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?
The Paint. That’s right, the paint. It was the paint job on this steed that first caught my attention.
Sure, this is a terrible and vain thing to say, but the paint on this Focus Paralane was truly eye catching at the InterBike media preview night last fall (more on the paint later).
If you’ve never been to one of these preview nights, let me tell you, what gets shown is usually anyone’s guess. You see a whole lot of e-bikes, questionable contraptions, and a tiny bit of sensible stuff.
So there I was hopping between booths and the Paralane was literally chilling next to the Focus booth. The booth guys were pushing a really nice e-bike, but I couldn’t help but be curious about this brightly-colored endurance steed.
To be honest, endurance bikes, much like the American crossovers monstrosity (RIP station wagons), have never really enticed me. I am comfortable on my professionally-fitted road bike, I don’t intend to give that up anytime soon, and I love my station wagon.
Alas, a lot has changed since the introduction of the endurance bike segment and bicycles that fall within this growing category are pretty darn good these days. Standouts such as the Specialized Roubaix, Cannondale Synapse, and Trek Domane are just as fast, if not faster, than their pure-bred racing brethren in such that the line between a road bike and an endurance bike is so blurred, so difficult to ignore, just like the sentiment I got when I was shopping for a SUV recently and inevitably ended up looking at a bunch of crossovers. That’s not counting gravel bikes, either.
So I put in a request to review the bike. Then things got busy and I completely forgot about it. So imagine the surprise when the Paralane unexpectedly showed up one morning in early December. Maybe it was a bit of #newbikeday hype or maybe because, unlike Roubaix or the Domanae, I just didn’t know much about this bike.
It has been almost four months since I’ve swung my legs over the Paralane, and even though I love it so much, it was not without its quirks, or shall I say, quirky personality.
The Paralane that Focus sent over came with all the bells and whistles one would expect for $7,999. A lightweight disc-only carbon fiber frame with shaped Comfort Improving Areas (C.I.A), a stiff BB86 bottom bracket for power, 142×12 and 100×10 thru-axles coupled with Focus’ proprietary Rapid Axle Technology (R.A.T) to secure the wheels, with integrated internal cable routings.
Flatten chainstays to absorb vertical bumps.
Sculpted carbon forks for ride comfort.
Room for up to 35c tires.
Focus' own Rapid Axle Technology (R.A.T) to enable faster wheel change.
A quarter turn is all that's needed to secure the wheels
The stock Prologo Scratch saddle was comfortable but also heavy
Zipp Course 30 wheels with 28mm Continental Grand Prix 4 season rubbers
A clean cockpit with minimal wirings.
Our bike was kitted with a full SRAM RED eTap HRD compact group set, an Easton EC90 Aero handlebar, a Prologo Scratch saddle mounted and a unique-looking 25.4mm BBB CPX Plus carbon seatpost that’s not to be confused with LaVar’s BBB brand.
The only item that was not factory spec was the aluminum Zipp 30 Course Clincher (with factory spec 28mm Continental GP 4 Seasons). The bike will come with the Zipp 302 carbon clinchers and for comparison purposes, we spent half of our testing period on our benchmark Stan’s Avion Pro hoops with 25mm Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tires. As an added bonus, the Paralane also ships with removal mudguards.
One thing that immediately made an impression was the taller headtube along with its generous, relaxed geometry. Much to my lower back’s delight, I get to sit a bit more upright at the expense of losing a few watts for not being aerodynamic, but that’s not what this bike is designed for anyway.
According to Focus, the Paralane was intended for “leisure cyclists who like to spend longer in the saddle and don’t mind unsurfaced roads.” Well, that couldn’t be more true given its generous 50/34 compact crankset and 11-32 cassette. Yet the Paralane is so much more than a leisure machine that labeling it as such almost feels like I am sandbagging. The Paralane is one flippin’ fast steed that you can totally race with.
