LOOK’s reputation as a true innovator and a unique voice in the cycling industry is well known through their clipless pedals that were brought into the peloton with the help of Bernard Hinault back in the ’80’s that changed cycling forever. At the time people laughed at the idea, traditionalists turned up their noses and there were concerns about reliability, weight and more – concerns that were all thrown out the window very quickly after Hinault won the Tour de France a short time later with his ‘safety pedals’.
The Badger in full flight with his early Look pedals
The history of Look pedals can now be traced back to countless stage wins at the Tour, overall victories and more and the evolution of the pedals continues to this day with the Keo Blade 2 now being the go-to pedal for 40% of the pro peloton. This past week’s product launch wasn’t about pedals though but about their new top of the line road bike.
It’s impossible to talk about Look without talking about their pedals, and Hinault himself was on hand to share some anecdotes about the company with which he worked so closely for many big victories. Other famous riders there included Laurent Jalabert, Luc Leblanc, Jean-Francois Bernard, David Moncoutie and more. The presentation about the 30 years of innovation from LOOK was an interesting hilighted the various technologies they’ve introduced into the peloton from clipless pedals to carbon bikes, power meters and more.
Laurent Jalabert and Luc Leblanc on stage discussing old times
But we were really gathered together in Paris for the launch of LOOK’s new ‘top of the line’ roadbike that Look says will revolutionize the industry. That was all the info I’d been given before the launch and I was intrigued as to how the engineers could have come up with anything any more top line in just a year since the 695. This was a bike that I first saw at Eurobike last year and quickly claimed it as my favorite of the whole show. It was a big call as Eurobike is the biggest and best bike show in the world with literally thousands of bikes on offer, but the 695’s aero properties and the detail and engineering that went into that bike pushed it above and beyond the others for me. Could this new bike deliver again?
The short answer was – yes! The engineering team took their experience with the 695 and improved an already aero and advanced machine to make something that’s even more aero and advanced – an impressive effort indeed. Let’s take a look at some of the changes that CEO Dominique Bergin and his team of engineers talked us through.
LOOK CEO Dominique Bergin was on hand for the launch and was extremely proud of his company’s latest offering, “The best aero road bike – ever!”
The changes over the 695 aren’t huge in the actual look of the machine but on closer inspection, more extensive changes have been designed with three main factors in mind: better aerodynamics, better usability and better fit. This has all been achieved while keeping the weight of the machine very similar to the 695 (ie: very light) that depending upon spec of the machine sees the 795 easily complying with the UCI’s 6.8kg weight limit or even falling underneath it.
The new 1.5k carbon frame has been completely redesigned with all tubes now using the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) aerofoil form that has been validated by aerodynamics engineers and then wind-tunnel tested to prove to be even more aerodynamic than the already slippery fast 695. How fast? Well LOOK claim through their extensive wind tunnel testing that the 795 Aerolight achieves an impressive 11.7% improvement in terms of aerodynamics compared to a traditional road bike which could translate to a saving of as much as a 1m14s over 100km on a level course at 300 W of power.
Along with the NACA aero tubing a big part of the aerodynamics of the 795 Aerolight is the front brake integrated into the fork which remains from the 695 Aerolight but has been upgraded to be more user friendly and easier to adjust than the previous model.
The brake is also claimed to be more powerful but more interesting to me on the front end was the cable integration. Every cable is routed into the steerer tube and thanks to some very nifty engineering the cables aren’t seen again until they come out at their respective component. This is the same situation for both electronic and mechanical groupsets.
Now speaking of electronic groupsets the 795 and 795 Aerolight are only available with Shimano Di2 as the current Campag battery is not compatabile and the brakes are designed with the pull of either a Shimano or Sram lever in mind. LOOK had a number of 795’s built up with Sram red on display which weighed in at just 5.77kg and a whole host of 795 Aerolights with Shimano Ultegra Di2 that myself and a few other lucky guests would get to ride – but more on that later.
For the 795s equipped with Di2 the junction box is hidden in the top tube for maximum aero efficiency
More aero gains come from the new look integrated stem that weighs just 149 grams but more importantly has a huge range of adjustment from -13° to +17° which means that no messy and unaerodynamic spacers are needed. The stem can be combined with a standard handlebar or for maximum aero effect (and maximum $) combined with LOOK’s new ADH handlebar which is a carbon bar that’s been developed with their experience with track riders. The tops are flat, it has an ergonomic and wind tunnel tested aero shape that is extremely stiff with a 120mm drop and 75mm reach.
The seatpost, ‘E-Post 2′ is once again similar to the 695 but with some nice changes in ease of use. It still houses the Di2 battery but the post is now easily removed and reinstalled with one half turn of an allen key. It’s also compatible with Monolink and standard rails and weighs 139g.
