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CYFAC Tigre: Testing Race Bred Full Custom Carbon
In the bike world, bigger seems to mean better for lots of frame manufacturers… Get a few sales going, land a pro team deal, get popular, then sell out, farm out, produce your own Jersey / helmet / lawn and garden line… all while trying to get people to think back to your roots when you only made a great bike. Not so with Cyfac, and they have maintained that boutique position for a few decades, despite very high sales pressure.

I had heard lots of stories of (relatively) old school Pro’s that would rather get hung from hooks by their Achilles tendons than let someone besides Francis Quillon (Cyfac’s Big Brie) build their bike. I had “cool old lugged steel” on my mind when asked if we could stop by and was kinda floored at seeing the new stuff…

At the top of their range is Cyfac’s Tigre and somehow, that’s what showed up for test.

Click the thumbnail above for the big picture

Now there are lots of Carbon bikes around today, some with paint, and even more with nothing at all… We were happy to see that the weight weenies haven’t dictated too much to Cyfac, as we got such a hot yellow bike. And, with us having passed the thousand distractions mark, I thought I would show the female Pezians out there the guy who paints now and again… The only thing more perfect than the finish on the bike is this guy’s hair…

Finnish aside, it’s what goes on under the clear coat that makes the Tigre special, and topping that range is that Cyfac can make this completely custom!

You can use Cyfac’s measurement system, but will more likely need to find an excellent fitter near you. But Cyfac can fab this tuned to your specs with variable wall thickness and angles to give you a one off carbon bike. And something that you either did or didn’t notice is that the “tube” shapes are far different than anything else in custom carbon. No lugs here, so Cyfac can use not only the fiber direction and wall thickness found in round tube customs, but they also have more freedom to use form and shape to further tune the ride. They do this with a carbon wrapping that looks like this in process…

And like this when done… (yep, we actually had two of these sweeties, one clear and one Yellow…)

The finished product looks very good and makes for extremely smooth and artful finish as in the head tube junction… (note a stout hidden-set platform)

Next on the tech front, and also available because of the lug free build process are the Opposite Curve System (OCS) tube profiles. They are an I-beam profile that helps limit Lateral flex and, depending on rider weight and frame size, the profile can have properties to suit the rider for twist resistance and also allow for (or limit) vertical compliance.

What you wind up with is not simply functional, but is also pretty damn nice to look at.

Note the details inset in the top and down tubes…

An interesting shape is at the leading edge of the down tube. Rather than going for the slightly oval (I call it faux-aero) look that some bikes go for, Cyfac stay with the OCS profile where they feel it functions best.

Heading out back, Cyfac have some of the more stout chain stays around. They start big and stay big to the drop out…

The Chain stays also get a bit of the OCS shaping with a large round section with a bit of a “V” down low. (And they toss in some more mid tube detail as well)

On the seat stay front, Cyfac go with what they call their “Double-Stay”. We have seen this on Kuota’s Khan as well and it’s just a damn nice system that makes more sense (and costs more to do) than the standard wishbone stays found on just about all bicycles…

The deal here is that the seat stays stay split and are connected more to the side of the seat post than to its center. This makes road buzz work a little harder to get to your butt and, in theory, it also makes for a bit better lateral stability, as the stays start and stay a bit wider. I can vouch for the nice ride of both the Tigre and the Khan that use this feature, but the added stability will require a more sensitive piece of gear than the thing that sits between my ears…

What’s in it?

The guts of all carbon bikes today are, erm… carbon. In Cyfac’s case, they also add Kevlar fiber (the light fabric you see) in high stress areas.

Cyfac use a very high modulus fiber that is known as T800H. Now checking with a few US carbon buddies, it was agreed that this carbon has great weight and stiffness properties. But that’s not all that is required to make a good carbon bike. In fact, use too much of a good thing, and don’t pay attention to fiber direction and choice of materials and you might as well not use carbon at all. Carbon can make a bike that rides rough and flexes too much, just like it can give you a bike that is both stiff and comfortable… To that end, Cyfac use different materials and several fiber direction tweaks to tune the ride of the Tigre…

And because they hand wrap and finish the joints (100% of the work is done by hand in La Fuye France by the way…), the build quality is extremely good. This extra work (far more expensive and time consuming than a bonded lug) also allows for custom angles at all of the joints.

Can it do the nasty?

We took delivery and slapped on the house and saddle wheel sets (as doing a bike test with these two things not being what you’re familiar with is less a bike test than a saddle and wheel tests isn’t it?) and off we went.

As I roll out of the driveway, I get a pretty good impression from most bikes about how well they’ll soak up road buzz usually in the first few minutes. The street I live on isn’t horrible, but it’s worn enough that I could close my eyes (not a dangerous thing really as I ride pretty much the same way with eyes open) and tell you what a bike is made from without looking down, as long as the wheel set is the same and the tires are at 115… What I find with the Cyfac is what Eric at VeloEuropa (Cyfac’s US source) said I would. “The Frame was tuned for someone a little heavier than you and might feel a bit more racy” It’s got a little less buzz than bikes like the BMC SLT01 and Colnago’s E-1, but more than Kuota’s Khan, Colnago’s C-50… But that could change with different tube set.

