2011 bikes from: Parlee, Passoni, Focus, Carrera, Merida and more
Handmade, super-light, and not very cheap… just some of the words to describe our latest gallery of 2011 show bikes
Show season is gathering pace now, but before we plunge in to this week's London Cycle Show let's take a look at another gallery of 2011 bikes from our trip to Eurobike (and there is still plenty more to come). This batch features big names doing interesting things in the shape of Focus and Merida, two of cycling's most respected boutique brands – Parlee and Passoni – and bikes from some of those interesting European bike makers that we don't see enough of in the UK: the likes of Guerciotti, Olmo, and first up…
Sadly we don't see anything of this Italian marque in Britain because Halfords own the rights to the name on these shores. It's a shame really because Carrera make some interesting and distinctive bikes - the big boned Hercules, and one of our favourites, the Phibra, a bike once unkindly described by a member of the road.cc team as looking like the preliminary design work had been done by a balloon sculptor. Harsh, and that was the 2010 version; for 2011 they've pumped the Phibra up a bit more. Not only does the deep section down tube get deeper still, it also gets internal cable routing, and to carry that theme through they've added a chunky fork up front too. And to our eye at least all the wiggly business on the seat tube has got a tad wigglier (technical term) although there does seem to be method as it gives a more pronounced curve around the rear wheel.
While chunky best describes the bottom half of the Phibra that top half is still all curves and lightness with an extremely elegant one-piece top tube/seat stay bisected by the inegrated seat post. Top marks for style.
More Italian style was on show at the Guerciotti stand. Our eye was invevitably drawn to the Michele Scarponi Giro d'Italia Ltd Edition bike with its striking black and orange livery. Beneath the paint is a 12k carbon weave frame hand built in Italy. The bike may be a limited edition to commemorate Scarponi's 2010 Giro feats (check out the writing on the seat stay), but the Guerciotti brothers obviously reckon that if you are riding one of their bikes that's the bit you will want to be shouting about, so the Guerciotti name gets top billing… well, Michelle only came 4th. For a more restrained approach to using the company logo check out the two very pretty Olmos. Oh, and that Pantani Corsair too.
When it comes total restraint in terms of logoing, colour schemes and basically everything except attention to quality the Parlees at Eurobike took the prize… in fact so restrained were the show bikes it was bloomin' difficult to tell which models were on display. We reckon it was a Z1 and a Z5 - the German distributor was calling the latter the Compact Road. Why the confusion? Well, Parlee offer so many custom options on their bikes in terms of geometry, sizing and top tube slope plus these bikes just said "Parlee" on them.
We're going with the Compact Road being a Z5 because of the lack of a seat lug and because those dropouts look to be all carbon - the Z5 is the only Parlee to have these features, both of which help, say Parlee, to make it one of the lightest frames in the world. The white Parlee is trickier to call; we've said Z1 but it could be a Z2 which is available in a more traditional look with a level top tube. Either way, like all other Parlees these two are available in a multitude of build options including loud as you like paint jobs for those who can only take just so much restraint.
When it comes to super-light bikes you don't neccesarily have to go the boutique route: Focus were showing off their Izalco Ultimate which weighed in at a feathery 4.99Kg shod with Sram Red, which is fancy enough, but of course the Ultimate sported some even more exotic finishing kit too. Notably it featured a Tune Smart Food BB30 crankset and THM Fibula carbon brakes. The one slight surprise is that the wheels aren't Lightweights (which do feature on some of the other high end Focus bikes), they're DT Swiss RRC tubulars and we're guessing they are not there for cost saving reasons.
Likely to be nearer a real world price tag (if still not cheap) is the Izalco Pro 1.0, which would appear to be the same high modulus carbon from as the Ultimate but with less bling finishing kit – we're talking relatively here. Both bikes have the super thin seat stays that were one of the defining characteristics of nearly all the new high end carbon bikes we've seen for 201 – the Cervelo R5 being the defining example – with the Izalco Pro benefiting from Liquid Force Shape Designed ones. With an emphasis on performance, lightness and comfort it certainly looks to be quite a package – definitely one for the road.cc test list.
Probably best known outside Germany for the twin top-tubed Bow mountain bike usually decked out with a retina stinging paint job, Corratec have always built road bikes too. As you'd expect, if you've ever seen the Bow or the SuperBow, they're not afraid to do things differently or to innovate. Corratec were one of the first, if not the first, bike company to start building their bikes with asymmetric head tubes so that the contact area with the fork crown race spreads the load over a wider surface area making for a stiffer, stronger front end that's less likely to be deflected by any imperfections in the road surface. Mr Corratec, Konrad Irbacher, spends a lot of time riding his bikes up and down mountains so he no doubt appreciates the value of riding something that can stick to a line. We met him earlier this year at the Raleigh dealer show when he was pondering whether to go with internal or external cable routing for the 2011 CCT, Corratec's road flagship.