On the less than perfect NorCal roads, the Paralane is smooth, responsive, and stable at high-speeds. Those Comfort Improving Areas, a.k.a shaped stays, worked as advertised to soak up all the shitty road buzz without the need of any suspension elements. The bike has handling that’s direct and firm like an expertly tuned car worthy of the autobahn. Coupled with the powerful SRAM hydraulic disc brakes, the bike accelerates as well as it can stop on a dime.
I found that the more I cranked up the distance, the more efficient of a bike it was. My body didn’t scream at me (as much) at the end of those 100+ mile rides. Those 28mm Continental GP 4 Season weren’t only long lasting but also grippy in all-weather, performing admirably when I took them off the asphalt for some light gravel rides. SRAM’s eTap has also grown on me tremendously with its car-like paddle shifters as well. I really like its crisp, mistake-free touch and the ergonomics finally feel right.
I do wish there was more bar tape than just on the drops though, as the bare wing top, while gorgeous to look at, was slippery to behold. It’s a comfortable and stiff handlebar one would expect from Easton, but I would argue that an endurance bike like this one can be benefitted with more secure and padded hand positions, especially if unsurfaced roads are frequently visited.
Coming in at 16.9 lbs with the shipped wheels and 16.19 lbs with Stan’s Avion Pro/ 25c Schwalbe Pro One tubeless, with Shimano Ultegra pedals installed on both setups, the Paralane can obviously be lightened up a notch given Focus claims a painted 54cm frame weighs 907 grams minus the R.A.T thru axle. I truly believe doing so will further unlock the bike’s potential. Regardless of its weight, though, the Paralane has quickly become my favorite go-to bike to log those early season miles regardless of weather. The longer the ride, the more this bike’s personality shines. With the bike’s decidedly worry-free parts and the BB86 bottom bracket that didn’t creak once during the four month test period, my personal SuperSix Evo was starting to feel left out.
And that eyecatching, colorful paint job matches nicely with just about all of my questionably, colorful kit choices.
TL;DR: Trek is adding a few Domanes with gravel-specific trims to address the growing gravel segment.
Originally developed in 2012 as an endurance race bike to tackle the notoriously rough cobbled classics in Northern Europe, the Domane’s unique frame-flexing IsoSpeed decouplers have proven its worth in smoothening out those bumpy rides while going fast… exactly what one would look for in a gravel bike.
With that in mind, the Wisconsin giant decided to spec a few of the Domane bikes specifically for the gravel crowd. At its base, the frame and fork are identical to the regular endurance road brethren, but the differences are the inclusion of tubeless wheels and appropriately spec’d 35mm Schwalbe G-One tires.
There are three models of Domane Gravels to choose from:
The $1,789.99 entry-level ALR 5 gravel features an invisibly-welded Alpha aluminum frame with front and rear ISOSpeed, an ever-dependable Shimano 105 groupset and TEKTRO Spyre flat-mount mechanical disc brakes. The ALR 5 comes in seven sizes from 50 to 62cm and the bike in 56cm weighs at a claimed 21.23 lbs.
The $2,499.99 SL 5 Gravel gets a 500 Series OCLV carbon frame with front and rear ISOSpeed, Shimano 105 drivetrain with RS685 STI shifters and RS805 hydraulic flat mount road disc calipers. The SL5 comes in seven sizes from 50cm to 62cm painted in what Trek calls “Matte Shady Grey” and the 56cm bike reportedly weighs at about 20.22 lbs.
The top-flight Domane Gravel, aka the priciest of the three, uses a higher grade 600 series OCLV carbon with front and an adjustable rear ISOSpeed decoupler for a personalized tune, Shimano Ultegra mechanical group with hydraulic disc brakes, and lighter components all around to make it some three pounds lighter than the SL5.
The Domane SLR 6 Gravel starts at $5,499 only as part of Trek’s Project One custom program, but the upshot is that you can customize it anyway you like down to the paint for a fee.