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The Sensa Giulia is a solid, value-for-money offering from a brand we'll be seeing more in the UK due to the fact that they're now available online via Merlin Cycles. The frame is fast if a bit unforgiving (an aspect not helped by some kit choices) and I wasn't a big fan of the own-brand wheels, but you're getting a lot of bike for your money and if you want to ride fast it's a very efficient platform.
Sensa are a Dutch brand, with over 20 years of bike-building experience, so they're no fly-by-night Johhny-come-latelys and are well established over the Channel. Merlin Cycles are buying the bikes direct and selling online, so it's a more streamlined – and thus cheaper – path to your door than a bike that's been through a distributor and your local shop. Although it's still an extra step than buying direct from the likes of Canyon or Ribble.
The Giulia is the second bike in the Sensa range currently stocked by Merlin, one below the Giulia Supremo that uses the same frame design but higher grade materials for a weight saving of about 150g. Both use a process that Sensa call Zero Void Curing to create a smoother internal structure that helps to keep the weight of the frame down.
Up front the head tube has a 1.5in bottom race into which slots a full-carbon tapered fork. The bottom bracket is a PressFit 86, and that allows lots of space for a chunky carbon shell with a massive down tube and tall chainstays for maximum efficiency in power transfer.
Our bike came with a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset, along with a set of Sensa's own 58mm deep-section carbon/alloy rims and own-brand alloy finishing kit. Topped off with a Selle San Marco Concor saddle and wearing Continental GP4000S tyres (the standard spec is now Schwalbe One tyres), the full bike weighed in at 7.86kg (17.3lb) and would make your wallet lighter to the tune of just under two and a half grand; £2494.95 to be precise. For full carbon, full Di2 with deep section wheels that's a pretty sharp price. You can upgrade to the lighter Supremo frame for £200 and downgrade the wheels to Sensa's alloy RA30s for a saving of £325.
Value's all very well but not if the bike's a hog to ride, so we're happy to tell you from our testing that it's certainly not that. It's a stiff platform, no doubt about that. The downtube is box-like in section and sufficiently wide at the base that it makes a surprisingly effective mudguard in foul weather. It feeds into a bottom bracket that never gave a hint of flex, although we did manage to eke some squeaks and creaks from the bottom bracket after a few rides in very wet conditions.
At the front it's a similar story: lots of stiff. The front end and fork track very well and give you great control when you're carving corners, but over rough back-road tarmac it's certainly not the most comfortable bike we've tried. A lot of that is down to the bar and tape combination, I think. The bars feel pretty sturdy and the wafer-thin tape doesn't do much to filter out road shock. My first upgrade would be to swap that out for something with a bit more give, and perhaps even sneak some gel pads underneath for smoother progress on the hoods.
Sensa's own-brand deep-section wheels have a claimed weight of 1,820g which is pretty tidy for a 58mm rim, especially one with an alloy braking surface. That being said, I didn't get on with them. The front wheel especially was very grabby under braking, at one point on the rotation, suggesting that the alloy extrusion wasn't a consistent width. We waited for it to get better and it did, a bit, but never to the point where it went away. That and the fact that the wheels aren't the stiffest means they're hard to recommend.
Get the bike with the standard wheels, save yourself three hundred quid and save up for your favourite bling ones. I swapped the RC58s out for a set of Fulcrum Racing 5s which didn't alter the weight much bid did improve the braking feel no end. There's nothing wrong with the levers, callipers or pads.
Shimano's Ultegra Di2 performed flawlessly throughout testing, as we've come to expect, nay demand. It remained resolutely dry inside, in spite of the battery position on the underside of the chainstay and the near-biblical conditions of one ride in particular.
Once you've got used to the button positions shifting is straightforward and simple, and you arguably shift more than you would on a mechanical bike as the will-it-take-won't-it-take thought process of hauling the chain across the cogs is substantially reduced. It's still possible to make it skip and grumble if you shift at a really bad time, but you get away with it a lot more often, especially at the front.
Overall, then, a few grumbles about equipment but none that masked the fact that the heart of the bike is a very competent frame and fork. The Giulia is capable whichever way the road is pointing. On the ups the relatively low weight and super-stiff rear triangle make upward progress simple. Back down the other side the bike responds well to rider input and there's plenty of poise and plenty of grip. Swapping the wheels out to something a bit stiffer helped, too.
Cruising along the flat it's an easy bike to pilot, although it would definitely benefit from thicker bar tape if the main roads round your way aren't that well maintained (ie, anywhere in the UK). The 19cm head tube and 57.4cm effective top tube on our 58cm test bike is certainly sportive rather than heads-down racing but it wasn't a position that felt too upright.
And it's good value. At £2,169.95 with Full Ultegra Di2 (but without the RC58 wheels) it's one of the cheapest ways to get a full-carbon, full-Di2 bike that we know of. If you're looking for a frame that's Di2-ready with the option of going electronic later on, then the same framest with a Shimano 105 groupset costs less than £1,400. Just.
Could use a few component changes but at its heart the Giulia is fast, efficient and good value.
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Make and model: Sensa Giulia Ultegra Di2
Size tested: 58cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Monocoque Generation5 - Zero Void Curing - UD Carbon Fibre
Di2 Compatable for internal cables and battery mount, can easily be converted for mechanical & Di2.
Full Carbon dropouts with replaceable inserts/hanger
PressFit EightSix bottom bracket allowing for maximun downtube width
Zero Void Curving - ZVC technology creates smooth inner surfaces with less material
Generation 5 Carbon - G% Carbon is our latest optimized mix in carbon-fibre
One point Five - The 1.5" bottom headset bearing created maximum stiffness
Fork - Supra full carbon fibre Gen5 Tapered 1.5"
Option to purchase with the new Supremo frame which is 150g lighter
Group: Full Ultegra 6800 Di2 Spec 2X11 Compact
Seatpost: Supra Speed Line
Handlebar: Supra Speed Line
Stem: Supra Speed Line
Wheels: Supra RA30, with RC58 carbon upgrade
Tires: Schwalbe One
Saddle: San Marco Concor
Sizes: 50 - 53 - 55 - 58 - 61 cm (sloping)
Colour: Matt Carbon Clear UD + White/Grey or Clear Carbon UD + White/Red
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Clean and tidy, well finished.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
"Generation 5 Carbon - G% Carbon is our latest optimized mix in carbon-fibre", say Sensa.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Size tested: 58cm
Effective top tube: 57.4cm
Head tube: 19cm
Head angle: 73°
Seat angle: 73°
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Position is sportive-upright, spot on for stated 58cm
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Efficient rather than comfortable.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It's plenty stiff all right. The front end could do with a bit more shock absorption somewhere between the wheels and your hands.
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?
No issues during testing.
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 bike felt stable and the steering was very direct in all circumstances.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Thin handlebar tape and worthy rather than great bars didn't help the front-end comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Frameset is super-stiff, deep-section wheels less so.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Very efficient drivetrain and Di2 shifting was pretty much faultless.
Marked down for the bars and thin tape
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, although it needs tweaking from the stock build.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.