The Devinci Leo is a fast, light and comfortable bike that's ideal for racing but confident enough in handling for the less competitively inclined.
Long established French-Canadian bike manufacturer Devinci describes their Leo as 'where professional racing machine meets a guaranteed for life Gran Fondo winner'.
The Devinci Leo's carbon composite monocoque construction uses a mix of 'Grafil HR40, Torayca T700 SC and M30 SC fibres bonded with high-strength epoxy resin, finished with a carbon nano-powder additive.' All search-engine friendly if you need to know specific details. The surface finish seems tougher than average and the build quality is superb throughout.
You can buy the Leo SL as a frame and fork or in variously equipped versions as a complete bike, and at the time of writing the UK distributor's retail outlet www.freeborn.co.uk is selling this model at a substantially reduced £2600.
Bang up to date
It goes almost without saying that it's bang up to date in terms of feeling light, stiff, precise and sprightly in terms of handling. You wouldn't expect anything else from a state of the art frame from one of Canada's finest bike fabricators. But what surprises is that it also offers a ride that needs very little adjustment time.
Some carbon lightweights exude a nervous ride quality that takes a fair amount of riding finesse or perseverance to get the best from. The Leo feels instantly ready to charge up, down and along every type of road straight from the blocks, but it also feels relatively relaxed when you're just bowling along looking at the scenery.
One of our race-biased testers managed to achieve his favoured low bar position by flipping the stem and stacking the steerer washers above it. Less competitive riders appreciated the tall head tube and the fact that, while the top tube is about the same as on most thoroughbred race bikes, the compact Easton EC70 SL handlebar reach is shorter than average. Our 56cm test bike had a 56cm (horizontal) top tube length, a 73 degree head angle, 73.5 at the seat. Smaller sizes are steeper at the seat, slacker at the head, the next size up (60cm) is 73 degrees parallel.
Every frame size has its own mould and Devinci describe their manufacturing technique as 'Dual Core Fusion'. It's a method that apparently uses collected data from the road and the rider to create the perfect blend of compliance for comfort and stiffness for power transfer.
That's not exactly a unique approach but after a couple of months with the bike we'd say Devinci has managed to go a little further than many rivals in blending an enticing mix of minimum weight, maximum comfort, excellent stability and impressive drive power.
I rode a Leo on a Pyrenean pass conquering trip last year and this model is essentially the same. The ride is a great blend of performance and comfort but has a neutral, almost workmanlike, handling quality that makes it a very easy bike to ride on demanding terrain. There was plenty of that in the Pyrenees and the last few weeks have confirmed initial impressions from last year's week long tour.
The main frame has a tapered head tube with a quality integrated Cane Creek headset that helps to keep the front low despite the fairly tall head tube. The massively profiled asymmetrical down tube, seat tube and chain stays all flare into the bulbous BB86 bottom bracket, and there's loads of room between the stays for bigger tyres than the 23mm Mavic Aksions fitted.
The seat stays are very slim near the dropouts but radically flared where they flow up to the seat tube juncture, and we like the way the double-slot seat clamp closes without any obvious crimp points. The sloping top tube means standover clearance is generous too.
All the frame sections are said to blend minimum weight with a touch of vertical compliance and lateral stiffness in the upper frame core plus torsional stiffness and sharp handling in the lower core. That's what the 'Dual Core Fusion' tag is about, and it rings true when you're riding.
The HPG (High Performance Geometry) label on the seat stays is related to the way Devinci has decided how to best sit you on the bike in terms of good ergonomics, aerodynamics, power transfer, precise control and handling. This is what almost every brand shouts about in the marketing spiel and it's worth pointing out that thoughtful parts choices and setting up the saddle, handlebar and stem just right can be even more crucial.
The Leo feels great once everything else is set up right. A few riders questioned the 39/52 Ultegra crankset, but it's manageable by most riders with a 28 sprocket out back and most shops would be happy to swap it for a 34/50 version if needed.
The finer detail on the frame is worth a mention too. Internal cable routing for the gears and rear brake is easy to access at both entry and exit points, with almost-invisible routing recessed under the bottom bracket shell, plus access points for electronic gear wiring if you choose to upgrade later. The front gear mech is of the adjustable bracket type and there are two lots of bottle bosses. There's also a polished bash-plate attached to the underside of the right hand chain stay to stop a jammed-up chain from damaging the carbon.
