Pearl Dice Pro frameset  £2200.00

8/10

Light, fast and comfortable frameset with a superb finish -a real high quality option, although you have to pay a premium for the exclusivity

Weight 890g   Contact  www.pearl-cycles.com

by Mat Brett   May 26, 2011  

Hitting the scales at 6.34kg (13.95lb), the Pearl Dice Pro is the lightest bike we've ever tested at road.cc, and that lack of weight is the overwhelming feature of the ride - it has an exceptional appetite for acceleration.

Our test model came in a non-standard build, so we're essentially reviewing it as a frame, forks and wheels package.

 Frame

The Pearl Dice Pro is built around a moncoque carbon fibre frame with a unidirectional finish. The frame itself weighs 890g in the large size (57cm) that we have here. It's a compact geometry, the top tube sloping down considerably from front to rear, with an integrated seat post. In other words, rather than a traditional seat post that's mounted in the frame, the seat tube extends up beyond the top tube junction and you chop it off to the right height. A little mast on top gives you a couple of centimetres of adjustment that might come in handy if you swap saddles, for example.

The head tube is 19cm long for a pretty standard race bike front-end height - you get some shorter and some longer on frames of this size. That head tube is tapered, as you'll find on ever more performance bikes these days, with a standard 1 1/8in headset bearing at the top and an oversized 1 1/2in bearing at the bottom.

The only real departure from the norm in terms of geometry is that the seat angle is 74, which is a touch steeper than you'll find on most road bikes of comparable size - by about a degree. In practice, it makes very little difference to the ride. You'd do well to notice.

The top tube is a flat-topped triangular affair that tapers in along its length, while the down tube starts out as teardrop in profile at the top end before gradually ovalising to stretch across nearly the full width of the BB30 bottom bracket. The chainstays run close to the rear wheel before bolting out towards the dropouts and the twin-stay seatstays are vaguely similar in that they kink out at the last minute.

The gear cables run externally except for tunnelling straight through the head tube rather than taking the slightly bendier route around the outside. When other manufacturers do this, they often incorporate cable stops into the holes but Pearl don't; they fit stops to the down tube in the normal way. The rear brake cable does run internally, nipping inside the front end of the top tube and exiting towards the rear.

The fork is Pearl's own, coming with carbon legs and steerer. The 1 1/2in lower headset bearing means the crown and upper section of the legs are pretty meaty for extra front-end strength.

Pearl are big on their finishes to say the least, and you get the chance to choose from a variety of designs and colours. The simple logo design that we have here looks stylish to us but you can go for something bolder if you prefer; even a personalized paintjob. The quality of the finish on our test bike is flawless even close up - it's a very classy piece of work.

Components

The Dice Pro comes in two standard builds - neither of them cheap. The least expensive, at £5,300, consists of a SRAM Red groupset with Rotor cranks, Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL wheels, Deda Zero cockpit and a Fizik saddle.

The other build shares the same Deda cockpit and saddle, it features Lightweight wheels plus Shimano's top-end Dura Ace groupset. That little lot will set you back a whopping £7,800. Ouch! (Yes, you could buy a car for that. Maybe two etc, etc).

If neither of those setups takes your fancy, you can get the frame, forks and headset for £2,200.

Our review bike isn't built up in one of these standard options, although it does have the Lightweight Standard (3rd generation) tubular wheels of the more expensive option. Do you know much about Lightweight wheels? Chances are, you know the name but don't actually own a set, correct? They're not all that common on the basis that a set like the ones on the Dice Pro will set you back upwards of £2,500. Yes.

Why are they so expensive? For a start, pretty much everything is carbon. And they're handmade in Germany. 'Handcrafted' is what Lightweight actually like to say. And it's a very labour-intensive process. Lightweight reckon it takes 16 hours to make every set of wheels.

The Standards are built around a Lightweight front hub with a DT Swiss 240s hub at the rear. The rims are 53mm deep, all carbon, and they're held together with bladed carbon spokes that are bonded in place. Ours had 16 spokes at the front and 20 at the rear, although you can also get 20 (f) and 24 (r) if you prefer. They weigh 475g and 625g - a total of 1,100g. Very, very light, especially considering the rim depth.

None of the other components on our test bike come from either of the standard builds so we won't go into much detail on them. For the record, though, we have Shimano Ultegra shifters, mechs and brakes, an FSA SL-K Light compact chainset, ControlTech bar and stem, and a manganese-railed Selle Italia SL saddle. Oh, and the tubs are Continental Competition. In other words, it's all very good, lightweight kit, although most isn't from the very top of its range.

This all builds into a bike weighing 6.34kg (13.95lb; size large, 57cm). That's pretty darn light. You can get lighter, of course, but we've got our heads together in the road.cc office and we're pretty sure this is the lightest complete bike we've ever tested on the website.

Ride

Breaking with tradition, I'm going to get a couple of negative points out of the way to start with. You know, get them of my chest. It's not healthy to let these things fester.

First, standard Shimano brake pads don't work on carbon rims. And I'm pretty sure Lightweight rims aren't over-keen on standard Shimano brake pads either. Anyway, an oversight, I'm sure. We swapped them. No harm done.

The other gripe relates to the wheels. A moan about Lightweight wheels coming up? Controversial.

I've been lucky enough to use Lightweights a few times in the past and they've always been great. More than great. Some of the best wheels I've ever used. Light and aerodynamic, they're amazingly fast.