After warm ups on day one it was into the steeps for some hill repeats… The lateral stiffness is very good on the Cyfac. Any time someone takes the time to name a part on their bike (this time the OCS) I always wonder if the company has one too many bored executives. In this case, someone probably came back from testing and said “that’s pretty good stiffness, what do you call that design?…” Laterally it felt stiff along the lines of Trek’s Madone SL (but with a little better smoothness…). It was also pretty damn light (Cyfac list it at 1100 grams frame and fork, but we’re pretty sure that’s a typo and closer to a frame weight) and the bike complete was 16 lbs and change. Something else I liked was that it didn’t have the nervous feel that you get with some light weights. I didn’t feel like the bike would be upset at the slightest nudge, and being relaxed is probably more of an energy saver on longer rides than 100 grams of frame weight could ever be.

What comes up most go down, and curves are nice to toss in the mix… I am extremely spoiled in this category now, as I have a couple of absolutely insane custom bikes here that spoil me for either super responsive quick turning or great stability at high speed. This bike sits more in the stability at speed category. It has a nice ability to stay stable, although the vertical compliance is a bit less than I would like for soaking up a little more chatter, but the fairly laid back geometry makes for allowing you to be a little more relaxed when the speeds are pretty high.

With the increased stiffness, acceleration is very good on this bike. Built as it is, it has more of a racing feel to it (than a comfort feel). A little on the stiff side, but with relaxed and stable geometry that let you keep the speed that you just kicked your own ass to build up… It doesn’t take much to see why guys earning a living like what Cyfac produce. The thought that I could have spec’d this to be a bit more compliant and a little more centered is scary. It was very good as is, and knowing that the fit could be perfected and the tube set changed means this bike would sit in the wheel house of top line bikes from Calfee, Parlee, Serotta and Seven.

Where have I heard that name before???

If you’re like lots of my riding buddies here in the US (that got into cycling the first time some American guy was winning tours) you might “seem to remember the name Cyfac”, but can’t put your finger on it. If you’re a Euro-Cyclist and have been at it for a while, you know who they are…

You have heard rumors of their bikes being under current guys like Laurant Brochard or a few of the AG2R or Cofidis guys, and we know from having the ear to the ground that Francis Quillon and company have their bikes all over the peloton…

One of my favorite brown wrapper frame stories is the one where Laurent Fignon was out training the Wednesday before San Remo and took a flop while motor pacing. He screwed his frame and, rather than use the non Francis Quillon back up, they ring him up and say, Hi, we know it’s only a day and a half away, but can you whip out another frame by Friday so we have time to build it up for Saturday? And it’s not like Francis was standing at the foot of the Pogio, torch and tubes in hand waiting for the call. No pressure though, and Saturday afternoon Fignon rolls in with the arms raised…

And it wasn’t just the normal guys that Cyfac built a reputation on. Take Thierry Bourgignon for example. Here’s a guy that has the power to turn a railroad tie into a pretzel, yet was such a whack job for a body that, at 6 foot 4” he took a 64 seat tube and a 54.5 top! (I am 5’8 and run a 54.5…) Take things like toe and knee clearance and head angle into account and there’s a custom bike for you…

Today, Cyfac obviously remember where they came from. Take a founder that started, like so many of the greats, simply fixing things and racing bikes and winding up so good at it that people start to request your work, and you come up understanding that there is a bit of you in everything you do, and that people will judge you on every bike you make.

It is with that in mind that Cyfac only knock between 1300 and 2000 frames a year… While there are bike makers that will only do 2000 in a month if their factory caught fire in the first 10 days of a month, Cyfac know that if they want to control quality for their standard sizes and still handle the tremendous amount of work that goes into providing a very high number of customs to the pro’s as well as the custom Tigre, they have no choice but to stay focused.

they also do an incredible custom carbon TT bike

They are so tuned in to the one-off work that if you ordered a custom Tigre most times it would take about 10 weeks, but if you ordered it just before the pro training camps started you would wait an extra month (or more). And it makes sense to go custom with Cyfac. As they can sell more than they can make, You’ll not see many floating around the neighborhood (Cyfac only sell a couple of hundred a year to the US). In fact, this is one of the more exclusive brands in the world…

Of course if you were the top dog on a top team and it was two days before Milan San Remo, your lead time averages 36 hours (but you need to have your own team brand stickers ready)…

If you’re on the east coast (or any coast really) you can call the folks at Cadence Cycling in Philly for one of these babies. They’ll set you back about what you would pay for other top line customs, $4,199 frame and fork. Should you want to find a retailer closer, or if you want a better look at VeloEuropa’s full line from Cyfac, you can find em and

Note: if you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

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