Relaunched in 2015, Estrella – originally set up by Paralympic cyclist Darren Kenny in 2009 – offers a range of bikes covering everything from road racing to cyclo-cross and time trialling, with the rather boldly painted Camino Liso being its top end road model, here in Campagnolo Potenza guise. With a stiff frame and performance geometry, it's ready for competition.
My first ride on the Camino Liso was a three-hour jaunt around Wiltshire which took in a bit of everything – some climbing, descending, tapping out a rhythm on the country lanes to full-on blasting it along one of the county's major trunk roads. First impressions were good and the Estrella felt confident and solid beneath me pretty much everywhere.
The comfort was one of the most notable things, as the Camino Liso does a very good job of dulling out road vibration – way more than I was expecting for a frame with such oversized tubing.
The Estrella is very stiff, too, which often means there are compromises with comfort, but that doesn't seem to happen here. The lack of resonation through the frame means the Camino Liso isn't tiring to ride, because your muscles and contact points aren't getting that constant chatter from the ground being passed through to them. I finished the majority of my rides feeling very fresh.
With such a stiff frame, the Estrella is pretty responsive to acceleration and sprinting, making it ideal for circuit races with lots of corners to sprint of, and with its long and low geometry you can crouch down and keep the speed up for the straights.
Even if you aren't racing, the Estrella covers a lot of ground quite quickly. If fast training rides or sportives are more your thing, it's easy to keep it moving along on undulating terrain thanks to a reasonable weight of 7.8kg (17.2lb) – which means it's no slouch in the hills either.
At high speed, especially on descents, the only thing I would say is that the handling could be sharper – for a bike of this style. It felt fine on that first ride because I wasn't really pushing things too much while I was getting acquainted with the bike. Thinking I'd got the measure of the Estrella, subsequent rides saw me taking a few more risks and really chucking the bike into the bends, and then the response left me a little underwhelmed. The geometry and style of this bike points it at the racer or quick weekend warrior, so I was hoping for a little bit more snappiness to the steering, like that of the Boardman Pro Carbon SLR, a bike of very similar style and price to the Camino Liso.
On the same test roads the Boardman always turned in just that little bit quicker, and thanks to the amount of feedback the frameset was giving, you could really carry the speed through the bend. The Camino Liso feels just that little bit muted in terms of talking to you, which takes something away from the whole riding experience.
What I will say for the front end, though, is that it is very stiff, with the tapered head tube and corresponding fork steerer working excellently against the forces of the Campagnolo Skeleton brake callipers – some of my favourites.
Estrella has managed to keep plenty of comfort in those large fork legs too.
Frame and fork
The Camino Liso is manufactured using Toray's T1000 carbon fibre, a grade with the highest tensile strength in its range used in the cycle industry. This, and the actual shape and size of the tube diameters, is what makes the Estrella so stiff.
Like I mentioned above, the head tube is tapered, providing a large surface area to join the huge, square section down tube. Following the usual theme, the bottom half of the frame is full of large chunky profiles.
The bottom bracket junction is probably double the size of what you'd find on a metal frame, as the down tube, seat tube and chainstays all blend into one massive section. A lot of carbon frames take the option of going for press fit bottom bracket bearing cups because it allows for a wider BB shell while keeping the same Q-factor (the distance between the cranks), but Estrella has stuck with tried and tested external threaded bearings, and the frame doesn't suffer because of it.
For comfort, the seatstays are flattened – which Estrella calls Stop Shock Technology (SST) – no doubt done to promote flex. Like I say, the Camino Liso is a comfortable bike, so everything must be helping.
The frame is set up for both mechanical and electronic groupsets with internal routing for both cables or wires, although one thing I did find irritating was that after one wet ride small bits of grit must have been sprayed into the entry ports and the outer cables started to creak every time I turned the handlebar.
The geometry is aimed at the racier end of the market, with this medium model coming with a 550mm top tube, 145mm head tube, plus angles of 73.5 degrees for the seat tube and 73 degrees for the head. This gives a stack of 547.3mm and reach of 387.9mm (the vertical and horizontal measurements from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube) – a ratio of 1:41.