You get Devinci's Super Leggera fork, made from the same composite mix as the frame, with a carbon steerer and dropouts. The straight blades are aero in profile and the vibration damping characteristics are excellent.
The drivetrain is full Shimano Ultegra 6700 with 52/39 chainrings and an 11 to 28 cassette. Brakes are Ultegra too and you score Mavic Aksium wheels, an Easton EC70 EA70 stem to match the handlebar, a slimline but relatively comfy Selle Italia SLS saddle on a Monolink seat post and Velo Supersoft padded bar tape.
While the ride is surprisingly forgiving, even on the roughest roads, with 23mm tyres, you could probably fit up to 28mm if you feel the need. We had to re-fit the BB86 bottom bracket after a couple of rides as it had started to creak: that's a fairly common thing on straight out of the box bikes.
The tapered 1.125/1.5in head tube undoubtedly contributes to superb steering on high speed bumpy downhills and the large diameter chain stays and massive bottom bracket are probably a major part of the reason the Leo climbs and sprints so well.
The Leo SL would be totally at ease in top level competitive events, but it's a pleasingly compliant machine in the hands of the less experienced. Obviously a 16.8lb bike climbs well, but it's sometimes a surprise when a bike as highly tuned as this is so easy to handle on the rougher descents.
After a few minor skid twitches on damp morning corners a couple of riders said they'd prefer 25mm tyres, but that was probably more down to tyre compound. Otherwise, a wholehearted recommendation from every tester.
Fast, light, comfortable and classy with a blend of handling manners that suits everything from racing to admiring the scenery.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Devinci Leo SL
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Carbon Composite monocoque construction frame and fork. Full Shimano Ultegra groupset. Mavic Aksium wheels, Aksion 23mm tyres. Easton EA70 handlebar/stem. Selle Italia Monolink saddle and seat post
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 race bike but its posture and ride feel is more relaxed than many race bikes.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Superb build quality.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Monocoque carbon composite blend with tough carbon nano powder surface finish.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Depends on sizing. 56cm has a 73 head angle, 75 seat angle.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Fairly tall head tube but minimum headset stack. Lots of stem height possibilities, 56cm horizontal top tube and seat tube (centre to top).
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
More comfortable than most carbon framesets with 23mm tyres, especially compliant at the back end.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes. Superbly stiff in climbing and sprinting.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Very slight overlap on tight turns in size 43 shoes. Short front centre made the handling feel great though and the overlap wasn't an issue.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Fairly neutral. Easy to ride no hands. Great on corners
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
A nice mix of lively and confident. Rock-steady on high speed corners.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Everyone loved the flat topped short reach handlebar. There was one dissenting voice on saddle comfort. Padded bar tape very welcome.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Noticeably stiff bottom bracket area.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Some riders would prefer a compact crankset but the 28 sprocket at the back makes a 39 up front acceptable to most.
Stability was a real highlight, especially on high speed descents.
Low speed stability excellent too.
Gearing OK for most, very positive climbing character.
We've seen better kit on bikes at this price, but only on cheaper frames.
Wheels and tyres
Bigger tyres would add comfort
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Tyres got a bit twitchy on damp corners in the mornings, but generally dry conditions throughout the test.
Everyone liked the Easton EA70 handlebar
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The Monolink seat post limits saddle choices.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, very much.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
You'll see several different prices quoted for this bike package. It looks like the prices at www.freeborn.co.uk are currently far less than the RRP.
About the tester
Age: 58 Height: 181 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Merlin Ti My best bike is: Ibis Silk SL
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
<p>Steve's passion for riding started around fifty years back with blatting about in the woods, closely followed by CTC rides, touring, schoolboy track league, a brief obsession with time trials then onto road racing, touring and cyclo cross... roughly in that order. Mountain biking and triathlon got a look in later. He tested and wrote about bikes for over 25 years and rode about 2000 of them. Steve also rode for the British team in three World Championships in the very early days of mountain bikes. He left us after <a href="http://road.cc/content/news/115389-cycling-journalist-steve-worland-dead... a heart attack at the Ashton Court Parkrun</a> in March 2014, and is fondly remembered and greatly missed.</p>