The Zed 2 crankset on the 695 at last year’s Eurobike – one solid piece for maximum stiffness
Down to the business end of the bike now with the bottom bracket which is a massive affair that houses LOOK’s exclusive ZED 2 one-piece carbon crankset that is quite simply a work of art and one of the reasons that I and many others lauded over the 695 so much at Eurobike last year. The Zed 2 is one solid piece of carbon that quite frankly blows other cranksets out of the water with its stiffness to weight ratio. The crank length is also variable (170, 172.5 and 175) thanks to its three-lobe insert.
170, 172.5 or 175mm cranks – all by changing the direction of the three lobe insert and done within a manner of seconds
Still down at the bottom end of the bike now, lets look at the rear brake.
On the 695 it was a LOOK branded brake but they’ve now changed to Shimano for better serviceability and extra braking power – one of the few complaints they had from the 695 in fact was in relation to problems with the early version’s rear brake so a change to Shimano reliability is a good call.
Ok enough of the stats and features of the bike – it was time to go outside and ride one! I made my way outside where the mechanic was busy preparing 30 bikes with the right sizes for the lucky guests that got to ride one and I was finally able to get a close up look of both the 795s and the 795 Aerolights without 100 people in the background pointing and poking at the bikes.
This was a cool collection of machines just waiting for their maiden ride
There were also some 795s with standard brakes amongst the collection outside
With the CEO, marketing people and the mechanic’s boss still inside I had unlimited access to 30 bikes plus a great source of information that can often prove more valuable than any user manual or technical spec sheet – the Look mechanic. His opinion on the 795 ad 795 Aerolight?
“Unbeatable. I liked the 695 but the 795 is just so easy to work on now. Brake adjustment, saddle height, stem – everything. Let’s set one up for you now…”
Two minutes later, I had a 795 Aerolight of my own set up and ready to go
It was specced with Ultegra Di2, Mavic Carbon Cosmic wheels…
and a 3T Carbon handlebar instead of the ADH Handlebar
It was now time to blow off this conference center and hit the road for a ride on this highly engineered beauty to test out all the claims I’d been hearing all day long.
Although I was changed and ready to go in record time, the 30 other VIPS in this exclusive 795 peloton were not ready so I contented myself with laps around the car park while waiting. First pleasant surprise was the handling – direct and responsive at slow car park speeds. The mechanic had set this 795 up with the exact measurements of my own bike back home but it was amazing the difference in feel. I was expecting differences in stiffness, responsiveness and the like but the handling was simply superb and a pleasant surprise. I’ve tested a few ‘aero road bikes’ in the past which have been let down by the handling and were more suited for time trials but this one just wanted to be pushed into the corners and then rebound out of them – It didn’t feel like an ‘aero’ bike.
My own personal car park criterium was eventually finished after the others got ready and it was now time to hit the streets of Paris to get to our test course, the famous Hippodrome – a mecca for all Parisien cyclists. With some red lights, traffic and a mixed peloton with varying skill levels from ex professionals to rank amateurs I had a few good occasions to test out the braking capabilities of the Aerolight.
If you’d have blindfolded me and asked me what brakes I had on board I’d have sworn that I was on carbon rims with carbon specific pads and something like standard Shimano brakes – there is no way I’d have guessed that I was on a machine with fully integrated, aero brakes. The braking was solid, predictable and stopped me with minimal effort. The ‘20% braking performance improvement’ that LOOK claimed earlier in the presentation was unnoticeable to me – it just felt ‘normal’. I personally had no different feelings than a bike with standard brakes which as far as I’m concerned is a good thing.
The same couldn’t be said for my other feelings on bike though where there was nothing normal about the bike with the sensations from the 795 screaming just one word – fast! This bike was crying out to be ridden at high speeds, something I was able to do as soon as we hit the 3km long hippodrome circuit as our 30 strong peloton quickly became no more than half a dozen riders after the first couple of laps at 45kph. I’m guessing the speed here as I had no computer but we were riding quick that was for sure and the bike felt lively, in its element and pushing for more.
This is what this bike is all about – going fast. Sure it would be a great café stop machine as I personally find it good looking but it would be a crime to own one and not race it. It’s designed to be the fastest road bike ever and although these are claims that I could never back up in a simple short ride there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s the quickest bike that I have ever ridden. Responsive, stiff and able to sit at high speeds with relative ease I was in love but my test ride was over all too quickly…
The 795 is available in the white model I was riding and also in this Carbon Red…
and my personal favorite, Premium Proteam colors
The engineering that has gone into the 795 is a marvel with its 11 patents and in house production between LOOK’s Tunisian and French factories putting it a long way from certain other manufacturers Asian efforts. Consequently the cost to make a 795 or 795 Aerolight your own is significant and you’ll be looking at $6999 US for the 795 while the 795 Aerolight will MSRP for $7699 for the frame/fork/headset/seatpost/crank/stem. The 795’s are currently available in France and the rollout to the rest of the world is happening right now with the first shipments expected to hit North America end of August/start of September. For more info and to find your local dealer you can check out www.lookcycle.com Keep it tuned to PEZ for more on the 795 from Eurobike at the end of August as I’ve already booked another ride on the 795 at the show as one ride was simply not enough.