Designed in cooperation with Italian frame builder Mauro Sannino, and with input from the road team Corratec sponsored (the mechanics weren't keen on internal routing) the CCT comes in a number of build options topping out with the CTT Pro Dura Ace Di2. The big theme on the CTT is stiffness: the headtube flares from 1 1/8 at the top to 1 1/2 at the bottom - shock absorbtion characteristics of this area are further enhanced by the fork steerer being elliptical rather than round so there's more surface area at the back. Clever.
The bottom bracket is also built for optimal stiffness. Interestingly another key feature of the bike is the Low Profile Chainstay which essentially gives more chain clearance, and less chance of it hitting the frame if you are running a compact or triple chainring.
Next up are these two new Reacto aero road models from Merida, Taiwan's bike building giant that isn't Giant. According to Merida the Reacto is the Ferrari to the Scultura Evo's Porsche 911 and there's plenty more such similar talk on the Merida website, here's a taster…
"REACTO – this means no-compromise reaction to even the slightest sprint impulses and the characteristics of a real power plant. Our REACTO knows just one direction: Straightforward into the top flight! Lead the peloton, bring more velocity to your training group and redefine your fastest finishing times – thanks to our REACTO, no sooner said than done!"
Fantastic! And we've got to say the Reacto has some really clever touches: the integrated-alike adjustable seat post, and the fact that you run it with either a BB30 or standard bottom bracket. Internally a spine runs down the inside of the downtube to stiffen things up while while many of the main tubes share the same aero optimised profiles used on Merida's TimeWarp "cyberspeed weapon" TT bike. None of these things are unique in themselves, but combining them all together does make for a very interesting bike and if either of the Reacto models we saw, the Team 20 or the 909 are even half as good as Merida say they are they should be very special machines indeed - they're on the test list too.
Going a little easier with the superlatives, possibly because they don't have to, Passoni were showing off some jaw droppingly beautiful bling bikes in carbon, steel and, of course, titanium, all with a host of custom options and all with price tags to match – naturally.
Where to start? Well wooden rims might be "soo 2008" to some people, but some people are philistines so let's look at the Top Genesis - Passoni's take on new old school cycling. So you get a beautifully state of the art titanium frame with down tube shifters (carbon levers mind), and an old fashioned seat clamp. Those carbon downtube shifters snick you through a Campagnolo Super Record 11-speed drivetrain and that old school seat clamp grips a carbon seat post. Bonkers but beautiful and check out that Flite Carbonio saddle… with what appears to be a suede leather top. Nice.
Another eye-catcher is Passoni's 2011 Nero, their carbon bike. Again, a thing of real beauty - even in brown. In a way this is a similar take on timeless classicism as the Top Genesis, but coming from the other direction. With the Nero you are getting a super-light bonded carbon frame that's trying to look like an old school steel bike… with titanium detailing. "Evolved tradition" is what Passoni call it.
The Lightsteel is tradition evolved in a different way, here Passoni have taken a traditional material, steel as if you hadn't guessed, and built a bang up to the minute frame out of it. In their 2011 catalogue Passoni introduce the Lightsteel with the phrase "History does not go forward" - which is either an old Italian proverb, or they've just made that up, but we'll forgive them for that for the level of finish detail and the interesting parts choices on the bike at the show, particularly that V-Strong One cranskset.
We spent a long time on the Passoni stand - looking at first the Top Genesis, then the Nero, before tearing ourselves away to marvel, as we've done many times before at the wheels on the Nero XL and then clapping our eyes on a Passoni we'd not seen before – the Singlespeed. Yes, sigh, it is very beautiful. It comes with a flip flop hub, but the name would suggest that this is seen more as a bike to ride on the freewheel side; call me an old faddy duddy but I'd prefer to have two brakes rather than one front brake on offer here. Cool brake lever though. I don't have reference to any spec charts – I think I may have lost them somewhere between Germany and Bath – but to me the geometry looks very similar to that of the Top Genesis - certainly more road than track.
By contrast the Va Lentina, another newcomer to the Passoni range, is more track than road. This is Passoni's other urban bike, and it almost looks like it's aimed at the freestyle scene - crikey! Double crikey, because our own Mr Urban, TR wasn't all that smitten. "It's a bit grey" was his take and there's no real getting away from that, although "not special enough" was probably sticking the boot in unnecessarily considering the very neat lugwork on the Va Lentina's frame. Be interesting to see how much it costs and indeed who'd buy it. Bet someone will though… even if it's not TR. Check out the Va Lentina in our final gallery of fixed gear and singlespeed bikes from Eurobike, there's plenty more one geared loveliness in there too.