First Ride: Look 675 - Fast, comfortable… integrated
Integration is key to Look's new long haul speed machine which we rode at Eurobike
Look's striking and distinctive new 675 is the company's latest bike, launched just before the Tour de France this year. Integration is the name of the game here, with a stem design that offers easy height and reach adjustment and, say Look, increased stiffness over conventional designs.
Now, usually when a bike company launches a new bike it goes right in at the top, forcing the previously range-topping model down a rung. Not so with the 675, which instead slots in below the 695, launched two years ago. It's aimed at those wanting a comfortable and fast endurance bike in what is becoming a hotly contested segment of the road cycling market.
A unique feature of the frame is the integrated Direct Drive A Stem. It's certainly a striking looking piece of kit, a 3D forged and machined aluminium stem that blends seamlessly into the top tube, and provide between -15 and +15 degrees of height adjustment. Reach too can be adjusted by rotating a half-moon spacer in the handlebar clamp. Different length stems from 80 to 120mm are available.
As well as giving a clean line from the handlebar to to integrated seat clamp, the design eliminates the usual stack of spacers that, to some eyes, can blight the aesthetics of a bike (especially when there's a few of them). Reach and height adjustments are also made without affecting the bearing preload, so changes can be quicker if you like a different height setup depending on the type of ride you’re going on.
Integration is something we're starting to see a lot more frequently. Most time trial bikes, where aerodynamics is the key design criteria, have integrated stem/headset solutions. We're now starting to see this trickle over into road bikes, as aerodynamics is the last area of untapped potential.
This isn't the first Look to have such a design, the top-end 695 has an integrated stem with the more complex C-Stem. Asked why Look are so interested in integration, Product Manager Fred Caron tells us that it “allows increasing [of] the quality by freeing oneself of present standards: we develop our own products because we can make more performing products than those found up to now on the market.”
Look have used all their carbon know-how to build a bike that, while it looks supremely fast, with the dramatic front-end and racy decals, is aimed at the endurance/sportive market. Comfort has been a key factor of the design of the rear stays, their flattened sections to encourage compliance over bumps and lumps. Weight for the frame is a claimed 1150g (for a 54cm model).
Integration continues with the seat clamp, which continues the clean lines and aerodynamics of the frame. The seat post is 27.2mm and combines with the rear stays to deliver some comfort. Up front is a 350g carbon fork with a steerer tube designed specifically with the a-stem in mind. The headset is tapered with a , a 1.5in lower bearing diameter and a regular 1 1/8in up top.
The 675 I got to ride at the Eurobike Demo Day came fitted with a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset. The Di2 wires are neatly tidily inside the frame contributing to the clean lines the bike exhibits, and the battery is mounted underneath the down tube just ahead of the bottom bracket.
Unlike the 695, this bike saves money by not using the one-piece Zed 2 chainset and instead uses a regular crank with a 86.5mm press-fit bottom bracket. Mavic Cosmic Carbone wheels and tyres, Look seat post and handlebars and a Fizik Ardea saddle complete the package on this bike. No UK prices yet but we know the bike pictured here will cost €4,499. A frame and fork package will be in the region of €2,500.
Riding the 675 the first impression is just how fast and direct the bike feels. Steering is lively and engages with my desire to sling it about the buttery smooth undulating German roads, and the carbon frame and fork respond with a direct and stiff feeling.
It feels short and compact, I feel a tad cramped – some time properly adjusting the handlebar and stem wasn't permitted with this test. This doesn't prevent me from revelling in how communicative the bike is. There's a great connected-to-the-front-wheel feeling, the sense the handlebars are relaying accurate and detailed information from the front tyre comes through strongly. Look say a stiffer front-end is a key feature of the integrated design. It seems to work.
And it feels incredibly fast. Acceleration is good out of the saddle and when heaving on the drops, lunging for the top of the hill, the 675 feels very willing. It's certainly no slouch and it satisfies my inner racer.
It may have been a short ride but the 675 was really impressive. It manages to be fast and very lively, yet it's clearly got comfort in mind with the tall front-end and bump taming rear stays. A longer test on UK roads of a longer duration then this brief ride will be needed to get a really thorough assessment of it's performance… I'll be putting my name down for that.
And its place in this competitive market place. There's a lot of bikes trying to offer the best of both worlds, speed and comfort. We've ridden the new Felt Z2 and the likes of the new Specialized Roubaix and Trek Domane are all pitching for the same sort of rider, someone who wants a bike that is fast and comfortable. 2013 could be an interesting year.