But when I got on this bike for the photoshoot (we often do the photoshoots as soon as the bikes come in so they look all shiny in the pics; it saves us actually going to the trouble of cleaning them later on) and put the hammer down in a big gear, the rear wheel rubbed on the brake pads. No problem. I flicked the quick release on the calliper open a bit to move the pads further away from the rim... and it did it again when I got out of the saddle. Basically, I had to move the pads further away than I'd have liked to stop the wheel rubbing on the brakes when I stood on the pedals and threw the bike around.

I've never had this with Lightweight wheels before. I weigh 76kg. That, added to the weight of the bike and my kit, is well within the 100kg limit for these wheels. I got on the scales and checked.

I'm not saying this was a massive problem. It only happened when I was really heaving the pedals around out of the saddle. But if you're a similar size to me and you're considering these wheels, my advice would definitely be to go for 20 and 24 spokes rather than the 16 and 20 spoke models that we have here. They're just 40g heavier - virtually nothing.

Right, that's my little moans out of the way. Apart from those couple of points, this bike is mightily impressive. Not surprisingly, the weight is what you notice most... or the lack of it. The Pearl fires up to speed in no time. It just feels like there's not much resistance when you spin the cranks. Rather than needing to persuade a reluctant bike that it might be nice, if it would be so kind, if we could go a little bit faster please, the Dice Pro is bang up for it straightaway.

The frame must take a lot of the credit. As I said, it weighs in at just 890g in the large size. The light weight Lightweight wheels really make a big difference when you're accelerating too. As you'll know, saving rotational weight makes more difference than saving dead weight when it comes to picking up speed and super-light wheels like these absolutely fly. You feel you're on the verge of cheating at times.

Fair enough, once you're up to speed, a lightweight bike doesn't feel all that different to a heavier one, but those wheels slide through the air with the minimum of resistance without being so deep that they become a handful in crosswinds. Plus, the Pearl will gladly respond with a change of pace if you want to try to get away from a bunch or chase down somebody else who has had the same idea. It's quick to react, basically.

Despite the rear wheel/ brake pad situation, the Pearl is a really good climber too. I found myself staying seated up climbs that would usually have had me up out of the saddle. The hills are just that little bit easier, or faster, depending on how you play it. And although I ride maybe half of my miles on a compact chainset, I just didn't feel the need for one here. There's no point. I rarely found myself using the 34-tooth inner chainring with any of the larger sprockets, so might as well have had a 39T and used the whole block. It'll all come down to the individual of course, but if I owned this bike I'd definitely go with a standard chainset.

In terms of frame stiffness, there's no particular movement through the centre of the bike, the oversized bottom bracket shell staying pretty much static when you put your full weight through the cranks. It's a similar story up front where the beefy head tube and deep-legged fork hold everything in place firmly when you wrench the bars about, while a definite amount of give ('vertical compliance', if you prefer) in the rear triangle stops the bike skittering about on bumpy roads and adds comfort. It flexes up just a touch when you hit something evil - although a decent saddle like the Selle Italia SL on our test model has more influence on that score.

So, yes, a strong bike all round. It's light, fast, perfectly comfortable... all the things you want in a race/fast performance bike. Is the frameset worth £2,200? You could get, for example, a Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 frameset for that, or an aero Felt AR1, nearly. We guess that anyone interested in a Pearl will be looking for something different. Something that isn't mainstream, with a bit more individuality. If that's what you're after, this is a bike that will deliver it.

Verdict

Light, fast and comfortable frameset with a superb finish -a real high quality option, although you have to pay a premium for the exclusivity

road.cc test report

Make and model: Pearl Dice Pro

Size tested: 57cm

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Monocoque carbon frame with unidirectional finish. Pearl Infinity II carbon fork.

We had Lightweight Standard (3rd generation) wheels.

See the text for the components fitted to our review bike. This is a non-standard build.

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?

It's a road bike designed for riding fast - racing, sportives, burning off your mates... You know the deal.

The only bit of equipment on our test bike that I didn't think fitted the bill was the compact chainset. I don't have anything against compacts, but on a bike this light I'd rather have had a standard. But each to his/her own, and all that.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The build quality is flawless and the finish is superb quality. It's a simple finish, but I reckon it looks great.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

The frame is carbon monocoque with a unidirectional finish

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Pretty standard although the seat angle is a little steeper than normal at 74. Chances are that you won't notice.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

About average. At 19cm, the head tube is a fairly typical height for a 57cm bike.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Yes, it is comfortable. There's a small but detectable amount of movement in the back end that both keeps the rear wheel in contact with the ground and smoothes the ride.

The Selle Italia SL saddle on our test model is among my favourites. Great shape with enough flex in the shell to keep things comfy.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Yup, BB30 bottom bracket and 1.5in lower headset bearing make for beefy frame/fork sections where it really counts.

We had a little flex in the Lightweight wheels - see text for details.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Yes, no worries on that front.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

None.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Middling

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

It accelerates super-fast and climbs really well. Those are its real strengths.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
9/10

This bike's biggest strength.

Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
9/10

The drivetrain

Wheels and tyres

Controls

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Possibly

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? I'd tell anyone looking for a non-mainstream brand to take a look

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
7/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

Very strong performance: but the price drags the overall rating down a notch

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 190cm  Weight: 74kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,

1 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I'm sure they're very light, handcrafted, and possibly the best wheelset ever, but couldn't Lightweight have spent a little money on a decent logo?

posted by mogrim [38 posts]
31st May 2011 - 18:00

2 Likes

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