Estrella charges £1,175 for the frameset and it also offers a crash replacement discount of 50 per cent, which is good news if you are going to ride it competitively.
One of Estrella’s trump cards is being able to offer a fairly wide level of customisation. Everything from the paint job, crank length, handlebar width, stem length, saddle and tyres is tailored to specific requirements. The options are almost limitless, and this extends not only to the Camino Liso, but the other models in the Estrella range.
Estrella supplied a sample build with the new Campagnolo Potenza priced at £2,295 including an upgrade to Zonda wheels; Estrella is doing a special offer on this model at the moment though: a very respectable £1,995. You can also choose Shimano, 105 coming in at £1,795, Ultegra (£1,975) and Ultegra Di2 (£2,395) topping things off.
Potenza is Campagnolo's latest 11-speed groupset, sitting below Chorus in its range and aimed squarely at the part of the marketplace currently dominated by Shimano's Ultegra. It's the top level alloy groupset from the Italian company, with technology that has trickled down from the upgraded Super Record, Record and Chorus groupsets, most notably the sloped thumbshifter button adopted from the EPS models.
On older shifters the button stuck out horizontally from the side of the hood, but it is now angled steeply downwards, which makes the shift quicker and more natural for me. If you ride Shimano a lot, though, you'll notice that the paddle shifter on the Potenza has a much longer, firmer throw on it, which can catch you out if you don't push it far enough and mis-shift.
On the whole it is a very pleasing groupset to ride with; the hood shape is very comfortable, and the shifting is quick and a lot less clunky compared with previous Campag systems.
The test bike had a 50/34 chainset paired to an 11-27 toothed cassette, which gives a useful spread of gears for the style of riding the Estrella is aimed at. Remember though that you can specify any gearing you want so you can go higher or lower if you need.
As for the brake callipers, I'm a long-time fan of Campag's Skeleton variety. They offer great power and modulation so it was a joy to be using them again.
We've got a full review of the Potenza groupset coming up on road.cc real soon.
Sticking with the Campag theme, it's great to see a set of Zonda wheels being specced in the standard build. The Zondas are a lightweight but solid aluminium wheelset, and certainly threw up no issues in testing. I had my own set a few years ago and was always impressed with how easy they felt to accelerate, and the bearings lasted forever considering the amount of wet-weather commuting I was doing on them.
The problem here, though, is that they are wrapped in some Innova 25mm tyres which are... well… how can I put this?... Crap!
The first time the front and rear went out from underneath me turning into a junction I thought I must have touched some ice or something, but carrying on with the ride I realised they just have a complete lack of grip. Even in the dry you'd feel them start to skitter about when going round a roundabout, say, so I very quickly swapped them out for Michelin Pro4s to bring some much needed confidence back to the ride. If you're speccing your own Estrella Liso we'd recommend upgrading the tyres.
For the record, for the few miles they were on the bike the Innovas rolled okay and didn't suffer any punctures.
The saddle was another sore point, quite literally. The Suchi SC30 is a bulky design and I found it very uncomfortable when on the bike and for quite a while afterwards too. It did break in a bit after a while, but saddles are such a personal thing and it might well work for you, and of course you can choose any saddle you want when speccing your own Estrella.
The rest of the finishing kit is Estrella-branded alloy stuff, the handlebar, stem and carbon seatpost all doing a decent enough job without being overly stiff.
The Camino Liso is competitively priced and the level of customisation available allows you to get the bike just the way you want it, but it is a very busy price point, and it's up against some stiff competition, not least the earlier mentioned Boardman Road Pro Carbon SLR, coming in at £1,799 with a SRAM Force group and Mavic Ksyrium wheels, and 800g lighter too.
Another comparison could be the recently reviewed Cannondale SuperSix Evo with Shimano 105 and Mavic Aksium wheels, which is practically the same price as the Camino Liso 105 model.
If you want Campagnolo, though, your choices are limited – for more options have a look here.
Overall, the Camino Liso is a decent bike for riding quickly as its stiff frame really delivers the power, and the comfort levels are very good indeed. But when you compare it to the two mentioned above it is just lacking the responsiveness and sharpness in the handling I'd want from a bike designed for racing.
