new Ridley X-Trail.
The X-Trail is a Swiss-army knife of a bike that can do it all. It’s the Belgium bike maker’s answer for the growing segment of all-road riding.
My time with the then prototype X-Trail was limited to a few short rides during Bike PressCamp but the bike was impressive to say the least.
The X-Trail is a disc-only, using Shimano’s new flat mounting standard for a cleaner appearance. It will be using the Pressfit BB86 bottom bracket standard. By running PF BB86, Ridley engineers were able to allow more tire clearance while keeping the Q-factor at a minimum. As such, the X-Trail will accommodate up to 40C tires.
The frame is also nicely integrated with the fork similar to the Noah SL for better stiffness and aerodynamics. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
The front uses a 15x100 thru-axle that's a popular standard in mountain bike fork. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly.
The rear uses the proven 12x142 thru axle for security and stiffness. All cables are neatly routed internally and it's compatible with both mechanical and electronic shift systems. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly.
Originally dubbed the X-Project, the X-Trail sports a full carbon frame build with Ridley's 30T and 24T High Modulus Carbon, as well as a 27.2 seatpost for better bump compliance. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly.
The Ridley X-Trail. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly.
Ridley had test samples loaded with 27C and 40C Challenge rubbers at BPC. With each different tire width comes a slight change of the bike’s personality, narrower for more road and wider for more gnar. The 15×100 front and 12×142 rear thru-axles also stiffen the bike while making wheel changes a faster ordeal. The fork weighs in at a claimed 490 gram while a medium frame weighs competitively at about 1055 gram.
It’s as if someone threw a Helium SL, a Noah SL and a X-Knight into a blender and out came the X-Trail.
The bike feels like a road bike and cornering was very planted during the initial road test. With its bottom bracket placed in between a road bike and a cross bike, the X-Trail had the best of both worlds. Switching to the off road trails around Deer Valley was seamless and the X-Trail was eager to take up whatever challenge I pointed it towards. With the 40mm tires installed, it was reminiscent of an aggressive rigid 29er that doesn’t beat me up at the end of the ride, largely thanks to Ridley’s use of a 27.2 seatpost. The Shimano brakes were also confidence inspiring. I knew I’d be able to stop when I needed to with nothing more than a light squeeze at the lever. We also love the fender mounts for the wetter days.
They really mean it when they say it’s an all-road bike. We can’t wait to test the production version for a more thorough review.