US brand Blue were showing their range at the Cycle Show 2011 over the weekend – and one of their bikes was arguably the slickest looking road bike on display at the Birmingham NEC.
Blue have been around for six years and in the UK for the past three. Their presence in the marketplace isn’t huge but it’s growing. The brand is best known in the triathlon area but they’re also showing their standard road bikes, aero road bikes and cyclocross bikes at the Cycle Show.
The Axino SL road bike, which was new to the 2011 range, is the looker of the bunch. We fell in love a bit, to be truthful. It’s available with blue and white graphics but the version with shadow graphics and red highlights has to be the one. It’s super cool.
That’s a high modulus (T800) carbon frame with a BB30 bottom bracket and a tapered head tube – it’s 1 1/8in up top and 1 ½ in at the bottom, which is a configuration that many brands now go for on their high-end performance bikes to beef up the stiffness at the front end.
The bottom bracket and rear stays are constructed as one-piece in the mould. This isn’t unique to Blue, but it’s not the normal way of doing things. Usually, the stays are attached afterwards. Blue reckon their method of construction, which they call the Direct Drive System, provides better power transfer.
The cable routing is internal and the front fork is full carbon. It comes as a frameset for £1,849.
Blue also do aero road bikes in the shape of the AC1 and the AC1 SL. The AC1 is T700 carbon, the AC1 SL is higher modulus – T800 and T1000 – and a different carbon lay up. Again, you get a BB30 bottom bracket here but Blue have kept the head tube skinny with a 1 1/8in bearing at each end.
The carbon fork, down tube and seatstays are all slim, that down tube tucking in close behind the front wheel to manage the airflow. The seat tube is cutaway around the leading edge of the rear wheel and all the cables run internally. You could easily attach a set of clip-on aerobars and time trial on this bike.
Again, it’s a good-looking piece of work… but it won’t replace the Axino SL in our affections. The AC1 SL frameset is priced at £2,299 with the AC1 £1,799.
Blue haven’t just stuck a bunch of aero-looking features together here and hoped for the best. They’re the real deal when it comes to cutting drag, having done their research and development in the A2 Wind Tunnel in Charlotte, North Carolina. They’ve also recruited the tunnel’s bicycle expert, Mike Giraud, as their product development specialist.
Blue produce three TT/triathlon bikes built with similar frame shapes. The Triad SL is the top-end model coming with a T800/T1000 carbon frame and a bayonet-style fork that extends upwards in front of the head tube as well as through it.
The stem is integrated with the fork but it’s not a UCI-legal front end, if that’s an issue for you. The Triad Ex, on the other hand, gets a standard steerer setup, albeit with an old-style skinny 1in headset.
According to Blue, the idea of the chainstays running parallel to the ground before kinking up – they call them Power Arc chainstays – is that it creates a wind shadow for the cassette and the rear mech. Oh, and you can mount the clamp in two different positions on top of the seat post to change the seat angle between 76° and a super-steep 80°.
Blue’s cyclocross bikes are unchanged from last year, but we didn’t look at them last year so here you go…
This is the Norcross EX, the mid-level model with a T700 carbon frame. There are T800 and alloy versions too, all of them with canti brakes although there’s bound to be a disc version next time around. They’re all BB30 with tapered head tubes too.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.