Both the Boardman and Cannondale are much more positive in the bends, so if you really like to have a blast through the twisty bits then they would be better choices. They both match the Estrella in terms of stiffness and comfort, so it's not like you're sacrificing one for the other.
If descending like a loon isn't your thing, then the Estrella has got plenty going for it. It's easy to ride at a rapid pace for miles and miles without beating you up, so would make a great club run or sportive ride while still maintaining that racy position if an endurance bike isn't your thing.
For me, the Camino Liso is good but not quite up there with the greats.
Good bike that'll be great for the fast leisure rider, sportivist or amateur racer, but it's up against some stiff competition
road.cc test report
Make and model: Estrella Camino Liso Potenza
Size tested: 54
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame - Toray T1000 carbon fibre
Fork - Toray T1000 carbon fibre with tapered steerer
Wheels - Campagnolo Zonda
Tyres - Innova 700x25c
Shifters - Campagnolo Potenza 11 speed
Crankset - Campagnolo Potenza 50/34
Front mech - Campagnolo Potenza
Rear mech - Campagnolo Potenza
Cassette - Campagnolo Potenza 11 speed, 11/27T
Brakes - Campagnolo Potenza Skeleton dual pivot
Saddle - Suchi SC30
Seatpost - Estrella alloy
Stem - Estrella alloy
Handlebars - Estrella alloy
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Estrella says: "Our range topping, Toray T1000 full carbon fibre frameset features an oversized downtube with a square profile to maximize stiffness and power transfer. The increased bottom bracket area and oversized chainstays improve lateral stiffness to ensure every ounce of energy is transferred from the rider to the rear wheel. Utilising our own Stop Shock Technology (SST) the flattened seatstays offer superior rider comfort and reduced rider fatigue. Being built with high quality Toray T1000 carbon fibre means that, despite the level of comfort it offers it is still a superlight, super stiff and responsive frameset that is just as agile as it is fast. This frameset really can do it all, equally at home tackling an all-day mountainous sportive just as it is whizzing around tight corners in a technical town centre circuit race. Being our thoroughbred race bike its race geometry offers a more aggressive riding position that adds improved aerodynamics reducing the frontal area and drag. Internal cable routing for both mechanical and electrical groupsets further improves aerodynamics and offers clean, smooth lines for improved aesthetics.
"Available is 3 vibrant colour schemes, 6 individually designed sizes and a range of full build or frame only options."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It feels solid and looks pretty good close up.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame and fork are built from intermediate modulus Toray T1000 carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The Camino Liso is designed primarily as a race bike so it's quite long and low. You'll find the geometry chart here - http://www.estrella-bikes.com/liso-geometry/
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack measurement on the medium is 547.3mm and reach is 387.9mm, which gives a ratio of 1:41. This enables a low position for aerodynamics.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, the ride quality is pretty good as there isn't much vibration coming through.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Front end stiffness and that at the bottom bracket is very good.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, the huge chainstays, bottom bracket area and oversized down tube resist the twisting forces.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The steering was okay but not quite as snappy as I'd expect for a bike designed for racing.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I am not a fan of the saddle, as it's so bulky and I found it quite uncomfortable.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The stiff alloy bar and stem reflect the frame's stiffness.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
It's good to see a decent set of wheels coming as standard on this build.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The Potenza is Campagnolo's newest groupset and it works very well, although it does have quite a long throw on the gear paddle compared with Shimano.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so, what for?
Camapgnolo Zondas are great wheels, being both reasonably light and hardwearing.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so, what for?
The Innova tyres have very poor grip, to the point that I changed them after a few rides because I had lost all confidence in them. They would break traction cornering in the dry.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
It's all pretty standard alloy stuff, kind of fit and forget components. The handlebar has a compact drop making it ideal for less flexible riders.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? No
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Estrella Camino Liso is a decent bike, and I can imagine chucking it around in the middle of the group in a closed circuit race, although I would like the handling to be a little sharper for tight criteriums. It's comfortable and pretty well specced against the opposition.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.